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    TIFF 14: ‘3 Coeurs’ is not a credible romance

    French filmmaker Benoît Jacquot often crops up in discussions of overlooked auteurs of contemporary French cinema. His work is quiet, understated, and rarely finds a wide audience. Yet, efforts like Farewell My Queen, A Single Girl and The School of Flesh are heralded as among the best French efforts of their respective years. However, for every effort that wins the heart of niche audiences, the rest of his films are divisive and alienating. While a lack of consistency is perhaps working against him, many of his contemporaries are even bigger gambles: François Ozon is responsible for some beautiful films but more of his efforts are outright misses, and even heavyweights like Olivier Assayas deliver as many misses as successes. Perhaps it is the quietness of Jacquot’s style that works against him, his best efforts coming across as understated and his worst as dull. More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Top Five’ is one of the best comedies in years

    Chris Rock has always been one of the most invigorating presences in the comedy scene. His comedy is confrontational, biting and hilarious. Up until this point, his foray into filmmaking has rarely matched his unique and vibrant talents, and while there are certainly exceptions, on-screen Chris Rock has usually been reduced to a much tamer and often much less funny version of himself. With Top Five, however, the gears seems to shift. Chris Rock not only shows off why he is one of the funniest people alive, but applies his humour to a surprisingly daring narrative about the value of laughter and the struggle of being an artist. The film also works as a wonderful meta-textual narrative on the state of the current Hollywood system, as well as a touching romance. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Luna’ is a dark and surreal exploration of grief

    While Mirrormask has become something of a cult movie, Dave McKean is still better known for his work in illustration than his directorial efforts in film. McKean’s groundbreaking style consistently raised the bar in comic art; his contribution to the 1989 release of Arkham Asylum, written by Grant Morrison, helped change our understanding of the artform. McKean’s style seemed uniquely suited to the mind space of an asylum, his layered mixed media style reflective of thoughts and emotions in conflict. Perhaps his best known work is his contributions to the cover art for Neil Gaiman’s iconic Sandman series, once again cementing the phantasmagoric quality of McKean’s work. His collaboration with Gaiman highlighted the obscured landscape of nightmares which he frightfully recreated through superimposition, collage and drawing. More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Spring’ is a flawed but vibrant romantic-horror film

    Spring can most easily be described as a romantic-horror: a monster movie with a heart set mostly in a small tourist destination in Italy. After the death of his mother, Evan(Lou Taylor Pucci) loses his job and gets himself in a fight that causes him to be pursued by police. With nothing left in California, he hops on the first available flight, which brings him to Italy. This adventure leads him to meeting the beautiful and mysterious Louise (Nadia Hilker). More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Heaven Knows What’ is an authentic and devastating portrait of addiction

    While some spectators may roll their eyes at the thought of another indie film about drug addiction, Josh and Benny Safdie’s Heaven Knows What is a horrifying and remarkable piece of cinema that feels both alarmingly alive and alien given its subject matter. Bold, raw, and severely emotive, the Safdie’s latest is another one of their standard New York tales. Far more emotionally affecting and aesthetically brazen than their first two narrative features, The Pleasure of Being Robbed (2008) and Daddy Longlegs (2009), Heaven Knows What is one of the few films of its kind that thrives on a new kind of detail and specificity regarding its characters and their milieu. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Whiplash’ is expertly paced and fueled by exquisite tension

    What began as a short film seeking funding at last year’s Sundance has come to fruition as one of 2014’s best films. A must-see at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, Damien Chazelle’s magnificent Whiplash offers stellar performances and a powerful, morally ambiguous plot. It concerns young Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is in his first year at the top music institution in the country. Picked for one of the school’s most competitive bands by its relentless conductor, Terence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), Andrew finds himself desperately fighting to prove his worth. More

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    TIFF 14: ‘Shrew’s Nest’ and ‘Spring’ tackle the complex nature of femininity and love, in their own twisted ways

    Over the years, TIFF’s Midnight Madness programme has lost some of its grit. Once upon a time, a film as bodacious as Shrew’s Nest would have graced its lineup. Now, the Vanguard programme seems to have stepped up to take its place. Where Madness highlights trendier, more easily digestible content, Vanguard takes on the more obscure. Sexy, gritty, dirty, and horrific, Vanguard’s content is far more outlandish than its older, now slightly more restrained, cousin. Odd when you consider both programmes are curated by the jovial horror fanatic Colin Geddes. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Tu dors Nicole’ a surreal portrait of millenial ennui

    Tu dors Nicole is the newest feature film from Quebec filmmakers Stephane Lafleur. The film premiered at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes, a section specifically focused on emerging auteurs of the screen. Nicole (Julianne Cote) is 22 years old and is house sitting while her parents are on vacation. She spends most of her days wandering aimlessly with her friend Veronique. The atmosphere of ennui though is loudly interrupted when her brother and his band arrive, setting up shop in the family living room. The film explores the aimless summers of youth and the seemingly directionless future that awaits the young Nicole. She is withdrawn and sullen, but through a quiet surrealism Lafleur peels back the layers, evoking a sense of phantasmagoria, where reality and dream exist simultaneously. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Maps to the Stars’ is a huge disappointment

    There’s something theatrical about this new version of Cronenberg. Not in the way we think of Stratford or Shaw. More like pseudo-artistic interpretive theatre that happens during one’s experimental phase in University. Maps to the Stars is a colossal disappointment, offering stilted performances, a disjointed and predominantly ineffectual script, and bewilderingly bad sound design. What appears on the surface to be an interesting dialogue on child stars, the vapid, all-consuming and destructive nature of celebrity, and the superficial nature of Los Angeles very quickly reveals itself to be something else altogether – the tired, lazy half-measures of an auteur riding on his own coattails. More

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    TIFF 2014: ‘Maps to the Stars’ never quite comes together

    Hollywood could easily be the perfect fantasy world of Cronenberg’s obsessions. The themes associated with body horror, from the fascination with decay to the battle between body and mind, are staples of the torrid extremes of Tinsel Town. In 2012, David Cronenberg’s son, Brandon, tackled these ideas with his feature debut Antiviral. That film explores a dystopian future in which the obsession with celebrity is taken to extremes of consumption. In Antiviral, the masses purchase meat grown from their favourite celebrity’s cells and head to a special clinic in order to be infected with the same venereal strain as their Hollywood Idol. The film externalizes the growing cultural obsession with fame, and concentrates that obsession through corporeality and sex. More

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