TIFF’12: Day 7

September 16, 2012 — 2 Comments

I had to wake up early for Day 7, not because I had a movie to see, but because I wanted to head down to the festival box office to exchange some of my back-half vouchers for tickets. I went ahead and did that, but then had nothing left to do, so I decided, to throw in an extra screening for the morning.

It’s not always easy choosing a random option at the last minute, especially since many screenings are already “rush line only.” I didn’t have too many screenings to choose from, and ultimately I settled on something with a director I didn’t care for, but a cast I loved.

Great Expectations

Mike Newell doesn’t do much for me. I don’t care for most of his films, and he has the dubious honour of directing my least favourite Harry Potter film. His new adaptation of Dickens’ famous novel doesn’t really do much to win me over. It’s a fine film, but Newell’s grasp of tone is all over the place, and the way he transitions from one event in the narrative to another leaves a lot to be desired.

What really saves Great Expectations is the casting. Jeremy Irvine, from War Horse, plays Pip, and he’s fine, but the supporting turns are awesome. First of all, there’s the Harry Potter triumvirate of Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Robbie Coltrane. Then there’s Sally Hawkins, Ewen Bremner and Jason Flemyng rounding things out. They all do fantastic work, often selling things that the screenwriter and director seem unsure of how to properly convey.

All that being said, the Q&A after the film totally got me on Mike Newell’s side. He may not make films I like, but he’s charming and funny as all hell, and even with some of the worst questions I’ve ever heard (Why wasn’t Dickens the first name credited?) he still pulled off one of the best Q&As I’ve seen in my years of doing the festival.

From Great Expectations I teamed up with Leora Heilbronn to crash a party. We got in, drank some complimentary wine, and then bolted as fast as possible to catch another film all the way at the Ryerson.

Lore

Stories of WWII and the Holocaust aren’t difficult to come by, but it’s rarer to see films depicting the German/Nazi perspective. The most famous example is probably Downfall, which specifically deals with Hitler’s final days. Well, in that sense, Lore, could almost be a sequel to that film. It begins with the death of Hitler and the Germans losing the war and follows a teenage girl as she treks across Germany with her young siblings to find refuge. You see, her father was a reasonably high ranking soldier, and had they stayed in the area they who knows what might have happened. Along the way they meet a Jewish boy who helps them on their journey.

Don’t make any mistake, though. Lore is anything but a happy, inspiring tale. It’s about what happens to the people who were wrong but who are still left over, needing to pick up their lives and move on. The film suggests that for many, or most, it’s nearly impossible to do that. Australian director Kate Shortland does some fantastic visual work, recalling the styles of Claire Denis and Andrea Arnold. The film looks beautiful, though often bleak. Shortland focuses in on details, using close-ups on objects and hands and other such things to convey tone and emotion. It’s a beautifully crafted film, which is maybe a little too long in the front end, but comes together extremely well by about the halfway point. It’s also quite depressing, so be sure you’re ready for that sort of film before you go in.

Unfortunately I couldn’t stay at the Ryerson for the Q&A because I had to jet over to the Bloor to see a film I chose based purely on the picture in the TIFF book.

Thale

A movie about a couple of guys who stumble upon a woman with a tale? How could that be bad? Well, obviously it could be bad, but why the hell should it? As it turns out, while not really outright bad, Thale, begins well, but ends up feeling like an unfulfilled promise.

Really, what Thale feels like is a student film that should have been about 20-30 minutes long and ended up at the “feature length” running time of 77 minutes. At the start, when it’s more of a typical horror flick, the film fires on basically all cylinders. It’s funny and creepy in just the right ways. But once the “tale” premise really kicks in, the filmmakers lose steam. They’re too focused on the idea, and not nearly interested enough in creating a sustainable narrative surrounding it.

But it’s alright. Like I said, Thale isn’t so terrible. There are some really good things going for it, and I’m sure that the director will go on to bigger and better things from here. At this juncture what we’ve got is a film with ambition in craft and an intriguing premise, but a team that had difficulty delivering on the final work. It happens.

From there is was basically right back to the line-up at the Bloor to see another film in the Vanguard programme.

Motorway

See, now here is a film where I can’t extend the kind of goodwill I did toward Thale. I mean, really, they’re probably about equal in quality, but at least that film had obvious reason for why it couldn’t live up. Motorway has no excuses. All the ingredients are there, and in fact, they’re there on the screen. A cool visual style reminiscent of great 80s and 90s action films. A barebones plot that allows for as much awesome driving as possible. Absolutely brilliant stunt driving. But somehow it doesn’t work.

Well, not somehow. I know exactly how. It’s because the film’s director, Pou-Soi Cheang, simply does not understand how to build tension and pay off with climax. There are so many sections of the film, including the driving sequences themselves, that lend themselves perfectly to roller coaster rides of tension and relief. The film doesn’t both attempting that, though. instead it just shows us these car chases in a monotonous manner totally ill-suited to an action film. One moment late in the film that should have caused the audience to get up and cheer was met with silence. It just sort of happened and then it was over, which is kind of how the film feels as a whole.

Oh well. You can’t win ’em all. That’s just how the film festival works. From the Bloor it was off to sleep in since I only had a film starting at 6pm the next day.

Remember to follow me on Twitter @CoreyAtad, and check out my full TIFF’12 schedule at TIFFr.

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  1. TIFF’12: The Great Wrap-Up « justAtad - September 18, 2012

    […] Day 7 – Great Expectations, Lore, Thale, Motorway […]

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