September 16, 2019

TIFF 2019 Final Day: Guatemalan Ghosts, Miike Yakuza and Ugandan Supa Action

La Llorona [Guatemala, Jayro Bustamante, 4] An ex-dictator let off the hook for genocide becomes the target of unearthly retribution. Engrossing mix of political drama and horror follows the classic tradition of using genre as a bearable way of approaching the unbearable.

Listed on IMDB as The Weeping Woman.

This is my first time seeing a Guatemalan film I’d describe as fully realized on the technical and production level.

Crazy World [Uganda, IGG Nabwana, 4] Ex-cop and martial artist team up to rescue victims of a child sacrifice ring. Exuberant, kooky, zero budget action comedy with kid fu, homemade CGI, blood squibs and voice-over from a VJ (Video Joker) who explains, mocks, and hypes the proceedings onscreen, sometimes intoning “Movie! Movie! Movie!”

This dizzying meta-experience earns its recommendation on moxy and anti-slickness. It makes use of stuff that costs time instead of money: jokes, fight choreography, and jokes.

The VJ tradition comes from Uganda’s small market status. Films from Hollywood and China play video halls without subtitles; the Video Joker’a performance fills in the gap.

I was at a repeat screening with a prerecorded VJ track. He performed live at the first show for the Midnight Madness audience. However our screening did include the semi-live interruption in which anti-piracy officers onscreen ordered the programmer arrested and hauled out of the theater.

Greed [UK, Michael Winterbottom, 3] Ruthless clothing retail magnate (Steve Coogan) engineers a lavish birthday party for himself. Though structured as an antihero story, the individual scenes portray Coogan’s character as an complete villain, throwing off the emotional signals the audience needs to orient itself in the narrative.

Deerskin [France, Quentin Dupieux, 4] Aided by an aspiring film editor (Adéle Haenel), a man fleeing a failed marriage (Jean Dujardin) goes to extremes to fulfill his costly fringed coat’s dream of being the only jacket in the world. Absurdist fable, in desaturates, autumnal hues, about…well you don’t need me to spell out such an obvious metaphor, do you?

So yeah, that old premise again.

First Love [Japan, Takashi Miike, 4] Young boxer with brain tumor diagnosis protects a hallucinating trafficking victim as a drug ripoff gone wrong touches off a chaotic gang war. This outing finds the prolific master of all genres (mostly) coloring within the lines of the hard action-comedy.

Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, streaming platforms and perhaps even good old physical media over the next year plus. If you’ve heard of a film showing at TIFF, I’m probably waiting to see it during its upcoming conventional release

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