Here's what some Toronto International Film Festival goers have had to say about the movies they've seen. Movies are rated from zero to four stars, same as Globe reviews:
The only male character in the entire film is killed within the first 10 minutes, leaving behind eight women who try to discover which of them committed the deadly deed. This is done with well-written dialogue, excellent direction, fabulous acting, and fantastic songs. A hilarious musical where (thanks to Ozone) each scene is a success, and one eagerly awaits the next revelation or action from one of the eight women. Catherine Deneuve often mesmerizes many observers, but in this film, all eight women will intoxicate any audience member with excitement and enjoyment.
As complex and satisfying as the best contemporary fiction (possibly even the fiction on which it is based), this film--self-described as "three portraits"--present three women in separate, obliquely connected stories, of personal crisis, flight and epiphany. But it's better than that. Surprising, stunning performances from Kyra Sedgwick, Parker Posey and Fairuza Balk, note-perfect writing and directing (by Rebecca Miller, the author of the stories on which the film is based)...this deserved every accolade it received and Sundance, and will continue to receive everywhere it plays.
Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary
A compelling documentary portrait - crafted from three interviews - of Traudl Junge, Hitler's personal secretary throughout the war. A slow start dwelling on how Junge came to work for the man himself gives way to an increasingly gripping portrayal of how self-delusion at the highest levels of the Third Reich was stripped away as they faced defeat.
Bowling for Columbine
By turns hilarious and alarming, outrageous and mournful, shocking and sobering, Michael Moore's look at America's gun culture takes no prisoners. While less a journalist than a satirist (whose unsuspecting subjects just do not know when to stop incriminating themselves), many of Moore's scathing observations hit the mark and pose troubling questions about our neighbours to the south: if violent movies, violent video games, Marilyn Manson and the U.S. Constitution aren't to blame for the disproportional number of gun deaths in the United States this year, then what is?
I came up to Toronto to see if there were any budding actors or directing talent soon to be established and I was absolutely disappointed. From the highly touted "Ararat", to "Blue Skies", this festival is in a shambles and I am seriously considering stroking the TIFF off my list of festivals to go to. The only bright spot was a short film called "Countdown". It starred a young actor named Johnny Goltz. I have to say that it was not a total flop after seeing this bright spot, he is very easy on the eyes and seems to carry with him that "special thing" that all great actors have. He owns his own space and commands each of his scenes. This is the only up and comer that I saw at the festival and really the only thing Canada seems to have to offer the world film market.
11'09''01 has been accused of being a stridently anti-American film - a view mainly held by those who are stridently pro-American. More accurately, it's not resolutely pro-American, and has the temerity to point an accusing finger at the myriad number of American foreign policy dirty deeds over the decades.
That is both a strength and a weakness of this collection of short films, all based on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and all to be 11 minutes and nine seconds in length and consisting of one frame.
The 11 filmmakers come from Africa, Iran, Mexico, Japan, and the United States, to name but a few. The visionaries of this project gave each filmmaker complete creative freedom.
Mira Nair, director of Monsoon Wedding, chose to tell the story of a Pakistan-born Muslim woman in New York whose son disappeared after 9/11. Neighbors shunned her when rumors started he was a terrorist. Instead, the young police cadet and paramedic's body was exhumed from the rubble of the World Trade Centre six months later; he had gone to try and help.
(In an unabashed act of self-promotion, Nair also works in some footage of Monsoon Wedding into her movie).
British director Ken Loach had a Chilean man reminisce about his Sept. 11, when the government of Salvador Allende was toppled in a 1973 military coup and how he was branded a terrorist for fighting to restore democracy.
Egyptian director Youssef Chahine chose to directly attack American foreign policy through an imagined conversation in his head with a U.S. marine killed in a massive 1983 bomb blast in Beirut and a Palestinian suicide bomber.
Those are the two most overtly political segments, but cinematically, they probably aren't the best.
The most haunting images in the films belong to those who focus more on the human element of that terrible day.
Particularly striking ones included French director Claude Lelouch having a deaf-mute woman typing a farewell note to her lover, who was off to conduct a tour of the WTC, all the while oblivious to the images of the exploding and collapsing towers playing on a television set in the foreground.
The black screen of Mexican director Alejandro González Iñarritu, punctuated by flashes of people falling to their deaths after jumping to avoid the flames of the burning, crumbling WTC towers, all over a discordant cacophony of music, chants, prayers and recordings of people phoning from doomed airliners, is both riveting and horrifying.
There's also some comic relief: Burkina Faso's Idrissa Ouedraogo focuses on the exploits of some teenage boys who think they've spotted Osama bin Laden. The $25 million (U.S.) in reward money would have gone for a good cause. The mother of one was dying of AIDS, and if he got the money, he could return to school and buy her medicines.
Those who views films simply as entertainment probably won't enjoy this one.
But those want to see films that can make them see, feel and think will be sorry they missed the two screenings here.
Due to political sensitivities, the producers have said it will be some time before it is released in North America.
Much more like a Kieslowski film (the Trois Couleurs trilogy or the Dekalog films) than, say, Run Lola Run, this explores the moral, philosophical and even metaphysical ramifications of the star-crossed bond between a would-be assassin who fails to kill her target and kills four innocents instead, and the police interpreter through whom she confesses her crime. Cate Blanchett and Giovanni Ribisi both give outstanding performances; the film is riveting when it's a thriller, less so when it becomes more ruminative and abstract...worthwhile nonetheless.
A Peck on the Cheek
Sweeping Indian drama about an adopted young girl's quest to find out who her real mother is and why she was given up at birth. From cheery musical numbers celebrating the impish child's precocious personality to terrifying battle scenes between the Sri Lankan army and Tamil rebels (!), this film has it all. There are classical operas that are more emotionally restrained, but - as they say - resistance is futile. If you have even one tear locked up tight in your ducts, this movie will wring it out of you.
