Original-Cin TIFF 2019 Picks: Sunday, September 13

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

And then… it was done. Phew! Be sure to check back this week for our best, worst, and most surprising picks from the Festival.

The Other Lamb.

The Other Lamb.

The Other Lamb (Special Presentations)

Sun. Sept. 15, 9:45 pm.

The English-language debut of Polish director Malgorzata Szumowska (Elles) is a visually rich drama about an all-female American cult in the thrall of a handsome Jesus-like man known as The Shepherd (Michiel Huisman) in what appears to be the Pacific Northwest (actually shot in forests and mountains of Ireland). The story concerns the beautiful dream-racked teen Selah (Raffey Cassidy), whose mother died in childbirth, and who is about to be “graced” by The Shepherd, who — ickily — may also be her father. Neither exactly a fable nor credible as psychological realism, The Other Lamb features undeveloped characters against a poster-pretty series of images and a chamber-music score but nothing new to say that hasn’t been said about patriarchal religion and female subjugation. LL

Ema (Contemporary World Cinema)

Sun. Sept 15, 9 pm, Scotiabank 1.

Wildly impressionistic though occasionally baffling, Ema is perhaps not the expected follow-up to 2016’s acclaimed Jackie. Yet Chilean director Pablo Larraín is fearless. The film follows the title character and her husband, she a modern dancer (and proponent of free love), he the choreographer of her company. When their adoption of a Colombian boy goes awry and he is surrendered, the pair — well, mostly Ema — carousel through lovers, deceptions, dance sequences and, startlingly, pyromania, in an effort to correct their seemingly aberrant lifestyle overcorrection. Larraín and cinematographer Sergio Armstrong create an indelible mood, letting the cameras frame and linger over the beguiling faces here, notably lead Mariana Di Girolamo and a subdued Gael García Bernal. KH

Incitement (Contemporary World Cinema)

Sun. Sept. 15, 1:15 pm, Scotiabank 2.

A timely and powerful reminder that Israel may be more besieged by internal divisions than outside threats, Incitement, from filmmaker Yaron Zilberman (A Late Quartet), focuses on the role of politicians such as current Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the anti-democratic religious right for abetting the 1995 assassination of Yitzak Rabin. The film follows a two-year period in the life of Rabin’s assassin, religious scholar Yigal Amir (Yehuda Nahari Halevi), who was provoked by Rabin’s attempt to create a Palestinian peace settlement by giving up land. In a series of quick, adrenaline-pumped scenes, we witness increased radicalization, spurred by romantic rejection, his chip about his Yemeni background, and the fervor inspired by like-minded militants and messianic rabbis. Chilling archival newsreel scenes showing frenzied crowds calling for violence against Rabin, which reminds us both of Netanyahu’s bellicosity and the rallies of his ally Donald Trump. LL

The Vigil (Midnight Madness)

Sun. Sept. 15, 4:30 pm, Scotiabank 3.

Stupid horror film? When characters say: ‘Let’s split up! You take the attic and I’ll take the basement.” Electrifying horror film? When the relatively mundane — albeit potentially creepy — morphs into something sinister and conceivable. Flat-broke and depressed Yakov (Dave Davis essentially flying solo throughout the movie) is offered a cool $400 for five hours work sitting vigil over a recently deceased man in Brooklyn's Hasidic Borough Park neighborhood. Despite the home’s aggressive gloom, he signs up but as the night progresses, it becomes clear there are spirits in the ether beyond just Yakov and the widow upstairs. Writer/director Keith Thomas’ feature debut, which teases Jewish lore and contemporary history, is chilling, fleet, and a solid reminder that thrillers don’t have to be gory to be scary as shit. KH

Deerskin.

Deerskin.

Deerskin (Special Presentations)

Sun. Sept. 15, 6:30 pm, Scotiabank 1.

Anyone familiar with French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux’s 2010 mind-bender Rubber — about a bloodthirsty, murderous car tire (yes for real) — knows to approach Deerskin with an open mind and a keen sense of play. The rewards duly follow. When down-on-his-luck Georges (The Artist) buys an outrageously expensive deerskin jacket, his mind starts working in new and very offbeat ways that he captures with a handheld camera. An encounter with a bartender-cum-film editor, who begins viewing and manipulating Georges’ bizarre footage made while wearing the increasingly... uh… alive jacket, propels Deerskin towards an insanely hilarious climax. Just what film festivals are for. KH

Lucy in the Sky (Special Presentations)

Sun. Sept 15, 5:45 pm, Scotiabank 12.

A conceptual mess but an engaging one, Lucy in the Sky follows Natalie Portman’s Lucy, an astronaut who faces an existential crisis the moment she returns home from a mind-expanding space journey, where humdrum things like dinner plans didn’t suck up half the day. An affair with a dashing NASA co-worker (Jon Hamm) at first seems to give Lucy footing — he understands what she is going through! —but things soon unravel as Lucy’s hell-bent desire to return to space warps her suddenly fragile grip on reality. Portman is enormously watchable as the sassy Southern over-achiever who slowly comes unglued but her spiral strains credulity while positing some possibly unintentional but nevertheless uncomfortable sexist explanations for Lucy’s meteoric slide. KH

Jojo Rabbit (Special Presentations)

Sun. Sept. 15, 12 pm, Ryserson Theatre

When the world feels dark, along comes writer/director Taika Waititi’s latest, the anti-fascist, anti-racist Jojo Rabbit, a work of sublime sweetness and beauty. Jojo is an awkward 10-year-old boy in the Hitler youth who dreams of making the Führer proud by being a terrific Nazi. He confesses his hopes and fears to his imaginary friend Adolph Hitler (Waititi). Then he discovers his loving, whimsical mother (Scarlett Johansson) is hiding a Jewish girl (Thomasin McKenzie) in the house. The movie starts as a comedy/satire with Waititi’s unique mad mischievousness flair, but then he slowly morphs it into something much deeper and profound. With its gigantic hopeful heart Jojo Rabbit feels like a giant hug for humanity, arrived in the nick of time. KG