[SIFF weekend three]

+ Small Town Murder Songs is the rare movie that could have stood to be longer by about 15-20 minutes. I would have very much liked to see some of the subthreads teased out just a little bit more, but I understand that that director saw it the other way, wanting to pare it down to the essentials. Which is fair: it’s his movie!

On one level it’s a straightforward crime thriller, with a young woman* being found dead in a small (largely Mennonite) town in Ontario. The strong direction, the intriguing use of chapter titles, the freakin’ awesome soundtrack (must own!), each kick it up a notch.

It also features the final performance of Canadian actress Jackie Burroughs. (I do not like this particular SIFF theme. Perhaps final performances from two actresses does not a trend make?)

+ The Whisperer in Darkness was my first Lovecraft experience and fine, guys, you win. I am intrigued. This was a 1930s-style adaptation, with a lot of elements common with noir, which of course I love. The team also did a short silent film of The Call of Cthulhu, which I will now have to seek out.

+ I had been looking forward to Amador, but then I read a description of it as “mumblecore Almodovar”. I panicked a little. See, I hate mumblecore. But I love Almodovar! Dilemma! Unnecessary, as it turns out, because Amador was neither of those things. But it was quite good.

Marcela (the luminous Magaly Solier) is in rather desperate financial straits, so she takes on the job of caring for Amador (Celso Bugallo), an older, bedridden man. They gradually develop a quiet friendship in spite of themselves, but then he dies while she is still in great need of the money.

It’s a lovely character-driven film, and one of my favorites of the festival.

+ I had been a little nervous about Boy because it is from Taika Waititi, the same writer-director as Eagle vs Shark. And I know a lot of you love that movie, but it was just. so. painful to watch. For me. I couldn’t handle the embarrassment, & I wound up fast forwarding to see how it ended.

To my great relief, Boy was a sweet movie about Boy who lives on a farm in New Zealand with his grandmother & cousins, his goat, and his little brother Rocky, who thinks he has superpowers. Boy believes that when his father comes back he’ll take him to see Michael Jackson in concert. When his father *does* come back things don’t go exactly as Boy expected. Recommended.

+ Secret #3 was one of my favorite kinds of films. Also, it was from a country from which I have never seen a bad movie. In fact, I think I have only seen awesome movies from there. It was not Cars 2. Pixar is not a country.

+ Project Nim is a heartbreaking must-see documentary from James Marsh (director of my beloved Man on Wire. Nim was a chimpanzee stolen from his mother and given to a family in New York City, who taught him ASL & purported to raise him as a human child. That’s just the beginning of the story, which basically ate my brains. You should see it, but only when you’re feeling emotionally stable. And if you haven’t seen Man on Wire, you should see that too.

+ Finally, Detention was billed as The Breakfast Club-meets-Scream. Which made me nervous, to be honest, especially since parody films almost never work for me. But Detention totally did. It rushes at a breakneck pace, cramming in references to those films and more. But don’t look up which ones: it’s much better to be surprised. It’s totally absurd, a ridiculous amount of fun, and never boring. But you have to be a Bad Teen Movie fan willing to go along for the ride. Which I am.

* why is it always a girl? I mean, I know why. I just get tired.

[SIFF week three]

* Man on Wire is just crazy amounts of fun. It’s a documentary, with a wee bit of recreation, of Philippe Petit’s tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in 1974. It’s structured, appropriately enough, like a heist film, and Petite is the master teller of his own story. It’s marvelous filmmaking too, in that there’s great tension even though we know exactly how it ends.

* Be Like Others was my second documentary of the day, and utterly heartbreaking. It takes us to Iran, where homosexuality is punishable by death, but gender reassignment surgery is legal, even encouraged. It is painfully clear throughout that the vast majority of these people would never make this choice if they lived anywhere else. They’re undergoing this brutal procedure (brutal in that it is gender reassignment in *Iran*, that is, I don’t mean this to be a commentary on truly transgendered people or Western methodology) so that they can fit into the rigid societal/religious definitions of gender. Not so they can fulfill who they really are. The only thing I wish is that there had been further inclusion of women. There is one lesbian at the start of the film, and we never encounter her again. It seems like a huge gap to me. Painful & unforgettable.

* I added Becky Sharp for the form rather than the content, and was pleasantly surprised by both. It’s a Vanity Fair adaptation (obviously), and the first film done in three strip Technicolor. The color is gorgeous and the dialogue is hilarious & snappy. Good times all round. Ignore the IMDb reviewers. They’re idiots.

* Somehow I had got it into my head that XXY was a Canadian film. I blame it on mid-festival pudding-brain. It’s from Argentina, and is the story of a 15 year old hermaphrodite under increasing pressure to choose a gender. It’s just beautiful, and Inés Efron is luminous as Alex. I never remember to vote for the other Golden Space Needle categories, but I’ll try to put in a ballot for her.

* Finally, last night I had scheduled a 9:45 movie, Sukiyaki Western Django. Perhaps because I am insane. I gave serious thought to selling my ticket to someone in the rush line, and I’m glad I didn’t, because it was on copious amounts of crack. More, even, than I had anticipated. I knew it was a Japanese Western, and that Miike is kind of a nutcase director, but I did not know that it had a cameo by Quentin Tarantino, or that it was in English… phonetic English, which sounds a lot like the red room Twin Peaks scenes. It’s an excellent terrible movie, and great fun to see with a packed house.