By Jim Slotek, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes, and Karen Gordon
Friday already? Time to gear up for the last push…
Hidden Man (Gala)
Fri. Sept 14, 9:30 pm, Roy Thomson Hall; Sat. Sept 15, 12 p, Winter Garden Theatre; Sun. Sept 16, Scotiabank Theatre.
The third film in the gangster trilogy by actor, writer, director Wen Jiang revisits a 1930s China on the brink of war with Japan. A boy, Li Tianran, miraculously survives a massacre. Years later, Li (the charismatic Eddie Peng) is given a fake name, and a secret mission for revenge. Li has to sort through a series of characters to figure out who his real enemies are. Along the way he falls in with an elusive local tailor and worries whether he has the courage to murder when the time comes. The movie is a sprawling, bloody and, unless you’re paying close attention, slightly confusing. It’s also outrageous and comedic in unexpected ways, though its taste level is somewhat suspect. KG
3 Faces (Masters)
Fri. Sept. 14, 6:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox; Sun. Sept. 16, 9:30 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Though officially banned from making films in Iran, Jafar Panahi (The White Balloon, The Circle) refuses to be silent. In his deceptively simple mockumentary 3 Faces, Panahi plays himself as he travels with actress Behnaz Jafari to a remote town to investigate a possible suicide video from a young woman whose parents forbid her from attending drama school. An homage to the late Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, the film follows the interaction between the urbane filmmakers and local villagers with their comic cult of masculinity (bulls’ testicles and magic foreskins!) and tragic suppression of women. The three women in the film include Jafari, the teenaged girl of the video, and a retired star named Shahrazade, who has renounced show business and lives as a recluse, painting and writing poetry. Pointedly, the film never shows her face. LL
Shoplifters (Special Presentations)
Fri. Sept 14, 9 pm, Winter Garden Theatre; Sat. Sept 15, 9 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
The 2018 Palme d'Or winner from acclaimed Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Afterlife, Nobody Knows) explores notions of family from multiple angles, almost none what they appear to be. When a poor Tokyo clan — squeaking by on shoplifting and other scams — discover a child who seems to be neglected, they bring her into their orbit, triggering a series of events that will upset the group’s precarious dynamic while asking whether devotion is better gauged through blood ties or loyalty when the chips are down. The domicile where much of Kore-eda’s action takes place is at once claustrophobic and comforting, its effect weirdly narcotic. KH
Cold War (Special Presentations)
Fri. Sept. 14, 6 pm, Winter Garden Theatre; Sun. Sept 16, 3 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski (the Oscar-winning Ida) returns with this luminous black-and-white musical melodrama that follows the tempestuous post-war relationship between classically trained musician Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) and tough-girl singer-dancer Zula (Joanna Kulig) whom Wiktor recruits for a folk group to entertain the masses in war-ravaged Warsaw while promoting farm reform. Between stirring performance pieces and grimly intimate moments, the film tracks the ill-matched couple for more than decade, from state concerts in Moscow and Berlin to smoky jazz cafes in Paris and back to grey Poland. Wiktor and Zula can sometimes feel like allegorical figures in a fable of love and art under the totalitarian boot but it’s a richer theme than singing for farm reform. LL
Her Smell (Platform)
Fri. Sept. 14, 9:15 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Fans of the riot grrrl scene of the 1990s will be time-traveled by Her Smell, which captures the itchy chaos of the era when bands like L7, Hole, and Bikini Kill showed that women could be every bit as odious as their male counterparts, often more frighteningly so. Elisabeth Moss is stunning (in every sense of the word) as Becky Something, fast-unravelling leader of girl group Something She, whose messy implosion drives the plot. Director Alex Ross Perry’s handheld cameras push us jowls-first into brutal fistfights and arguments while eerily cacophonous incidental music amps up the discombobulation. A truly unsettling experience, which may be the point. KH
The Wedding Guest (Special Presentations)
Fri. Sept. 14, 1 pm, Elgin Theatre.
Having seen The Wedding Guest, it’s clear why director Michael Winterbottom (The Trip et al) wanted to keep details of its plot vague as possible. It is winding to say the least, and deconstructing it would deflate the thrill of watching the story unfold (also confound even great storytellers). So let’s just say this: Dev Patel is a man (maybe a good man, maybe bad) on a mission to extract a woman (Radhika Apte, ditto) from Pakistan on the eve of her wedding at the behest of a third party. And then things go… well… yowza. KH
Searching for Ingmar Bergman (TIFF Docs)
Fri. Sept. 14, 12:45 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 2; Sat. Sept. 15, 9:30 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox, Cinema 3.
German director Margarethe von Trotta offers this personal, easy-going take on the legacy of the late Swedish filmmaker, a hugely influential director of the last half of the twentieth century, who is rarely mentioned these days. Fellow filmmakers Jean-Claude Carrière, Carlos Saura, Olivier Assayas (who is especially insightful) and Mia Hansen-Løve express their personal connection to his work and his historical place. Many speak of his flagrant contradictions: The artist who understood children so deeply and the man who was a neglectful father; the artist who created complex, liberated women characters, while, in his own life, having a habit of impregnating and running. LL
The Front Runner (Special Presentations)
Fri. Sept 14, 1 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox.
The year 1987 is the exact moment when the establishment press (think Washington Post) officially acknowledged that even highbrow readers had an appetite for scandal. Also, that the sex lives of politicians piqued as much interest — maybe more — as Hollywood celebrities. That’s the key takeaway from director Jason Reitman’s enjoyable and laser-focused biopic on onetime American presidential hopeful Gary Hart, the front runner of the title whose alleged extramarital affair brought his impressive career to a screeching halt while rewriting the playbook of how newspapers covered legislators post-JFK. The film traces three stormy weeks in Hart’s campaign, from sure thing to lost cause. The story is elevated enormously by its cast: Hugh Jackman as Hart, Vera Farmiga as his wife Lee, and J.K. Simmons as Hart's campaign manager. KH
Fri. Sept 14, 6 pm, Visa Screening Room at the Princess of Wales Theatre.
Writer/director David Lowery follows up his brilliant A Ghost Story with a heist film based on a true story. Robert Redford stars as career criminal Forrest Tucker who commits daylight bank robberies with nothing more than a fake moustache, a handgun, and a gentlemanly demeanour. Casey Affleck is a hard-working, world-weary detective who investigates bank robberies. Danny Glover, Sissy Spacek, Tom Waits and Elizabeth Moss augment this highly enjoyable movie that celebrates this anti-hero. KG