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TIFF 2010: Guest Blogger, Moen M. Shares His Faves

donna g: One of the things that happen during and especially after TIFF are discussions about what has been seen and what are the personal favourites. I asked Moen M.* my friend and fellow film lover, to share his faves with you. Here is what he had to say:

MOEN M.: TIFF 2010 proved to be a wonderful year, yielding insightful films that one hopes the public will get to see more of either at the Lightbox and local arthouse cinemas. It was very difficult to choose which films are my favourites of the festival, but it must be done. Here are my favourites:


1. Poetry (Korea) in photo below
2. Look, Stranger (USA)
3. Nostalgia for The Light (Chile)
4. Attenberg (Greece)
5. Blessed Events (Germany)
6. The Four Times (Italy)
7. Mysteries of Lisbon (Portugal)
8. I Wish I Knew (China)
9. Incendies (Canada)
10. Confessions (Japan)
11. The Strange Case of Angelica (Portugal)
12. Trois temps apres la mort d'Anna (Canada)
13. Meek's Cutoff (USA)
14. Leap Year (Mexico)
15. Tears of Gaza (Norway) in photo below

16. The Ditch (China)
17. The Majority (Turkey)
18. The Housemaid (Korea)
19. A Screaming Man (Chad)
20. Of Gods and Men (France)
21. A Useful Life (Uruguay)
22. My Only Sunshine (Turkey)

23. Neds (Scotland)
24. 22nd May (Belgium)
25. Norwegian Wood (Japan)


Trois temps apres la mort d'Anna (Canada) - One of the most honest portrayals of grief and loss I have ever seen. The quiet moments and the frigid landscape scream soundlessly the pain and suffering of the protagonist. A heart-breaking film that is also hopeful. If this is not part of Canada's Top Ten, there is no justice.

My Only Sunshine (Turkey) - A film I saw as I could not get into the Ceausescu documentary and what a discovery it was. Then again, it's director of the wonderful Times and Winds. A film about a young girl's loss of innocence and how the absence of a decent family structure can play havoc with a young child's life.

The Majority (Turkey) - A disturbing and honest portrait of a father and son. It depicts those with money and power (the majority) and their treatment and influence on the others (the minority). This film is not just about contemporary Instanbul, but it could be transplanted anywhere.

Leap Year (Mexico) - A film that may easily be dismissed as sexual violence gone awry, however, the winner of the Camera d'or at Cannes 2010 is not sensational material, nor is it titillating, nor sexy one bit. At least not to me. This is a diary of the month of February as we observe, almost clinically, the activities in a young, native Mexican girl's apartment. Yes, it is violent, and yes, there is a lot of rough sex. However, as the film goes on, it is quietly revealed, not in words, as to the reasons the young woman made those choices. And her family plays a very important role in her choices. Look closely, and you will also see how she feels about being dark-skinned and what she considers to be beautiful. This film is not for everyone. Be warned.

22nd of May (Belgium) - A remarkable achievement, stunning and original. After a suicide bombing at a mall, the security guard (who may have apparently survived or perhaps not), is flung into a dreamland purgatory as he navigates the empty streets searching for the victims and trying to find answers to their questions as they demand answers. Not for one second does this film feel false even though we know we are in a parallel world. It is done with realism and anguish. Kudos to the director for pulling off an ambitious and difficult project.

The Housemaid (Korea) - A sophisticated and sexy thriller that is classy and intelligent. A naive young woman gets more than what she bargained for as she enters the service of a wealthy family. Superb acting and controlled mise-en-scene.

Mysteries of Lisbon (Portugal) - A beautiful poem to literature, art, history, love and ancestry. This rigorous film does not feel long at 4 1/2 hours. It's that good. For me, the realisation of what I had just seen as the film approaches its climax is not only revelatory, but truly inspiring.

The Strange Case of Angelica (Portugal) - Charming, poetic, romantic, Oliveira employs his usual theatrical style to great use in this lovely film about a young man's nightmares and fantasies of the deceased Angelica.

Norwegian Wood (Japan) - Everyone I spoke to who has seen this film did not like it. But I liked it very much. This isn't The Scent of Green Papaya nor does it resemble The Vertical Ray of the Sun, nor is it gritty and realistic as Cyclo. As such, it should not be compared to those films. Norwegian Wood is about grief, death and the loss of innocence. Contrary to what I have heard, this film is not pre-occupied with sex, panting and moaning. Sex is used as the only way the characters can stay connected with each other. As there is no love and feeling, they think sex may be the last resort of any kind of link. There is a lot of crying during the sex scenes - this is not gratuitous fumblings and groping. Great use of 60s music, impressive costume design of that era, beautiful photography and wonderful performances by the three leads. A sadly misunderstood film. But then again, I seem to be the only person who liked it.

The Ditch (China) - Wang Bing's painful exploration of the labour camps and their outcome during the famine. This film is so painful to watch, so gut-wrenching in its unendurable suffering, that I never, ever wish to see it again. But I am grateful for having seen it once.

COMPARISONS - Why do we compare a director's current film to his/her previous film? Or his/her body of work? A director has the freedom to do whatever he/she deems to be artistically best for the project at hand. Not every film will resemble or should be like the previous masterwork. Case in question is the superb Poetry by Lee Chang-dong. Over and over during the festival, I heard that "it was just not as good as Secret Sunshine." We should accept a film for what it is and should not attach prerequisites and standing orders. My two pennies.

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
The Sleeping Beauty
Essential Killing
Black Ocean

Guest Blogger* Moen M. is frequents film festivals of all kinds in Toronto and Montreal. He's mad about Japanese cinema and can watch those films all day and night without coming up for ait. I forgive him for this because we both adore Italian actress Anna Magnani, and we love seeing films on the big screen--where they should be seen.


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