Tuffing it out at TIFF14

Attending TIFF is always a memorable experience. The tough part, I’ve to admit, is the constant waiting in line to enter the theatre even when you have a ticket. It’s all for your advantage of course, with the general seating, the earlier in line the better seat you can find. Hundreds of ticket holders queuing up around the block is a typical TIFF sighting in downtown Toronto every September.

But waiting in line for over an hour to see a 70 minute film? That was for the screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s newest work Goodbye to Language 3D. Was it worth it? Let’s just say, it’s an existential experience. And we even had the privilege of sitting down, albeit in the rain, Waiting for Godard:

Waiting for Godard

As expected, Godard himself didn’t show. But I got to experience his latest work wearing 3D glasses. Never imagined the legendary French New Wave auteur whose first works date back to the 1950’s, and who had made such iconic films like Breathless (1960) and Vivre Sa Vie (1962), now at 83, would be stirring up a newer wave of postmodern, visual fragments in 3D. The concept of ‘film’ just might need to be redefined with his Goodbye To Language 3D.

I’d seen twelve films over the ten-day film festival, purposely skipping those which I think would likely be released in our theatres in the next few months. So no, I didn’t watch the Grolsch People’s Choice Award Winner, The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. All the buzz surrounding it points to the repeat of previous People’s Choice winners like 12 Years A Slave (2013), Silver Linings Playbook (2012), The King’s Speech (2010), Slumdog Millionaire (2008), with a trajectory towards the Oscars.

Nor have I seen other more popular productions like Black and White, Mr Turner, The Judge, The Theory of Everything, While We Were Young, Whiplash, Wild, Hector and the Pursuit of Happiness, which I just might have the chance for a free promo ticket coming up in our city soon.

The highlight for me has to be the Mavericks Conversation with Juliette Binoche. The 1.5 hour standing in line outside CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio was worth it. Juliette Binoche is one of my all time favourite actors. So this 90 mins. of conversations, retrospective film clips of her works, Q & A is one of the gem of TIFF14 for me. A more detailed post will come later.

In chronological order over ten days, here’s the annotated list of my viewing, for now. Detailed reviews might follow:

Clouds of Sils Maria — Clouds appear like a slithering snake at the top of the Swiss Alps. They silently creep in, wrap the mountains and disappear just as you begin to marvel. Apt metaphor for aging, fame, and the ephemeral. While Juliette Binoche always delivers, it’s Kristen Stewart that had my full attention and respect. Kudos to acclaimed French director Olivier Assayas.

Winter Sleep — Winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, three hours of incisive and meditative exploration into the human soul. According to IMDb, Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan has won 62 times. But this my first taste of his work and yes, that’s the kind of films I look for in a film festival.

Force Majeure — A loving married couple bringing their two young children on a ski vacation is confronted with a most unexpected and testing scenario. Should the husband’s spontaneous response to a near accident be the gauge of his love for and loyalty to his wife and family? A stylish and at times very funny, well crafted film.

High Society — Not all festival films are created equal. Here’s one that, alas, is a waste of my time standing in line and sitting through. The topic is interesting enough, albeit has been dealt with countless times: a love (or lust?) affair shattered by class and social differences. Well intentioned, but just another cliché riddled with flaws.

Still Alice — Julianne Moore is very effective in portraying a Columbia U. linguistic prof afflicted with early onset Alzeimer’s, adapted from the popular book by Lisa Genova. This might just be Moore’s chance for another Oscar nom. Can a film be too loyal to the book? Yes, I think it is here. While the movie is well executed, I think the director could have taken a little more liberty in using the medium for more cinematic moments.

Maps to the Stars — Nom for the Palme d’Or, and Julianne Moore winning Best Actress at Cannes this year, Canadian director David Cronenberg’s newest feature is a bold, dark, and wild satire of the celeb life of Hollywood’s rich and famous. Problem is, maybe it’s the public who’d like to see Hollywood glamourized. They want to follow the maps to the stars. So, would they want to see a film that shatter their fantasy? And, would Hollywood insiders like to be depicted as thus?

Goodbye to Language 3D — See my opening paragraphs

Seymour: An Introduction — Ethan Hawke’s documentary on the once prominent concert pianist turned inspiring piano prof at NYU. Quiet, gentle and full of wisdom, Seymour Bernstein imparts not only musical knowledge and skills to his students, but changing their perspectives on life as well. The film also explores the interface between talent and craft. A classical music lover’s film. Pure joy.

Miss Julie — Jessica Chastain is Miss Julie in this newest film adaptation of August Strindberg’s play. Screenplay written and directed by the legendary Bergman actress Liv Ullmann. Beautiful set design and cinematography. The opening leads me to reminiscence of Fanny and Alexander. Chastain offers an exquisite portrayal of the messed up and very lonely Miss Julie; Colin Farrell is surprisingly good, while Samantha Morton has a strong supportive role.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet — An international collaboration of animators crafted this beautifully rendered story embedding sayings from Kahlil Gibran’s classic The Prophet. Liam Neeson is the voice of the Poet. Beast of the Southern Wild‘s child star Quvenzhané Wallis is Almitra. The end credits lead me to a surprise finding: With thanks to the government of Alberta and B.C. Now I’m intrigued.

