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Sunday, November 28, 2010

TIFF late reviews

It has been a few months since TIFF but I thought I would share my list of films seen. Naturally, a comprehensive review of each movie would be impossible at this stage. I really should have kept all those scribbles notes in one place.

The loud and rowdy movies:

1) Bunraku: A "pop up" comic book movie based on a Japanese paper art form. Basically an old fashioned tale of two strangers coming together to rid the town of its "bad" influence. However, there are no guns in this world. A gunfighter who fights without a gun and a Japanese warrior who fights without a sword. The mixed visuals of theatre staging and miniature sets combined with the choreography of the fight scenes made this a crowd pleaser at Midnight Madness premiere.

2) Super: Holy gory Batman! Rainn Wilson carried this quirky dramedy with his charismatic humour and honest portrayal of a ordinary man who decides to become a superhero (or at least where a costume and do heroic/vigilant deeds) in order to save his wife from her old habits (and her pimp). Ellen Paige is his very very juvenile sidekick and has some of the randiest scenes in the movie (and we still love her). A touching tale that charts the growth of "super"hero.

3) Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen: Chen Zhen, one of China's famous folk heroes, has been portrayed by Bruce Lee (Fists of Fury) and by Jet Li (Fist of Legend). In this movie, he gets the Donny Yen treatment. Suspend your disbelief as he climbs walls with his knives and disarms German soldiers with his bare fists...all while outracing bullets. What a entertaining spectacle. Yet I was surprised to a learn about China's role in World World one . Several thousand peasants were set as porters for ammunition and food for the front line Allied soldiers. The sheer power of "fists" are conveyed by reverberations of the screen. Less poetic than Yip Man but nevertheless, a wonderful tribute in this the 70th anniversary of the birth of the martial arts legend and actor Bruce Lee.

The Strange:

4) Cave of Forgotten Dreams: The magic and mystery of the cave paintings in Southern France are brought to full glory by Werner Herzog in this 3-D production. We witness by gentle candle light, bison, cave lions, deer, horses and other prehistoric animals dance across the walls in this "Proto-Cinema" (as Herzog laughs). The distinctive hand print signature of the artist is also known but not the reasons for the creation of this wonderful prehistoric "Sistine Chapel". Several additions of how the caves were found (professional "scent" finders), use of prehistoric tools found in the area, and the various theories of h0w such art defines humanity (then and now) make for a mesmerizing experience.

5) Uncle Boonmee who can recall his past lives: I can't even begin to describe this film. Just watch the fantasy unfold and let the images wash over you. Sometimes fascinating, sometimes boring, sometimes funny. The jury at this year's Cannes have certainly picked a challenging Palme D'or winner.

6) Black Swan: A psychological thriller from the same director as the Wrestler, Pi and Requiem for a Dream. It will send a few chills up your spine but somehow, I wasn't as surprised by or even captivated by Natalie Portman's descent into madness. You do marvel at the sadistic nature of the ballet world and incomprehensible body image disorders as well as the athleticism of the art. A fine work but not really sure it is really original.

The sad:
Actually, in every year, this seems to be the category where most of my movies fit. I'll have to make a conscience effort to find a few "lighter" films at next year's festival.

7) Never Let Me Go: Based on the novel of the same name, this is a quiet, understated, poetic and yes, tragic film about facing mortality and examining the relationships which define us. The pacing of the film will certainly challenge some viewers as will the contents of this futuristic story set in a historical setting.

8) Into the Wind: Basketball star Steve Nash and his cousin Erza Holland made is hour long documentary tribute to Canadian hero Terry Fox. His now legendary run for Cancer in 1980 is chronicled from its anonymous start on the east coast, to the hardships and close call in Quebec, to the rise of Terry's celebrity in Ontario and to its final and tragic conclusion as his osterosarcoma returns. From interviews of family and friends and from his own words (which are revealed for the first time), the all too human side of this Canadian hero is exposed as is his enduring spirit and inspiration to future generations of cancer survivors, Canadians and athletes.

9) Hereafter: Clint Eastwood's European film starts off in Thailand with the all too frightening re-creation of the Tsumani of 2004. Weaving the three stories of three charaters from America, France and Britain, we witness the effects of death and near-death experiences on their lives. The well crafted scene however, fail to generate any emotion from the viewer. As the plot lines dove-tail, the viewer is left feeling ambivalent about what the fate of these characters may be.

10) Rabbit Hole: Based on a play of the same name, this movie is a master class in acting. The movie Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart play a couple trying desperately to move on from a terrible family tragedy. They fight, they struggle, they push each other away, they attend a support group, they attempt a reconciliation, they confront the perpetrator of their tragedy, they are masterful in this very human and very honest portrayal of grieving in all its functional and dysfunctional forms. It wouldn't be surprise if both the leading actors were celebrated during the upcoming award season.

This concludes part one of the TIFF review.