Lacklustre

I overheard a woman talking to a friend on her cell phone and this is how she described this year’s TIFF. I agree. I didn’t see “Anomalisa” which might have been the one standout. It won’t come here till 2016.

I saw some good movies, and some average ones, and probably none were worth the long lineups (yes, even with tickets, you had to wait in line for at least an hour). I noticed that TIFF goers were getting older (like me) and quirkier, not always in a good way. Maybe I picked movies that were more appealing to the older crowd. There was one exception – more about that later.

The first film I saw was “Son of Saul”. It’s a very good movie about a difficult subject: a member of the Sonderkommado unit in Auschwitz goes on quest to provide a Jewish burial for a boy he calls his son. A delusional act of defiance in a hellish place. In the Q & A after, the director talked about being in a place where after a while you get used to the way things are — adaptation and survival, and living with survival if survival happens. I’m not sure why, but “Son of Saul” didn’t quite touch me the way some other films dealing with a similar subject did — for example, “Passenger”, a 1963 Polish film.

Speaking of adaptation, Ben Wheatley”s “High-Rise” was a hedonistic mess. I’m not familiar with J. G. Ballard’s or Wheatley’s work, so came to it brand new. It’s like “Snowpiercer” but vertical, and also like a lesser Kubrick. Tom Hiddleston manages detachment and exuberance; his character in the film quickly adapts to the regression within the high-rise. (I’m glad I live in a mid-rise; less potential for class struggle?) In the Q & A, Hiddleston had the gift of the gab. The other actors ceded the ground to him. It’s hard to decide if this is a movie that will be better when seen a few years from now, or will remain a minor work. Michael Moore was in the audience. I wonder what he thought of “High-Rise”.

Paolo Sorrentino’s “Youth” is also a minor work, especially if compared to “The Great Beauty”. It has great, surrealistic fragments, but doesn’t quite work as a whole, despite Michael Caine’s wonderful performance (and Harvey Keitel’s and Paul Dano’s). Sorrentino is not as funny, profound or poetic in English.

A small but maybe great movie was Canadian…and attracted young TIFFers. “Sleeping Giant” takes place in northern Ontario. Three teen boys hang out during a summer vacation, two townies and a more affluent kid from a family spending the summer up north. Nothing much happens, mostly the type of things boys do in a small town. Adults are on the periphery, although they engage in their own antics. Beautiful performances from the boys, very real.

The other Canadian movie I saw (Les Etres Chers) was not as good, but still held its own. Well acted and moving.

The rest was mediocre. A documentary on Janis Joplin that wasn’t particularly insightful. A film from Iceland about sheep farmers. A film from Kazakhstan about living apart from one’s community, not fitting in.

Are TV serials becoming the new cinema? I started watching “Mr. Robot” on Showcase. Kind of reminds me of “High-Rise” in terms of visual impact and the use of music. Much more punk of course. (So how come Neil Diamond’s cover of “If You Go Away” makes sense – maybe it’s Romantic Punk?)

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