Anticipating TIFF 2012

My goal in Toronto each year is pretty simple. I typically see about 30 films at the fest, and if I choose the right 30 then for the next twelve months I get to participate in the larger critical conversation about contemporary world cinema, despite living in a midsized city in East Tennessee. Over the years, I’ve fine-tuned my method for choosing films to the point that it is literally a formula. I’ve built an Excel spreadsheet to score each film on a sliding scale according to specific criteria: availability, director, actor, theme, buzz, nation, length, and a catch-all category that is used mostly for giving bonus points to films that have played other major festivals.

This year, I suspect, it will be more difficult than usual to pick the right films. Most of my favorite filmmakers — Claire Denis, Hou Hsiao-hsien, the Dardennes, Pedro Costa, Jean-Luc Godard, Arnaud Desplechin, Lisandro Alonso, Catherine Breillat, Chantal Akerman, Nicolas Klotz, and Elisabeth Perceval (I’m sure I’m forgetting others) — are absent this year, and what little positive critical consensus that came out of Cannes was for two films that aren’t part of the TIFF lineup: Leo Carax’s Holy Motors and Alain Resnais’s You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet. There are new films by PT Anderson and Terrence Malick to see, but those will both play in Knoxville. Haneke won another Palme d’Or, but for a film about which I’m unable to muster the slightest bit of enthusiasm. Carlos Reygadas continues to experiment with form, but the reviews I’ve read make Post Tenebras Lux sound like the cinephile’s equivalent of sour medicine. (“Time to take the Reygadas.”)

The good news is that Tsai Ming-liang is back, even if Walker (pictured above) is only 26 minutes. De Oliveira has a new film starring Jeanne Moreau, Michael Lonsdale, and Claudia Cardinale! I’ll be able to see Raul Ruiz’s final two films (one of them completed posthumously by his wife and long-time collaborator, Valeria Sarmiento), along with new work by Brian De Palma, Christian Petzold, Hong Sang-soo, Abbas Kiarostami, Olivier Assayas, and Bernard Emond. Some excellent (relatively) young filmmakers will be there: Cristian Mungiu, Jem Cohen, Sergei Loznitsa, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Miguel Gomes, Mati Diop, Lucien Castaing-Taylor ,and João Pedro Rodrigues among them. And most exciting of all: Wavelengths, which has always been my favorite part of the festival, now includes a full lineup of feature films (formerly programmed as Visions) that is incredibly strong.

After crunching the numbers, I’ve whittled TIFF’s 300 or so films down to these 75, ranked in preferential order by program. I’ll try to see everything in Wavelengths, most of Masters, a few each from Discovery, Vanguard, and TIFF Cinematheque, and as many as I can manage from CWC and Special Presentations. The schedule-makers will inevitably make many of these decisions for me.

Any and all recommendations are much appreciated.

Contemporary World Cinema

Discovery

Masters

Special Presentations

TIFF Cinematheque

Vanguard

Wavelengths