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Toronto International Film Festival
From the big screen to your screen

Film Reviews

How to Kill Your Neighbor's Dog
Director: Michael Kalesniko (U.S.A.)
Reviewer: Lyranda Martin-Evans

A lighthearted comedy about marriage and having kids, this Film Festival closer was a quirky look into suburban life and the relationships that develop - with your spouse, with your job, with your neighbours, and with yourself. A famous playwright in the 1980s, Peter McGowan (Kenneth Branagh) finds revitalization in his career & himself through his unlikely interactions with a little girl next door and a crazed stalker fan (Jared Harris). Branagh delivers comedy exceptionally well, it was nice to see him cast as the funny guy instead of the serious Thespian. Also stars Robin Wright Penn as his wife Melanie and Lynn Redgrave as Edna, the hilariously senile mother-in-law. Slow at times, but overall kudos to Canadian director Michael Kalesniko and his feature film debut.

Blackboards (Takhté siah)
Director: Samira Makhmalbaf (Iran/Italy)
Reviewer: Damon Schreiber

The despair of desolation and hopelessness: These are the themes of Blackboards. In a time and place where being able to read a book or newspaper - the promise of literacy - seems less then futile, itinerant teachers march through mountainous deserts in search of pupils, and more immediately important for them, a morsel of bread, a drink of water. Twenty year old director Samira Makhmalbaf uses a large cast of non actors in a visually stunning setting to brilliant effect. Although the inner thoughts of the characters are for the most part impenetrable, the results are profoundly moving. Described as a docudrama, this film displays only the best qualities of both documentary and dramatic forms, with nary a didactic or sentimentalist moment. Devastating!

Possible Worlds
Director: Robert LePage (Canada)
Reviewer: Roberta Imboden

LePage's water imagery that dissolves the credits moments after they appear becomes a powerful force within the film. The identities of the main characters, George and Joyce, dissolve and re-form constantly as they are disseminated throughout multiple, simultaneously existing worlds. The thriller aspect of the film has George's brain (snatched by his murderer) suspended, seemingly alive, in water in a research lab. The mystical psychological aspect proposes the possibility of infinite love and intelligence. But this infinity is in tension within fluid temporality. Everlasting love is always in danger of disappearing and super intelligence is threatened by primitive consciousness. In the closing scene at the ocean's edge nothing is certain except for this question: "Will this pair of lovers remain within a finite world, safe with a finite love or will the ocean flow over them, disseminating them toward a radically uncertain infinity?".

Almost Famous
Director: Cameron Crowe (U.S.A.)
Reviewer: Kim Chin-Sam

To tell the truth, I did not think that I would like this film. I did not really experience the '70's and the whole rock 'n roll thing has been done and done and done. Well, I loved it. Dialogue was humorous and natural. Experiencing the lifestyle through the eyes of the young boy brought a refreshing viewpoint. Kate Hudson was engaging and sweet. Character development was definitely more thorough than the average teenage flick. A great film, a great cast, definitely worth the price of admission!!

Love Come Down
Director: Clement Virgo (Canada)
Reviewer: Debe Morris

A human visceral journey of physical pain, emotional turmoil, familial remorse and redeeming joy. Lorenz Tate and Martin Cummings pulled, pricked, punched and provoked various philosophical planes as two brothers torn apart by the long dividing arm of justice, competition, comedy and confusion. A sensual script with dialogue deep enough to raise the intellect, yet 'real' enough to voice authentic characters, Love Come Down keeps audiences up. Deborah Cox's screen debut is noteworthy as the young, unshakeable Niko Rosen and Virgo's directing prowess inspires strong performances by Barbara Williams as the brother's mother and Kenneth Welsh as Niko's adoptive father. In Love Come Down, the volatile Romance between God, Drugs, Colour and Rhythm dances across the audiences imagination, finding a vertical floor to spin on.

Gohatto [Taboo]
Director: Nagisa Oshima - Japan/France/U.K.
Reviewer: Roberta Imboden

Oshima's seemingly traditional samurai film subtly begins to parody itself when the ambivalent pretty boy/girl super swordsperson is recruited into the monastic atmosphere of the militia quarters. What Oshima very humorously portrays is the inability of the super male samurai world to tolerate any ambiguity. Without clear boundaries, this world crumbles. The samurai code allows only absolute clarity. The male culture cannot exist with the erasing of borders. Oshima further subverts the samurai world by focusing mainly upon interiors rather than battle fields, upon inter-personal relationships rather than upon politics. His contemporary eye deconstructs the world of feudal Japan, interjecting postmodernity into a traditional world. The occasional views of the exterior world are like Japanese paintings, full of mist, whose only colour is a soft dark blue. The last scene is of a beautiful cherry tree and falling stars. Thumbs Up!

The Wrestlers (Uttara)
Director: Buddhadeb Dasgupta - India
Reviewer: Amreen Omar

On the surface, Budduseb Dasgupta's film, The Wrestlers is the pastoral tale of several villagers co-existing in rural Bengal. The film quickly reveals itself to be an allegorical commentary on religious intolerance and sexual identity conveyed through a series of brilliantly directed village scenarios. The lives of the villagers are thrown into disarray with the arrival of Uttara, the sultry bride of Balaram, the wrestler; and the presence of evil is developed gradually in the form of the swarthy travelling swordsmen. Dasgupta cleverly uses the songs of a troupe of masked musicians to voice the dreams and nightmares he has about his troubled nation. Throughout the film, the camera remains unobtrusive. A mute observer, the motionless camera emphasizes the extraordinary nature of India's realities.

