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TIFF 2012

September 18, 2012

In this extremely lengthy entry, I will provide an overview of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Having only attended the festival for 4 days, I was able to catch 12 films, most of which ranged from good/very good. As a whole, the festival actually turned out to be a lot less chaotic than I’d predicted. I ended up meeting a ton of cool people and seeing a bunch of great stuff. So, without further adieu, here’s my TIFF 2012 recap (in the order in which I saw each film).

Sans soleil: Not only has the late Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil been revered for over two decades as a singular work of imaginative filmmaking, but it’s since gone on to receive a multitude of accolades as well as the Criterion treatment. Most importantly, it works as a sort of trailblazing dreamscape that defies explanation. It remains alive in ways that few films of its kind are: 2001: A Space OdysseyBaraka, Hiroshima mon amour, and The Tree of Life also seem to be cut from the same cinematic cloth; films that are constantly churning the brain toward contemplation and appreciation for the cosmic and every day wonders of our existence. The film would be the first proper viewing of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, perhaps an odd choice given how dated it is, but rather appropriate due to Marker’s recent passing.

Full review at Sound on Sight

Tabu: Miguel Gomes’s Tabu would be a film that would largely linger in the mind and memory after first seeing it. My first experience with Gomes, Tabu is a film about the movies, told distinctively through two separate stories: The first being a dreary black & white Guy Maddin-esque portrait of women longing for love and excitement. The second is a willful representation of this, as Gomes juxtaposes slapstick, melodrama, and passion into a tale only a cinephile could identify with.

Dredd 3D: With a little trust, audiences should react more warmly to this update which primarily takes on the mold of The Raid: Redemption in its narrative makeup. Whereas The Raid was more concerned with technical prowess in its action sequences, Dredd is a true-blue action spectacle with no shortage of gratuitous violence. Both pleasing and eye-opening, the bulk of what makes Dredd so successful is its outright foray into crowd-pleasing bloodshed. There is no apologetic eye-winking for the missteps of its predecessor, as the proceedings are executed at a rather swift pace.

Full review at Sound on Sight

Rust & Bone: After A Prophet won the Grand Prix (second place) award at Cannes in 2009, Jacques Audiard became a bit of a household name. Rust & Bone (De rouille et d’os) couldn’t be any further removed from the Cannes winner (Rust & Bone would début at Cannes this year), primarily operating as a flawed, no-holds barred emotional tale of wounded souls who are barely hanging on. While Audiard’s latest doesn’t necessarily contain the meaty in-depth thrills that made A Prophet the engrossing beast that it was, it oddly defies convention and hits deep despite its cookie-cutter makeup.

Full review at Sound on Sight

Paradise: Love: Easily one of the top films of the fest, and something that still somehow went unnoticed at TIFF is Paradise: Love, the first part in a trilogy about three women, three holidays and three loves. Ulrich Seidl’s unflinching portrait of an Austrian sex tourist traveling to Kenya is both brazenly paced and admirably confrontational. Shot in real locales and containing real practices, Love almost seems too real; Seidl’s portrait of humanity’s undying quest for love is like a mirror placed in front of us. Tackling not only how filthy and revolting we are, Paradise: Love is also a commentary on loneliness and unfulfilled needs. It’s not really a film that one enjoys watching, but there’s a wealth of insight here that is too difficult to shake. I eagerly await Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope. 

Frances Ha: I’ve been at odds with what I’ve seen from Noah Baumbach thus far, and even still, his latest managed to charm the hell out of me, possibly producing the best we’ve seen from the director. The film somehow flew under-the-radar during its short production, making its debut at Telluride and screening at TIFF shortly thereafter. Baumbach’s gorgeous black & white film follows Frances, a soul-searching free-wheeling New Yorker whose twenty-something life seems adrift and without purpose. Frances is forced to adjust to life’s misfortune after her best friend Sophie (Mickey Sumner) moves out. Baumbach has never been this carefree, joyful and all around…weightless. It’s refreshing to see him lighten up a bit, as he and Gerwig (possibly her best performance) make for a killer combo (she also appeared in his last film Greenberg). I won’t delve into all the small joys and idiosyncrasies that the film has to offer; I’ll just say that Baumbach’s film is HBO’s Girls on steroids, but twice as funny and touching.

