Sunday, 9 September 2012

TIFF12 Picks & Pans: All That You Possess, Frances Ha, Imagine, Motorway, Mushrooming

ALL THAT YOU POSSESS (Canada). Canadian director, Bernard Émond, is a favourite of mine. I was first introduced to him via a DVD of his film, La Neuvaine, and that was such a positive experience that I proceeded to catch his subsequent films in the trilogy, Contre tout espérance (07) and La donation (09) at TIFF. With this latest film, Émond continues to display his keen observation of human behaviour within a certain set of circumstances. This film about a man who tries to distance himself from the world,  is poetic (in fact poetry is a significant part of this movie), insightful and contemplative. There are no big action moments, so this film is not for those who prefer quick edits and music montages.

FRANCIS HA (USA). What a delightful film! I loved being in the company of this post-university intern dancer, who is not quite sure what she should be doing next. Usually twenty-something comedies annoy me, but Greta Gerwig's winning performance as Frances is captivating and charming, and the screenplay she co-wrote with director, Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) is modern yet incredibly timeless; an instant classic.

IMAGINE (Poland / France / Portugal). I'm probably going to be booed or this, but I didn't like this film about a blind teacher Ian (Edward Hogg) who encourages his students to walk around without a cane. Yes, the techniques he teaches them is fascinating to watch, and I appreciated the techniques he uses to improve their observational skills and scope of the world, but after a while, I found myself thinking "so what?". The plot does pick up towards the end, and the budding romance between Ian and Eve (Alexandra Maria Lara), an adult student at the Portuguese school, has some lovely moments, but the dramatic tension comes so late in the film that I didn't really care. Ian's confidence as a blind man who wants to use more than a cane to explore his world is admirable, but at what cost? I found his unwavering beliefs to be sometimes reckless and selfish. It's one thing to have new teaching methods, but they must be balanced with common sense.

MOTORWAY (Hong Kong). I absolutely loved the sound design and sound editing in this film, beyond that, I didn't see much in it for me. The film is never boring and I think it's perfect for those who enjoy racing games and car chases. I would have loved this movie when I was thirteen, but I need more depth than is displayed here. In my opinion, the mentor-mentee relationship between the speed-loving young cop (Shawn Yue) and the near-retirement veteran (Li Haitao) a bit Karate Kid-esque, but the sound is what really focussed my attention: the silences are just as well-captured as the squeal of the car wheels.

MUSHROOMING (Estonia). Skip it! First time director, Toomas Hussar's comedy about a couple and a musician who get lost in the woods while looking for mushrooms tries too hard to be ironic and comes across as directionless. The underlying political commentary about misappropriation of funds doesn't pay off with any credibility or humour and the hyperbolic music added nothing to the plot except to annoyance with its inappropriate insertions.

Toronto International Film Festival
September 6 - 16
Get Tickets: 416.599.TIFF | 1.888.599.8433

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