Toronto International Film Festival

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TIFF 2019, Last Days: Uncut Gems, Atlantis, Jallikattu, This Action Lies

At Marriage Story‘s TIFF premiere, the audience applauded the Netflix logo; a night later, the same happened for A24 at Uncut Gems. The latter makes slightly more sense—rightly or wrongly (no comment), A24 has coherent brand cachet in positioning itself as Art-Fixated rather than purely profit-motivated—but in both cases I felt like I was going mad, and even more so when I heard that the first question for The Lighthouse‘s cast and crew at their first screening was why is A24 is so very special (surely that’s not on Willem Dafoe to answer.) Admittedly, Adam Sandler shaking Kevin Garnett’s hand onstage […]

TIFF 2019, Days 7-9: Collective, To the Ends of the Earth, Ema

One benefit of an extended stay at TIFF (if you can swing it) is is allowing time for friends with trustworthy taste and far more patience to slog through non-obvious titles, then adjusting my endgame schedule accordingly for what they recommend. Hence the unexpected highlight of 29 TIFF screenings (24 features, four Wavelengths shorts programs and one revival screening of Pickpocket), Alexander Nanau’s verite doc Collective, about a scandal that had entirely passed me by. Opening title cards establish the fundamentals: a pyrotechnics accident at a 2015 concert led to a fire killing 26 on site, the death toll swelling to 64 […]

TIFF Wavelengths 2019, Program Two: Home Movies

Following on the eccentric construction of the first program, where the coherence of a quartet of formally disparate films was established by a shared interest in alternative means of image production (gender, as The Bite reminds us, being one of these as well), the second slate of Wavelengths shorts traced a much clearer arc, as all six works offered variations on the home movie. Though I found it lesser in quality than the night before, Picard’s curation here was brash and confrontational in a way it rarely is, a charmingly punk gesture to make in primetime on the festival’s first […]

“Deragh Had Never Skydived Before…” Five Questions for Writer/Director Kazik Radwanski about His TIFF-Premiering Anne at 13,000 Ft.

Overwhelming anxiety, bad workplaces and ill-advised self-medication are all very on-trend for 2019—Kazik Radwanski’s Anne at 13,000 Ft is right for the moment. A Torontonian child care worker at a government-run facility, Anne (Deragh Campbell) is the protagonist of a handheld drama whose initial energy is very in a post-Dardennes vein, with nervy-but-not-illegibly-jumpy camerawork following her. One way to add production value to your lowish-budget production is suggested by the opening, where Anne skydives out a plane as part of a bachelorette party (!). The footage is clearly unfaked and my nightmare; smartly intercutting between the build-up and her job, a […]

TIFF Wavelengths 2019, Program One: Double Iambs

It grows more difficult with each passing edition to assent to the standard line that the Wavelengths program is a small clearing for artistic purity amidst a shrill, militaristically corporate environment. This has nothing to do with Andréa Picard’s curation—as deft and illuminating this year as any in the decade I’ve attended the Toronto International Film Festival—and everything to do with ongoing shifts in the social and institutional situations of artists interested in making work whose form is other than that of the commercial narrative feature. Shifts within the institutional priorities of the festival itself have required that Picard take […]

TIFF 2019, Day 4: Dolemite Is My Name

Eddie Murphy was all of 21 when he started shooting 48 Hrs. There were no years of supporting player quips to work himself up the ladder—instead, he landed the lead in an excellent, commercially successful movie first time out. He wasn’t the kind of comic who needed a movie to be built around his limitations, but an instantly seasoned player with serious dramatic chops. There’s a moment in Coming to America where the subway doors slam shut on him registering surprise and disappointment, and Murphy nails the look without overplaying—I think at that point in his career he was capable of […]

TIFF 2019, Day 3: The Personal History of David Copperfield, Cunningham

Does Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield have an obvious/meaningful relationship to his other work, and what attracted him to this adaptation in the first place? The former is easier to answer: Iannucci, age 55, studied English literature at Oxford and almost wrote a PhD on Paradise Lost, so it’s not surprising he has an affinity for Charles Dickens, any more so than it’s unexpected that the overeducated Oxbridge students at Monty Python’s core would perform a sketch about Proust. Nor is Iannucci’s love for Dickens recent news: check out his hour-long 2012 BBC special Armando’s Tale of Charles Dickens, where […]

TIFF 2019, Day 2: I Was at Home, But…, Zombi Child, First Love

As Giovanni Marchini Camia notes in this valuable, context-providing review/interview of I Was at Home, But…,  Angela Schanelec’s fourth feature, 2001’s Passing Summer, was the first to give rise (in a Die Zeit review) to the term “Berlin School,” an imprecise but generally accepted designation for contemporaries including Christian Petzold, Maren Ade, Ulrich Köhler, Christoph Hochhäusler, Thomas Arslan et al. As Camia also notes, Schanelec’s relationship to this term is tense; her work is the most overtly severe, and it’s taken her longer to break through than her highest-profile peers. Internationally, Schanelec didn’t receive significant recognition until her ninth feature, 2016’s The Dreamed Path, until […]

TIFF 2019, Day 1: Parasite, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Pain and Glory, The Report

For P&I-accredited attendees without the scratch to make it to Berlin/Cannes/Venice (let alone Telluride, with its $780 cost of press entry), day one of TIFF is traditionally a marathon catch-up march through their biggest titles, often scheduled in competing Sophie’s choice slots, with the big-name world premiere titles coming later. All this year’s Cannes main slate awardees are in the program minus two (the pointed omissions are Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe and the Dardennes’ Young Ahmed). This year’s Palme d’Or went to Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, which is fine by me: he certainly deserves some kind of significant honorific at this point. Bong’s career […]

TIFF 2019 Announces First Gala and Special Presentations Titles: Joker, Rian Johnson, Safdies, Bruce Springsteen and More

On the heels of last week’s announcement of TIFF 2019’s opening night film, today the festival dropped the first titles announced for its Gala and Special Presentation sections. Per usual, this first wave announcements is heavy on big-name festival titles. Among the galas, world premieres include Marielle Heller’s follow-up to Can You Ever Forgive Me?, the Tom Hanks-starring Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day in the Neighbhorhood; Western Stars, a performance film co-directed by Bruce Springsteen for his latest album; the Eddie Murphy-starring Rudy Ray Moore biopic directed by Craig Brewer; and Rian Johnson’s Agatha Christie-inflected murder mystery comedy Knives Out. Other prominent titles include […]