Monday, September 12, 2005

Toronto: Day Three

(France/Austria, Michael Haneke, 117 min. With: Daniel Auteuil, Juliette Binoche, Maurice Bénichou, Annie Girardot)

Formally ingenious but also humane. Auteuil and Binoche are both at their best in ages as the haute-bourgeois couple under hidden-camera surveillance; the way the tables of victimisation are turned is really compelling, as is the way latent distrust in their relationship comes under the microscope. Some find the ending frustrating; it made my skin crawl, and it's very Haneke. A

(short) (Canada, Byron Lamarque, 10 min) D

A Simple Curve
(Canada, Aubrey Nealon, 92 min: With: Kris Lemche, Michael Hogan, Matt Craven)

Slot-filler, and I could have done worse. British Columbia scenery made for a nice battery-recharger, and there's some smart dialogue, but this earnest father-son dramedy is no one's idea of essential. Does feature the unanswerable argumentative retort "You ate my placenta." C+

The Proposition
(Aus, John Hillcoat, 104 min. With: Guy Pearce, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Emily Watson, David Wenham, John Hurt)

Hillcoat's outback western is evocatively shot and well-cast, but I found Nick Cave's dialogue more stilted than elegant, characterisation's sketchy to say the least, and the brother-betrayal plot never really accumulates enough force. Pity. Still, I'd like to have been able to stay for the whole thing. (C) SEEN IN FULL 26/10/05. Strong last reel, in which Pearce and in particular Watson come into their own. It's not bad, but the pacing's still too slack and the Huston character too much of a wild-man cipher for the civilisation-vs-savagery idea to really come off. B-

(US, John Madden, 100 min. With: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Jake Gyllenhaal, Hope Davis)

This always felt like something of an obligation, but who knew it would be quite so fiercely uninteresting? Mathematicians are a bit nuts? Er, don't stop the presses. Gwyneth's fine, but was far better doing depressive-genius duties in Sylvia, Hopkins splutters out his lines like he just wants out of here, and Davis's role redefines thankless. Oddly, it's left to Gyllenhaal, relaxed and watchable, to hold the side up as the only one of them who looks like he's ever opened a maths book. The academic trappings are as specious as they are embarrassing, and Madden just drearily tots up two and two. Honestly? It struck me as a bad play badly transferred. D+

Harsh Times
(US, David Ayer, 119 min. With: Christian Bale, Freddy Rodriguez, Eva Longoria)

Noxious dick-measuring from Training Day hack Ayer, who someone has inexplicably let behind a camera. He goes at it like a rabid bulldog. Bale squanders a lot of his Machinist and Batman cred with a lame, posturing perf; Six Feet Under lightweight Rodriguez just stands around calling him dude. Repeating TD's door-to-door episodic structure, it's smarmy, horribly overblown, and patently turned on by the very machismo it purports to interrogate. "Tonight we will experience the raw power of cinema," promised one of the programmers. Did he mean stench? D


Nick Davis said...

I have been doing an unintentional disservice to your readership statistics.... I'm usually so eager to read what you have to say, that I read it all in Bloglines and forget to actually click over! But I'm finding your Toronto posts addictive and persuasive, especially re: Proof. That play has been so overrated it's shocking, and based on the milky preview, I had pegged Gyllenhaal (by default, if nothing else) as the one to watch.

Nice to know the Haneke is worth being excited about!

tim r said...

So great to hear from you! Blogging was beginning to feel a bit lonely. Having a ball, particularly tonight, after the pretty good Vers le sud and the really good Dave Chappelle's Block Party, the public screening of which a couple of very nice Aussie distrib people managed to get me into. Somehow, I'd managed to forget there was a Michel Gondry film in this festival. It's a riot - more tomorrow. As for Proof: don't want to seem reductive, but I think it's Jake's beard that does it for me.

Nick Davis said...

I've just filed a plug for you over at Cinemarati, since folks should really be getting the benefit of these TIFF write-ups.

Meanwhile, the mouth waters to know why you were only half-impressed by A History of Violence and so cool on L'Intrus, but I guess we'll have to wait till after you've returned from Toronto.

And indeed, bring forth the rave about Block Party. I'd never even heard of that one, but with Erykah, Lauryn, and Jill in the line-up, to say nothing of Monsieur Gondry, I'm already sold.

Anonymous said...

Ah, those wonderful Canadian Content laws, up to their old tricks.

Hint: Never, ever go to see a Canadian short, unless it's in a program of international shorts shown in another country. There are more mandatory Canadian Content slots to be filled at the Canadian festivals than there are good Canadian films to fill them; jurying for these programs is virtually nonexistant.

And as far as Canadian features go, there's the Cronenbergs and Egoyans, so overwrought with snail-paced, self-aware "artistry" and that bizarre juxtaposition of wooden and stagey acting that they're utterly unwatchable, if ambitious; then there's everything else, which is just plain crap.

The (domestic) Canadian film industry is a bad joke, set up to favour quantity over quality, employment over product. The Canadian government aids significantly in the funding of virtually 100% of the films produced by Canadians, and Canadian Content laws ensure that these mediocre productions have venues (usually cable channels looking to fill their Canadian Content slots). All of this makes quality filmmaking unnecessary, and mediocrity the accepted norm.

(Sorry for the rant!)

tim r said...

All rants welcome! Yeah, the one Canadian short I saw was singularly terrible, stuck on the front of the pretty forgettable A Simple Curve. Not many of the other homegrown features in the programme appealed, though I heard some good things about C.R.A.Z.Y.

Often with you on Egoyan, but I'm quite the Cronenberg fan, I'm afraid. And I like Guy Maddin too. Plus you guys seem to be pretty good at documentaries: The Corporation and Shake Hands with the Devil are two of the best I've seen in the last few years. I imagine these are the exceptions, though...