Reviews include Across the Spider-Verse, Bones of Crows, and Close to Vermeer.
TFCA Friday: Week of Nov. 18
November 18, 2022
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths
(dir. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
“Bardo is a magical memory tour de force,” raves Peter Howell at Night Vision. “Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s epic voyage of the mind and heart vividly conveys the disorientation of being caught between worlds: Mexican/American, journalist/participant, parent/child, past/present. An absolute blast, with lead star Daniel Gimènez Cacho lighting the fuse of a dynamite cast.”
“The word ‘bardo’ comes from Tibetan Buddhism, although you’ll find the concept in many spiritual traditions. It refers to a kind of limbo, a place between two states of being, between life and death, or death and rebirth, where a person examines their life before moving on,” writes Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “That ‘between’ space is the setting for the multi Oscar-winning writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu’s newest movie, and by far his most personal, the beautiful, affecting, and joyful Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths.”
“I absolutely hate – hate, hate, hate – that this movie made me cry,” admits Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. Hertz also interviews director Alejandro González Iñárritu about the relationship between filmmaking and journalism and learns if he reads reviews as much as the characters in his films do. “No, I have no reason to do that,” Iñárritu tells Hertz. “A good review or a bad review will never make a film better or worse. I’m convinced about that. I made the film, I know the reasons why I did it. People have the right to make their opinions, but there is nothing I can get from that. I’m not talking just about bad reviews, even the good ones. It’s important to have the courage to be disliked. Or to be liked! Both can be dangerous.”
“This reviewer is immensely sympathetic to Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths. Admittedly, it’s way too pretentious and self-indulgent to really work as a film. But I come from the world of documentaries and can tell you that no one like Siverio exists in there,” admits Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “Still, examining how true events are presented in the media is surely worthwhile. And finding out whether you can go back home is an important topic. Perhaps best: Bardo feels like a work made by a filmmaker who is struggling to make something essentially important in these fraught times.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah calls it “a mesmerizing compelling tale, whether true of false is immaterial, so cinematic and visually astounding that it clearly marks one of this year’s top 10 films.”
At The Globe and Mail, Johanna Schneller situates Bardo within a quartet of movies about movies and memories, calling it the most “shamelessly egocentric of the four…Innaritu strides over the shoe prints of Fellini’s 8 ½ and Fosse’s All That Jazz, lauding himself as a misunderstood sex-god cultural hero. Silverio Gama – played by Daniel Giménez Cacho, a ringer for Innaritu – is a hotshot journalist turned documentary maker, beloved in L.A. and in his native Mexico, and conflicted yet certain about everything…It’s all visually stunning and as-ton-ish-ing-ly self-involved.”
“On his seventh feature, he pulls a Fellini and does what the maestro did between his eighth and ninth features,” says Pat Mullen at That Shelf. Bardo rips off 8½ to the point of plagiarism, but at least Iñárritu steals from the best. (I must admit bias as my cat is named Fellini.) The film is a truly cinematic tapestry of his greatest hits and the stories that inspired them.”
Holy Spider (dir. Ali Abbassi)
“With shades of a Hitchcock film, Holy Spider is an engrossing watch from start to end,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“One or two killings might get the point across, but Holy Spider – while slick and wise to the most effective serial-killer pressure points of genre master David Fincher – is not a movie built for subtlety, introspection or thematic complexity,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Even Rahimi’s story points toward the obvious, with her character, an entirely fictional creation, not only intent on reporting on the societal ills of Iran but also a victim of them herself. When she ends up walking into the spider’s lair herself, Abbasi’s film tips over into total hokum.”
“It seems almost too horrific to believe (and to watch) but it’s based on a true story, circa 2001, about a religiously motivated serial killer of prostitutes,” observes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Zar Amir-Ebrahimi, who [won] Best Actress honours at Cannes, plays a journalist named Rahimi who risks her life in the quest to find the savage strangler who is determined to ‘cleanse the streets of sinners.’ She’s working largely on her own: many people consider the killer to be God’s avenger, worthy of support rather than scorn.”
“The choice to reveal the killer from the outset, however, is a brilliant stroke of narrative framing,” writes Pat Mullen at That Shelf. “Holy Spider emphasizes the victims and the deeply rooted misogyny that preys upon women. Abbasi affords considerable screentime to the women who become the Spider’s prey. They are daughters, they are sisters, and they are mothers.”
