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Let's Talk About TIFF

I'm baaAAAack. In case you were wondering where I went, I took about a year off from my VICE column to direct a movie called Gerontophilia, which premiered at the Venice and Toronto international film festivals last month, and is currently...

by Bruce LaBruce
Oct 2 2013, 4:55pm

An excerpt from Bruce's new film, Gerontophilia.

I'm baaAAAack. In case you were wondering where I went, I took about a year off from my VICE column to direct a movie called Gerontophilia, which premiered at the Venice and Toronto international film festivals last month, and is currently showing at the Rio and Reykjavik film festivals (had a nice chat with Bjork last night, nbd). Anyway, I managed to see close to a dozen films at the Toronto festival, and in the grand literary tradition of writers writing reviews of the work of other writers, I offer you my minireviews of these movies. You can take what I write to heart, or completely ignore it. No skin off my ass.

Stranger by the Lake, directed by Alain Guiraudie

Winner of the best director award in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes, this art film concerns casual sex and murder in a gay cruising area near a nudist lake in rural France. Interestingly (and realistically), some of the men aren't gay or don't identify as such. I'd wager that Stranger by the Lake has the honor of containing more eye-level shots of male genitalia than any other film in cinematic history. Despite that, I must admit that it is a bit boring to watch, but it's a film that sticks with you long after leaving the theater. During the festival I had dinner with Marcus Hu, one of the heads of my usual US distributor, Strand Releasing, which is also distributing Stranger. The lead actor, Pierre Deladonchamps, also joined us. A charming young man, you will be seeing a lot more of Pierre in high-profile French cinema very soon.

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Real, directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa

A big disappointment from one of my favorite living directors. (If you haven't seen his films Cure, Pulse, Bright Future, and Tokyo Sonata, you must.) This confusing sci-fi story of a virtual-reality trip into the mind of a girlfriend in a coma plays like a cross between Total Recall and The Descendants, but comes across as a corny soap opera.

Palo Alto, directed by Gia Coppola

Another film from the spawn of Francis Ford Coppola, and based on short stories by the ubiquitous James Franco (who, full disclosure, writes a column for this website), Palo Alto purports to be a sensationalistic story about a pervy high school gym coach who is bedding his female students, but it totally pulls its punches. Like Kids never happened. Makes Sophia Coppola's The Bling Ring (which I just watched and think is her best film to date) look like Citizen Kane.

Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Miss Congeniality in space. A bit like Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, but without the cosmic philosophical and metaphysical implications, poetry, or homosexual subtext. By the Mexican director of the great film Y Tu Ma Tambien, this potboiler makes a good argument for great directors to stay away from Hollywood.

Philomena, directed by Stephen Frears

Winner of this year's Queer Lion at the Venice film festival, it's Doubt plus Philadelphia for Repulicans. While admirably vicious toward scary, morally hypocritical Catholic nuns, it's also an apologia of sorts for Log Cabin Republicans. Stephen Frears should also get the award for most subversive director (My Beautiful Laundrette, Prick Up Your Ears), having become the most annoyingly conservative (“The Queen”).

Rigor Mortis, directed by Juno Mak

Although it contains some impressive special effects, this Kubrick-inspired Hong Kong horror movie is—ahem—dead on arrival.

A Touch of Sin, directed by Zhangke Jia

Winner of the best screenplay at this year's Cannes festival, the Chinese master's violent, meandering masterpiece about individuals exploited by the hyperindustrialized, impersonal new capitalist Communist China acting out violently against their oppressors, is the best film I saw at the festival.

iNumber Number, directed by Donavan Marsh

Coming on like a South African Tarantino, Marsh hits big with this thriller about a gang of hardened criminals infiltrated by a morally ambivalent cop attempting an armored truck heist. Despite inciting the stupidest question for a director I've ever heard in a Q&A (“Not to be rude, but why are you white?”), the film is as authentically South African as you can get, featuring real criminals as actors, regional dialects and slang, and dangerous locations.

The Square, directed by Jehane Noujaim

An incredibly moving and devastating, fly-on-the-wall documentary tracing the Egyptian uprising against Hosni Mubarak through its various permutations right up to the present as witnessed at Tahrir Square. The idealistic revolutionaries the film follows are heartbreaking to watch as they experience their heart-felt and resolute ideals being systematically shredded by the realpolitik of corrupt contemporary geopolitics, neoliberal interventionism, and the messy complications of civil war in the Middle East. 

At Berkeley, directed by Frederick Wiseman

The flipside of The Square, veteran doc genius Wiseman presents a frighteningly obedient, passive, apolitical student body protesting meekly in the library at Berkeley College in California and actually quieting down when hushed by the librarian. A terrifying doc about a new student generation devoid of the style or militancy of their infamous predecessors at the same institution, slavish to authority and bureaucracy, wholly lacking in vision and passion.

Mission Congo, directed by David Turner, Lara Zizic

How not to make a documentary. This sloppy, misleading doc takes an easy target (televangelist Pat Robertson supposedly using his Rwandan-genocide-refugee charity as a front for illegal diamond mining) and does very little with it. The subject matter cries for a much more cleverly ironic yet convincing takedown of the hypocritical and obviously loony Christian demagogue. Indiewire gives a rundown with the problematic claims of the documentary here. For a far more incisive, apocalyptic, and emotionally draining documentary about the international exploitation of African people and resources, watch the infinitely more superior Darwin's Nighmare.

Previously - Treating Actors Like Cattle at the Toronto International Film Festival


Toronto International Film Festival
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