Thursday, 15 September 2011

TIFF Day 6 - Tuesday September 13, 2011

Day 6 was my late start, longest and latest day of festivalling this year packing in 4 films over 2 theatres and ending with the awesome that is Midnight Madness. I see a lot of the Midnight Madness films during their repeat screenings during the daytime hours, but I have to go to at least one late-night screening as nothing beats watching extreme films with the craziness of the midnight crowd. It felt only too fitting to pick Sleepless Night this year as it's set throughout a particular late night tromping through a club trying to set a wrong, right. Because I was going to be at the Ryerson late night, I decided to do back-to-back films in the theatre which landed my second last film of the day to be the gritty true crime drama Snowtown, which was amazing, but so very brutal. Before that I checked out a Livid, another selection from the Midnight Madness program and to keep with the working backwards theme I started the day off with the self-reflective/catharsis that was Kim Ki-Duk's Arirang. Pretty gruelling set of films now that I look at them together as a set, I think my next festival day will be a bit lighter. Actually, any festival day might be lighter than that!

Rather watch than read? Check out my Day 6 Vlog!

Dir: Kim Ki-Duk (The Coast Guard, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ...and Spring / Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom, 3-Iron)
Cast: Kim Ki-Duk
South Korea

I'm a huge fan of Kim Ki-Duk's work, first being introduced to his work with the amazing Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ...and Spring / Bom yeoreum gaeul gyeoul geurigo bom then 3-Iron and finally The Coast Guard. He brings an amazing sensitivity to very harsh emotional realism in a way that I've never seen before. I'm not a fan of films that just feel painful, but his film manage to portray, discuss and show not only the awfulness of pain but also the effect of it on anyone who is involved. Until hearing about Arirang, I didn't know that during his previous latest film Dream there was a accident during a hanging scene that turned almost fatal and since then he's had director's block. I can't even imagine what that experience would be like for any director, but for this particular director given his understanding of emotions I instantly empathized with the horror and impact it must have made. Usually I don't write long winded introductions to reviews, but with Arirang I think it's very important to have context otherwise you'll just be wondering what the heck is going on as it's a 100% one man show here of Kim Ki-Duk who through creating this film is coming to terms with the experience of what happened and how it's gotten him stuck. It's clear that we are seeing catharsis in process, but the wild thing is that he knows that and calls it out in the film time and again. It even feels overly constructed at times to let us know, that he knows it's a construct. I find seeing process in action interesting and that's very much what we are seeing here: seeing thought process, emotional process and development process as well. I knew it was a film I wanted to see from the moment that I heard of it, and I'm glad I saw it because I believe in Kim Ki-Duk as a director, as an artist and a person and I wanted to bear witness to what he has to say and needed to share about what happened. On a more woowoo level, film is a medium that needs to be seen for it to live and I want his films to live. Being stuck on creating your art is one of the hardest things there is, and therefore making this film is a brave step to get unstuck and for that I salute it. I hope that Arirang helps heal the wounds and sparks the ashy embers of the filmmaking fire I've grown to love over the years.

Livid directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury with TIFF Programmer Colin Geddes

Livid / Livide
Dirs: Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo (A L’Interieur / Inside)
Cast: Chloe Coulloud, Jeremy Kapone, Catherine Jacob, Felix Moati, Marie-Claude Pietragalla

It feels a little strange to check out Livid before seeing directors Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo's infamous film A L’Interieur / Inside which is continually paired with the term French New Wave of Horror, but that might have worked in my favour as this Livid is completely different being a classically toned gothic horror flick. There are elements of gore and certainly some visceral moments that the audience cheered for, but this film is really got the old school horror vibe going on with a protagonist with an unusual affliction, a group of friends to egg each other on and a fabulous mansion setting rich with deep, dark secrets. I absolutely adored the art director and cinematography (and it was awesome to see it in AMC7 - one of, if not the, largest screens in the city), the film was beautiful to watch and uses the gothic card well. Creepy settings and morbid situations, all with a bit of an aloof attitude that something bad can happen. In the film we follow Lucie (Chloé Coulloud) a trainee for home support for housebound patient that require medical attention, which provides us with the possibility of finding wealth from those seemingly unable to put up any kind of fight. Along with boyfriend and a buddy in tow, the mansion mayhem begins. The mayhem is pretty out there, and I appreciated that the story and it's horrors went in new and creepy places, but sometimes I found the logic of it hard to follow. Questions like sho (or what) was doing what, and why? and where are we in the house now, and how did we get there? kept on popping up in my brain. But when something crazy would happen and I just have that awesome reactionary horror movie experience of UGH!!! creepy!!! While I appreciated the creep factor and give kudos the crazy dance teacher inclusion, I did wish it flowed a little smoother and that the trio of friends characters were more developed, I didn't get a huge sense of their relationships which were filled in pretty quickly but I felt like they should care a little bit more about each other as a staple in the horror world is the reaction to the demise of others. It was gorgeous to watch though, from both perspectives of beauty and of horror and the creepy place where the can become one.

