Reviews include All the Beauty and the Bloodshed, White Noise, and The Inspection.
Member Survey: TIFF 2022 – Best of the Fest
September 19, 2022
It was good to have TIFF feel like TIFF again. After two years of virtual/hybrid editions, the Toronto International Film Festival was back in full swing with in person screenings and events. The Toronto Film Critics Association kicked things off with the return of our annual “Critical Drinking” party, which was generously sponsored by Telefilm Canada this year. Check out some photos from the event.
The pre-TIFF fête had everyone gabbing about Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, which screened for press that day, and the drama held strong with our critics. The film was the top pick for the best film of the festival in our annual critics poll with several number one spots and honourable mentions. It was another wide-ranging survey, which bodes well for a good fall movie season.
Here are the TFCA members’ picks for the best films at TIFF 2022
Nathalie Atkinson: Plan 75 – I’m still thinking about Chie Hayakawa’s feature debut. The devastating portrait is set in a near-future dystopian Japan where young service workers are rolling out a new national programme of elective, medically-assisted death for those age seventy-five and up. Without ever being heavy-handed it lays bare the steady hollowing out of society’s basic empathy, community support, and cross-generational connections. Here in Canada, where legal medical assistance in dying (MAID) is available and euthanasia is now insidiously being encouraged to vulnerable groups (such as veterans and citizens with disabilities) by the very people meant to be supporting them, the dystopian premise is all too eerily plausible. Watch the movie, be quietly horrified, and raise the alarm.
Liz Braun: Women Talking – The film, based on Miriam Toews’ novel, is some magic distillation into two hours of the entire fraught coexistence of men and women. A masterpiece from director Sarah Polley.
Anne Brodie: Moonage Daydream – David Bowie’s estate handed documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen 5M million assets for his tsunami of a doc Moonage Daydream. He appears to have used every last one in this dense, sensual biography. One of the chief highlights is remembering the walking, talking work of art that Bowie was, via costuming, makeup, movement, and lighting, in his various iterations over the decades. And then in his later, calmer years, simple well-cut shirts and trousers. Bowie’s era-defining music is examined but it speaks for itself and will for decades to come. Moonage Daydream‘s extraordinary grasp and scope took my breath away. Runner-up: Ever Deadly.
Thom Ernst: Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill a Tiger had me firmly glued to my seat— a documentary that had me gasping (audibly) swearing at the screen (silently), and ultimately cheering (loudly). Sarah Polley’s Women Talking was a revelation as to the power, magic and the sheer artistry of words. Not high-art, meanwhile, but the most fun I had at the festival was with Rian Johnson’s Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. And huge respect for both my colleagues Brian D. Johnson for The Colour of Ink and Chandler Levack for I Like Movies.
Marc Glassman: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed –Not only the best documentary at TIFF, but also the best film. Laura Poitras’ profile of controversial, ground-breaking photographer Nan Goldin won at Venice but didn’t repeat those accolades here—evidently, TIFF audiences didn’t agree with the rival festival. But the film is remarkable: political, compelling and emotional. Poitras uses a parallel structure, moving between Goldin’s on-going fight against the drug-manufacturing Sackler family and her history as a brilliant photographer and AIDS activist back in the ‘80s. Her success through P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) in destroying the Sackler name in museums and galleries around the world, where they had sought to create an impeccable reputation though billions in donations, provides a wonderful climax to Goldin’s story, which is one of surviving intense human defeats while making brilliant art throughout her life. Honourable mention: Decision to Leave.
Karen Gordon: No Bears – Jafar Panahi’s No Bears was one of the movies I was most looking forward to seeing at TIFF2022. It didn’t disappoint. Panahi’s a master of subtle storytelling, with these quiet, seemingly simple films that inevitably say much more than what’s on the surface. I think it’s a masterpiece. Watching this felt especially poignant this year. Panahi is currently in jail in Iran, as part of what seems like a new crackdown. #FreeJafarPanahi. Honorable mentions: The Eternal Daughter (Joanna Hogg), Triangle of Sadness (Ruben Östlund).
Barry Hertz: Women Talking – My favourite film was easily Sarah Polley’s Women Talking, a searing, deeply felt drama that might be the most imaginative and passionate adaptation of a so-called “difficult” novel I’ve ever seen. (Hertz also has thoughts on The Fablemans, the choice to open with The Swimmers, and some thoughts that the grudge match between streamers and theatres isn’t going away.)
