directed by Angelina Nikonova
An outstanding debut with an intense lead performance in a provocative psychological drama and also a commentary on contemporary Russian society. Much of the film does take place during twilight, which also reflects the mood of the character's state of mind. The images are dreary but the cinematography is impressive for the budget. It also has perhaps the most brilliant ending shot of the festival so far.
directed by Matteo Garrone
This is rather well shot and its book-ended by two gorgeous aerial sequences. Lead actor Aniello Arena puts on a captivating descent into madness as well, in a sometimes funny but overall too long and scattered commentary of our celebrity and reality-tv obsessed society.
directed by Icíar Bollaín
Wonderful Nepalese scenery, and lead actress Verónica Echegui is lovely to watch, but the film is disappointing. Saddled with sloppy drama, clumsy dialog, and awful sigh inducing exposition.
Something In The Air (Apres Mai)
directed by Olivier Assayas
Highly atmospheric and nostalgic look back at the months and years following May 1968. Obscure soundtrack and stylish visuals capture the era extremely well but the characters and narrative are underdeveloped. It has a few great moments, but overall lacks the same emotional punch or intensity of the director's previous efforts. I feel it's a film made primarily for those who lived through and have a fond memory of that era.
directed by Christian Petzold
A masterful example of simple low-key drama. No lazy tricks or lame conventions to be found here. A careful balance between a Cold War mystery and a fascinating character study that moves at a very slow pace but is always wonderful to watch. Mostly due to the mesmerizing Nina Hoss, who plays the title role with an icy demeanour that ever so gradually opens up to reveal a delicate character within.
Everybody in the Family
directed by Radu Jude
An absurdly funny black comedy that unfolds mostly in real time (much like the director's first film The Happiest Girl In The World), in the documentary-like style of the Romanian New Wave. Offers some hilarious dialogue and great ratcheting of tension, and takes place almost entirely in one apartment. A bit like Carnage, but better written, more realistic, and overall more enjoyable to watch.
Soundbreaker: The World of Kimmo Pohjonen
directed by Kimmo Koskela
A documentary about the extraordinarily innovative musician Kimmo Pohjonen. A master of the accordion known for the unique and modern way he plays the instrument. There are some impressionistic shots set in the wintry Finnish environment. Also a fascinating sequence which follows the setup and performance of a concert using a mix of live and recorded samples of farm machinery. Sort of like a real life Sound of Noise
Emperor Visits The Hell
directed by Li Luo
The winner of this year's Dragons and Tigers award. A very bizarre yet cleverly executed modern retelling of a centuries old Chinese novel. It's shot in black and white in a minimalistic style comprised of long takes. It also employs a couple of interesting narrative techniques. Overall this feels like its either an unpolished feature, or a short that's too long, but it shows great potential and creativity, and makes a poignant commentary on modern day China.
directed by Michael Haneke
Haneke trades his usual shocking methods for a more restrained and respectful approach. Instead of mercilessly hammering the audience with blunt force trauma, he squeezes us with a slow controlled asphyxiation. Somehow I think I prefer his old ways, but Riva and Trintignant are absolutely magnificent in a film that begins surprisingly light but gradually becomes more and more difficult to watch.
directed by Sacha Polak
An intense and rather impressive debut. It's a very well acted and highly explicit psychological study of a young woman in search of her personal identity. Somewhat like a female version of Shame. Not as meticulously composed or as visually stunning, but it does have a more developed and better defined protagonist.
directed by Wojtek Smarzowski
A tragic piece of history that deserves telling, the forced integration of Masuria into Poland by the Soviet Union at the end of WWII. But it's so unflinchingly dark and brutal from start to finish, depicting the Red Army's harsh treatment of the Masurians with rampant rapes, summary executions, and extreme torture. This will be a very tough watch for most.
directed by Xavier Dolan
Winner of Best Canadian Film at TIFF 2012. This is a stylishly rendered heartbreaking love story with a wonderful screenplay that makes what would otherwise be a prohibitive runtime (159 minutes) fly by. Beautiful long slow motion sequences, an intelligent and complex narrative, and well formed characters mark another positive step forward for the director. Solid acting as well, but Suzanne Clement steals the show with a remarkable performance.
directed by Anais Barbeau-Lavalette
A solid film that tackles the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict with an interesting personal approach. Impressive production values and an emotional performance from Evelyne Brochu (last seen in Cafe de Flore), but many of her character's actions are not quite believable, and the film doesn't offer any profound revelations.
The Unlikely Girl
directed by Wei Ling Chang
This rare VIFF world premiere is an erotically charged suspense thriller with shades of Francois Ozon's The Swimming Pool. Great camera work, with frequent long lingering close-ups on the sunlit flesh of the young and sexy cast. However it suffers from some awkward editing and dialogue, and the twists and turns are too easily spotted.