TORONTO INERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL By MAZAHIR RAHIM
DAY 1 – 8TH SEPTEMBER 2016
One of the worlds most prestigious film festivals, TIFF 2016 rolled off sharp at 9 am today, 8th September 2016.
As usual, he press and industry screenings were held at the huge Scotia Bank Theatre on Richmond Street in downtown Toronto, just a block behind TIFF Bell Box.
A small hiccup started the day. The Tall escalators of the Theatre were jammed and people were forced to climb the long haul up. Festival authorities see no early respite from this climb as the parts have to arrive from the United States. However for seniors, there is a lift which remained jam packed throughout the day.
The theatre itself is spread over a whole block with 10 screens in all, a huge lounge looking out on Richmond Street and enough concessions serving snacks, cold drinks and beer.
Hundred of Volunteers dressed in their orange T shirts, the backbone of TIFF, tirelessly guided the audience to the correct cinema screens and managed the huge line ups.
The most popular film of the day was The Magnificent 7. Directed by Antoine Fuqua this 133 minutes remake of the masterpiece is produced by MGM and Columbia pictures. Starring Denzil Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Byung-hun Lee, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier and Peter Sarsgaard.
With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue, the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven men — Sam Chisolm, Josh Farraday, Goodnight Robicheaux, Jack Horne, Billy Rocks, Vasquez, and Red Harvest — who are outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns. As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, the seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.
For those who have seen the original, the remake pales in the telling. The action scenes are the main highlight of the film along with pleasing visuals of the Western countryside. Brilliantly photographed Fuqua tries his best to remain faithful to the original. The actors each play their role brilliantly, but the characteristics that made the earlier 7 memorable, remain missing in this version.
Asghar Farhadi’s 125 minute film which got is lead actors awards at Cannes was a much sought after film on day 1 of TIFF. Starring Taraneh Alidoosti, Shahab Hosseini, Babak Karimi and Mina Sadati
The film shows how a Teacher cum actors family breaks up in Tehran. The lead actor and his wife both act in the popular play Death of a Salesman when structural collapse forces them to quit their flat. They move into another flat loaned by a member of the cast, not realising that its previous tenant was a prostitute. The wife, not realizing this and thinking that her husband has buzzed the door lets another man into the flat, while she is having her bath outraging their decencies. The husband carries his role from the stage to real life and sets about to trace the man.
The film has dark undertones but is a compelling watch.
WE ARE NEVER ALONE
Petr Václav‘s 105 minute film We Are Never Alone, appears to be a dark film. It is definitely bleak, and strangely realist, but it has that same sense of subtle humor to give you pause about the meaning of life. The story concerns two families with certifiably insane patriarchs, a local pimp searching for escape, and the whore he deludes himself into thinking loves him despite her pining over the father of her daughter in jail. They each have their own personal problems that should be uniquely particular to their individual psychological imperfections and yet when they converge they’re insanely revealed to be kindred spirits spinning around atop this cesspool we call Earth.
Based around the time when Czechoslovakia came out of the clutches of communism and Russia, it is a film you will either love or hate.
Director Emilie Deleuze’s 90 minute film MISS IMPOSSIBLE, rounded off the day with a film every parent must watch. This is truly a wonderful film for children too.
Brilliantly shot, and wonderfully acted, the film revolves around 13 year old Aurore who is stuck in the middle between a beautiful older sister and a brainiac younger sister, 13-year-old. Aurore hates herself and her parents as only a middle child can and has all sorts of doubts from whether she is frigid to whether she has been adopted. All that she needs is attention and love. Life is a torment till she meets her new French teacher Sébastien Quest, who understands her needs and when she is invited to be the only girl in an all-male band.
DAY 2 – 9TH SEPTEMBER 2016
I AM NOT MADAME BOVARY
Director Feng Xiaogang’s 128 minute film I Am Not Madame Bovary is both a comedy as well as a tragic interpretation of the heroine, Li Xuelian’s (brilliant performance by Fan Bingbing) determination that she will not live a life of shame. Madame Bovary is a term used for adulteresses, whores and prostitutes and Li will not rest till those words are taken back by her truck driver husband.
The film also laughs at the convoluted Chinese governments, both in the rural areas and the cities.
