TIFF 2013: ‘The Strange Little Cat’ is an amazing feature debut from a promising artist.

A minimalist gem that first premiered to the world at the Berlinale film festival in February of this year and coming to the Wavelengths programme at TIFF is Ramon Zürcher’s debut feature, The Strange Little Cat. A terrific chamber piece of cinema illustrating one crisp fall Saturday afternoon in the life of a family is a sumptuous journey of visual storytelling that fills its claustrophobic spaces with the animated pace of modern life and its quiet revelatory moments. Loosely inspired by Kafka’s novella, Metamorphosis, and with comparisons made to Chantal Ackerman’s Jeanne Dielman and the raucous hubbub of Thomas Vinterberg’s Festen, The Strange Little Cat is a hypnotic film that places its focus on the comings and goings of a family preparing a dinner for an ailing matriarch.

TIFF 2013: ‘Quai d’Orsay’ is a very funny albeit specific French comedy

Promoted as a French comedy in the spirit of In The Loop and Veep, Quai d’Orsay is a very enjoyable watch, full of wit and fun. Based on the graphic novel of the same name written by Antonin Baudry (under the pseudonym Abel Lanzac) and based on his own experiences, the film follows a young politico (Raphael Personnaz) navigating his way as a speechwriter for the French foreign minister (Thierry Lhermitte). Nearly blindsided by the hurdles of his new position, Arthur Vlaminck (Personnaz) works through no to little guidance, some in-office saboteurs, and the slamming doors and blown away papers that mark the minister’s coming and going (to the chagrin of the office cat).


TIFF 2013: ‘Paradise: Hope’ is a dark, disturbing portrait of inappropriate teenage love

Until Paradise: Love premiered at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl was a relatively unknown figure in the film world. Since then, he has released two more films which follow Paradise: Love to make up a trilogy: Paradise: Faith and this year’s Paradise: Hope. With the release of the three films, Seidl has quickly propelled himself into art cinema stardom earning comparisons to venerable filmmakers such as his fellow Austrian Michael Hanneke.


TIFF 2013: ‘Heart of a Lion’ insults with its blend of disparate approaches to Neo-Nazism

Meet Teppo’s (Peter Franzén) gang. They’ve been through thick and thin together, and always have each other’s back. They laugh together, drink together, and are proud of each other. When Teppo’s brother Harri (Jasper Pääkkönen) decides to make good on his love for his native Finland and join the army, the group throws him a joyous party to celebrate his selfless decision. So what if they spend some of their weekends terrorizing black street vendors and beating Roma families to a pulp? And anyway, what’s a little race-motivated gang violence among friends?

TIFF 2013: ‘Stranger by the Lake’ is erotic, tense, and surprisingly moving

Despite the fact that it’s now 2013, it’s still the case that nothing destabilizes the dialogue surrounding a film quite like explicit depictions of sex, especially when it’s of the same-sex variety. Just ask Abdellatif Kekiche, whose Palme D’Or-winning Blue is the Warmest Color has been dogged with controversy for its allegedly lascivious depictions of lesbian sex.


TIFF 2013: ‘Honeymoon’ squanders an interesting premise

One of the Czech Republic’s most prolific directors working today, Jan Hrebejk is known as a master satirist, looking at the Czech Republic’s past and its influence on today’s Czech Republic. He has been praised in the past for being able to capture eloquently in his films what other Czechs are still grappling with today. Most of his films deal with the mark left upon contemporary Czech society by decades of Soviet rule. He has explored these themes with great success in several celebrated black comedies and even in his most widely known work, the seriocomic World War II film Divided Fall.


TIFF 2013: ‘Sex, Drugs & Taxation’ is an entertaining black comedy biopic

Sex, Drugs & Taxation begins with a title card warning us that though much of this story is true, many things are also untrue. The film is director Christoffer Boe’s most recent work that explores the way memory can be molded and reconstructed. In this, his most recent film, the memory in question is that of society as a whole (or in this case, Denmark as a stand-in for society at large) is shaped and reshaped to paint public figures.


TIFF 2013: ‘Tom at the Farm’ a satisfyingly evocative thriller in the style of Hitchcock

Quebecois director Xavier Dolan returns to TIFF in the Special Presentations programme with the gorgeously atmospheric psychological thriller, Tom at the Farm (Tom à la Ferme), shedding some of his visual compositions while embracing the themes of desire, loss and attachment with mixed results in its overall plotting. The film is an adaptation of a French-language play of the same name by Michel Marc Bouchard, who worked with Dolan to bring the story to the big screen.

TIFF 2013: ‘Paradise Falls’ an imaginative magical-realist coming-of-age tale

Director Fantavious Fritz, his name itself sounding straight out of a Wes Anderson tale, has crafted a magical story of adolescence following in the tradition of Huck Finn, yet told through the eyes of a young modernist filmmaker. Paradise Falls begins through a deep-voiced narration (provided by Alex Crowther) in deadpan inflections recalling the history and setting of the Paradise Falls suburban development, now abandoned and surrounded by death and curses.

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