Solo movie film 2023 film movie tiff review

TIFF Reviews: Quebec drag queens in Solo, a Jeff Goldblum narration & more

Theodore Pellerin stars in the new film by Sophie Dupuis PLUS an accidental wife swap in Lost Ladies, an animated Brazilian music doc and the story of two sisters healing in Montreal & Iqaluit.

The 2023 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival began on Sept. 7 and runs through Sept. 17.

Lost Ladies

Lost Ladies TIFF review reviews
Lost Ladies

In the vast tapestry of Indian cinema, Kiran Rao’s Lost Ladies is a whimsical, heartwarming ride through a marital comedy of errors as it threads a delightful narrative set against rural India’s vibrant canvas in 2001. The film’s premise, a charmingly chaotic mix-up involving two brides on their way to new lives, is an inspired choice with humour and heart reminiscent of Emir Kusturica.

Beyond the laughter, Lost Ladies emerges as a thought-provoking exposé on the rigidity of patriarchal marriage traditions. It highlights the entrapment women often face in such setups, a conversation starter for sure. The film’s strength lies in its impeccable tonal balance. Rao deftly weaves humour with moments of profundity, creating a narrative that amuses and resonates. It’s more than just a comedy; it’s a poignant coming-of-age tale. The cinematography depicts rural India in all its vibrancy, and the melodic score entwines itself beautifully with the narrative. The music serves as a non-diegetic and sometimes literal narrator, poking fun at the Bollywood tropes and underlining each sequence’s humour and tone.

However, amid its charms, Lost Ladies occasionally takes refuge in predictability. While engaging, the plot follows well-trodden paths within the rom-com realm, making it possible for audiences to predict some twists. While it treads familiar ground and occasionally leans on stereotypes, its engaging plot and strong performances make it a captivating cinematic experience. Lost Ladies is an enchanting voyage worth embarking upon for those seeking laughter, depth and a vibrant cultural milieu. (Chico Peres Smith)

Lost Ladies is scheduled for a Winter 2024 release date.

Tautuktavuk (What We See)

Tautuktavuk (What We See) TIFF review reviews
Tautuktavuk (What We See)

Beginning in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, two sisters reunite over Zoom. Carol Kunnuk, the older sister, lives in Nunuvut and Lucy Tulugarjuk in Montreal. The split screen image is unreliable; it freezes, and delays plague their discussions. The conversation flows nonetheless, and as the sisters share their loneliness, they invite old traumas into their lives. As the documentary advances, the film’s scope widens, and we see more of the daily lives of both women. Carol hosts programming that emphasizes preserving a culture almost lost to colonialism and the oppression of the Church. Lucy undertakes a personal journey towards sobriety, which includes getting her first traditional hand-poked tattoo. 

Tautuktavuk (What We See) embraces a hybrid approach, including expressionistic dream sequences. Evoking aesthetically Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (in which Lucy Tulugarjuk co-stars), Lucy runs half-naked and in terror through the icy streets of Iqaluit. She describes this sequence as a dream to her sister, not quite realizing she’s telling the story of her recent past, the night she almost died. Legend, memory and fantasy intertwine as the backdrop of women finding a voice and place in the world. Their stories are unfinished, and both try to bridge the physical and spiritual distance gap between each other and their pasts. As we experience their lives in snippets and fragments, we begin to understand the splintered experience of their identities. Pulling together these different threads, the movie, co-directed by both sisters, becomes a document of reconciliation and healing. (Justine Smith)

Tautuktavuk (What We See) is scheduled for a Spring 2024 release in Canada. 


Solo TIFF review reviews

Sophie Dupuis has had a quick ascension to premiere director in Quebec. Her first feature, Chien de Garde, was the unexpected choice for Canada’s entry in the 2018 Best Foreign Language Film category at the Oscars. Her follow-up, Souterrain, was similarly acclaimed and told the story of an accident in a mine. With a style that embraces hand-held naturalism and strong, emotionally driven performances, Dupuis’s cinematic output has an intense fascination with masculinity and identity. Solo, her third feature, is also her third collaboration with Pellerin (now a bonafide international movie star) and immerses the viewer in the world of drag as it explores those themes from a much different point of view. 

Theodore Pellerin stars as Simon, a drag queen who sees himself as an artist and the star of his life. He has a close relationship with his sister, who designs his costume, and he idolizes his distant mother, an opera star. One day, a new performer arrives at his club — the beautiful Olivier (Félix Maritaud). The pair begin a passionate affair and develop a collaborative show. Simon’s life, though, slowly begins to break apart. Mercurial and ambitious, Olivier destabilizes Simon by gaslighting and breaking his confidence.

Showcasing the world of drag with an almost vérité approach, Dupuis breaks away from gender stereotypes as she examines how abuse proliferates outside heteronormative relationships. The film’s pacing occasionally undermines its strongest elements, leading to lulls in attention and focus. And though Solo doesn’t lack ambition, it nonetheless falls into familiar patterns that prevent the movie from ascending to real greatness. Yet, the extravagant and vulnerable performances and a strong sense of space contribute to a decadent and delicious cinematic experience. (Justine Smith)

Solo opens in Montreal theatres on Friday, Sept. 15. 

They Shot the Piano Player

They Shot the Piano Player

They Shot the Piano Player is a captivating animated exploration of the life and disappearance of Brazilian piano virtuoso Francisco Tenório Júnior. Directed by the talented duo Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal (Chico & Rita), this unique animated feature skillfully blends elements of documentary and animation, creating a compelling narrative that combines detective-like fiction with real-life events from the history of Brazilian popular music. The film follows Jeff (Jeff Goldblum), a music journalist from New York, on his quest to uncover the truth about Tenório Jr.’s enigmatic fate. Along the way, it delves into the world of Bossa Nova, celebrating the vibrant musical movement that emerged in Latin America in the 1960s. The movie not only pays tribute to the life of Tenório Jr. but also captures a pivotal moment in Latin American history before the region was plunged into totalitarian regimes.

They Shot the Piano Player boasts an impressive lineup of MPB’s (Musica Popular Brasileira) greatest figures, including João Gilberto, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Vinicius de Moraes and Paulo Moura, who provide heartfelt testimonials about Tenório Jr.’s immense talent, personality and vision. Jeff Goldblum lends his distinctive voice to the main character and narrator, infusing the film with passion, depth and humour. Visually, the animation style favours colourful expressionistic lo-fi abstractions with rotoscope interviews that enhance the emotional moments. The film’s portrayal of Bossa Nova’s heyday is both sensual and vibrant, capturing the essence of the music with bold colours, striking visuals and hypnotic music sequences perfectly mixing archived live performances and studio recordings.

However, as the narrative unfolds, the film occasionally loses its novelty. While narratively significant, Jeff’s character feels somewhat superfluous, and Goldblum’s vocal delivery can sometimes overshadow his character’s development. Additionally, as the story delves into the political upheaval in South America, it can divert attention from the central focus on Tenório Jr. and his music. Yet, They Shot the Piano Player remains a fascinating blend of documentary and animation, offering a fresh perspective on a forgotten musical genius and a crucial period in Brazilian music history. (Chico Peres Smith)

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