TIFF Report Day 4: Generations Learning, Horny Detectives, Tragic Romanctics, My TIFF Nap & Personal Pain
After yesterday’s muggy day today was a bright warm morning where I hated myself for walking out to start the day with jacket in hand. The jacket just became a personal carry-on luggage that I didn’t need and I hated that. This should be one my few early mornings and my first 5 film day (I have 2 more of these this year) and other than nodding off in and out in a film (read below to see which one) I managed to keep going and saw Horns, Empire of Dirt, and more, even after a crazed midnight screening the night before.
Here’s the results of yesterday’s films:
EMPIRE OF DIRT (dir. Peter Stebbings)
A film about a single mother who’s a former addict now part of the community but still struggling. Her daughter begins to make some poor decisions and eventually sets them back home to her mother where it becomes an onslaught of inter relational dynamics of pride, regret and seeking answers.
“Marsha. Marsha! Marsha!” The drama is what this movie is, its not the hard choices of his to survive but how to forgive and while it does that so well it still isn’t so perfectly set up and executed that you’ll walk out trying to assess your own family dynamic s and where you need to say your sorry or accept Another’s. The film’s able to keep us engaged in Peeka, Lena and Minerva’s tale of just trying to be together to help one another amazingly well. Some reveals are very easily seen and developments that us as a third party to the story see coming a mile away such that we almost feel like that best friend who’s watching the train wreck from a mile away and want to scream at them to turn around but sadly can only watch on as it collides.
There’s a final scene that appears after a somewhat climax of the plot that bothered me though as the film begins to throw in a whole new element in one minute that the film didn’t need. When did the film make this family’s problems about their ethnicity, other than lady modeling as Asian.
HORNS (dir. Alexandre Aja)
Fun. The word that is most associated with this movie is fun. Alexandre Aja goes everywhere you can with a film like this. It’s dark, silly, smart, noir and even romantic throughout and there isn’t an aspect of it that fully fails. There are a few character trappings that I found silly, but overall they were cured with some other element overshadowing it.
Horns is a film about Ig (Danielle Radcliffe) who is under a lot of scrutiny with the recent murder of his long time girlfriend, Merrin (Juno Temple), with public opinion being very strongly sided with the thought that he did it. One day a pair of mystical horns begin to grow out of his forehead and he soon discovers that he is attaining supernatural powers, such as the fact that people must be completely honest with him when in the presence of the horns. He quickly figures out the mechanics and begins using it to his advantage to help solve the mystery of who killed Merrin and at the same time clearing his name.
Aja digs deeply into the supernatural and it just works. As you see Radcliffe go deeper and deeper into a bottle looking for answers only to eventually be blessed with these horns it plays on a sense of loss turned into a weird silly comedy. Early in the process as we just see everyone just start to pour out their secrets, from one girl’s desire to fatten herself because she’s tired of being attractive since men still don’t like her all that much unless she’s sleeping with them to a slew of television reporters that we see follow every step of Ig just to try and get a story being made to fight it out in a battle royale, the film switches from dark seriousness to comedy relatively easily and almost always with a true necessity for that levity at the time. If this film had just been a gritty noir detective story with a guy who had supernatural powers that we could link back to Christian theology, it would’ve been too heavy a film that just looses it’s place after a while. There are moments where that detective sense doesn’t quite land perfectly and the audience is just clamouring for more humour or romance and that’s what ends up happening.
I AM YOURS (dir. Iram Haq)
Mina (Amrita Acharia) is a young single mother in Oslo, Norway, who’s struggling with life a little bit and not sure where to go. She’s an actress but more than that is lonely. She meets Jesper (Ola Rapace), a Swedish filmmaker, and they hit it off immediately. The film follows Jesper and Mina on their relationship’s ups and downs as well as Mina’s family situation, her son, Felix (Prince Singh), and how all these elements intertwine and conflict with one another over time.
There are a lot of intimate films about a character in a relationship or a relationship on a whole that I adore, like Blue Valentine. I feel this movie really captures that tone of lovely and just how lost Mina is in life right now. She wants love, but she also has her son that takes away from that, her family is constantly judging her as her actions — i.e. going on dates and being what the rest of the western world would consider a normally sexual lifestyle with boyfriends and such — and supposedly being ostracized by the Indian community in Norway. However, we only see this judgement from her father and mother, so I wonder whether this is a dying society within Eastern Europe? There are always sub cultures, but it’s just a part of European life that isn’t that well examined in film, how sub cultures can be lost on the next generations who want to be their own culture of Norway as opposed to the world they came from.
The film itself feels like the ups and downs of a relationship. There’s the period of eternal bliss and the moments of just heartbreak; and the film revels in these moments so well. The character of Mina is one that will be judged heavily though. Her management of her relationships is in a manner that many will scrutinize and say that she’s not really doing that well, not because she is a bad mother, or a bad daughter, but that the moment she finds someone she wants to be with romantically she finds it very difficult to prioritize it in with all her already pre-existing relationships. She lies to her ex-husband in order to get him to watch their son so that she can run off with Jesper, when Jesper is grating because he’s obviously not ready to be a full-time father she tries to put him above her son in a way that many would find troubling. Mina is not a forgivable character in this way, but it does make for some interesting drama and overall engaging cinema.
SEX, DRUGS & TAXATION (dir. Christoffer Boe)
I apologize. I caught myself napping too often in this film to comment. However, there was a scene of a gorilla being “tamed” (if that’s the right word) by the sight of a man’s full formed erection… so there’s that.
FAT (dir. Mark Phinney)
A very personal tale about a life looking for happiness while deeply entrenched in sadness that all stems from being fat, or that’s what Ken (Mel Rodriguez) would have you think if you asked him to his face.
This film almost feels like a Sundance darling, and I’m starting more and more to think of that as a negative more than anything else. The kinds of films I see out there with that honoured “Sundance Selection” badge proudly in their marketing material end up being films like this. Poorly made films with a lot of heart that allow us to truly get to know these characters in a way that not only sympathizes them but empathizes them. However, the problem with all this is that you have to get through a relatively amateur production in order to get to that heart that makes it worth your time. The trade off is so high though with a film like this that I’m not certain whether I can recommend it at all openly.