And Then There Were None

Home again. Back in the suburbs. Back in the southern heat and humidity. And just a wee bit depressed about it. A friend’s line last year was, “Thank God there are no more movies. I wish there were more movies.” That about sums it up, I’d say. A last batch of first impressions . . .

Un Couple parfait

Dir. by Nobuhiro Suwa

Suwa offered my favorite line of the festival. When asked why he so often underlit his actors’ faces, he replied, “There are two ways to watch. One is to open your eyes and look closely, the other is to close your eyes and imagine. I want audiences to do both.” To be honest, I only scheduled this film because I’ve developed a bit of an infatuation for Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi. (She also has a small role in the new Ozon film.) Un Couple parfait ended up being one of my favorites of the festival, though — a small relationship film shot in long takes, often from a fixed, waist-high position. I asked Suwa what attracted him about that particular shot, and he said that working as an assistant director taught him to hate traditional blocking. He wants, instead, to allow his actors room to move, to embody emotions more complex than those expressed by the dialogue. He admitted, even, to not understanding the actual words being spoken at times (he’s Japanese; the actors are all French). Their emotions were real enough, he said; the words were largely irrelevant. Another great festival find that I hope to write about at length at another time.

U.S. Go Home

Dir. by Claire Denis

The two films I scheduled for Friday afternoon, 51 Birch Street and Bed Stories, were both late additions, neither of which particularly excited me. So I decided to skip them both and spend a few hours, instead, at the Toronto Film Reference Library, where I was able to see (on un-subtitle video) Claire Denis’s 1994 TV film, U.S. Go Home. Starring Alice Houri and Gregoire Colin, again playing sister and brother, it feels a bit like a prequel to Nenette et Boni. I’d read on a number of occasions that Denis’s obsession with Eric Burdon and the Animals was deep, deep, and it’s on full display here. U.S. Go Home will never be released on any home video format because rights to the music alone would surely cost in the millions. Along with the Animals, we hear a whole bunch of Otis Redding and other ’60s soul. The new Song of the Moment, The Animals’ “Hey Gyp,” plays in its entirety in a dance scene that rivals Denis Lavant’s at the end of Beau Travail. If it hasn’t become obvious over the past few months, Claire Denis is now, hands-down, my favorite active filmmaker. U.S. Go Home is another perfect little film.

The Death of Mister Lazarescu

Dir. by Cristi Puiu

Thirty minutes in, I wasn’t sure if I would make it. I was exhausted from the week, and the idea of spending two more hours watching a character die in a Romanian hospital was almost too much to bear. But then a remarkable thing happened. At some point I slipped into the film’s rhythms, forgot that I was watching actors, and became completely engrossed in one of the most technically-impressive and beautifully humanist films I’ve ever seen. Shot entirely in hand-held (that brand of photography we’ve been trained to associate with verite), Puiu’s film exposes class divides, critiques modern health care systems, humanizes patients and medical professionals (for good and bad), and makes allusions to Dante, the Bible, and mythology. And it manages to do so in the service of a brilliant and deceptively complex narrative. Really an extraordinary film. Not to be missed.

The Wayward Cloud

Dir. by Tsai Ming-liang

Oh my. Give me some time for this one. I love all of Tsai’s film, this one included. In some ways, The Wayward Cloud is his richest and most extravagantly emotional film yet. But I’m not sure what to do with that last 20 minutes. Um, wow. My notes are filled with questions. I haven’t come up with any satisfying answers yet.


Dir. Jim McKay

I’ve come away from TIFF this year with a long “to see” list. To the list of directors I want to explore — Carlos Reygadas, Jean Paul Civeyrac, Ning Ying, Bohdan Slama, and Nobuhiro Suwa — I’ve also added Jim McKay, who impressed me as much by his Q&A as by his new film. I should say, first of all, that Angel is not a perfect film. J. Robert and I agreed that the ending is amibguous in the least satisfying way. But it’s ambitious, and I like McKay’s particular ambitions. When he was asked about the film’s lack of a score, he confirmed what I had suspected during the screening, telling us that he’s been most inspired by recent films from France and Iran (and, I would guess, Belgium, Austria, and Taiwan). Angel is as close as we’ll likely come to getting an American Dardennes film. First-time actor Jonan Everett plays Angel, a good kid from Brooklyn who’s been kicked out of him home; Rachel Griffiths is the social worker who takes him in. The film is a quiet character study of both, shot mostly in close-ups. Another really nice surprise.


Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

I’ll say it. I was disappointed by L’Enfant. But part of my disappointment stems from the fact that L’Enfant happens to be the film the Dardennes made after The Son. I think I expected them to improve on what I feel is a perfect film. An unreasonable expectation, I’ll admit. L’Enfant will still be among the very best films I see all year, though, and I’m looking forward to discussing it with others. There’s a lot to wrestle with here.


Emmanuelle Bercot

I should have stayed in the hotel or gone out for a beer. But the pull was too strong. One last film. One last chance to watch that damn anti-piracy short. Emmanuelle Seigner plays an emotionally disturbed pop singer; Isild Le Besco plays an emotionally disturbed fan who forces her way into her idol’s life; both look really hot. And then there are some scenes with music and backstage drama. Honestly, my favorite parts of the film are two montages of Paris at night. Backstage was shot by Agnes Godard and looks typically amazing. There’s not much else to recommend the film, though.

And so that’s it. I hope to write about a few of the films at length, but I’m not sure when that’ll happen.