Meet Me in the Bathroom (dir. Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace)
“Meet Me in the Bathroom energetically captures the pulse of a transformative generation in New York’s music scene,” writes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “This all-archival doc assembles an electric collage of VHS recordings and lo-fi digital to explore how music spoke to a generation that grew up in the shadow of 9/11. Directors Dylan Southern and Will Lovelace follow-up their hit concert doc Shut Up and Play the Hits with N invigorating study of an indie-alt milieu.”
The Menu (dir. Mark Mylod)
“[E]fficiently well written, played, acted and directed piece of evening theatrics similar to an Agatha Christie murder mystery,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“An essay can be written around the social constructs that The Menu satirizes. No doubt someone will write that essay if it hasn’t been written already. But the satire, which can bog a film down in clever self-congratulatory rhetoric, plays more with the audience’s emotional response rather than intellectual assumptions,” notes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “The Menu is the most entertaining ensemble film since Knives Out, and the most engaging horror-satire since Get Out. But no matter what comparisons and assumptions are made, The Menu will not be the movie you expect.”
“Denmark’s famous Noma seems to be the inspiration but why? Not the cruelty porn but the idea of striving hard enough to satisfy the chef?” asks Anne Brodie at What She Said. “It’s tight, well written and loaded with excellent performances – like the subtle depth charge of Judith Light, whose face says all the lines she didn’t get, Fiennes’ nutty nut, Taylor-Joy’s street cred, John Leguizamo, the tone-deaf, washed-up superstar, Janet McTeer as the poisonous food writer and a thieving tech guy gang.”
“[T]his movie meal’s final course is a lovingly crafted smashburger, so delicious that you can practically smell the aroma of sizzling fat, melting cheese and frying onions wafting off the screen,” munches Chris Knight at the National Post. “The Menu was not my cup of tea, but it did leave me hankering for something more substantial.”
“Director Mark Mylod (HBO’s Succession) keeps the courses and conversations coming at a brisk pace, moving so confidently between characters and twists that you don’t want to stop to think about the rather sour plot mechanics,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “And just as the collection of diners resemble fish in a barrel – who is easier to hate, the film argues, than a professional critic? – the actors cast to play them elevate the entire affair.”
“Alongside the direction and writing, what makes The Menu so deliciously wicked is how the cast savour every moment on screen,” says Rachel Ho at Exclaim!. “Fiennes and Taylor-Joy lead the cast with two strong and nuanced performances that let on just enough to keep viewers engaged. In supporting roles, Chau, Leguizamo and Hoult are absolutely hilarious — especially Leguizamo, who delivers some of the best one-liners in the film.”
Poppy (dir. Linda Niccol)
“Director Niccol has a keen eye for humour and her comic timing is often immaculate, as can be witnessed by the charm her scenes often deliver,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
Salvatore, Shoemaker of Dreams (dir. Luca Guadagnino)
“The excellent end sequence of a Busby Berkeley styled choreography of Salvatore designed shoes is something to be seen to be believed,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“Ferragamo’s story mirrors that of a lot of young Italians who, out of economic necessity or ambition, emigrated to the United States,” says Karen Gordon at Original Cin. “At 16, Ferragamo followed his brothers to Boston to work in a shoe factory, but he disliked the assembly line approach to shoemaking. For Ferragamo, craft was more important than anything else.”
“The documentary Salvatore, Shoemaker of Dreams from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino looks at the surprising life and legacy of Italian superstar shoemaker, the late Salvatore Ferragamo,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Based on his memoir, we learn his strength of will and courage, how he got himself on his own, at age 12, from his home village of Bonito to Florence, to Ellis Island and Hollywood, and became a global celebrity master shoemaker.”
“While Shoemaker of Dreams lags somewhat in the biographical bits, it finds its footing thanks to researcher Giuppy D’Aura’s confidence with the interviewees,” notes Pat Mullen at POV Magazine. “Shoemaker of Dreams proves fascinating when it really lets the participants dig into the nuances of fashion and design. D’Aura knows his fashion and has a good rapport with the participants, which elevates the work beyond typical talking heads fodder.”
“The doc is intriguing but feels light on such details as the composition of Ferragamo’s workforce, the wartime period (he had moved back to Italy in 1927) and whatever competition he might have faced,” says Chris Knight at the National Post. “There’s also an odd omission in which an expert is discussing the ankle strap on a high heel. ‘Do you know what it’s called?’ she says. The off-camera interviewer says no. ‘Well, I can’t say it on film!’”
