September 09, 2016

#TIFF16: It Begins… Again

That time of year has come again. On the first Thursday after Labor Day, the Toronto International Film Festival launches with a narrow selection of evening screenings. Like every year the newly introduced elements in the festival’s system--this time bar code readers for theater  entry--reveal a gap between planning and execution. The much-needed up escalator in the Scotiabank Theater has broken down a week ahead of schedule, they’ve forgotten how much AC they need when the place is packed to the gills, cell phone screens are lighting up in mid-film and it doesn't matter because we’re here to celebrate the love of cinema. Or at least survive for the next movie-packed eleven days. As usual I’ll be serving up capsule reviews and stray observations from each day’s experience. So join me in glaring back at that seat-kicker and strap in for a bumpy ride.

Mad World (HK, Wong Chun. 3) Hospital releases bipolar man to the care of his estranged truck driver father, who struggles to keep up with  his needs. A showcase performance by stalwart Hong Kong actor Eric Tsang as the father adds dimension to this downbeat melodrama.

Heaven Will Wait (France, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, 4) Interwoven narratives show two French girls at different stages of being lured, via cult-style social media recruitment, to Syria to be given to ISIL soldiers—one being indoctrinated, the other, deprogrammed. Fragmented storytelling techniques lend texture to what might otherwise be a standard-issue social problem film.

Capsule review boilerplate: Ratings are out of 5. I’ll be collecting these reviews in order of preference in a master post the Monday after the fest. Films shown on the festival circuit will appear in theaters, disc and/or streaming over the next year plus. If you’ve heard of a film showing at TIFF, I’m probably waiting to see it during its upcoming conventional release, instead favoring choices that don’t have distribution and might not reappear.

Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff: It’s Pronounced “Executive”

In the latest episode of our triple-ENnie-winning podcast, Ken and I talk 3-act structure, Markus Wolf, Ars Magica GUMSHOE with Jeff Tidball, and Stranger Things.