As a result, my TIFF experience compared to last year, when I saw 22 films over the same time period, was much less intense. There were no films I thought were “best of the year” category, but also no stinkers. No big hustle to get across town in ten minutes to catch the next flick. It was actually fairly pleasant and relaxed. I also realized if you’re going solo, you can just embrace the fact that you’re going to be wedged in next to other people and avoid the lineup altogether by going 15 minutes early. Usually the lineup crowd has already been seated, and you find what you can. I never had a bad seat. The only lineup I had was for the Winterbottom film, a ‘gala’ (booooo) at Ryerson (boooooo).
Trip – Michael Winterbottom comedy road movie with Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon. Entertaining, uneven, better than I feared.
Armadillo – Danish doc about Afghanistan – embedded with platoon. Very good, well-shot and visceral, but I hear it’s not as good as Restrepo? (Which I haven’t seen, but would very much like to.)
Microphone – Egyptian film about a recently returned, grieving fella who tries to put together a concert of Alexandria’s underground music scene. Rough, sometimes amateurish, but great music and ultimately cleverer than it initially appears to be.
Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame – a Tsui Hark film billed as the asian Sherlock Holmes. They had me from the moment a magic deer appears and gives orders. Just as much kicking as crime-solving, as one expects from TH.
Sound of Mumbai: A Musical – One of my favourites. Doc about a concert being put together in Mumbai (surprise) featuring slum kids singing The Sound of Music. As fiction this would be contrived and saccharine. As documentary the story is simple and powerful. Scenes of kids roaming around their neighbourhood with Sound of Music score playing feel like real life mashup.
Stake Land – a vampire film that’s really a zombie film at heart. The vampires are brainless bloodthirsty savages, and it’s set a few years after Life As We Know It has ended. But a loose road trip plot goes in more interesting directions than you might expect, focusing on how humans react to the apocalypse rather than the monsters. Although there is that, too. This was people’s choice for best of Midnight Madness.
Outside the Law – epic Algerian / French gangster / revolutionary story in which a trio of brothers becomes involved in the Algerian revolution. Suffers from the usual epic film problems like time compression, condensed dialogue – but actually fairly badass nonetheless.
Sleeping Beauty – Breillat fairy tale about childhood emerging into sexuality. I think. One of my least favourite, but still probably a decent film that I was too tired to get into.
Attenberg – Was attracted to this because of the post-industrial setting. Had I known a major part of this was a father’s illness and death, I probably would have skipped it, which would have been a shame. It’s quite good, although it compares unfavourably to the much more rigorous Dogtooth, another Greek film with which it shares crew members. But I really liked this, and it handled grief in a completely unsentimental and true-to-life way, while also being quite funny and thought-provoking. I have a pet theory that it was a metaphor for Greece’s financial collapse, perhaps.