Hit and Miss

That’s my TIFF experience so far. Two movies that linger with me after viewing. Another one that seems heavy-handed and unlikable. Then one I have a ticket for, but won’t bother to see – it’s been compared to “Ishtar” and that can’t be good.

I saw Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix” on Friday night. After seeing “Barbara”, I expected a lot and knew that this might not deliver. And at first it didn’t. I wasn’t sure of the framing of the story: a concentration camp survivor with a reconstructed face, trying to find her husband. She does, and that seems a stretch, as do a number of other coincidences in the plot. But if you can suspend logic and feel Nelly’s sense of loss and dislocation, the film starts to hold together. Don’t think “Vertigo”, it’s more Fassbinder or Sirk. Nina Hoss is great. You believe in her experience as Nelly. The last fifteen minutes of the movie are brilliant. They’re moving and convincing and very sad.

Both Petzold and Hoss were there to answer questions from the audience. They were eloquent and didn’t disappoint. Sometimes an actor or director can be very good at what they do, but not particularly interesting. Not here.

Noticed in the lineup a few people from my old work taking out clients to TIFF. Beats golf.

Mia Hansen-Love’s “Eden” on Saturday. I like her work, wasn’t sure about this movie. Electronic music is not part of my generation; I know very little about it.

Well, now I know more. “Eden” is about the garage movement in electronic music that started in the 1990s in Franc. It’s also about friendship, change and resistance to change and about growing up…slowly. Based on Mia’s brother’s DJ life, “Eden” takes us into the world of young people who go to raves and dance parties, talk, dance, take cocaine. There is more to it, of course. Music as a passion. Recognition that one is good, but not great at something.

“Eden” feels a little long, but maybe that’s intended. The protagonist hangs on for a long time to his dream, sticks to it despite the lack of success. Mom is in the background, trying to talk him into maturity. But aren’t musicians immature by nature and isn’t that what makes them tick?

I liked “Eden” more and more as I thought about it. It’s an accomplished piece of work. I think I will now listen to Daft Punk differently.

Now for the not so good. Krzysztof Zanussi’s “Foreign Body”. Harvey Weinstein has fine instincts. He sat in the row in front of us, fiddling with his phone. Fifteen minutes of “Foreign Body” was plenty for Harvey. Not that it was terrible, but it was not a film that could appeal on a commercial or an artistic level. No nuance. The new Poland shown as crass, money-hungry and amoral. Religion as the sole antidote. The female executive so over the top evil that she becomes unbelievable (I think of Isabelle Huppert’s character in “The Piano Teacher”, also twisted, but so much more filled in as an individual).

Maybe Zanussi’s intended the film to be an allegory or fable or a study in black and white, I don’t know. The actors are good, especially Riccardo Leonelli. I suppose he is the “Foreign Body”.


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