Original-Cin TIFF Picks: Tuesday, September 11

By Jim Slotek, Liam Lacey, Kim Hughes, and Karen Gordon

Can’t talk… sprinting to next screening…

 A scene from Jirga.

A scene from Jirga.

Jirga (Discovery)

Tues. Sept 11, 7:15 pm, Scotiabank 14; Thurs. Sept 13, 9:30 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 4; Sun. Sept. 16, 3:45 pm, Jackman Hall. 

Shot on location in an ethereally beautiful and rarely seen Afghanistan, writer-director Benjamin Gilmour’s transcendent drama ponders what it means to be an agent of war. Australian ex-solider Mike (Sam Smith, excellent) is haunted by what he saw and did while on orders from his country. Despite the obvious dangers, Mike decides to return to a small village to offer restitution. After a brief tour of the countryside with a compliant local driver, Mike’s plan quickly goes awry; he ends up in the hands of the village justice system that will decide his fate. Jirga offers a rare humanity, and a sympathetic look at war from the perspective of struggling Muslim civilians caught in the crossfire. KH

Working Woman (Contemporary World Cinema)

Tues. Sept. 11, 6:15 pm, Scotiabank 2; Thur. Sept. 13, 9:30 am, TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Sat. Sept. 16, 9:15 am, Scotiabank 1. 

Workplace sexual harassment is presented as both blunt force trauma and topic of surprising nuance in Israeli filmmaker Michal Aviad's intense drama. When Orna (Liron Ben Shlush) lands a job with real estate developer Benny (Menashe Noy), life takes an immediate uptick, the cash-flow problems faced by Orna’s young family suddenly at bay. But smart, multilingual Orna’s ascension at work is mirrored by Benny’s ever-more-forward advances, underlined by a passive-aggressive posture that keeps Orna psychologically unsteady, financially vulnerable, and unable to articulate her situation. Against all odds, Aviad ends on a hopeful note despite delivering a gut-punch. KH

Green Book (Gala Presentations)

Tues. Sept 11, 6 pm, Roy Thomson Hall and 8 pm, Elgin Theatre; Wed. Sept 12, 10 am, Elgin Theatre; Thurs. Sept, 13, 2:30 pm, Winter Garden Theatre.

Audiences may doubt that the director of Dumb and Dumber could also helm the festival’s funniest, wittiest, best-written, best-acted, most inspired film, but skip Peter Farrelly’s dramedy at your peril. Based on a true story, Green Book is a road-trip movie with a twist: highly cultured black musician Don Shirley hopes to play a concert tour in the segregated American south in 1962 but needs wise-guy Tony “Lip” Vallelonga to bust racist heads blocking his path. The pair’s oil-and-water dispositions fuel the humour as their characters confront misconceptions one stubborn stereotype at a time. Yet the soul of the film hinges on dazzling performances from Viggo Mortensen as the uncouth but humane and grounded Tony and Mahershala Ali as the troubled genius who can’t find a foothold on either side of the black/white divide. Movies don’t come more touching or note perfect than this. KH

Colette (Special Presentations)

Tues. Sept. 11, 5:45 pm, Visa Screening Room @ Princess of Wales Theatre; Wed. Sept 12, 12 pm, Winter Garden Theatre.

Once you get over everyone in France having an English accent, you start to see the spark Keira Knightley brings to the role of Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette, whose saucy turn-of-the-20th-Century “Claudine” memoirs were falsely published under the name of her bon vivant husband Willie (Dominic West). Regardless of imprimatur, Will and Collette went on to become a proto-celebrity couple, whose social lives (particularly Colette’s coming-out from farm girl to sexual adventurer) fueled speculation and book sales, until Colette’s ultimate emancipation. West is adept at playing the scoundrel, but it’s Knightley who manages the task of transforming naivete to empowerment against the resistance of proper society. JS

A Faithful Man (Special Presentations)

Tues. Sept. 11, 3:45 pm, Scotiabank Theatre; Fri. Sept. 14, 9 am, Scotiabank Theatre.

A slight bit of romantic French saucerie, directed by and starring Louis Garrel (his second directorial feature). He plays a journalist named Abel, who is given 10 days’ notice by Marianne (Laetitia Casta) the woman he’s lived with for three years, that she’s pregnant with his best friend Paul’s child, they’re going to get married and he, Abel, must move out. Eight years later, Paul has died, Marianne wants Abel back, the precocious son insists his mother poisoned his father, and Paul’s sister (Lily-Rose Depp, all grown up) chimes in with an obsession for Abel just this side of Fatal Attraction. It all bounces around improbably with French insouciance and charm – the latter supplied amply by Casta and Depp. JS

The Predator (Midnight Madness)

Tues. Sept. 11, 9:45 pm, Scotiabank Theatre.

Last week’s Midnight Madness debut came a mere week before this Friday’s theatrical opening. Whenever you decide to see it, it’s director/co-writer Shane Black smart-assing his way successfully through something you’d think had been played to death. In this chapter, the government knows all about the alien Predators and their modus operandi. And when a rogue Pred crash-lands in the jungle (disrupting a terrorist/captive handoff) they are all over it bringing it into the usual Area 54 type lab where things will go awry. Add rapidfire quips and gunfire, a rag-tag bunch of lovable Section 8 military psychos (including Keegan-Michael Key), a sniper who’s stolen alien tech (Boyd Holbrook), an Asperger-savant child (Jacob Tremblay) who deciphers it, a woman astronomer (Olivia Munn) who can handle a gun, some cute alien dogs and gratuitous gore, and you have a confused audience that is nonetheless, well and truly entertained. JS

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