September 16, 2020

TIFF Day 6: Gay Teen Melodrama, A Brilliant Anthony Hopkins Performance, and Epic Municipal Poetry

City Hall [US, Frederick Wiseman, 4] The latest of Wiseman’s distinctive epic-length observational documentaries studies the quotidian, procedural and human moments of human life as seen through the processes of municipal government in Boston, as held together by the thoughtful charisma of Mayor Martin Walsh. Improbably absorbing as always, this institutional cross-section offers a beguiling vision of an oasis of good government in the USA.

In a normal year I’d wait for the four and a half hour Wiseman documentary to arrive on television rather than taking up two time slots to watch it from the confines of a cinema seat at TIFF. But this is not such a year and with a digital screening you get a pause button when you need it. This is bound for PBS and due to the breadth of its subject matter will serve as an excellent introduction to those unfamiliar with this pillar of the documentary form. Or track down 2017’s Ex Libris, about the New York Public Library. In North America Wiseman’s filmography can be found on the Kanopy platform, which you may be able to access through your public library system.

The Father [UK, Florian Zeller, 4] Retired engineer (Anthony Hopkins) struggles to piece together the confusing reality of his living circumstances as his daughter (Olivia Colman) copes with his progressing dementia. Impeccably performed stage play adaptation puts the viewer inside the contradictory shifts of the protagonist’s subjective viewpoint.

Forget Draculas and Cthulhus. This is the real terror.

Summer of 85 [France, Francois Ozon, 4] Love between two young men in a French beach town leads to a bizarre crime. Teen emotions run high in a sunlit melodrama of Eros and Thanatos.

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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