Friday, September 07, 2007

TIFF Reviews: First Day, etc.

Hi, from here in lovely Toronto. It's been a pleasant couple of days so far--pleasant, that is, if you enjoy ridiculous 90 degree weather while standing in the harsh, unblinking sun. I've had enough of this weather back home, so I certainly didn't expect it up here. The good news, though, is that it's not supposed to last much longer. Cooler weather will swoop in soon, though it will be bringing some thunderstorms (maybe).

Anyway, enough about the stupid weather. How about some films? Here's a couple of quick reviews:

Jar City:

Slow, stately Icelandic murder-mystery. A man is murdered in a dingy flat in Reykjavik, and the investigation slowly reveals deeper mysteries and darker secrets. Not a bad premise for a solid thriller, but somehow director Baltasar Kormakor finds multiple ways to falter. Most damningly, the solution is a no-brainer, especially thanks to a far-too obvious framing device that makes the culprit ridiculously easy to pick out. Worse, Kormakor films even the most dull, mundane moments as though they're high tragedy. From the washed-out visuals, to the wall-to-wall choral music, the film builds a level of high-drama it doesn't even try to live up to. Some nice performances, but mostly a bore.


The Mother of Tears

Argento wraps up his Three Mothers trilogy, with mixed results. The acting is bad (which was expected), the story is nonsensical (also expected) and the dreamy logic of the first two is largely missing, save for a handful of scenes (highly unexpected). It's still sort of fun, especially when the crazed monkey/witch/familiar is running around, or when the film takes a left-turn into crazy-town. And there's a weirdly misogynistic subtext just waiting to be analyzed and explored in this thing. I mean, I know Argento's been criticized in the past for his misogyny, but this film seems to take it to such an extreme, it almost seems like a parody or response (as De Palma did with Body Double).


You, the Living

Roy Andersson's follow-up to the amazing Songs from the Second Floor is only a disappointment in comparison to that film--by any other standard, it's a terrific piece of work. Following an assortment of people living in a (presumably) Swedish city, it's filled with amazing sequences of tableaux, strange interludes, hilarious and poignant dream sequences, and the pastiest cast of characters I've personally ever seen. There's no real plot to describe here, just a central idea, explored in every possible permutation--the many ways humans live, cope, and clash in the world. The best deadpan absurdist comedy you're likely to see this year.


That's it for now. Starting tomorrow, the festival kicks into high gear for me, with at least three films every day from now to next Saturday. I'll try to pop in with some reviews, though I can't guarantee they'll be anything more than blurbs from here on out.

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