TIFF 2013: First-wave of tickets

TIFF2013

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! That is, if you’re an obsessive cinephile who has no problem spending approximately $20-25 per ticket on films! That’s right, I’m talking about TIFF! For those who know me well, I worked for the illustrious film festival for over 5 years, and while I worked hard, I DEFINITELY watched dozens of films along the way. But in the last few years, I’ve had to spend my own dollars to fund my addiction, so while the number of films I see is lessened, my enthusiasm certainly isn’t! Here are my list of films so far. Keep in mind, I’m rushing a few and will try to see about 15-20 by the end of the festival. In chronologic order…

Saturday, September 7, 2013 – Metalhead – Iceland
I try to see at least one Scandinavian film at TIFF every year, and Metalhead struck me as the most obvious one to choose. The protagonist, Hera (appropriate) is a teen seething with agony over the loss of her older brother. She’s so upset about his death and her parents seeming lack of pain over his passing, that she starts to emulate him. She wears his clothes, listens to his music (metal, naturally) and slowly starts to become a truly destructive force, embodying both the music he loved, and the pain she feels. All in all? Pretty fucking metal.

Saturday, September 7, 2013 – The Fake – Korea
This animated feature in the Vanguard program caught my eye initially because it was animated, but the subject matter is fascinating as well. The story follows a man, an outcasted skeptic, as he tries to convince citizens of a down-and-out rural community that the religious ministry they are putting all their money towards, in hope of a better future, is nothing more than a nepotistic cult. It’s the second film by Yeon Sang-ho (his previous work The King of Pigs is so dark!) and it reminds me of Japanese animator Satoshi Kon (Paprika) and how he would use animation to break through cultural taboos to showcase bleak, stark realism beneath the surface.

Sunday, September 8, 2013 – The Sacrament – USA
Director Ti West won me over with his hilarious, slow-burning horror film The Innkeepers at Toronto After Dark a few years ago, and I’ve been waiting to see another film by him since. The Sacrament ties nicely in with The Fake from the previous night, as it’s about a man trying to save his sister from a satanic cult, only to stumble into a mass suicide pact. It stars Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz and AJ Bowen, all stars of You’re Next and A Horrible Way to Die and promises to be a dark ol’ time.

Sunday, September 8 – Trap Street – China
Filmmaker Vivian Qu introduces us to a China that is so heavily focused on state surveillance, that the appearance of ONE street without visibility is cause for concern, and interest. A photographer obsessed with maps catches a glimpse of a woman entering this specific street and takes a picture of her, only to find that the picture never registered. Is it preserving something? Should we even ask why? I have no idea but I’m ready to take the ride.

Monday, September 9, 2013 – The Husband – Canada
Bruce McDonald can do no wrong! His latest work is a black-as-night comedy about an ad man with a shitty job, an infant son and a wife in jail for sleeping with a minor. Just when he thinks everything will be better, as his wife’s release date looms, things start to unravel further and further. Definitely a departure from his most recent films (Hard Core Logo 2, and This Movie is Broken) it seems like the type of barely-boiling-over drama that McDonald can totally make his own.

Monday, September 9, 2013 – Under the Skin – UK
I was a huge fan of Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (also, Sexy Beast) and was really excited when I saw his name pop up for TIFF this year. Then I was alternately SHOCKED because his last film WAS 2004’s Birth! So nine years later he returns with an adaptation of a a book about an alien who comes to Earth, specifically Scotland and has an “adventure” that may or may not involve preying on humans. The alien? Scarlett Johansson! The trailer makes it seem like a David Lynchian version of The Man Who Fell to Earth and I couldn’t be more excited.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013 – Blind Detective – HK/China
Gritty action/thriller auteur, Johnnie To, returns to TIFF (the Lightbox was home to his 2012 film Drug War just this summer) with a film about a BLIND Detective (not to be confused with his previous Mad Detective) a man forced from his job due to retina damage, who turns out to be the deadliest shot of them all! Starring Andy Lau (Detective Dee!) and Sammi Cheng (Infernal Affairs) all you really need to know is that it’s a Johnnie To movie so I’m not sure why I’m wasting all this space convincing you.

Thursday, September 12, 2013 – Real – Japan
In 2008 I saw Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Tokyo Sonata at TIFF, just on a whim because it fit in my schedule, and it BLEW ME AWAY. He’s a master at showing all of the simmering feelings of his characters, letting them get unhinged a little bit, but still pulling back and making you empathize with their crazy struggles. In Real, this fantastical story hinges on a man in love with a manga artist who just attempted suicide. Obsessed and heartbroken, he tries to merge with her psyche to meet her, very Pacific Rim style, and the two have some really interesting adventures in her brain. It reminds me of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and the trailer promises a weird, but intense story.

Thursday, September 13, 2013 – Bends – HK
A debut feature from a young Hong Kong filmmaker with a global spirit (she graduated from Colombia University and then attended London Film School) Flora Lau tells the story of two different people at varying ends of class strata, and their intersecting lives. Carina Lau (a Wong Kar-Wai staple) plays a rich housewife whose marriage and financial situation is unraveling, and Chen Kun is her chauffeur who has a family in China and works in Hong Kong, desperate to keep his wife’s second pregnancy from getting any attention (one-child rule and all.) The story seems like a plot ready to boil over and I can’t wait to watch every minute.

Friday, September 14, 2013 – A Field in England – UK
Ben Wheatley and I have a curious relationship. I saw his lauded film Kill List at TIFF a few years ago and was so bored I wanted to walk out, if not for being in the middle of a row of people. Then I took a chance and saw Sightseers last year, his black comedy about a pair of murderers, and laughed myself silly. I told DOZENS of people about that film and became his biggest advocate! This year, when I heard that his recent film was fought over by Wavelengths, Vanguard and Midnight Madness programmers, I knew I had to give it a look. A surrealist McGuffin drama set in Civil-War England? Sure Mr. Wheatley, let’s go down this road.

Friday, September 14, 2013 – Why don’t you play in hell? – Japan
Why? It’s Sion Sono! Here’s the trailer.

Other films on my want list:
iNumber Number
Ilo Ilo
Mary Queen of Scots
All Cheerleaders Die

What are you seeing?

Photos: A Field in England. Photo from Film4.com

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