Li, a café proprietor, and her husband apply and are granted a divorce. This is a ploy so that they can be allotted a flat which they covet. Li is surprised when her husband marries another woman after getting the divorce and insults her publicly.
Li now wants to prove that the divorce granted is fake. She wants this to be annulled so that she can remarry her unfaithful husband and then divorce him legally.
As Li takes her battle from her rural base to Beijing, several government heads topple, she faces imprisonment for a short while, bribes are offered to her by government officials who know that they can loose her jobs, and suitors line up to convince her that she should marry them. The only thing that they cannot offer her is the annulment of her divorce that she desperately seeks.
The film uses an interesting story book style of narration, almost as if you are reading a book on screen. The aspect ratios of the film change with different sequences of the film. The rural scenes in the film all are masked into an oval screen while the city portions uses an oblong rectangle. It is only the last scene of the film that a normal aspect ratio is used.
The film is slightly long and could do with a cut of fifteen minutes.
A DEATH IN THE GUNJ
Konkona Sensharma’s 110 minute debut film as a Writer Director is a brilliant look at a small Indian family, preparing to celebrate the New Year. Placed in the 1970’s it has a cast headed by Tanuja, Om Puri, Kalki Koelchin, Ranvir Shorey, Vikrant Massey, Tillotama Shome and Gulshan Devaiah.
The film is the story of Shuttu, (Vikrant Massey) a poor young man who is basically very innocent. He is uncomfortable with the doings of the family and would rather spend time with his dried butterflies, moths and playing with young Tania. But this is not to be. He is not only the general odd job boy, but also the butt of the mischievous humor of Ranvir Shorey who plays a nerdy bully with ease. If this was not enough, Kalki also tempts him sexually and pushes him to the very edge.
Tanuja as the matriarch of the family is brilliant. Her eyes convey so much more. Kalki as the idle seductress again proves that she is a great actress. But it is Vikrant Massey as Shuttu who steals the show. From the moment he smells his dead fathers cardigan, to the terror he feels when he falls into the animal pit and is face to face with a wolf, he holds the film together brilliantly.
Konkona with great ease takes the actors through their paces and extracts brilliant performances. Watching the film reminds one of classics made by Satyajit Ray and her own mother Aparna Sen. It is easy to see that Konkona is the next brilliant director from the Indian film Industry.
Godspeed is a black comedy from Taiwan. Directed by Chung Mong-Hong, this 111 minute road film is full of philosophical wisdom.
A Taiwanese drug mule, Na Dow, has his foolproof smuggling method thrown out of whack when he catches a ride with the wrong cab driver, in this highly entertaining caper starring Hong Kong comedy legend Michael Hui.
The film works on several levels, but the bonding between the characters is poignant and complete. Within a days time, the old Taxi driver has shared his most private moments with the smuggler who is himself completely at sea and has no idea most of the time where his actions are leading him.
The volatile relationship between a wayward teen and his disapproving father (Alejandro Goic) comes to a head when the boy seeks shelter from the police, in the new feature from Chilean writer-director Fernando Guzzoni.
Nothing comes easily to Santiago teen Jesús (Nicolás Durán). His group has just lost the local battle of the boy bands, he can’t seem to finish high school or keep track of money, and his widower father is fed up with his inertia. Uncertain what path to take, Jesús is trapped in a dead-end cycle of getting wasted with his buddies and looking for trouble.
The boys are partying in a cemetery one night when things get out of hand and they gang up on a defenceless kid, beating him badly. The next day Jesús learns that the kid’s in a coma and the police are searching for those responsible. Desperate to avoid both the authorities and his friends, he has no choice but to turn to his father for help. But how far should a father be expected to go to protect a child when that child is as lost as Jesús?
Writer-director Fernando Guzzoni’s provides no simple resolutions for the moral quandaries he raises. But even so, the rich chiaroscuro images of the young men’s activities — whether they’re traipsing randomly through the night, partying hard, or watching narco snuff porn — bring us ever closer to understanding where these boys are coming from.
The film is interestingly shot. Most of the film is shot in low contrast and extensive use has been made of the Long focal lens in the film. The film is shot mostly in large close ups, which brings the characters oppressively close to the audience.
Jesús is a startling, humane film that depicts the dark side of adolescent aimlessness and takes us to the frontier dividing loyalty and justice.