An interview with Swan Song director Chelsea McMullan about their Rogers Best Canadian Documentary nominee on Karen Kain’s Swan Lake.
TFCA Friday: Week of Oct. 27
October 27, 2023
Welcome to TFCA Friday, a weekly round-up of film reviews and articles by TFCA members.
In Release this Week
Burning Betrayal (dir. Diego Freitas)
“All the goings-on are in reality pretty silly and ridiculous, all seemingly an excuse for a scenario for hot sex,” advises Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The sex scene are erotic enough with lots of contoured hot nude bodies performing the act in different positions. Mindless entertainment with lots of excuse for nudity and sex, that is about all.”
The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial (dir. William Friedkin)
“The final film made by legendary director William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) before he died this past summer, The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial serves as both a fitting career capstone and a slightly depressing artifact of the streaming era,” says Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “A reworking of Herman Wouk’s novel and subsequent play about the trial of a U.S. Naval officer who forcibly took command of a ship from what he viewed as an unstable captain, Friedkin’s version continues the filmmaker’s late-canon habit of transferring stage productions to the screen (see Bug and Killer Joe) while also continuing the irascible artist’s obsession with hard-edged men who cannot tell the line between duty and sanity.”
The Delinquents (dir. Rodrigo Moreno)
“At times, Moreno seems to be deliberately, annoyingly poking his audience in the eyes, then the ribs. This is a long, repetitive kind of filmmaking that calls attention to its luxuriousness. At one point, we watch Roman and Norma discuss heading to a hotel, then walking through the hotel’s doors, then walking up to the room, as if the director knew such a sequence was unnecessary in every way but as an endurance test,” notes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Then there is The Delinquents’ obsession with doubling. Moreno employs split screens to show Moran and Roman at different points in their journeys. The same actor plays both the boss of the bank and the mob boss of the prison. And what about the three lead characters, whose names are anagrams of the other?”
“A different kind of bank heist film, just at the point in which one might term it ground-breaking filmmaking – and one to break the rules,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “This is what makes The Delinquents such a pleasure to watch. It’s hard to predict where director Lorena will take the journey to. Running a lengthy 3 hours, the film is divided into two parts – each part significantly different.”
“Given its Oppenheimer-esque running time, The Delinquents may require a little patience from its audience. But not all that much. The characters are all sympathetic in their way – if you discount the actual crime of bank robbery, there are no bad guys per se. And the rambling nature of the plot practically invites viewers to slow down a little themselves and sink into the movie,” notes Chris Knight at Original Cin. “Ultimately, the only thing The Delinquents is guilty of is stealing three hours of my time. And considering the joy it brought me, I might actually still be in its debt.”
Five Nights at Freddy’s (dir. Emma Tami)
“If Five Nights at Freddy’s has anything to offer in the way of entertainment, scares, and authentic memorabilia, it was buried beneath the determined pandering to those addicted to being on the inside of the joke,” observes Thom Ernst at Original Cin. “Fans will likely rate Five Nights at Freddy’s through the roof, reacting like a mass of an underrepresented minority suddenly given a voice. If Freddy’s is the voice they’ve been waiting for, then there wasn’t a whole lot they needed to say. Although, I have little doubt they will have plenty of things to say as the reviews pile in.”
Freelance (dir. Pierre Morel)
“Freelance is an entertaining enough action comedy with both action and laughs, illustrating that one does not need to spend millions of dollars (this film had a budget of a modest $40 million) with special effects or superstars to create,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
“You may find yourself unmoved, uninterested, and ungripped by Freelance. Cena and Brie strike so few sparks, they could be making a PSA about preventing forest fires,” suggests Chris Knight at Original Cin. “So, zero ‘rom’ and very little ‘com.’ The action sequences are perhaps the best parts of the film. Director Pierre Morel sure knows how to crash a helicopter! But there’s only so many times you can watch Cena shoot, fight or drive his way out of danger.”
“A meat-and-potatoes action-comedy that’s rather light on the protein to say nothing of its starchiness, the action flick comes dangerously close to pinpointing and then properly exploiting Cena’s charm, yet consistently misses the mark by an inch or two. It is almost painful to watch the actor give everything he has to the project before realizing that he’s signed on to just another payday job,” sighs Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Perhaps the most fun that can be wrung from Freelance, then, is viewing the screenplay as an accidental meta-commentary on Cena’s own career woes, given that it focuses on a former Special Forces tough guy named Mason (Cena, of course) who is desperate for cash and excitement now than he’s a suburban dad and low-stakes attorney with a cute daughter and a wife who hates him.”
