robin_d_laws (robin_d_laws) wrote,

#TIFF10: Fists, Merry-Go-Rounds, Poetry, and Marimbas from Hell

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Welcome to my annual coverage of the Toronto International Film Festival.

My simple header titling system has gone a-cropper this year, as the fest introduces new scheduling policies to counter a drift toward frontloading. Over the past few years, the tendency of the press and industry to flee town midway through the fest has become increasingly palpable. To combat this, TIFF has added a full day of extra programming on Sunday the 19th. As part of their effort to extend the event, they’ve reduced opening night screenings and cut back dramatically on morning and early afternoon programing on weekdays. Unfortunately the number of slots they’ve pared back exceed the number they’ve added. For diehards like Valerie and me this means fewer screenings overall. We happened to be lucky and win the lottery this year, so we’re not as badly shut out as others have been. (The order in which passholder tickets are processed is determined by a random draw of box numbers.) Even so, limited choices in the sparse early weekday slots has meant picking a few titles that otherwise wouldn’t have made the cut. TIFF has a good track record for taking feedback into account going forward, so I’m hoping the many comments lamenting the disproportionate removal of early weekday screenings will result in a more balanced schedule next time out. This time they’ve not just robbed Peter to pay Paul, but given Peter a sock in the chops for good measure.

Anyway, it seems weird to label this day two of the fest without having been to anything on day one. Hopefully the replacement headers make up in teaser value what they lack in precision.

As always, I’ll be writing capsule reviews of everything I see, and then gathering them up in order of preference in the festival’s aftermath. Until then, I’ll be giving provisional ratings to the films, which are bound to change as they settle into memory. Stars are too easy to screw up, so this time it’s numbers out of five.

Interspersed between the capsules will be expansions on the reviews, stray observations, and whatever logistical complaining I fail to suppress. (Though not today, as I had limited break time between screenings.)

As always, these titles are beginning their long journey through the distribution chain. Many will continue to appear on the film festival circuit over the next year or so. The high profile releases I tend not to schedule at the fest may appear in theaters as early as next week. Indies and foreign titles will score theatrical releases over the next year or so, and DVD releases after that. Some may appear only on DVD, or vanish completely. Even the awesome ones!

Legend of the Fist: The Return of Chen Zhen [HK, Andrew Lau, 3] Legendary martial artist (Donnie Yen) returns to Shanghai after stint in WWI to fight encroaching Japanese in the guise of a masked avenger. Wildly overloaded Fists of Fury sequel/reboot has Yen’s crunching action direction, plus the glossy style you’d expect from the director of Infernal Affairs but in an epic effort to mash up six different genres, winds up with way more plot than its ass-kickery can support.

Cirkus Columbia [Bosnia and Herzegovina, Danis Tanovic, 4] Spiteful businessman returns with hot young fiancée to pre-war Bosnia after twenty-year exile abroad, promptly evicting his wife (Mira Furlan) and son from the family home. Perfectly pitched comedy of disintegrating manners in rapidly disintegrating political situation.

Poetry [South Korea, Lee Chang-dong, 5] Maid struggles to understand two equally perplexing problems: how to write a poem, and how her grandson could have participated in an ongoing gang rape that triggered a classmate's suicide. Beautifully realized drama layers its protagonist with novelistic complexity, anchored by spectacular lead performance from Yoon Jeong-Hee.

Marimbas From Hell [Guatemala, Julio Hernández Cordón, 2.5] On the run from extortionists and facing dwindling demand for his traditional music, straight-laced marimba player joins a metal band. Mockumentary is shaggily engaging when it's not straying from its premise.

Tags: cinema hut, toronto international film festival

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