Thanks for checking out my daily TIFF blog. I hit the ground running on the first day of TIFF…I saw 5 films. 4 of the screenings were strictly with press & industry folks, and one was public screening that had all the glitz and glamour of the fest (red carpet, big stars, etc.).
First off was DOGMAN directed by Matteo Garrone. Here’s the festival’s brief synopsis: “In the latest from Matteo Garrone (Gomorrah), mild-mannered Marcello spends his days grooming dogs, hanging out with his beloved daughter and, like most of his neighbourhood, trying to avoid Simoncino, a former boxer and resident bully with whom Marcello uneasily coexists — until a double-crossing prompts an ugly act of vengeance.” This was the first of two Italian films I saw today – both shot in rather desolate locations that aren’t the Italy we’ve come to know in classic cinema. This little film started out with some glimmers of hope, but it got really dark really fast. I loved the protagonist, and I believed his trajectory, but this film isn’t for everyone.
NON-FICTION, directed by Olivier Assayas, was next on my list. Here’s the festival’s brief synopsis: “French auteur Olivier Assayas probes the promises and pitfalls of art in the age of digital communication, in this comedy about a Parisian publisher (Guillaume Canet) and his successful-actor wife (Juliette Binoche) adapting to the new-media landscape.” This film covers all the bases in the debate/discussion of whether the digital age is helping or hindering society/artists/publishers/basic human communication. Though it certainly has some insightful and funny moments, I found it to get tedious after a while. When it comes to Assayas, I think my favorite is still SUMMER HOURS.
BURNING, directed by Lee Chang-dong, was next on my list. Here’s TIFF’s brief synopsis: “In this thriller from director Lee Chang-dong, based on a short story by Haruki Murakami, a young man grows suspicious about the motives of a deceptive interloper who is hanging around with his childhood friend–turned–burgeoning love interest.” This slow burn thriller is heavy on the “slow”…I could easily remove 40 minutes from its 2 Hr 28 Min runtime. There were certainly some moments that worked, but I looked at my watch one hour in and couldn’t believe we weren’t at the half way point yet.
GRETA was my first public screening of the festival. Here’s the brief synopsis from TIFF: “Isabelle Huppert teams with writer-director Neil Jordan to play the title role in this psychological thriller about a lonely, mysterious widow whose friendship with a naïve young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) takes on an increasingly obsessive and sinister air.” I was delighted that Jordan, Huppert and Moretz were all in attendance…as was Maika Monroe – a supporting star who stole several several scenes while on screen. (Interestingly, Chloë Grace Moretz is the lead actress in the Opening Night Film of this year’s Dayton LGBT Film Festival – THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST.) The film is glossy and full of some fun choices…but it’s perhaps the most over-the-top and campy thriller I’ve seen in years. At one moment, when a major plot point is revealed, the audience burst into laughter and I immediately thought “Is that what Jordan intended – or was that supposed to be a gut-punch?” Some of the music cues are so big, and some of the decisions are so on-the-nose – I couldn’t decide how I was feeling for most of the film. But by the end, I was rooting for the protagonist and laughing along with the brilliant Huppert. (I’ll post a picture I took of the cast on our FACEBOOK page.)
VICE OF HOPE, directed by Edoardo de Angelis, was my last film of the night. This was the second film of the day set on the bleak seaside of Italy. Here’s the brief TIFF synopsis: “To support her family, Maria works as a trafficker of surrogate mothers, transporting them from place to place along a river — but when one disappears, Maria is left with the task of finding her and must enter deeper into a world she wishes to escape.” This film had more walk-outs than any film I can recently remember. Granted, it was late at night and there were lots of parties going on, but I couldn’t bring myself to leave. This was a world I’d never seen before, and Maria, the lead character (played by Pina Turco), was someone I really wanted to see overcome the odds. Given the subject matter, you can’t escape the overall sad and desperate and humiliating tone of the film…but there were always glimmers of hope – and that’s what kept Maria going (as well as the viewer…well at least for me).
No parties tonight for me. I’m going to bed early and looking forward to another full day tomorrow (though maybe only 4 films).
Thanks for reading,