Lev Lewis signing off from the Toronto International Film Festival
For ten days a year my little big city is overtaken by the masses of the film industry. Celebrities of all kinds are spotted walking casually through Yonge St.; semi-recognizable journalists with their green laniards hurry from screening to screening. A little piece of Hollywood just one streetcar ride away from me. So, it's odd to see how a city can overnight seem the centre of the world and then, just like that, retreat back to its former, seemingly dull self.
Not that I'm complaining. As exciting as the last ten days have been, a respite from line-ups and writing and, yes, even films, will be most welcome. 18 films in ten days isn't an exorbitant amount but it's more than enough for me. I'll leave you with a write-up on the best films I saw at the festival.
Now for the movies!
Winner of the Grand Prix at this years Cannes, revered auteur Jacques Audiard's sprawling and gripping crime drama, A Prophet follows the ascent of a young Arab man named Malik through the political labyrinth of a French prison. Audiard and co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain carefully avoid the trappings of the crime genre without completely subverting them, and in the process have crafted a film that pays homage to the great crime films without simple imitation. Constant motion and an unusual use of music counterbalance the film's gritty hand-held feel and lengthy running time. Grade: A-
Bong Joon-ho follows up his brilliant monster movie The Host with another look into family and the lengths parents will go to save their offspring. Mother is the story of a, what else, mother trying to get her mentally-challenged son cleared of murder. What's remarkable about Joon-ho is the way he utilizes different genres (in this case, mystery) to tackle issues of corruption, family, guilt, government etc. with careful subtlety. His deceptively simple mystery is weaved together with such ease, through a screenplay laden with a perceptive eye towards the smallest detail that the film's final conclusion is shocking yet quickly apparent. Finally, Kim Hye-ja delivers what may be the female performance of the year. Almost single-minded in her desperation for her son, Hye-ja avoids histrionics and instead creates a character of remarkable depth. Grade: A
The White Ribbon
Recalling some of the greatest work of Bergman, Michael Haneke's fully deserving Palme d'or winner The White Ribbon is a masterwork. Haneke brilliantly underpins the beginning of fascism in Europe within the context of horrific attacks upon and within a small village. His breadth of ideas and his exacting yet straightforward use of editing, cinematography and sound to create atmosphere are all applied to their fullest extent. This is an unsettling and exceptional film. Grade: A
A Note: All three of these films have been submitted by their respective countries for the Academy Awards. If the Oscars have any sense all three will be nominated.
1. Antichrist (A)
2. The White Ribbon (A)
3. Mother (A)
4. A Prophet (A-)
5. Fish Tank (A-)
6. Bad Lieuteant: Port of Call New Orleans (B+)
8. Police, Adjective (B)
9. White Material (B-)
10. Les Herbes Folles (B-)
11. A Serious Man (B-)
12. Mr. Nobody (B-)
13. Up In the Air (C+)
14. Jennifer's Body (C-)
15. My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done (C-)
16. Get Low (D+)
17. Life During Wartime (D+)
18. Glorious 39 (D)
Lars von Trier, Antichrist (Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon and Bong Joon-ho, Mother)
Willem Dafoe, Antichrist (Nicolas Cage, The Bad Lieutenant...)
Kim Hye-ja, Mother (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist)
Best Supporting Actor
<--- Michael Fassbender, Fish Tank (Niels Arestrup, Un Prophete and Richard Kind, A Serious Man)
Best Supporting Actress
Roxanne Duran, The White Ribbon (Vera Farmiga, Up in the Air and Juno Temple, Mr. Nobody)
The White Ribbon (Fish Tank)
Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon (Lars Von Trier, Antichrist and Park Eun-kyo, Mother)
Thimios Bakatatakis, Dogtooth (Hong Kyung-pyo, Mother and Anthony Dod Mantle, Antichrist)
Best Original Score
Lee Byeong-Woo, Mother (Stuart Staples, White Material)
Thanks so much for reading and Nathaniel for giving me the space to have some of my writing read. Perhaps I'll see you next year.