September 20, 2020

TIFF Day 10: The Festival Wraps With Some Very Good Dogs

The final day of TIFF 2020 has come and gone and below are my final capsule reviews. I’ll post a full capsule roundup on Monday.

Fauna [Mexico/Canada, Nicolás Pereda, 3.5] Narratives nest within narratives when an actor visits his girlfriend’s family in a sleepy small town. Comic misunderstandings, naturalistic locations and twisting meta-story may remind seasoned festival-goers of the works of Hong Sang-soo, with Coronas instead of soju.

Preparations to Be Together For an Unknown Period of Time [Hungary, Lili Horvát, 4] Top neurologist questions the accuracy of her recollections when she moves back home from the US to Budapest for a romantic rendezvous, only to find that the object of her affections professes not to remember her. Quietly suspenseful drama of psychological uncertainty.

The Truffle Hunters [Italy, Michael Dweck & Gregory Kershaw, 4] An aging generation of Piedmontese truffle hunters carries on the search for the elusive delicacy, fearing the poison bait left for their beloved dogs by ruthless newcomers to the trade. A documentary balm for lovers of food and canines luxuriates in the presence of sumptuously photographed forest eccentrics and their very, very good dogs.

Bandar Band [Iran/Germany, Manijeh Hekmat, 3] A pregnant singer, her husband and their guitarist try to get their van through a floodstruck region to attend a contest gig in Tehran. Neorealist drama where the obstacles in the characters’ path are literal.

The Water Man [US, David Oyelowo, 3.5] Imaginative kid (Lonnie Chavis) heads into the Northwestern forest in search of a legendary immortal, thinking he holds the secret to curing his mom (Rosario Dawson) of leukemia. One of the more successful of a recent wave of films that put a somber sin on 80s kids adventure, thanks to a well-constructed script and Oyelowo’s sure control of tone.

Among the differences of this digital-only fest was that it removed the flexibility to choose between multiple screening dates. In a regular year I program the last days and work backward to end on some combination of stronger and/or lighter selections. Here programmers assigned a 24 hour window for each film. These last movies weren’t what I would have picked as closers in ordinary times. To compensate for this Valerie and I are running a day of fake TIFF programming to simulate the funner final Sunday we usually shoot for. They consist of one film that played at TIFF 2019 and three others from previously-appearing directors. Play along at home by streaming The Vast of Night, The Forest of Love*, Mr. & Mrs. Adelman, and Ace Attorney.

*Update: Turns out this one is ultra-disturbing and in no way fun or light. Going into something with mistaken tonal expectations—just like the real TIFF!

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, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus.

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