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Of Time And The City (#110 of 4)

Toronto International Film Festival 2015 Sunset Song and Son of Saul

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Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Sunset Song and Son of Saul

Dean MacKenzie

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: Sunset Song and Son of Saul

She rises from the fields, acres of grain flowing as far as the eye can see, like a mythical creature. Innocent and pure. Unaware of anything but the beauty that surrounds her—that, indeed, seems to emanate from her. This is Chris Guthrie (Agyness Deyn), the heroine of Terence Davies’s exquisite Sunset Song, which the writer-director adapted from Lewis Grassic Gibbons’s highly regarded 1932 novel of the same name. A staple of Scottish classrooms, the book details young Chris’s coming of age with her farming family in the fictional estate of Kinraddie circa the early 20th century. (It’s also the first part of a trilogy; the subsequent installments are 1933’s Cloud Howe and 1934’s Grey Granite.)

Toronto International Film Festival 2011: ALPS and The Deep Blue Sea

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Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>ALPS</em> and <em>The Deep Blue Sea</em>
Toronto International Film Festival 2011: <em>ALPS</em> and <em>The Deep Blue Sea</em>

ALPS: A Golden Novak Djokavic, in recognition of otherworldly improvement in 2011, goes to Giorgos Lanthimos for ALPS, his follow-up to the wildly overpraised Dogtooth. This change for the better comes mainly as a result of Lanthimos’s willingness to treat his formidable visual prowess as a means for complicating his story, a reversal of the near identical match between form and content that rendered Dogtooth a numbingly efficient idea-delivery machine. It also helps that the ideas here, concerning not only grief, but the entire process of the cinema itself as a location for the projection and consumption of desires and the danger of these processes, are both richer and more specific than the powerfully vague critique of authoritarianism offered by Dogtooth. A number of the film’s detractors thus far have complained that Lanthimos’s expansion of the stylized deadpan of Dogtooth’s sealed unit into ALPS’s open world somehow makes the latter less believable, which seems roughly the equivalent to me of faulting The Band Wagon because it’s unlikely that a perfectly choreographed number can break out inside a barbershop.

A Movie a Day, Day 77: Of Time and the City

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A Movie a Day, Day 77: <em>Of Time and the City</em>
A Movie a Day, Day 77: <em>Of Time and the City</em>

“The golden moments pass and leave no trace,” says writer/director Terence Davies in one of many quotes (this one from Chekhov) that stud his voiceover in Of Time and the City. It’s an odd thing to say in a you-can’t-go-home-again film that’s all about revisiting memories, especially one from as ardent a movie-lover as Davies: Isn’t stopping time in its tracks one of the things film does best? But logic isn’t the strong point of this highly personal and poetic film essay.

It starts slow, relying too much on too-generic quotes about the movie’s main subjects, the passage of time and the city of Davies’s youth: “If Liverpool did not exist, it would have to be invented.” But things soon get interesting as the filmmaker, then 63 (the film came out in 2008), touched on some personal landmarks (falling for the movies, realizing that he was gay, becoming “a very happy, very contented born-again atheist—thank God”) and then unsheathes a waspish stinger. As he traces the changes that make him feel like “an alien” in his hometown today, his plummy Oxbridge tones turn downright venomous at times.

Toronto International Film Festival 2008 The Burning Plain, Lorna’s Silence, & Of Time and City

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Toronto International Film Festival 2008: The Burning Plain, Lorna’s Silence, & Of Time and City
Toronto International Film Festival 2008: The Burning Plain, Lorna’s Silence, & Of Time and City

The Burning Plain: Around the release of Babel, screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga not-too-subtly suggested that he was the true auteur of his collaborations with director Alejandro González Iñárritu. The festival program notes may fan the ego flames by dubbing Arriaga “a one-man revolution in cinematic storytelling,” but his directorial debut ultimately merely serves to showcase the emperor’s bare ass cheeks. As if to prove his authorial heft, Arriaga slams the party tricks of Amores Perros and 21 Grams hard on the screen—fractured narratives, damaged gringos aching for redemption, and Mexican sufferers so saintly that one turns down a soaking wet Charlize Theron in a half-open peignoir. Theron plays a doleful restaurant manager with a yen for bedding strangers and then lacerating her own flesh as punishment afterward; Kim Basinger is the K-Mart shopping mama (don’t ask) in a seemingly unrelated story that eventually shows that, yup, We Are All Connected. Despite a pungent (if underused) whiff of perversity to the relationship between youngsters Jennifer Lawrence and J.D. Pardo, this is sanctimonious, humorless filmmaking—not the worst entry I’ve seen so far, but it’s certainly the most arrogant.