TIFF 2013 Recap & Coverage

Interviewing Producer Alain Attal at the Red CarpetNathaniel Dorsky and Peter Hutton Q&A

I realize that some people follow this blog who are not aware of my work at Next Projection. As some of you might have noticed, I have not been active here, and this is because I have been extremely active at Next Projection. Most recently, I was accredited for TIFF 2013, and wrote a total of 23 capsule reviews, 11 full reviews, and 1 press conference recap. These may all be found here (along with all other posts at Next Projection).

I also made a list at Mubi to keep track of all the films and coverage. I will post this list below, but if you’d like to visit the actual list, go here.

TIFF 2013 Recap:

TIFF Day 1:

1. Manakamana (Stephanie Spray, Pacho Valez) – 80/100 ~ GREAT. Spray and Valez’ Manakamana is a gentle, soft spoken illustration of human interiority.

2. Young and Beautiful (Francois Ozon) – 72/100 ~ GOOD. Though a little ostentatious and rather controversial, Young and Beautiful leaves much open to debate.

3. Blue Is The Warmest Colour (Abdellatif Kechiche) – 90/100 ~ AMAZING. Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a much needed film about gender neutrality and other complex issues around sexual orientation and identification.

4. Stranger By the Lake – 78/100 ~ GOOD. Stranger By The Lake is a highly unique, riveting, and somewhat disturbing take on sexual hedonism. It’s a highly atmospheric mood-piece that lingers long after the credits roll.

5. Real (Kiyoshi Kurosawa) – 70/100 ~ GOOD. here are at least three different places where the film could have ended, and for this reason, the film comes across as rather insubstantial. Despite this, Real is replete with pleasant photography, emotional turbulence, and a thoughtful concept.

TIFF Day 2:

6. Like Father, Like Son (Hirokazu Kore-eda) – 68/100 ~ OKAY. Despite its alluring script and rational portrayal of events, Like Father, Like Son fails in that it does not deliver the emotional expression requisite of a film with such a serious conflict..

7. Child of God (James Franco) – 15/100 ~ UNBEARABLE. James Franco’s three act country-set film about a perverted, necrophilic criminal vagabond is extremely unlikeable, offensive, and obnoxious.

8. Tom a la ferme (Xavier Dolan) – 75/100 ~ GOOD. A heated and intrepid film about homosexuality and homophobia, Tom at the Farm (2013) portrays carefully designed and developed characters, relationships, and performances.

9. Made In America (Ron Howard)* – 45/100 ~ BAD. Photographed in part like a movie trailer, in part like a music video, and in part like a reality TV show, Ron Howard’s participatory documentary about Jay Z and the Made In America Festival feels like an arbitrarily collated collection of images and songs.

10. Prisoners (Denis Villaneuve) – 98/100 ~ MASTERFUL. Boasting powerful performances, a strong visual design, and, most importantly, a sophisticated script, Prisoners achieves what few recent Hollywood productions have accomplished: a film that delivers on both the commercial and cinematic front.

11. Soul (Chung Mong-Hong)* – 64/100 ~ OKAY. Chung Mong-Hong’s Soul (2013) is a highly fascinating and provocative Taiwanese film about existence, reality, death, and transmigration; however, what it provides in allure it denies in its over-stylization, lack of coherence, and refusal of catharsis.

TIFF Day 3:

12. Unforgiven – 70/100 ~ GOOD. Sang-il effectively remoulds the story and environment by placing the events in a snowy Japan, wherein a landscape of whiteness gives a similar impression of vastness as does the sandy desert of the West. In spite of this, Sang-il’s remake seems somewhat out of place and therefore does not quite carry the weight of the original.

13. Dallas Buyers Club – 75/100 ~ GOOD. Vallee’s film, based on the real experiences of Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey), a rodeo junkie turned AIDS mogul and subsequent victim, depicts great perseverance in times of ultimate desperation.

12 Years a Slave Press Conference was attended this day.

12 Years a Slave Press Conference

TIFF Day 4:

14. All Is By My Side – 67/100 ~ OKAY. The film ought to be seen by Hendrix’ fans, and is an appreciable means to understand the man himself; however, All Is By My Side has little for the non-Hendrix fan.

15. Can a Song Save Your Life? – 78/100 ~ GOOD. Carney’s Can a Song Save Your Life (2013) is heart-warming, and the interesting drama and plot development is complemented by a constantly appealing musical score and many funny moments.

TIFF Day 5:

16. Song – 90/100 ~ AMAZING. Song is an incredible journey that mystifies as much as it allures.

17. Spring – 100/100 ~ MASTERFUL. Spring demonstrates Dorsky at his most meticulous and visually aware state.

18. Three Landscapes – 87/100 ~ GREAT. Peter Hutton’s Three Landscapes profoundly illustrates the similar nature of labour and the passage of time.

19. The Sacrament – 85/100 ~ GREAT. The Sacrament is a horrifying and well narrated documentary fiction about a mass suicide (should read genocide).

20. Night Moves – 60/100 ~ OKAY. Flawed by a poor narrative economy, a placid soundtrack, and far too many unnecessary filler shots, Night Moves’ dark and minimalist atmosphere—while appreciable on an aesthetic level—do little to express the frankly unimpressive plot.

On the Blood Ties Red Carpet this day.

