From ‘American Fiction’ to ‘Woman of the Hour’: Highlights from a slightly muted and largely celebrity-free Toronto International Film Festival
I would be It’s easy to blame the strikes currently affecting the entertainment business, or the usual feast-or-famine conundrum that plagues festival programming in any awards season, or a summer surge in Covid cases, or the everyone’s favorite scapegoat in the industry, namely the streamers. . But 2023 turned out to be a bad year for the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the few fall festivals that set the stage for the second half of the film year and the start of the “gotta get those statuettes” Oscar campaign. There were a notable number of titles that had been shown at Venice and Telluride, or were due to screen at the New York Film Festival later this month, that went missing. An emphasis on films directed by actors may have allowed some stars to still walk red carpets. and stages of grace, but the way those films really ran the gamut in terms of quality was notable enough to bring out your inner cynic. (Congratulations, Anna Kendrick, you have a real knack for framing scenes and maintaining tension! Also: let’s never talk about Chris Pine. pool man Never more.)
There were still gala premieres, highlights from previous renowned festivals, events like The Talking Heads reunite to discuss the restoration of the historic concert film. Stop making sense. The lack of celebrities was both a blessing and a failure, especially if you wanted to walk around King Street’s typically crowded theaters but didn’t have a spare hour. Nobody was doing the paperwork. However, it was difficult to shake the feeling that we were attending a phantom TIFF, where the usual sense of vitality and urgency seemed slightly removed from the proceedings.
That doesn’t mean there weren’t good films, and some really great ones, at TIFF ’23. It wasn’t an arduous task to come up with a top 10 list, and the glass-half-full view is that the lack of some major fall films here made some less flashy, but equally well-acted, equally well-directed. equally moving and inspiring – the films stand out much more. Here are the best things we saw at this year’s Toronto festival. Catch up on these as soon as you can.
(And greetings to Dream Scenario, Hit Man, Origin, Rustin and seven veils, They all had central performances that reminded you of the way actors can take solid material and turn it into something close to extraordinary).
Frustrated by him With no interest in his “important” novels, author Thelonious “Monk” Ellison (Jeffrey Wright) decides to write the most clichéd book about black life imaginable under a pseudonym. Guess what becomes the literary event of the season? If Emmy-winning writer Cord Jefferson’s directorial debut was simply a satire in the tradition of saying, Cheated or Paul Beatty’s The sold one, It would still be biting, sharp and funny as hell. But he’s also weaved a character study and tender family drama into broad comic strokes and biting commentary on the publishing world, and he’s captured the brothers’ push-pull dynamic in a way that feels both beautifully and achingly accurate. Furthermore, he has given Jeffrey Wright a role, to which the actor responds by doing some of the best work of his career.
The French provocateur Betrand Bonello (Nocturama, zombie boy) brought his latest film to TIFF straight from a premiere in Venice, where it caused a lot of chatter on the Lido, and it’s easy to see why. Apparently taking a cue from Henry James’ novella The Beast of the Jungle, This story of two lovers played by Léa Seydoux and George McKay juggles narratives set in the early 19th century, 2014, and a dystopian near future; AI paranoia, incel stalkers, the vapidity of the modeling industry, period-themed nightclubs (dig that dance floor in the spirit of 1972), sci-fi, horror movies, and dramas costumes pass out on each other while Bonello whips you. through strange pieces and timelines. As for the beast of the title? It is within all of us.
‘The Boy and the Heron’
A fable-like story about a teenager named Mahito who must embark on a hero’s journey and face the world of adults, the latest, and possibly last, feature from anime god Hayao Miyazaki is a typical Studio Ghibli phantasmagoria of surreal images, cute and creepy creatures, emotion, sadness, space, silence and emotional currents that run leagues deep. Mahito, grieving the loss of his mother during World War II, encounters a mischievous heron in the forest, who takes him to an abandoned castle. From there, the child enters an alternate world that may or may not take them to a place of healing. Is he feel of this work by Miyazaki, however, more than the details of its storybook narrative that places it among the best of his work. If this is truly from the man who changed animation, it will go out on a high note.
In 1998, a The ambitious comedian named Tomoaki Hamatsu, nicknamed “Nasubi” because of his eggplant-shaped head, auditioned for a television show. They took him to a room where there was nothing but a rug and a shelf full of magazines, they stripped him naked and told him that he had to earn whatever he needed (clothes, food, appliances) by winning it through raffle prizes. Hamatsu assumed that the footage of his daily struggles to survive would never be published. Instead, he was broadcast to an audience of millions and made him a superstar. The highlight of this year’s documentary is Clair Titley’s account of this first experiment in reality television, which is both a thought-provoking insight into the lengths people will go to achieve fame and fortune, and a journey tremendously wild. Someone needs to pick this up ASAP.
