Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Lev @ TIFF: "What's Wrong With Virginia", "Never Let Me Go"

Lev, checking back in. Early mornings and late nights have prevented me from fulfilling my Film Experience duties, so capsule reviews will serve the purposes best. Starting with . . .

The Illusionist which is an achievement in many ways. What makes it so remarkable is its focus on every day sadness. Whereas most animation relies on comedy to engage, Chomet transmits his ideas through small gestures and simple, delicate drama, foregoing laughs for emotion. Every character, plot point, musical cue and lush painting is working in favour of this sadness without ever forcing it or revelling in it; It's a simple story evoked with impassioned feeling . A-

Dustin Lance Black's What's Wrong With Virginia? attempts numerous forays into the group psyche of town and religion but fails. Inconsistency is the word here; Characters come and go, narration is shoved in from different perspectives for no apparent reason. Jennifer Connelly is stuck doing her best Holly Hunter impression, approximating Wanda Holloway without being realistically nuts or even funny. Black, the Director, seems to have little idea how build through composition or montage, but that doesn't excuse Black, the writer, from starting his film with the end. C-

[Editor's Note: Apparently Virginia? is getting critically knocked around quite a lot at the festival. Movie|Line interviewed Dustin Lance Black about the unpleasant response. Good interview]

Predicated upon the intriguing idea of redheads as a discriminated minority, Romain Gavras' Our Day Will Come is an uneven mixture of bold filmmaking and bad decisions. The film stars Vincent Cassel as a psychologist and Olivier Barthélémy as a bullied teen. Clearly the work of a first time director, Gavras has strong ideas that don't always seem thought out as well one would like. Particular moments seem needlessly mean-spirited giving the film a cruel edge that it isn't always justified. Still, it's heady, compelling filmmaking that shouldn't go unnoticed. B-

Of the films mentioned here, Never Let Me Go surely requires the least introduction. Much has been made about plot particulars but they hardly seem worth noting; The sci-fi elements are rooted to a present reality and explained without much fuss which allows the characters to move to the forefront. There's no dwelling on its high-concept premise so it's just one step away from other high-end British productions (not that this is to its detriment). Romanek's form has improved, but the persistent score and unnecessary narration often feel perfunctory. It's the power of the story and performances, particularly Andrew Garfield who takes every gesture and line and tilts it into something unique and devastating, that make Never Let Me Go so emotionally satisfying. B

I'll be back as soon as possible, hopefully with notes on Of Gods And Men, Meek's Cutoff, Blue Valentine and Uncle Boonmee.

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