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Wim Wenders (#110 of 15)

Toronto Film Review Wim Wenders’s Submergence

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Toronto Film Review: Wim Wenders’s Submergence

TIFF

Toronto Film Review: Wim Wenders’s Submergence

Wim Wenders does not return to his former greatness with his latest, Submergence, a hollow romance that dares the audience to question just how much a meet-cute can change two people. The filmmaker’s cinema of displacement reaches new extremes of literalism in the relationship between water engineer James (James McAvoy) and biomathematician Danielle (Alicia Vikander), whose brief encounter reverberates throughout their lives.

James and Danielle make each other’s acquaintance at a hotel in France’s northern coast where each is resting before major work trips. They strike up a rapport through interminably detailed descriptions of their jobs; indeed, Danielle spends their first date listing the layers beneath the ocean surface with a curiously seductive air, using phrases like “mesopelagic zone” as if they might cause arousal. Wenders shoots James and Danielle’s cavorting along the coastline—an extended montage of laughing and twirling around on cliffs and beaches that Terrence Malick would probably find too chaste—as if marking time. Their conversations, at once circuitously poetic and tediously scientific, lack any spark, and neither of the characters displays any sense of deeper connection to one another beyond mild attraction.

Toronto International Film Festival 2015 The Witch and Every Thing Will Be Fine

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Toronto International Film Festival 2015: The Witch and Every Thing Will Be Fine

A24

Toronto International Film Festival 2015: The Witch and Every Thing Will Be Fine

That Robert Eggers’s Sundance hit The Witch is slotted in Special Presentations rather than Midnight Madness is a testament to the film’s ambition. Sidestepping the crowd-pleasing, antic energy common to the selections featured in the latter program at the Toronto International Film Festival, Eggers’s film is altogether stranger and more challenging to conventional genre tastes. Set among a family of Puritan exiles in the wilderness of unmolested New England as strange and ominous forces beset them, The Witch often looks more like historical realism than horror.

Deepening that sense of verisimilitude, Eggers draws much of the dialogue from 17th-century documents, though this has the tendency to make the characters sound more as if they’re reciting diary entries at one another than conversing. Thankfully, the dialogue counts for little in the film, which instead devotes most of its energy to maintaining a constant sense of dread in the dense thickets of woods that surround the family. The sound design is exceptional: brittle wind rustling through stripped branches connotes the terror of the family’s complete isolation, the fright only exceeded by the soft but unmistakable crunch of dead leaves and twigs that signals an intruder.

Summer of ‘88: Wings of Desire

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Summer of ‘88: <em>Wings of Desire</em>
Summer of ‘88: <em>Wings of Desire</em>

The most miserable thing about melancholy is that it has no object. You can be sad about something: the passing of a loved one, the souring of a relationship, a mealy peach. Melancholy, however, in its various fashions—alienation, anomie, despondence, sturm und drang, etc.—flows in no such identifiable direction. It floats free. Instead of afflicting, it hangs like a gloomy pall over everything, impossible to dispel. Its commingling of beauty and sadness can come to define the emotional and intellectual life of an individual and, perhaps, an entire city.

Wings of Desire, which won Wim Wenders Best Director honors at the 1987 Cannes Film Festival before opening in America in 1988 among a slate of summer-movie sequels and pseudo-tent-pole blockbusters, is acutely melancholic, in the way that anything can be reasonably said to be acutely melancholic. Wenders manages to capture an ineffable mood, a whole mode of being, with the knowledge that its very ineffability means that it’ll slip through his fingers. It’s gloomy and rapturous, imposingly grand and fleetingly light, all at once.

Bruno Ganz and Otto Sander play angels patrolling the streets of West Berlin, beautifully lensed in black and white by cinematographer Henri Alekan, on the cusp of the Wall’s collapse. They lurk through apartment complexes, offering invisible comfort to the despondent. They gather in libraries, eavesdropping on the thoughts of the silent masses, compiling their own archive of human experience. They trail Peter Falk, in Berlin shooting a film he doesn’t quite seem to understand. As Sander’s Cassiel pus it, their job is to “assemble, testify, preserve.”

Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature

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Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature
Oscar 2012 Winner Predictions: Documentary Feature

In recent years, Academy members have repeatedly favored the most high-profile, buzzed-about doc in this category, from The Cove to Man on Wire to March of the Penguins. For a break in the trend, you’d have to go back to 2005, when Born Into Brothels bested Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock’s suffering-for-art experiment that had people thinking twice about McDonald’s, at least for a few months. With expected hopefuls like Project Nim left out of this season’s race, 2012 could prove the bookend of the category’s seven-year populist itch, as the most-discussed nominee is probably Wim Wenders’s Pina, an offbeat film that really only looks like a winner on paper.

São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Remembering Leon Cakoff, The Kid with a Bike, & A Trip to the Moon

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São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Remembering Leon Cakoff, <em>The Kid with a Bike</em>, & <em>A Trip to the Moon</em>
São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Remembering Leon Cakoff, <em>The Kid with a Bike</em>, & <em>A Trip to the Moon</em>

If you searched for English-language news of Leon Cakoff’s death two Fridays ago at the age of 63 due to complications after a melanoma diagnosis soon after it happened, you would have found only a translated press release. By the time two notices appeared the following Monday—one on MUBI, one on this site—the release was what they leaned on. The lack of writing seemed strange considering who he was.

You may ask, “Who was he?” For starters, he was Manoel de Oliveira’s recent co-producer, and the producer of anthology films featuring segments by directors such as Atom Egoyan, Amos Gitai, Tsai Ming-liang, and Wim Wenders. He was a partner in UniBanco Arteplex, a large Brazilian art-house theater chain. He was, as critic Amir Labaki put it, the only major Brazilian film personality “to write, edit books, produce, direct, act, distribute, and exhibit movies.” Above all, he was the founder of the São Paulo International Film Festival (Mostra), the most recent annual edition of which began this past Thursday, less than a week after his death.

You might not have heard of the festival. That’s not because it’s new: The Mostra is entering its 35th year. It’s the largest festival in Brazil, and one of the largest in Latin America. This year’s edition alone features around 300 titles.

Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: Underwater Love, Medianeras, & The Skin I Live In

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Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: <em>Underwater Love</em>, <em>Medianeras</em>, & <em>The Skin I Live In</em>
Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2011: <em>Underwater Love</em>, <em>Medianeras</em>, & <em>The Skin I Live In</em>

It’s silly to complain about anything when spending time in the company of Pedro Almodóvar, Jerzy Skolimowski, Wim Wenders, and other auteurs, but with the exception of today’s off-and-on nice weather, it’s been unusually and unpleasantly cold here ever since the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival started. One of the fest’s famed specialties is two-layer circular wafers sandwiching a thin layer of chocolate, coconut, or whatever. You can buy them warmed up, which helps with the cold.