September 05, 2019

TIFF 2019 Opening Night: Giant Bioluminescent Sea Parasites and a Meta-Tribute to an Indie Icon

Simple Women [Italy/Romania, Chiara Malta, 3.5] Novice director bumps into Elina Lowensohn, who she has idolized since her iconic role in Hal Hartley’s Simple Men, and decides to star her in a a low budget biopic about her life. The shaggy spirit of the 90s indie scene smiles on this observational meta-drama about the ways films become part of our identities.

This was apparently the first title from the Discovery program, dedicated to first time directors, to screen on opening night, which came as a surprise to me.

I’m always pleased when it’s possible to start the fest with a film about film. This felt especially circular as I first came across Hal Hartley when his first movie, The Unbelievable Truth, as an out-of-nowhere discovery at TIFF in 1989.

Elina Lowensohn was at the screening.

Sea Fever [Ireland, Neasa Hardiman,4] Withdrawn oceanographer’s routine mission aboard a fishing vessel turns disastrous when a gigantic, multi-tendriled parasite affixes itself to the hull. Skillfully paced infection horror, with touches of Lovecraftian oceanic unease, explores the genre’s ethical implications.

This is Harriman’s feature debut after episodic TV credits including “Jessica Jones.”

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. Unless you mean The Color Out of Space, which I’m seeing on the 14th.