TIFF Day Seven
1) The Devil’s Candy (Sean Byrne)
I walked into this one very late, so most of my early info comes from the synopsis. A family moves into a house where the father, an artist, is inspired to paint strange paintings. The whole situation is exacerbated by the arrival of the previous family’s son who is a child killer. Sean Byrne is one of the greatest horror filmmakers working today and this film is no exception. This is a beautifully subversive retelling of Christian mythology, filmed in a way resembling passion paintings. On top of that, the film is also very entertaining.
2) Demolition (Jean-Marc Vallee)
I was not expecting to begin my day by complimenting Vallee, but this was a pretty good film. Jake Gyllenhaal suddenly loses his wife and goes numb, claiming that he never loved her. After a strange correspondence with the always wonderful Naomi Watts, he begins to explore his emotions through destruction. A lot of credit should be given to Gyllenhaal’s performance. There is a subplot that genuinely serves no purpose but that can be forgiven.
3) Room (Lenny Abrahamson)
Based on its circumstance, its reception and its quality, Room has a real chance at the People’s Choice Award. This film tells the before, during and after of a woman and her five year old son who have been locked up in a room and subjected to torture for seven years. Basically, the film revolves around perceptions of reality and how it is perceived by someone who knows a truth versus someone else who was raised with a lie. The main strength here is the writing and direction which will bring tears to your eyes. The performances are occasionally artificial, but as Sontag or Dauphinee would point out, it is impossible to understand a traumatic event when you are not the one experiencing it. There were a lot of questions that I felt the film did not tackle but that would result in a much longer film.
4) Jack (Elisabeth Scharang)
This was a very well made biopic of a serial killer who was freed when he claimed to be rehabilitated, who went on to have a successful literary career while continuing to kill. This film worked so well for so long, heavily owing to the lead actor’s performance, equal parts charming and creepy. Unfortunately, it seems like charming killer won the director over, because the ending contains a bit of revisionist history which problematizes the subject matter.
5) The Exquisite Corpus (Peter Tscherkassky)
Tscherkassky’s films have always visually excited me and this one is no different: it consists of images from soft core pornographic films gathered and set up in a way that suggests life: both in the sense of the everyday and the reanimation of the likely deceased. Accompanied by a minimalist soundtrack, this 20 minute short is worth a view.
6) The Whispering Star (Sion Sono)
Sono keeps finding ways to surprise you: this film is unlike anything he has ever made. A low budget sci fi epic about the most boring part of futurism, this film is about the tedium and repetition in the life of a robot whose job is to deliver packages to humans throughout space. The whole thing is shot in a beautiful black and white and is full of little tricks and flourishes. It’s just magical!
7) The Wave (Roar Uthaug)
This film’s genius lies in its seamless parody of the American disaster film. Lone white man realizes that a wave will destroy the city and then it does. The plot is simple and frequently predictable, which allows the director to deal with straight parodic elements. The family unit must be preserved. Man must stand above. All the cliches are present here, but they’re also subverted: my favorite one is that heroics are important in times of crisis but here, they never work. Heroics always lead to suffering. On a non satirical point, the wave scenes are terrifying. Let this be a warning.
8) Southbound (Various)
A series of stories are told on the road. I love anthology films and had high hopes for this one, but it would suffice to say it was a disappointment. The stories weren’t particularly well fleshed out and there weren’t even enough cool kills to balance it out. Special mentions go to the monster in the first segment, the creepy cultists in the second (the second segment was actually quite strong, fizzling at the end) and the whole surgery scene in the third. There are four segments, in case you were wondering.