Monday, October 8, 2012

VIFF 2012 - Days 9-11

Twilight Portrait
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.

Full Review
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.
Kathmandu Lullaby
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.

Full Review
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
FranceFrance, AustriaAustria
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.

Full Review
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.
Laurence Anyways
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.

Full Review
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
USAUSA, FranceFrance
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.


365 moviesandsongs365 said...

You've been busy! I'm sure Amour is easy to admire for the acting, whether I will find it appealing besides that I don't know. Seems like Michael Haneke has gone the Lars von Trier Melancholia route, and taken a break from shocking audiences

Mettel Ray said...

Wow, lots of movies.. Can't wait to see if you manage to put together your top 5 or something. It would definitely help me to prioritize this long list of foreign films.

d_4 said...

Started off thinking I'd be fine with watching most of these, then progressively realized I'd probably be better off watching half. Still, that's an impressive amount you've gone through.

Lisa Thatcher said...

We disagree on Barbara and Amour - I think I had the reverse reactions - I think Amour is easily Hanekes best so far (that restraint is chilling) and Barbara bored me with its obviousness... but Nina Hoss is definitely fantastic to watch! My god - she's so beautiful.
But there are some very very exciting films here - Rose looks brilliant and I love the look of Emperor visits the hell. Those images of Reality look great as well.
So many films - Im wondering if there are too many... is it easy to retain objectivity? You have so many amazing films here crammed into one space. How is that for you?

stevens1 said...

Brilliant effort bagging all this together BT - especially as a one-man outfit! Some really good looking films and many added to my list.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

The acting is outstanding. The film however didn't manage to make me completely connect with the characters' plight.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I will try and make a ranking of the films I saw sometime this week.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

I think this is the most amount of films I've seen in such a short span in my entire life.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Barbara gets extra points from me for depicting the GDR in a way I've never seen before. Amour on the other hand showed me nothing new. Except that Haneke is better at directing humans than pigeons...

I do think I am suffering from a certain level of festival fatigue though. 3 to 5 films a day for two weeks straight is something I've never done before and I'm sure my initial reception to them would be different if I watched them at a regular pace.

Bonjour Tristesse said...

Thanks Steven. It hasn't been easy to do but it's been an incredibly fun experience.

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