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Monday, September 17, 2012

Sean Kelly

TIFF12: Summary of Film Thoughts

I saw a whopping 25 films during the course of TIFF (26 if you count On the Road, which I saw at a pre-festival screening).  It’s definitely hard to write coverage for the festival when the bulk of your time is spent watching the movies.

I managed to write roughly a dozen film reviews over the course of the week, which is a good number if I say so myself.  In this post, I will provide some brief thoughts on the films that I was was not able to properly write about during the festival. Enjoy.

After the Battle
My festival kicked off with this film that takes place under the backdrop of last year’s revolution in Egypt.  The film tells the story of a man named Mahmoud, a horse rider, who lives in a walled-off town in Egypt.  Mahmoud is hesitant against the growing political movements within the country, but also doesn’t like that he has been hurting for work since tourists have stopped coming to his town and is willing to take it to extreme measures.  Most of the film is completely improvised and the actors only had an outline to work with.  Overall it was decent enough film to start off on.
8 | LIKED IT

Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out
This documentary was the follow-up to the documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired and I wish I watched that film beforehand, since it is referenced many times throughout this film.  So, the previous documentary reopened Roman Polanski’s statutory rape case, since it revealed some previously unknown information.  Shortly afterwards, Polanski was arrested in Switzerland on this way to a film festival.  The documentary examines the apparent political reasoning for the arrest and asks the question why he was arrested at that particular time and not the countless other times he visited the country, where he owns a chalet.  The film also looks a bit into Polanski’s vilification by many after the arrest, since some view him as nothing but a pedophile and rapist, even though all the parties (including the victim) has tried to move on in the years following.  The documentary is interesting, though it does require a lot of previous knowledge to properly enjoy.
7 | FAIR 

The Iceman
Michael Shannon adds another role to his growing cult status in this true story that has him play mob hitman Richard Kuklinski.  Kuklinski was able to successfully live a double life, in which he was a loving husband and family man, as well as a cold blooded killer.  Shannon has become so good at playing these psychotic roles that I almost want him to try doing some different types of films.  The film features a very varied supporting cast, which includes Winona Ryder as Kuklinski’s wife, Ray Liotta as his boss, Chris Evans as a fellow hitman, and even David Schwimmer pops up within the film, sporting a full 1970s mustache.  Overall, it was an excellent crime thriller.
 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

The Suicide Shop
There is nothing much better than a macabre animated film about a family who runs a shop full of all the weapons you need for your suicide committing needs.  Of course, it hurts business somewhat when your youngest son turns out to be very happy and optimistic.  This is a very fun and enjoyable film.  It was presented in 3D, though I don’t think there were many effects, other than some layering.  Also, despite the animated nature, the film does feature some adult content not for kids, including violence and a some language and nudity.  This was definitely one of the hidden gems of the festival.
 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Sightseers
Sightseers is a very dark British comedy about a couple named Tina and Chris go on a roadtrip together.  They seem to be happy couple, however it just happens to be that Chris is a serial killer, who has the habit of killing everyone who annoys him.  This is a film that it’s not for everbody, while the murders are played for laughs, they are still quite dark and gory.  As such, it can be hard to remain sympathetic to the characters.  While the film is a little too dark for my liking, I still thought that it had its moments.
7 | FAIR 

Crimes of Mike Recket
As a low budget Canadian film, I thought that Crimes of Mike Recket was somewhat decently made.  That said, I did have some issues with the structure of the film’s plot.  The plot focuses on a man named Mike Recket, who is being investigated by police in relation to the disappearance of a woman.  The film repeatedly moves back and forth between Recket’s interactions with this woman and the present, however the film doesn’t make this change of time period clear.  It also quickly became obvious how the film was going to turn out, so I found myself just waiting for the film to resolve itself.
6 | WATCHABLE

In the Fog
I don’t know if it was because I watched the film at an early morning screening, but I wasn’t really able to get into this World War II-set drama from Belarus.  The film moves at a very slow pace and follow an ex-soldier, who is taken by his old comrades for supposedly making a deal with the Germans and betraying them.  The film features a flashback to this apparently betrayal, though its hard to tell what time period the film was in at any one point (it didn`t help that I was quite tired and dosed off a bit).  I did quite like the film`s final shot, which lives up to the film`s title, but overall the film wasn’t really my thing.
5 | INDIFFERENT

Venus & Serena
As the title suggests, this documentary is a biography of Venus and Serena Williams.  The Williams sisters became two of the biggest tennis stars in the world, but still had to face challenges, such as racism.  The film moves back and forth between providing a complete history of their career, which began when they were teenagers, and looking at the medical issues and challenges that plagued the sisters during the 2011 season.  The film goes into the fact that playing tennis takes a huge toll on your body and, since the Williams sisters are now in their 30s, it is unknown how much longer they will be able to continue playing.  Overall, I thought that it was a decent enough history of the sisters.
8 | LIKED IT

Room 237
Conspiracy theories are fun to think about, but it’s hard to believe that people think their crazy ideas are actually true.  Room 237 focuses on a group of people (who are only heard in voice-over), who share their conspiracy theories involving Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. The theories range between everything from the film being symbolic of the genocide of Native American to it being a symbolic apology of the Kubrick’s apparent faking of the Lunar moon landing.  If there is something to be learned from this film, it’s that it can be very easy to over-analyze something and come up with “proof” that supports your crazy ideas.  That said, I did find one of the examples, which saw some interesting symmetry between the superimposed images of the film playing both forwards and backwards, to be an intriguing coincidence.  Overall, I though that it was an excellent doc and there is at least statement within the film that I somewhat agree with – The Artist’s Intent is only Part of the Story.
 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Storm Surfers 3D
If there is anything that Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams proved, it’s that 3D has a place in documentary if done right.  Storm Surfers 3D follows two of the greatest surfers in the world, Tom Carroll and Ross Clarke-Jones, and they seek out new and bigger waves.  The title is in reference to the fact that they analyze storm conditions to plan on when the best waves will appear.  The 3D effects in the film are excellent and it appears that you are right in the middle of the action.  The film utilizes many cameras, including one attached to the boards, in order to capture all the surfing action.  The film is definitely a blast to watch.
 9 | REALLY LIKED IT

Well, that’s it for the films I saw this year at the Toronto International Film Festival.  Stay tuned for my full festival wrap-up.

Sean Kelly

About Sean Kelly -

Sean Patrick Kelly is a self-described ├╝ber-geek, who has been an avid film lover for all his life. He graduated from York University in 2010 with an honours B.A. in Cinema and Media Studies and he likes to believe he knows what he’s talking about when he writes about film (despite occasionally going on pointless rants).