TIFF Programmer Colin Geddes with Snowtown director Justin Kurzel

Dir: Justin Kurzel - feature film directorial debut
Cast: Lucas Pittaway, Daniel Henshall, Louise Harris

Snowtown was hands-down the hardest film to sit through at the festival this year. It's a true crime film set in Australian in the 90's for murders so horrific and well known that director Justin Kurzel shared that they decided not even to include a 'based on a true story' during the beginning of the film. The film begins with a family of a single mom and her many sons, one of which is Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) who befriend his mom's new boyfriend John (Daniel Henshall) after the family goes through an upsetting experience, but this turns the film on a darker path of power, vengeance and ruthlessness in places we've never seen before. Lucas Pittaway is amazing as Jamie, and I'm even more impressed given the fact that it's his first role. The raw emotions he portrays are almost too much to watch. I felt to much for his character and you just want to someone save him from the situation he is in. It's one of the few films that I just wanted it to end, because I didn't know how much more I could take and that's something that rarely happens to me in film. Perhaps it's because it's a true crime film and through the dramatization you can feel with completely belief that the horrible things that you were seeing happen could happen. It's not just the actual events, which we see nowadays in lots of highly stylized horror films, but it's everything around them. It's the debilitating fear and the hopelessness, the twisted power dynamics and slow building poisonous relationships. It's all horrible, and I believed it. I believed it all. And I didn't want to because it was so horrible that anyone could do the things that were done. A truly harrowing film-viewing experience, but I am thankful for the fact that it's done exceptionally well. The slow build storytelling and fantastic acting from the entire cast which is a formidable feat considering only Daniel Henshall is professional actor. Although it was a hard film to watch, it was also one of the best films I've seen at the festival.

TIFF Programmer Colin Geddes with with Sleepless Night / Nuit blanche director Frederic Jardin and actor Tomer Sisley at Midnight Madness screening

Sleepless Night / Nuit blanche
Dir: Frederic Jardin
Cast: Tomer Sisley, Joey Starr, Julien Boisselier, Laurent Stocker, Birol Ünel, Serge Riaboukine

I'm been very excited to see Sleepless Night as any French action film set in club over one night is more than enough to catch my attention. I love club-culture films and the late night feel made it my pick this year to enjoy at the actual Midnight Madness screening and wow, that's really the best way to enjoy it with both the director Frederic Jardin and star Tomer Sisley were at the screening which just makes it all the more fun. As the film began and the credits start to roll over us I see that it's co-written by Nicolas Saada (who wrote & directed a great emotionally driven espionage flick Espion(s) / Spy(ies)), and that was icing on the cake and I nestled into my seat knowing there would be good times ahead. I was sold this one really gets it right as the film builds the club fills until both are just about to burst. In the film we follow Vincent (Tomer Sisley), who isn't perfect by any means, but he isn't overly ruthless either. He's put in a peculiar situation and his desperation drives his purely emotional journey that's amplified by club surroundings as he uses any resource he can to get through the night from being manipulative to subtle to all-out brawling. It's an action flick that keeps the tension high, the action visceral and all the while keeps you mind engaged and the heart of the audience beating from both the tension of the situation but also with hope for the characters in their plight. The frantic energy is held strong throughout which is amazing, continues to generate even more energy in the confined space well past the point where you think things have gone to far, that all options have been tried, and that the club itself can't get any fuller. And the it keeps on, and on, and on. I loved how the film keeps you guessing without even really knowing it, and I adored that the level of emotional resonance is just as high as the tension level and that both are maintained throughout the entire film. Brilliant. I absolutely loved it.

The Toronto International Film Festival 2011 runs from September 8 - 18, 2011 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

The Midnight Madness Crowd gets ready for Sleepless Night

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