Rachel Ho: Brother – Clement Virgo’s return to the silver screen overwhelmed me. At the heart of the film is an immigrant story about a mother trying her best to protect and provide for her children in a world hellbent on painting them as villains. Aaron Pierre’s incredible turn as big brother Francis, a young man with great aspirations to make something of himself, pulled at my heartstrings in one of my favourite performances at TIFF this year. And bonus points to Brother for having an incredible soundtrack filled with the likes of Nina Simone, Curtis Mayfield and Eric B. & Rakim. Honourable Mention: All Quiet on the Western Front – one of the most powerful and affecting war films ever made.
Peter Howell: My two favourite films of #TIFF22 were Steven Spielberg’s heartfelt family drama The Fabelmans and Sarah Polley’s sex-assault reckoning Women Talking, deeply affecting works by directors at the top of their game. These films also happened to be the two top honorees for the People’s Choice Award. I’m not accustomed to being this much in sync with popular tastes at film festivals, but I’ll take it. (For second People’s Choice runner-up, though, I’d have chosen The Banshees of Inisherin instead of Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery.)
Worst film at #TIFF22: That inane BVLGARI ad, directed by Paolo Sorrentino, starring Anne Hathaway, Zendaya and a peacock. I hope they got paid a lot of money.
Chris Knight: Aftersun – First-time feature filmmaker Charlotte Wells has crafted a perfect jewel of a film, in which a woman looks back on a holiday she took with her father 20 years ago, when she was 11. Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio have wonderful father-daughter chemistry, but it’s the things Wells does behind the camera – with sound, with images, with shots that hold the way we long for a memory or a moment to hold – that make this film truly unique. And speaking of unique, you’ll never hear “Under Pressure” the same way after listening to the version that plays in Aftersun.
Pat Mullen: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed – This documentary by Laura Poitras had high expectations going into the festival—it was my pick for Peter Howell’s “Chasing the Buzz” poll before it won the Golden Lion (brushes shoulders), and it delivered. Poitras’ portrait of photographer Nan Goldin and her fight to hold the Sackler family accountable for profiting off the fatally addictive drug OxyContin is a riveting look at the artist’s ability to use her platform to hold the establishment accountable for grievous crimes. While the story’s a great hook, Poitras deftly layers Goldin’s campaign to stick it to the Sacklers within a larger legacy of rich, crooked Americans getting away free. It took me a good walk from the Lightbox to Cinesphere to recover from this one. Honourable mentions: Women Talking, Bros, To Kill a Tiger, How to Blow Up a Pipeline, Viking, Other People’s Children.
Johanna Schneller – In a great year for women directors:
3. Great to see the launch of new talent: I Like Movies, Chandler Levack
2. Great to see such a fun and moving return from someone too underestimated: Catherine Called Birdy, Lena Dunham
1, Great and moving and essential in every way: Women Talking, Sarah Polley
Gilbert Seah: Saint Omer – Fresh from winning a top prize and the Venice Film Festival, this is one extraordinary narrative debut by acclaimed documentarian Alice Diop. Her doc roots are evident in the film as there are lots of actors speaking to the camera just as interviewees do, especially in the long takes of the court sessions. The incidents are never shown on screen but unfold in the testimonies of the actors, and more effectively so. Coly is accused of killing her baby in the sea at Saint Omer where the baby was drowned. (The town is named after Saint Audomar, who brought Christianity to the area.)
Jim Slotek: Decision to Leave – A lovely shade of noir. Park Chan-Wook says he wasn’t trying to make a Hitchcock film with this tale of an infatuated cop on a stakeout of a mystery woman who may or may not have killed her husband. But it sure quacks like one. Awash in mood, and with flashes of wit, it is a change-up for those who discovered Park through his Vengeance Trilogy, more about the aftermath of violence than violence itself.
Courtney Small: How to Blow Up a Pipeline – Daniel Goldhaber’s taut thriller had been generating buzz over the course of the festival and I am glad to say it far exceeded the hype. How to Blow Up a Pipeline had my heart racing for the entire film thanks to the brilliant way it builds and sustains tension throughout. Fuelled with the energy of a heist film and anchored by a tight script that raises plenty of questions about the pros and cons of environmental activism, the film was a treat to watch. Honourable mentions also go to the great slate of films made by Canadian filmmakers at the festival this year including Brother, I Like Movies, Until Branches Bend, When Morning Comes, Women Talking, This Place, Bones of Crows, and Chevalier to name a few.