Goodbye, Petruschka (dir. Nicola Rose)
“She and Thibaut are in tough spots, but Claire, obsessed with puppets, has the germ of an idea for a musical “Oedipuppet”; Thibaut will skate as Petruschka the clown, a role Nijinsky performed in 1911,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “The Russian folk ballet, set in St Petersburg in 1830, concerns three puppets brought to life; their stories reflect Claire and Thibaut’s experiences. Gorgeous animated sequences lift the visually arresting story as does Kehoe’s delicate and moving performance.”
Hell House Origins (dir. Stephen Cognetti)
“The film ends up a combination of a haunted house and found footage horror that works reasonably well given the limitations of the script. Horror fans should not complain,” notes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
The Killer (dir. David Fincher)
“Michael Fassbender stars as the well-organized killer, a man with a very particular set of skills. We get to know the unnamed assassin through his inner monologue. His stream-of-consciousness musings concern attention to detail, the need for anonymity, the art of vigilance, the work of other killers, the importance of preparation and his thoughts on justice and the law,” writes Liz Braun at Original Cin. “This is an exhilarating action picture. The Killer involves brutal violence leavened with incisive social commentary, all of it put across with great Fincher style. And bloodletting.”
“Three s’s describe The Killer: stylish, slick, and sexy,” says Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto. “The Killer then describes how boring the job of a killer like himself is, and if one cannot survive boring, then this job is not up your alley. ‘How difficult it is to endure boredom,’ he says. Director Fincher shows boredom without being boring.”
“The film shifts into payback mode, as cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt supplies dark and fleeting images to a pounding score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Fincher’s favourite composers…This leads to a couple of terrific set pieces: a ferocious mano-a-mano encounter with a muscular goon aptly named the Brute (Sala Baker) and a wondrous showdown with a hit woman named the Expert (Tilda Swinton), who is described as looking like a Q-tip (you’ll understand why when you see her),” writes Peter Howell at the Toronto Star. “Fincher is having a laugh here, for sure, but he’s also sending himself up. He’s famous for his manic intensity on film shoots and his fanatical attention to detail.”
“Without being familiar with the film’s source material – a French graphic novel written by Alexis “Matz” Nolent and illustrated by Luc Jacamon – it is hard to say whether Fincher is either adapting or inventing the film’s other big, fat genre wrinkle: its obsession with corporate brands. But as the director slips in Starbucks and Postmates and WeWork into the proceedings, it’s clear that he is putting his own uniquely American stamp on a European story. Almost as if Fincher is positioning products as criminal accomplices. After all, Fassbender’s character can hardly get his job done without the unwitting help of Amazon or Avis,” writes Barry Hertz at The Globe and Mail. “Already, there are complaints that The Killer is too light of a lark, almost a clearing of the system for Fincher after getting bogged down in old Hollywood grudge matches with the 2020 drama Mank. But even without the massive historical weight of, say, The Social Network or the decades-spanning horror of Zodiac, The Killer arrives fully formed as top-tier Fincher. If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry.”
The Most Remote Restaurant in the World (dir. Ole Juncker)
“People flew and sailed from around the world to eat at KOKS, a two-star Michelin restaurant on a craggy ocean outcropping at Ilimanaq, Greenland,” writes Anne Brodie at What She Said. “Ole Juncker’s documentary feature follows the vigourous young team as it makes what will be a hazardous move on a tight schedule. Opening night is booked with just weeks to open, a kitchen to build, appliances to install, water, power, everything made to order. Things and people must scale a ladder to get to the wooden structure. Drama and serious building issues aside, there’s the food, combinations unheard of, gorgeous visuals of fish adorned with wildflowers, weird dishes of fat and blood, as local as it gets.”
Sister Death (dir. Paco Plaza)
“[A] bit of a slow burn (her first class is tense and two of her pupils have to be excused from the class, one peed in her clothes), but beware and be warned, aided by some solid period atmosphere. The cinematography is stunning with the pretty nuns all clothed in pure white amidst an often dark and black background,” writes Gilbert Seah at Afro Toronto.