‘Evil does not exist’
Drive my car Filmmaker Ryûsuke Hamaguchi returns to earth with this elliptical story of a woodcutter (Hitoshi Omika) who lives with his daughter in a small patch of rural paradise. As expected, the snakes slither into his Eden, in the form of developers who want to build a “glamping” resort right in the middle of the city. The company’s two liaisons (Ryuji Kosaka and Ayaka Shibutani) assume that if they can win him over, the community will stop fighting back. It’s a good idea, until it’s not. Hamaguchi dedicates much of the film slowly everything below, so that both these inconvenient city inhabitants and us, the spectators, adapt to the rhythms of nature. He reminds us that nature can also be brutal and cruel.
‘His three daughters’
easily the bachelor best film we saw at TIFF by a wide margin, writer-director Azazel Jacobs’s portrait of sniping brothers caring for a patriarch who is preparing to die is as close to a masterpiece as the Mom’s man filmmaker has ever come. Not that these three sisters (the allusion to Chekhov in the title is no coincidence) were ever particularly close: Katie (Carrie Coon) is a passive-aggressive control freak; Rachel (Natasha Lyonne) is a burnt-out smoker who is paralyzed by caring for her father during the final years of her life; and Christina (Elizabeth Olsen) just wants everyone to get along, please. However, the way the actors play the dysfunctional dynamic of this unholy trinity is nothing short of miraculous, and given the way Jacobs frames their interactions within his father’s claustrophobic New York apartment, he’s clearly been delving into the Ingmar Bergman’s back catalogue. There is not a single false note in all of this. And in a perfect world, Coon would be drafting an Oscar acceptance speech right now.
Continuing to build Outside of the hype it received at Cannes, this latest work from Wim Wenders centers on a stoic Japanese man named Hirayama (veteran actor Kôji Yakusho, who has already begun receiving awards for his acting) who makes a living cleaning public toilets. He spends his work days with quiet dignity, listening to classic rock cassettes (yes, the Lou Reed song paraphrased in the title appears) and coaching a somewhat desperate twenty-something coworker (Tokio Emoto). You know that saying about still waters running deep? It applies to both Wenders’ working-class hero and his film as a whole, who seems to keep his emotions in check until he finally lets the floodgates open. And the final shot is, in a word, perfect.
‘The teachers’ room’
One of the real left field discoveries at this year’s TIFF. A high school in Germany suffers a series of robberies and suspicion begins to fall on several of the Turkish students. A new teacher (Leonie Benesch), who counts many of the accused children as her students, defends them against these accusations and fights against her classroom becoming a kangaroo court. In an effort to catch the culprit, she sets a trap in the living room and leaves her laptop camera on, and that’s when the real shitstorm begins in director Ilker Çatak’s thriller.
Imagine an old man Ealing Studios comedy mixed with Le Corbeau – and blessed with a genuine appreciation for the poetry of blasphemy – and you would have this gem of a film, in which a small English seaside town is plagued by a series of anonymous and obscene letters. The locals are naturally suspicious of the town’s new resident, an Irish single mother (Jessie Buckley) who has become embroiled in a public battle with her pious and saintly neighbor (Olivia Colman). However, the case is anything but simple, and the cast and director Thea Sharrock let the paranoia be on par with the laughs. A good reminder that no one can make the most foul-mouthed phrases sound sweeter. either more surprisingly unpleasant than Colman, as if we were die-hard fans of the favorite I needed one.
‘Woman of the moment’
Say hello to Anna Kendrick, genre author! He Pitch perfect The actor begins what we hope will be a long and fruitful career behind the camera with this highly difficult directorial debut. Rodney Alcalá was a prolific serial killer who had been targeting young women since the early 1970s; Although authorities were alerted to his crimes, he would not be arrested until 1979. However, the previous year, Alcalá was one of three bachelors vying for the hand of contestant Cheryl Bradshaw on The dating game, (!) and ended up winning the grand prize on the game show. In the hands of most filmmakers, this would be a thrilling thriller or a Me Decade kitsch-filled comedy. Kendrick decides to roll the dice by trying to do both at once and adding plenty of social commentary about a culture of rampant sexism. and now… and your bet pays off. There’s a scene in a parking lot that still scares us days after seeing it at the festival.