TIFF Has Flatlined

Every year the Toronto Film Festival runs hot and heavy for the first five days with too many high-interest titles playing against each other, forcing guys like myself to choose and miss out. And then the energy starts to drop on Tuesday and by Wednesday things are all but dead. I’ve got two and a half more days of screenings (I leave early Friday afternoon) and there’s almost nothing going on.

I saw Paul Thomas Anderson‘s The Master here — a searing, intense, brilliantly acted film that defies any and all attempts to tally and make clear-cut sense of. I saw Joe Wright‘s Anna Karenina and David O. Russell‘s The Silver Linings Playbook here, and I was 100% delighted. I didn’t have to see Ben Affleck‘s Argo here because I saw it in Telluride — a sharply made, highly satisfying, cranked-up political thriller.

I saw Terrence Malick‘s To The Wonder here two days ago — a whispery, all-but-silent Emmanuel Lubezski art-gallery film that is all but doomed to be shut out by distributors and fated to never be seen by mainstream ticket-buyers. I saw Lana and Andy Wachowki & Tom Tykwer‘s Cloud Atlas yesterday, and I just couldn’t stand it. I saw Juan Antonio Bayona‘s The Impossible here and it breaks my heart to say that while I was technically impressed I was otherwise disappointed.

I didn’t need to see David AyersEnd of Watch here because I saw it in Los Angeles — I’ll post a review later today or tomorrow. I saw Derek Cianfrance‘s The Place Beyond The Pines here and called it a problem on numerous levels, and also declared that Eva Mendes and Rose Byrne are “too hot for Schenectady.”

I saw Pablo Larrain‘s No in Cannes and again in Telluride — gripping, inspired, essential. I saw Roger Michell‘s Hyde Park on Hudson in Telluride — meh. I saw Noah Baumbach‘s Frances Ha in Telluride and really loved it all around — Greta Gerwig‘s performance, the screenplay, the supporting performances. (I’ll post a proper review one of these days.) I saw Martin McDonagh‘s Seven Psychopaths here and was let down — it’s nowhere close to the level of In Bruges and far below the level of McDonagh’s A Behanding in Spokane, one of his beter stage plays. I saw Rian Johnson‘s Looper in Los Angeles and didn’t much care for it. And I saw Sally Potter‘s Ginger And Rosa and felt very little enthusiasm.

I saw Ziad Doueiri‘s The Attack in Telluride, and was…well, my response was respectful, for the most part. The day before yesterday I saw Shola Lynch‘s Free Angela And All Political Prisoners and was 90% positive.

Later today I will see Yaron Zilberman‘s The Late Quartet and then James Ponsoldt‘s Smashed.

I’ve seen eight or nine TIFF films that didn’t inspire me to write anything one way or another.

And I’ve missed Toronto screenings of Billy Bob Thornton‘s Jayne Mansfield’s Car, Robert Redford‘s The Company You Keep, Stephen Chobosky‘s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower, Susanne Bier‘s Love is All You Need, Brian De Palma‘s Passion, Peter Webber‘s Emperor, Neil Jordan‘s Byzantium, Dustin Hoffman‘s Quartet, Laurent Cantet‘s Foxfire, Paul Andrew WilliamsSong for Marion, Spike Lee‘s Bad 25, Francois Ozon‘s In The House, Costa-GavrasCapital, Mike Newell‘s Great Expectations, Sergio Castellitto‘s Twice Born, Mira Nair‘s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Robert Puccini and Shari Spring Berman‘s Imogene, Joss Whedon‘s Much Ado About Nothing, Harmony Korine‘s Spring Breakers (tried to get into p & i screening yesterday and there were no seats), Josh Boone‘s Writers, Chen Kaige‘s Caught In The Web, Marco Bellochhio‘s Dormant Beauty, Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg‘s Kon-Tiki, Nick CassavettesYellow and Scott McGehee‘s What Maisie Knew.

Some of the films in the preceding paragraph are viewable today and tomorrow, but most are finished and have left town. And that’s mildly infuriating. I’ve been festival humping for 12 days straight (Telluride + Toronto with two-day timeout) but I’ve got plenty of energy and curiosity left, and there’s next to nothing going on. It just feels like “why am I here again?” and “maybe I could just duck out early?”

15 thoughts on “TIFF Has Flatlined

  1. ska-triumph on said:

    You know your time is precious – Lord knows sleep is – but I wondered while skimming TIFF’s humoungous lineup if you saw anythinng of potential quality coming out of the Middle East, Asian or Africa – that would/could play here in the next months? Be on the Oscar shortlists? It is supposed to be an international festival, after all.

  2. Last night I saw French-Canadian film Limelight and it charmed me throughout. It’s a little chesse, but I can best describe it as a Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mystery for the social media age. An old fashioned detecive story with some really great lead actors.

  3. Since you’re going to see “A Late Quartet” today, allow me to repeat the gist of a comment I wrote somewhat late on your previous post re: that movie.

    It clearly seems to be based on the Michael Hollinger play, “Opus”–the trailer contains elements totally lifted from that play (which I caught on stage about a year ago). But it also seems to have fiddled a bit with some of the character and plot details. There’s no mention of Hollinger or his play in the IMDB credits and Justin Chang made no mention of all that in his Variety review–making it seem as thought the film’s writer/director concocted it from whole cloth, which is obviously not the case (at least to someone like me who has seen the play). What gives? (This is clearly a case for Wells.)

  4. What a shame some of the films have left town and Jeff can’t double back on them. As a Canadian reader, pulling for Obama in November, I’m kind of glad Jeff has been too busy to notice my country is now governed at the federal level by the Republican-like Conservative Party led by Stephen Harper. Newt Gingrich is a fan. Our version of the Democrats,the Liberal Party of Canada, has fallen to third place. The New Democratic Party just to the left of the Liberals, is the official opposition. Our looney government in Ottawa is now spending money trying to commemorate the War of 1812 anniversary, despite the fact Canada wasn’t a country until 1867. The conflict was really between the U.S. and Britain.Alas, our next federal election is not supposed to happen until 2015.

  5. I know this is virtually unheard of in this day and age, but since you feel the festival is “dying down” (whatever that means) — why not just take a chance on watching a movie that SOUNDS interesting, for one reason or another? Put “the Awards season” out of your mind, for God’s sake.

    No offense, but most of the movies you have listed are fairly mainstream and English-centric. Part of the fun of TIFF (at least for me) is rolling the dice on a film or filmmaker that I’m not really all that familiar with. Life is short — be adventurous (plus, you get into this stuff for free, don’t you? Nothing really stopping you from walking out if something isn’t working for ya)!

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