Tom Hiddleston in I Saw the Light
One of the interesting things about TIFF is that it has grown way beyond being contained in a single geographic spot; while the Lightbox on King Street serves as ‘festival central’, there are screenings as far up as the Ryerson campus. TIFF happens to start around the same time as school, which makes the area around the Ryerson Theatre a chaotic mess of people waiting in line to yell at Tom Hiddleston and half-in-the-bag 17-year-olds mistaking the TIFF volunteers for their frosh counsellors.
Let it be said that the people screeching at Loki were much, much louder than the froshies.
Patrick Stewart (centre) as a neo-Nazi kingpin in Green Room
The Dead Kennedys song “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” takes a turn for the literal in Blue Ruin director Jeremy Saulnier’s sophomore effort, a blisteringly intense and brutal thriller that pits a fledgling punk band (Anton Yelchin, Alia Shakwat, Joe Cole and Callum Turner) and a wrong-place-wrong-time fairweather fascist (Imogen Poots) against vicious neo-Nazis (led by none other than Patrick Stewart!) after one of them witnesses a murder in the Nazis’ hideout/bunker.
It must be said that Saulnier is a man after my own heart; I have a never-ending well of love for tight, brutal thrillers of this ilk, and I unsurprisingly loved his first film. Green Room is a leap and a bound beyond that — it’s a 100-minute jolt of intensity that never lets up.
Saulnier has absolutely no pity; his films are not beholden to clichés and they’re not beholden to the opposite of the cliché (you know the drill — if a character amps themselves up to do something heroic, for example, it either works exactly as planned or fails miserably). Pretty much anything can happen and does, in graphic and sometimes stomach-churning detail. Saulnier is not just proving to be a master at genre films; he’s also providing some of the most memorable squibs, prosthetics and generally bloody bits of latex in the business. I’m already chomping at the bit for whatever else he’s got in store, provided he doesn’t get poached for a superhero film.
Green Room does not currently have a Montreal release date.
Monica Bellucci and Aliocha Schneider in Ville-Marie
I wasn’t a huge fan of Guy Édoin’s debut feature Marécages; while Édoin showed an impressive command of form and style, he also has an Inarritu-esque obsession with misery. Édoin uses bad news and sadness like pornography uses orgasms, reveling in them to a fault. When I heard that his latest was going to be an Altman-esque multi-character story set in and around a hospital, it didn’t give me much hope. Nothing’s quite as miserable as a hospital and, while Ville-Marie isn’t nearly as misanthropic and airless as I’d feared, it certainly cements Édoin’s place as the Québécois Inarritu.
Ville-Marie follows the parallel stories of a pair of ambulance drivers (Patrick Hivon and Louis Champagne), the ER’s head nurse (Pascale Bussières), a famous French actress (Monica Bellucci) and her troubled son (Aliocha Schneider) over the course of a couple of days. All of them are bruised and battered by life on different levels and, as their paths cross, more misery and bad news is heaped upon them. Ville-Marie is sometimes positively breathtaking from a visual standpoint, Bellucci is a standout in a role that fairly explicitly points to Gena Rowlands and Édoin is in full control of the style he’s quickly developed (classical music, deliberate framing, sharp contrast photography, extreme close-ups), but he’s also in full control of the melodramatic pile-on that the script eventually turns into. Bad news simply isn’t enough — it has to be punctuated with a traumatic bit of exposition or, God forbid, some even worse news.
Ville-Marie is slated for release in Montreal on Oct. 9.
I Saw the Light
Hank Williams and Tom Hiddleston
A Hank Williams biopic has a few things going against it before even a single frame of film is shot: a) Williams lived a relatively short life, but he managed to pack it with almost every music biopic cliché, from the womanizing to the drug abuse to the megalomaniacal belief that he’s above reproach; b) Williams also died in 1952, which means there’s very little actual footage to draw from and fairly lo-fi recordings to listen to — leaving it open for tone-deaf approximations and autotuned monstrosities to slip into the film. Marc Abraham’s I Saw the Light is very much in the mold of films like Walk the Line or Get On Up, but it seems fairly difficult to avoid when you’re speaking about the man who was arguably the first rock star.
Tom Hiddleston does a commendable job slipping into Williams’ 10-gallon hat and Alabama twang; his dedication to the role and the quality of the performance scenes go a long way towards smoothing out the film’s fairly schematic presentation. The film forgoes exploring Williams’ childhood or having that thing where spinning newspapers fly at the screen while providing exposition, but it’s hard to see parallels between this and nearly every other biopic in recent memory. In Abraham’s defence, I can’t really imagine another movie doing it better – but a rote biopic’s a rote biopic, no matter what.
I Saw the Light is slated for a Montreal release on Dec. 11.
Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz
In the last few years, I’ve seen more festival copy compare a film’s style to that of Yorgos Lanthimos’s first two films (Dogtooth and Alps) than nearly anyone else. I’ve rarely (if ever) seen a filmmaker become such a major figure on the international film scene so quickly, much less one whose style is as deeply weird as Lanthimos. The Lobster is his first English-language film — and almost certainly his weirdest yet.
The Lobster is set in a world that looks much like ours, but with a fairly big difference — anyone who finds themselves single is given 45 days to find a suitable mate, lest they be turned into an animal of their choice. That’s the predicament David (Colin Farrell) finds himself in when his wife reveals she has fallen in love with another man. He is sent to live a hotel in the country that has strict rules and a cornucopia of activities meant to facilitate connections between single people (who also need to prove to the hotel that they have at least one thing in common to be considered a match).
To say more would be to ruin it, but suffice to say that The Lobster is a completely demented satire on society’s fetishization of companionship that’s both hilarious and almost psychically depressing. Lanthimos is a master at spinning this insanity (and there’s insanity throughout this whole thing, including John C. Reilly getting his hand forced into a toaster) into a cohesive and deeply intelligent whole. The Lobster is Lanthimos’s weirdest film, but it’s also his most accessible — and maybe his best.
The Lobster is slated for a Montreal release in 2016.
See our first report from TIFF here.
Keep an eye on Cult MTL for daily TIFF coverage through Sept. 20