She Said (dir. Maria Schrader)
“The women’s damning findings were the seeds of a workplace sexual harassment cultural shift, the #MeToo movement, and a global awakening to workplace harassment,” notes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Mulligan and Kazan and the supporting cast’s serious performances and director Maria Schrader’s sober and measured tone work well. The film underscores the value of investigative journalism; thankfully Schrader treated it as such without cheap tactics and distracting flourishes.”
“This film is meaningful because it dramatizes their story and the ones of women who had the courage to stand up to abusers,” writes Marc Glassman at Classical FM. “It’s great that it was made and that so many people will have a chance to see it in theatres and start conversations about a societal change that is finally beginning to occur.”
“There are some wonderful characters in the true-life #MeToo drama She Said. Powerful, ethical, respectable, responsible journalists like investigative reporters Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) and Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) and their boss at the New York Times, played by Patricia Clarkson,” observes Chris Kight at The Globe and Mail. “But the performance that truly made my eyes pop – literally, as in they involuntarily widened in surprise and astonishment – was Samantha Morton as Zelda Perkins. The real Perkins was an assistant for movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in 1998 when her coworker, Rowena Chiu, told her that he had tried to rape her.”
“Reporting isn’t glamourous. A good day as a reporter is when somebody, anybody, returns your call, or your email, or doesn’t slam a door in your face when you turn up at their home uninvited,” writes Jim Slotek at Original Cin. “And the tedium of true reporting is the tale of She Said, the story of the once-unimaginable takedown of Hollywood power-producer and sexual predator Harvey Weinstein.”
“She Said is a harrowing film that occasionally feels like a documentary but it is also informative of the great emotional and psychological struggle all those who have sacrificed their all to bring sexual predatory to an end,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“While at times the film feels like it’s being overly explanatory, it’s necessary to deliver the message to audiences loud and clear: there are so many more Weinsteins out there,” writes Marriska Fernandes at Exclaim!. “She Said serves as an informational and emotional roller coaster about what sparked the #MeToo movement, and it looks to help other women process their own trauma with Weinstein-sized monsters they’ve encountered in showbiz or beyond. As Twohey puts it: they cannot change what happened, but together they might be able to protect others in the future.”
Stay the Night (dir. Renuka Jeyapalan 🇨🇦)
At the Toronto Star, Marriska Fernandes chats with director Renuka Jeyapalan and star Alice Bang about tackling the word of dating apps, Toronto hot spots, and revisiting a story conceived a decade ago. “About 10 years ago, all of these apps, it was all on technology,” Jeyapalan tells Fernandes. “It was all texting and messaging and there was less of an emphasis on meeting people in real life eventually, and forming these connections and kind of committing. It seemed like dating was a minefield of problematic things and I kind of missed the romance and the excitement of just connecting with someone in person. That’s kind of what made me want to make the movie again, and have a return to that.”
“Stay the Night is a romantic comedy not afraid to be Canadian. It’s not even afraid to be Torontonian. Stay the Night arguably stays the romantic course with a twist—perhaps intentionally, perhaps not—on the Ethan Hawke/Julie Delpy wander-and-chat premise of Before Sunrise (1989) and Before Sunset (2004), set in Vienna and Paris, respectively,” writes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “Toronto is not Vienna or Paris, but a world-class city, nonetheless. And Jeyapalan captures the Toronto at night backdrop with a keen sense of pride and affection. It’s the same pride and love she gives her characters.”
At Afro Toronto, Gilbert Seah says the film “bares some welcome differences from the typical romantic comedy.”
Sugar (dir. Vic Sarin 🇨🇦)
“If the new thriller Sugar, the first ‘Canadian Amazon Original’ film from Prime Video, is meant to plant the streamer’s flag in the domestic market with confidence, then someone needs to call back Jeff Bezos from space to testify in front of the Senate because Ottawa, we have a problem,” cautions Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail.
“But Sugar really drags on, is all over the placem and though watchable, also for all the good almost perfect human specimens – good hot bodies of both male and females, finally bores with repetitive scenes that have also been seen in other similar better films with a stronger narrative,” observes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“The girls shift the stash and look for ways to go home but are forced to complete the trip – as drug mules,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “They stop in upstate New York, Panama, Lima, Tahiti, and finally Sydney, a sympathetic friend is murdered, and they find themselves running for their lives through the jungle from drug guerillas with assault rifles. But it’s on to the next destination. Chilling and real.”
