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#TIFF15 Reviews: Hurt, The Ardennes, Anomalisa, Victoria

September 17, 2015

By John Corrado

#TIFF15The 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival is happening now, and will be going strong in the city until September 20th.

My previous batch of reviews from yesterday are right here, and below are my thoughts on four more films, three of which have another screening coming up.  Please come back tomorrow and throughout the final days of the festival for my thoughts on a few more.

More information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here, or through the links in the film titles, which are arranged in order of when they first screen.  Enjoy!

Hurt: A young cancer survivor who ran across Canada in 1985, inspiring people around the world and raising millions of dollars for research, Steve Fonyo is now living in a dirt poor small town in British Columbia, after drug problems and encounters with the law all but derailed his public image.  Directed by Alan Zweig, who has already proven himself to be one of our most notable documentarians for his series of deeply personal films, Hurt is perhaps his finest work yet.  This is an incredible exploration of a cultural icon after their greatest achievements are presumably behind them, capturing raw and gutting moments that expose the tragic aftermath of the usual survivor’s journey, with archival footage providing a deep nostalgia for the past.  Powerful and almost painfully intimate in its narrative, Hurt is a compelling and heartbreaking portrait of a hero who has fallen on hard times, allowing the always enigmatic Steve Fonyo to remain a sympathetic figure throughout, even when his redemption seems unfairly elusive.

Monday, September 14th – 6:15 PM at Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Wednesday, September 16th – 2:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 1
Sunday, September 20th – 12:00 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 3

The Ardennes: After his older brother Kenny (Kevin Janssens) goes to jail for a robbery gone wrong, Dave (Jeroen Perceval) tries to go clean, and starts a relationship with his brother’s ex-girlfriend Sylvie (Veerle Baetens).  When Kenny gets out of jail, this secret threatens the remains of their already tattered relationship, pulling them right back into their life of crime.  Directed by first time feature filmmaker Robin Pront, The Ardennes is what the early work of the Coen Brothers might have looked like if they had grown up in Belgium.  With stunning cinematography, and undertones of Cain vs. Abel in its story of the tested and increasingly volatile bond between brothers, this is a gripping slow burn thriller that builds with a simmering sense of suspense, towards a shocking and explosively violent finale.

Monday, September 14th – 6:45 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4
Wednesday, September 16th – 1:45 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 3
Sunday, September 20th – 9:00 PM at Scotiabank Theatre 4

Anomalisa: The latest from screenwriter and co-director Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa is a moving and strikingly unique stop motion love story, that puts an inventive twist on the usual romance between strangers plot.  Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a depressed and unhappily married motivational speaker, who has just arrived in Cincinnati to give a talk on customer relations.  But the mundanity of his life and staid motel routine get a shakeup when he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a captivating stranger who is seemingly not like everyone else.  Adapted from a conceptual stage play that pretty much all takes place within the confines of a gloomy motel, Charlie Kaufman organically weaves big ideas into his believable dialogue, allowing us to become completely invested in his two main characters.

The look of the film, courtesy of co-director and animation mastermind Duke Johnson, is often surreal in its almost lifelike quality, with the puppets modelled after actual people.  We knows it’s animated, but the characters become so vivid and real through the impeccable writing and pitch perfect voice work, that the film starts to blur the line between stop motion and live action.  Providing a powerful reminder of the importance of human connection in this cold and lonely world, Anomalisa is a touching and deceptively simple motel love story, that morphs into a moving and provocative rumination on identity, conformity and what makes us unique.  I’m still thinking about it, and probably will be for a long time, which is about the highest praise I can offer this ambitious and entirely original animated gem.

Tuesday, September 15th – 9:30 PM at Princess of Walls
Wednesday, September 16th – 11:00 AM at Visa Screening Room (Elgin)
Saturday, September 19th – 6:15 PM at Visa Screening Room (Elgin)

Victoria: It would be impossible to discuss Victoria without talking about the general conceit, behind the film, which is that it was all filmed in one continuous single take, with director Sebastian Schipper never stopping the camera once throughout the overnight shoot.  The film opens in a throbbing nightclub, where Victoria (Laia Costa) meets the charismatic Sonne (Frederick Lau) and his gang, and becomes inadvertently involved in their plans, which escalate towards a violent bank robbery.  The actual robbery only takes up a relatively small part of the narrative, and the film is a bit slow moving at times, with some of the scenes going on a little longer than they probably needed to, especially before the action really kicks in after about an hour.

But the nature of the project would have made it hard to edit any scenes without ruining the continuous effect, and the experimental highs of Victoria make it easy to overlook any minor shortcomings.  The great camerawork alone makes the film worth seeing, moving seamlessly between locations and scenarios, with the single take approach heightening the feelings of both exhilaration and disorientation that permeate throughout the material, as the actors impressively move between quiet moments and emotional breakdowns, with hardly any breathing room between them.

Wednesday, September 16th – 5:30 PM at Ryerson Theatre
Thursday, September 17th – 1:15 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox Cinema 2

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