Talk to her
Numerous endearing female characters, as one would expect in an Almadovar movie, but this film focuses instead on two men, both heterosexual (though there's some pretty thick subtext there near the end), whose love objects are in the same hospital in similar comatose states. It's a challenge to get on side with a movie where someone's 'relationship' with an unconscious woman is positioned as being "more successful than most marriages"--even in fun--but while the film is a moral and sexual catastrophe, it's undeniably very entertaining. You might need to be in the right mood though--especially if you're female.
My Little Eye
An above-average horror film which places five contestants in a creepy mansion in a remote location riddled with webcams for six months; if they all stay the full term, they each win one million dollars, but if one of them leaves, they all lose. We catch up with them on their last week in the house as a series of nasty events threatens their trust, turns them against each other and makes them wonder: who's watching them anyway? Interesting premise with stylish and effective cinematography and sound, but spends more time fulfilling genre expectations than subverting them - until the startlingly grim finale.
Dour, airless examination of a schizophrenia sufferer released from an asylum to a London halfway house near his childhood home. Beautifully shot and performed, precisely written, deliberately paced and directed, and in some need of the vulgar energy of Cronenberg's earliest films. Miranda Richardson and Lynn Redgrave lend some welcome vitality, though their characters are treated with no little contempt for it. And Ralph Fiennes is remarkable by any standard.
Beautifully-crafted but fatally un-involving period gothic from Quebec that plays out like a smorgasbord of European folktale motifs. Not that there's no plot--on the contrary, there's enough for three movies. But it all seems to be happening at arms-length and that sense of inevitability that marks great tragedy transforms into that sense of predictability that...well, you know. Before too long starts to feel inconsequential. Also: no fun whatsoever--which is odd in a movie that serves up elves, sirens, sensual nuns, demented priests and a half-human half-goat puppeteer. One of a kind, though.
The Quiet American
This film bills itself as a faithful adaptation of Graham Greene's brilliant novel, but it falls down in capturing the intrigue, sensuality and drama of it. Sir Michael Caine said at the world premiere Monday night that his goal was to become Thomas Fowler, the hardened, opium-smoking, 50-something British war correspondent with a 20-year-old Vietnamese lover. Instead, the character he portrayed is more of a strangely befuddled, not-so-hardened correspondent. Brendan Fraser is "aid worker" Aldred Pyle, a young man quite taken with the notion of a "third force" (an alternative to the communists and the French colonial government) in early 1950s Vietnam. And with his arrival, terrible things happen which power the third force option forward. One device that drives the plot is a love triangle between Pyle, Fowler and Phuong (Do Thi Hai Yen), Fowler's lover. But there's simply no real heat from Pyle for Phuong -- or from Phuong for Fowler, or Fowler for Phuong, for that matter. Fowler does manage to lapse into embarrassing melodrama after losing her. In the book, this improbable relationship makes sense. The actors, however, failed to make it work on screen. The best performance is by Tzi Ma as Hinh, Fowler's "fixer" with a hidden agenda -- one that traps Fowler into making a terrible moral choice. But again, Caine does a weak job of handling the essence of that choice and why his character made it. The movie is beautifully shot, but other than that, this film isn't a must-see when it hits theatrical release.
A disappointing follow-up to last year's kinetic gangster zombie hit Versus. Promising concept of ultra-violent killer vs. lithe young woman possessed by alien 'displacer'...but overlong with a tone that falters between moroseness and self-parody. Some lively special effects toward the end though.
The Good Thief
I could not understand Nick Nolte...what's wrong with his voice?
David Cronenberg's latest creation is an insult to the credibility of the Toronto International Film Festival. Just because the director is a Toronto native doesn't mean that he needs to be referred to as the most influential filmmaker of the last couple decades. Ii know this quote because I was there in attendance at the gala. Now I will credit the film for its excellent cinematography and a swell performance from Gabriel Byrne, but the rest of it was pretty much rubbish. I strongly condemn anyone from catching this sluggish , dry film unless they need to catch up on some sleep or enjoy watching something as sterile as watching paint dry!
Reviewed but unrated
A bad man in Argentina needs to be killed. Why? We never find out. There is some conspiracy against the hit-man Robert Duvall, why and by whom is never explained. Worse, this is a gangster thriller with no suspense. One never gets the idea that pulling off a murder should be difficult because every person, who tries to stop Robert Duvall's character, is shot within the next two seconds; as Robert Duvall simply moves on with his business. The tango scenes are exquisite, and some of the dialogue scenes are entertaining, but they actually have no significance in the main plot; while the tango and gangster characters are not connected in any way. Assassination Tango is like watching two movies at once: 1) A man goes on vacation in Argentina and discovers Tango 2) A man is sent to Argentina to snuff out a top general. Placing different actors in each scenario would have no affect on the plot -- they are that separate.
Max was an extremely well done movie. It taught me something about history that I didn't know before which to me, is criteria for an excellent film. Although it doesn't excuse the horror of the holocaust, it gives viewers a glimpse of the other side of the story.
Flawless true-life drama about three half-caste Aboriginal children in 1930's Australia who escape from state custody and travel more than a thousand miles on foot--eluding the efforts of a prodigiously skilled state-employed Aboriginal tracker--to make their way home. Powerful performances from Kenneth Branagh and a host of unknowns, striking cinematography by Christopher Doyle and a haunting score by Peter Gabriel. A must-see.
This film makes you laugh and cry at the same time. Wonderful acting. Nothing big or scientific just a little story about "old people" you were happy to meet and when the movie was over you left the cinema with feeling of joy.