“There are a few moments that will strain viewers’ credibility, but since when was the romance genre known for its believable plot twists?” asks Chris Knight at the National Post. “And sure, it’s not the equal of Linklater’s movie [Before Sunrise], nor does it cry out for a sequel as his did. But sometimes even second best is more than enough.”
The Wonder (dir. Sebastián Lelio)
“Visually, The Wonder, is a tony affair, from numerous outdoor scenes of the windswept peat fields, and painterly candle-lit interiors, shot by Ari Wegner, of The Power of the Dog fame. The poverty is under-stated with a few details — a few chickens on the kitchen floor and a group of urchins staring through a banister,” observes Liam Lacey at Original Cin. “Less successful is Matthew Herbert’s jangly, percussive electronic score, which seems determined to prevent us from succumbing to any kind of period movie sentimental complacency.”
A List of Lists: Box Office and Streaming Stuff
At Night Vision, Peter Howell looks at the weekly box office and the stories behind the top films. This week, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever took #1: “ Director/co-writer Ryan Coogler says making this film without the late Chadwick Boseman, his friend and hero, was the hardest thing he’s ever done,” notes Howell. “Boseman died of cancer in August 2020 at age 43.”
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz offers a streaming guide, including a holiday lump of coal for the Christmas stocking with Spirited: “One horrifying late-film scene reveals that the filmmakers have no sense of tonal control,” notes Hertz, “but hey, no one might ever see this movie anyway. Enjoy the Christmas bonuses, Reynolds and Ferrell!”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Reel Asian and Shorts Stuff
At Original Cin, Jim Slotek previews Shorts Not Pants and chats with filmmaker Ingrid Veninger about trying her hand at short film with If You Were Me. “All my students are writing short narrative fiction. And there’s this incentive for me to make shorts so I can bring stories from the front lines back into class, because they’re all writing these 10-12 page scripts,” Veninger tells Slotek. “Also, you have to write the story, and cast it and crew it. But really, in making a short it was three months of editing as opposed to six months. It does reduce the sort of marathon run of features a little bit.”
At POV Magazine, Rachel Ho interviews Karen Cho about her documentary Big Fight in Little Chinatown and capturing the stories of Chinatowns across North America. “What Chinatown symbolizes for us as a community [is that] it was really the place where the diaspora was able to write its story in Canada,” Cho tells Ho. “Amongst all these racist laws and different things against us, we still managed to carve out a space to belong in a place that was very hostile towards the Chinese.”
At POV Magazine, Jason Gorber speaks with director Torquil Jones, whose film Villeneuve Pironi about the rivalry between drivers Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi, debuted at DOC NYC: “In the end, I felt the strongest version of it was [achieved by] honing in on Didier’s philosophy. You see from interviews from when he’s 18, 19, that he absolute hates coming in second place. He has to win. He was quite ruthless in that sense, with a competitive edge that made him a great racer. I think that directly goes back to what transpired at Imola, which forms the central conflict of the film.”
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen reports from a panel held in conjunction with a report released by the DOC Institute on racial inequity in Canada’s screen sector. “The consensus of the panel was that the report concluded that ‘water is wet,’ but that it legitimizes concerns that exist anecdotally…The report indicated that there is no industry mandate to collect data, which means that inequity is lost amid reporting, or remains anecdotal.”
TV Talk/Series Scribbles
At Original Cin, Liam Lacey checks out the new series Fleishman Is in Trouble: “The series is adapted by Taffy Brodesser-Akner from her ballyhoo’d 2019 satiric novel, a sensation which ended up on numerous best-books-of-the-year lists,” writes Lacey. “The book, and series, are filled with witty observations on a contemporary Upper East Side marriage breakdown, reminiscent of films by Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach. But what excited readers and reviewers is that the novel is also an exhibition of a kind of feminist narrative jiu jitsu.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie also checks out Fleishman Is in Trouble, noting “Graphic sexual content and a bit of a downer.” The Pact, on the other hand, has lots to offer: “Intriguing, addictive crime drama about a stranger in town with a determined, unbalanced mind, and the ripple effect of evil and secrets.” Then there’s a double dose of animal docs, starting with Loons: A Cry in the Mist, which “raises the alarm for the future of the beloved bird.” Mickey: The Story of a Mouse, meanwhile, unpacks the story of a beloved character. “Sure, Mickey: The Story of a Mouse is a commercial but it’s fascinating to watch the artists and voice actors work to marry tradition and modernity as they put together a new short,” writes Brodie.