A Shot at Glory
Director: Michael Corrente - U.K./U.S.A.
Reviewer: Mike Erlindson

For the first five minutes of the film I held my breath waiting for Robert Duvall [to] falter on his Scottish accent -- but he didn't. He holds the role of a cantankerous Scottish soccer coach well. He's brilliant as ever playing a complex character torn by personal ghosts and ambitions. Ally McCoist, a real ex-professional Scottish soccer player is very good. Michael Keaton plays a stereotype role as the team's affluent American owner. The story line is very typical for a film about sports -- underdog rises to take on the champion. Add in some past relationship problems between the coach and his star. Mark Knopfler writes a soundtrack that's perfectly matched for the film's beautiful landscape.

Billy Elliot
Director: Stephen Daldry - U.K.

Me, You, Them (Eu, Tu, Eles)
Director: Andrucha Waddington - Brazil
Reviewer: Charlotte Engel

Billy Elliot has been hailed the crowd pleasing gem out of the UK this festival season. Instead of being a diamond in the rough, this flick is pure zirconian. The flick tells the heart warming tale of a young lad from the mining town of Durham. Billy tries desperately to please his widowed father by hitting the boxing ring once a week. But he sucks at it and Billy knows this. Then one day, he spies the ballet class at the other end of the gym. Billy's life changes and he decides wants to dance. Through various predictable obstacles, Billy triumphs over all and gets his wish. The music gets soft and everyone is happy. This flick is wrapped up with a pretty pink bow but delivers nothing. Me, You, Them however, is everything that Billy Elliot sets out to be. It's heartwarming, beautiful and funny. It's from Brazil and is set in a remote village against a hard and cruel sky. The heroine, Darlene gets stood up at the altar. Pregnant and unwilling to go home, she hitches a ride as far away as she can. Three years later, she returns home with her baby to bury her Mother. Without cash, she marries the local goat herder. He's not a great choice but rarely gets in the way, as he never leaves his hammock. When bored, Darlene sets her eyes afield, again and again. Soon Darlene has three husbands and four kids by different men. This charming and original tale has been picked up by Sony Pictures Classics and hopefully will be enjoyed by many.

Waiting List
Director: Juan Carlos Tabío - Cuba/Spain/France/Mexico
Reviewer: Michael Stacey

The film Waiting List deals with a group of people who turn a Cuban bus station (where all the buses happen to be broken) into a true communist paradise. They abandoned their lives on the outside world to fulfill a dream that Marx might have seen in his mind's eye. In the end, it is nothing but that, a dream. It's a sappy movie, but it has more humanity and wit than ten Hollywood films. More than that, in a full theatre, in bad seats, watching a foreign film without sex or guns, I felt a kind of magic. The kind that Graham Greene, Pauline Kael and Jay Scott used to write about. The magic of people captivated by lights in the dark.

Une vraie jeune fille
Director: Catherine Breillat - France
Reviewed by Jean Cumming

What kind of movie doesn't get past FRENCH censors, as this one didn't for twenty-five years? Answer: One that is aesthetically regrettable. They'd welcome its rebellious teenage girl heroine exploring her sexuality while on school break in rural France with her pathetic parents. Ditto the handsome young stud who works in the nearby sawmill, flexing his muscles against his taut undershirt. But hitherto they balked at jeune fille because when its heroine wasn't inserting foreign objects into her vagina, she was toying with liquids and semi-liquids oozing from her body, ear wax, vomit, jism, urine, n'importe de quoi. Seems filmmaker Catherine Breillat finally convinced censors the girl was only imagining doing these things. That doesn't make them pretty.

Director: Benoît Jacquot, France
Reviewer: Tim Singh

One wouldn't expect to describe a visit with the Marquis de Sade as "safe", but safe is what you get with Benoit Jacquot's SADE. Set during Sade's mysterious incarceration following the French Revolution, the film features a powerful, performance by Daniel Auteuil as Sade, and little nudity or sadism, subverting expectations. Wisely, Sade's fetishes are subtext to greater themes of life's parodoxes - duplicity in marriage and politics, the duality of life and death. An innocent girl (Isild Le Besco), is inexorably drawn to Sade,'s all so humane. Which is odd, considering who we're talking about. This Sade is so sympathetic, he's just not the sadist we've all come to know and love. Jacquot wanted to show the revolutionary leaders as the real sadists, and he does, but it's a small success. And for a subject who lived a life of such extremes, this seems an injustice.

Director: Paul Cox, Australia
Reviewer: Alberto Mendelzon

In Gabriel Garcia Marquez' "Love in the Time of Cholera", a man waits fifty years for his beloved's husband to die in order to consummate his love. In Paul Cox's appealing "Innocence", a youthful romance is resumed 45 years later, but with the woman's husband still very much alive. The overall tone is both comic and wistful, with the two 70ish lovers acting at times like teenagers, and the rigid, lawn-bowling and choir-practising husband moving through the classical stages of denial, anger and acceptance. The story is made credible by fine performances from relatively unknown Australian actors, and highly watchable by gorgeous cinematography. Skillful editing blends and contrasts the scenes of past and present, suggesting that all is, and is not, the same as before.

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