The Place Beyond the Pines: On paper, The Place Beyond the Pines is an intriguing prospect: a grizzled riff on the story of sins passed through the generations from fathers to sons. What is all the more arousing is the idea of writer/director Derek Cianfrance (Blue Valentine) spearheading the material. In short, Cianfrance fails to thoroughly deliver in his sophomore feature as much of the rawness of Blue Valentine is stripped away. The ambient mood of such a world is intact as Pines shifts pivots between a Greek tragedy and a startling thriller; the director’s pursuit of the next great American epic eventually falls short  as it mistakes commonplace familial quarreling for hardship and pathos.

Full review at Sound on Sight

Amour: Haneke’s latest is full of the auteur’s classic motifs. Telling the story of an elderly Parisian couple, Amour opens with an intrusion. Police and fireman have broken into the cultivated home of Georges and Anne. There is no one home, save for a rotting corpse on the bed. Haneke is showing us the end in all of its brutal reality. What Amour doesn’t do is play down to its audience, Haneke is too smart for this. It’s a film about death, and yes – love, in all of its painful and bleak realizations. We’re trapped in the couple’s apartment throughout the film. The camera barely moves, suffocating us in Anne’s torturous decay into death. Georges knows it won’t get better and we do too. Haneke isn’t trying to make us weep, but how can we not? 

Something in the Air: Every great director deserves at least one mulligan, and this would be it for Olivier Assayas. To be fair, I had literally just walked out of Amour before sitting down for the latest from the aforementioned French auteur. Not a bad film by any means, just painfully bland and aimless. Centered around an 18-year-old struggling to find his way in life, this semi-autobiography is almost blatantly personal as to leave us astray in an endless cycle of revolutionary exploits. No other film at TIFF had a lesser impact on me than this. I’ll give it another spin some time in the future, but Assayas whiffed here.

Like Someone in Love:  Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love wastes little time in developing its singular strangeness. As a follow-up to Certified Copy, this film doesn’t quite inhibit the unique formal prowess of said predecessor, but functions as a deliberately puzzling waltz of a film in its own right. We’re casually thrown into Kiarostami’s zone of mistaken identities and skewed realities during the film’s opening shot: We’re placed in a crowded bar and made privy to a story being told from the voice of a woman we cannot see. It’s in this instance that the director’s unwavering aura of mystery is set in motion.

Full review at Sound on Sight

Spring Breakers: Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers is a frenzied cornucopia of sex, drugs, alcohol, and neon hued imagery; further proof that the 39-year-old filmmaker continues to operate under the guise of his own dynamic form. Known for such films as GummoJulien Donkey-Boy, and Trash Humpers, Korine has at once made his most commercial film while also displaying a tangible maturity as a filmmaker – doing so in the only way he knows how.

Full review at Sound on Sight

The Act of Killing: Director Joshua Oppenheimer went to great lengths to make The Act of Killing a living, breathing entity. Oppenheimer apparently spent six years working on the film in which some of his colleagues would have to remain anonymous given the current political climate in Indonesia. Co-produced by such names as Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, The Act of Killing is both deeply introspective and equally maddening, echoing the works of said producers.

Full review at Sound on Sight

Ranked TIFF viewings:

  1. Spring Breakers (Korine, USA)
  2. Frances Ha (Baumbach, USA)
  3. Like Someone in Love (Kiarostami, Iran)
  4. Paradise: Love (Seidl, Austria)
  5. Tabu (Gomes, Portugal)
  6. Sans soleil (Marker, France)
  7. Amour (Haneke, Austria)
  8. Dredd 3D (Travis, UK)
  9. The Act of Killing (Oppenheimer, USA)
  10. Rust & Bone (Audiard, France)
  11. The Place Beyond the Pines (Cianfrance, USA)
  12. Something in the Air (Assayas, France)
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One comment

  1. […] of these films on the latest episode of Almost Arthouse. You can read my entire 2012 TIFF recap here. You can read my list of my favorite non-2012 films watched last […]



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