Red Carpet Red Carpet for Blood Ties Producer Alain Attal on the Red Carpet Marion Cotillard On The Red Carpet

TIFF Day 6:

21. 12 Years a Slave – 98/100 ~ MASTERFUL. With McQueen’s diagnostic camera movements and brazen visual dialogue, one becomes vicariously involved in the enslavement of Solomon Northup, experiencing for themselves the unrelenting torment of captivity.

22. Blood Ties – 57/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. To make a point about brotherhood and blood ties, the filmmakers take advantage of their cast, and consequently produce a film that feels rather rigid and unidirectional.

Blood Ties Press Conference was attended this day.

Blood Ties Press Conference

TIFF Day 7:

23. Labor Day – 78/100 ~ GOOD. Shot from the perspective of the boy, and eliding the romantic moments between Adele and Frank (Josh Brolin), the film’s coming-of-age backdrop sheds a degree of innocence and childlike sentiment to the interesting romantic storyline.

24. Gravity – 91/100 ~ AMAZING. Gravity is an unparalleled demonstration of cinematic motion, which evokes through its survival story the fight between freedom and fate.

25. Almost Human – 30/100 ~ AWFUL. Awkward at times, the film has little going for it, but remains relatively easy to watch. It’s entertaining in how awful it is.

26. Kill Your Darlings – 79/100 ~ GOOD. While the film is well framed and comes full circle by the repetition of a beautiful Ginsberg quote explaining that when love is lost it either becomes a part of you or tears you apart, the story is somewhat flawed in that not everything works towards a common, plot oriented, goal.

27. Stray Dogs – 80/100 ~ GREAT. If one is able to immerse oneself in it, the experience can be quite powerful. On the other hand, it could put one to sleep.

Industry Happy Hour was attended this day.

TIFF Day 8:

28. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: 87/100 ~ GREAT. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her is a uniquely told, highly interesting story about a strong relationship facing hardship after a tragic incident.

29. Felony – 63/100 ~ OKAY. Matthew Saville’s Felony (2013) is a somewhat interesting illustration of guilt and police politics when a cop is implicated in manslaughter.

TIFF Day 9:

30. The Wind Rises – 86/100 ~ GREAT. Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises (2013) uses the indifferent and transitory nature of wind to explore the invisible forces that propel humanity and the environment forward through life.

31. At Berkeley – 70/100 ~ GOOD. Fredrick Wiseman’s four-hour documentary At Berkeley (2013) provides an inscrutable and exceedingly thorough investigation of contemporary life.

32. Three Exercises of Interpretation – 50/100 ~ MEDIOCRE. A severely ostentatious film that works only as an ironic gesture on the pretentious conversations had by modern day ‘intellectuals’.

Press Screenings End This Day.

TIFF Day 10:

No Films Seen

TIFF Day 11:

33. Walesa: Man of Hope – 87/100 ~ GREAT. Andrzej Wajda’s Walesa. Man of Hope, the Oscar contending story of solidarity leader turned Polish President Lech Walesa, is an intelligent and fearlessly shot biopic that challenges formal conventions in lieu of a highly affective visual and narrative rhetoric.

34. Under The Skin – 72/100 ~ GOOD. While the film’s minimalist mise-en-scene is oddly complemented by maximalist editing points, the sincere mood of the film and its pulsating soundtrack—exuding the rhythmic nature of the heartbeat—is highly captivating, making Under The Skin an appreciable instance of pure cinema.

12 Years a Slave (Second Viewing), Winner of Blackberry Viewer’s Choice Award. – 98/100 ~ MASTERFUL. With McQueen’s diagnostic camera movements and brazen visual dialogue, one becomes vicariously involved in the enslavement of Solomon Northup, experiencing for themselves the unrelenting torment of captivity.

Press and Industry Awards Brunch was attended this day.

Blood Ties Q&A Blood Ties Q&A 2

Day 1 Review: Stranger By The Lake
Day 1 Capsule Reviews (Manakamana, Young and Beautiful, Blue is the Warmest Colour, Real)

Day 2 Review: Prisoners
Day 2 Capsule Reviews (Like Father, Like Son, Child of God, Tom at the Farm, Made In America, Soul)

Day 3 Review: Dallas Buyers Club

Days 3 & 4 Capsule Reviews (Unforgiven, Can a Song Save Your Life?)

Day 4 Review: All Is By My Side

Day 5 Review: Night Moves

Day 5 Capsule Reviews (Song, Spring, Three Landscapes, The Sacrament)

Day 6 Review: Blood Ties
Day 6 Coverage: 12 Years a Slave Press Conference

Day 7 Review: Gravity
Day 7 Capsule Reviews (Labor Day, Almost Human, Kill Your Darlings, Stray Dogs)

Day 8 Review: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Him and Her

Day 9 Review: The Wind Rises

Day 10: No Films/Reviews

Days 8, 9, and 11 Capsule Reviews (Felony, At Berkeley, Three Exercises of Interpretation, Under the Skin)

Day 11 Review: Walesa: Man of Hope
Day 11 Review: 12 Years a Slave

Scarlet Johannsen


About Kamran Ahmed

I have a Masters in Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. I work as a freelance writer and film critic in Vancouver. My writing is primarily distributed through Next Projection, an online film journal based in Toronto.
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