End scene. Until next year that is.

TIFF is done. The festival I thought I’d bypass entirely ended up absorbing me more than I expected. I guess my more recent preoccupation with television and scatterbrained internet browsing has been better suited to my small attention span. I kind of forgot that I really enjoy getting enveloped by a good film. Something about planting myself in front of a screen and being forced to take in as many narrative clues as possible fits the way I like to take in my entertainment. The pressure of doing so within an environment devoid of external stimuli fits the goal even better. After discovering a source close to me could get me free tickets, I crammed a fair few films into the last week of TIFF. I’ve talked about one or two, but here’s a full (brief) recap:

Baskin:

A Turkish horror movie filled to the gills with dark visuals, sadistic violence and a bleak depiction of the underworld. It looked pretty, but all of that gloss couldn’t hide certain narrative missteps, severe pacing issues and a rather nonsensical plot. The characters were fundamentally unlikeable, which killed any desire to root for them and dampened the terror of what was to come. You could see the seeds of something there, but without illuminating them correctly they failed to grow.

Looking for Grace:

The storytelling technique was another take on that whole Rashomon vignette structure. There were narrative overlaps, allowing for alternative points of view and a bit of humour along the way. The film plodded along quite nicely, with some genuinely charming moments. If you took the film as a collection of its little story circles and character developments, they added up to something with a nice taste to it. Ultimately as a whole though there wasn’t much to linger on. The summation of the film came out of nowhere and by the time it appeared, most of the film’s content had been proven kind of meaningless. It’s not often you leave the cinema with a feeling of “oh, that was it?” and smile. I wanted to like it more than I did.

Zoom:

Speaking of messy endings, Zoom was a riveting enough film to excuse the its one fault. A recursive plot of three interlinked narratives, feeding off one another. Relentlessly funny, daring attempts to subvert known conventions, it went out there with everything on show and came away looking pretty flash. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a rapid, challenging but hilarious film. Great fun for possibly not the whole family, but maybe one you could laugh through awkwardly with your angsty teenage art school kid.

Southbound:

Helmed by the makers of the horror anthology V/H/S, was another horror anthology. 5 stories interlinked (noticing a theme here?) by a whiskey voiced radio jock as the characters independently headed south along deserted highways. The 4th story was a bit of a dip, but the rest were all great short tales to jump into. The 3rd story in particular, Accident, was possibly the greatest 20 or so minutes of my entire festival. So tense and darkly comic, it showcased a mastery of the genre. I’m happy to throw out the word “brilliant” without calling on hyperbole. The whole anthology is worth a viewing when it inevitably gets mainstream distribution.

Body:

A Polish film tackling the rigours of living in the face of grief. A coroner, his anorexic daughter, the spectre of his wife and a physical therapist/medium are at the centre of this bleakly comic but genuinely moving tale. Slow moving and sparse, but fittingly so. Its sense of comedic timing was impeccable, especially as a counterpoint to its grim subject matter. I left this one with a smile plastered to my face.

Lolo:

I’m biased here, because I would watch almost anything with the gifted and stunning Julie Delpy. The plot wasn’t anything fresh or new, but it showed just how far you can get with some real talent on hand. The casting was impeccable, with a slew of laugh out loud moments. Things got pretty dark, but always enjoyable, culminating in a predictable but earned ending. It wasn’t breaking any new ground, but I loved it all the same.

Lace Crater:

A horror comedy about a girl who has unprotected sex with a poltergeist only to find herself dealing with the consequences. GhostTIs, STDemons, whatever you want to call them. It was a promising idea that I failed to last through. 5 minutes into the film the constant steadycam style shooting made me feel physically ill and I had to leave before I blew chunks on the rows in front of me. It’s a bummer, I was really looking forward to it, but just felt too nauseous to handle.

Sky:

A road movie I had trouble staying on board for. A woman faces trauma and meanders around the United States trying to find herself. I really enjoy the sense of discovery in filmic road trips, but this one failed to lock me in. After the initial hump, things just kind of work out for her. It seemed like a cluster of tropes stapled together, but with the stakes failing to elevate high enough, I couldn’t get invested. Nothing wrong with the acting, but the characters weren’t particularly compelling. Diane Kruger was great and held things together, but even with Norman Reedus and Lena Dunham on hand, the actors couldn’t fix the film’s structural flaws on their own, try as they might. A kind of disappointing end to an otherwise enjoyable festival.

Previous times I’ve gone to TIFF I’ve waited through needlessly long lines and a ton of hype. It was kind of nice to stay away from anything large. Attending on my own, I could just turn up 5 minutes before showtime and find a seat in the middle of the cinema without issue. While my selection was uneven, I did see some gems among the dross. Free tickets though, I’m not complaining about a thing.

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