File Under Miscellaneous
At The Globe and Mail, Barry Hertz reports on the delicate state for independent cinemas with distributors making high demands that are unsustainable for single screen theatres. “Today, though, theatre owners say they are facing box-office splits as high as 64 per cent in favour of studios, as well as demands for ‘clean run’ arrangements in which exhibitors who want an anticipated title must agree to play that movie exclusively for as long as four weeks,” writes Hertz. “No matter if the title flops on opening weekend, or if it targets a demographic that makes either matinee or evening screenings redundant.”
Ahead of the release for The Holdovers, Peter Howell speaks with director Alexander Payne for the Toronto Star and learns that he doesn’t like it if you read too much into his habit for cranky characters. “Payne doesn’t like it when journalists attempt to go deeper on the curmudgeon theme. ‘I immediately feel an allergy,’ [Payne] said. ‘Because I don’t want to explain. Not to sound pretentious, but the creative act is kind of unconscious: it’s conscious but unconscious. And I don’t want to define it or be defined by it, because I always want my next movie to be something different. Even if it’s going to wind up being the same, I want to think it’s different.’”
Also at the Toronto Star, Peter Howell picks the top ten horror films of all time for Halloween viewing. Atop the list? The Birds! “Most fright fans would pick Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho as his scariest work and it would be a valid choice. But nothing tops The Birds for terror in my books. The idea of nature rebelling against humans was absurd in the buoyant 1960s. Today, such a thought seems more than just a horrific metaphor, especially in our daily reality of global environmental destruction and the very real threat of a bird flu pandemic,” writes Howell. “Terrific scenes of avian mayhem, including an attack on a schoolhouse and a gas station conflagration, are convincingly rendered decades before CGI. Scariest of all is the unresolved ending; nature has unfinished business with us.”
A Festival of Festival Coverage: Festober Madness Continues!
At Original Cin, Thom Ernst reports on this year’s Toronto After Dark Festival: “To the festival’s credit, every feature is preceded with a Canadian short,” notes Ernst. “Director Scott Riopelle’s Soul Proprietor took spot number one in front of Late Night with the Devil. Riopelle directs a film that initially plays like a traditionally plotted exorcism film. But Riopelle takes the film down a much darker corridor than anticipated. Soul Proprietor was an unexpected treat given Riopelle’s lengthy (and no doubt sincerely felt) introduction. He praised Lopez and the festival to a point where it edged dangerously close to sycophantic.”
At What She Said, Anne Brodie looks at the opening night film of Rendezvous with Madness, back home: “[Nisha Plater’s] debut feature feels like a documentary as we follow her exploring the suicide of her brilliant brother at age 15. She was just. Her memories are recreated and shot on 16mm and Super8 film, ‘celluloid visuals hand-processed in plants, seaweed, soil, and ashes.’ Platzer’s need to “make sense’ of it brings her to Josh’ private journals, his mature, dark poetry, family photos, and people who were there when her world collapsed. Josh’ best friend’s mother Swan talks about his constant presence in their home, away from his own, and she helps Platzer with chronic foot pain through yoga. And Sarah, one of his best friends, brings new insights,” writes Brodie.
At POV Magazine, Pat Mullen speaks with Sofia Brockenshire, director of Rendezvous with Madness selection The Dependents, about her film that considers her family’s story, the politics of migration, and displacement. “The process of uprooting, whether it be intentional or unintentional, forced or sought after, is an extreme moment,” says Brockenshire. “I don’t know how people can prepare themselves under any circumstance if we are escaping from something, if we are not allowed to go, and if we are searching for a better life in some regard. Then that is put under the discretion of someone else who you hope has the humanity to see it and to put this into consideration and welcome a person or family into a new place. If it’s riding on hope, that’s already so much that one has to carry.”
TV Talk/Series Stuff
At What She Said, Anne Brodie cracks open the adaptation of All the Light We Cannot See: “Directors Shawn Levy and written by Steven Knight recreate the French town as it was during the WWII occupation, and the moral currents running through it – German soldiers, knowing they will likely die when American bombers arrive, try to escape and turn against one another, weakening themselves and pushing officers into madness.”