My Old Lady — Playwright Israel Horovitz wrote the screenplay from his stage play, came on stage to introduce the film. Mentioned Maggie Smith was willing to be part of it because she didn’t die at the end; Kevin Kline took up the role because “this could be my last chance to get the girl.” The girl? The ever beautiful Kristin Scott Thomas. A charming film.

Time Out of Mind — If there’s any major disappointment at TIFF for me it’s this one. If as some say, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is Ben Stiller’s vanity project, then Time Out Of Mind is Richard Gere’s. First off, spending some time on the street digging inside garbage bins, sleeping on park benches, or not shaving for a few days don’t make one a homeless man. A homeless man lives a homeless life, and that’s the essence of the being. A Hollywood celeb’s portrayal by Gere is putting on make-up to look like one, pretentious, exposing the inauthenticity. Even his gait gives him away. The camera work and sounds are showy and contrived; trying to be naturalistic, they present a flashy and artificial rendition. To capture a day in the life of the homeless, go do a documentary. Yes, I’m afraid I totally disagree with the critics on this one.


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

22 thoughts on “Tuffing it out at TIFF14”

  1. As you know, I’ve been waiting for this one. Sounds like some very good Kristin Scott Thomas in the offing! And like you, I really enjoy Juliette Binoche and will look forward to hearing more about this one. The Ethan Hawke/classical music one intrigues me, too, and we’ll definitely look for that one. And I will happily enjoy Dame Maggie, Scott Thomas and Kevin Kline any day! I’ll be curious to hear more of what you think on all of these!


    1. Jeanie,

      Yes, let’s hope they will be shown in your local theatre. I know My Old Lady likely will, together with all the popular titles I mentioned in my post that I avoided seeing, knowing I can have the chance to when I get home. The European films may not be though. The Conversations with Juliette Binoche was quite an experience. It’s been a long ten days.


  2. Crikey, you saw so many! How many hours of queueing did that lot add up to? I am very impressed by your dedication, and it sounds like there are some wonderful films that have recently been made. Though I recall last year one I really liked the sound of from your review never went on international release – which was a shame. Guess you can’t win them all.


    1. litlove,

      I’d say, for every film I watched, I spent an average of one hour standing in line. And, don’t think I’m any symbol of dedication… I complain about the wait time, but the people there in line didn’t seem to mind at all. And about the film you wanted to see but wasn’t released, that’s one of the reasons I go to FF, to watch those that are not likely to be screened. However, for this year, I’m sure you’ll be able to see some of the acclaimed ones, for they are from your country: Mr. Turner, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, to name a few.


  3. Wow! What a whirlwind! I don’t know how you can keep all the films you saw straight. Sounds like you had a good time though in spite of the long lines and waiting and the occasional dud. Goodbye to Language sounds pretty interesting as do a number of the other films you saw.


    1. Stefanie,

      On one day, I saw 3 films. Not exactly a whirlwind, it was ten long days. And about Goodbye to Language 3D, I’m afraid it won’t be going to your local screen any time soon. But I admit, there were more enjoyable ones than that. I was sitting in the 6th row from the screen and had to close my eyes at certain points when I got a bit too dizzy. ;(


  4. These all sound lovely. I am looking forward to checking them out. You and I do seem to have similar views on movies we have in common. I wanted to recommend one that I do not see listed, if you haven’t seen it already. The 100 foot Journey! I absolutely loved this movie. The cinematography, acting and the story adapted from the book with the same name has wonderful metaphors to life and a good ending 🙂 I expect to hear Oscar nominations when the time comes…..


    1. Courtney,

      For the ones on my list, maybe just a few will be going to your local theatres, mainly the American ones. And I agree with you that The Hundred Foot Journey is an entertaining film. Here’s my review. You’re welcome to share your thoughts. 😉


  5. Arti, you and I have some overlap with what you saw at TIFF and what Milton and I will be seeing at the upcoming New York Film Festival. Even though we were able to get tickets to 15 films, one film we were unable to score tickets to was # 1 on our list: Godard’s Goodbye to Language — and Milton is a longstanding member of the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Having seen the film, do you have any idea why the FSLC is screening it only twice in a theater that seats 268 while the other big films are being screened at the 1,095 seat Alice Tully Hall? We can’t figure this out. We saw Wim Wenders’ Pina screened at ATH three years ago and that was in 3D (Lou Reed was sitting a few seats away from us). Fortunately, GTL is opening here on October 29th.

    Where we overlap is Maps of the Stars, Time Out of Mind and Clouds of Sils Maria. We did get tickets to Mr. Turner and Foxcatcher. If there are additional screenings to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, we’d love to see that. That is another one that sold out before we could get them. Milton went to the box office the first day tickets were available to members, but we had no luck with that one.

    I enjoyed your capsule reviews very much. Miss Julie is one I look forward to seeing. FYI: earlier this year, Milton and I attended an advance screening of The Imitation Game. You’re right that is one that Harvey Weinstein will be pushing heavily as award season fast approaches. But the director, Morten Tyldum, is no Steve McQueen.12 Years a Slave was brilliant epic filmmaking. This is a cable TV-type film that is getting big screen treatment.


    1. LA,

      Well you shouldn’t feel disappointed about not seeing GTL3D (BTW, the ‘3D’ is part of the title too) if it will be released in October 29th anyway. To be honest, I was disappointed with it, a very fragmented, psychedelic type of 3D illusions, and with a headache sitting in the 6th row from the screen, I had to close my eyes to block off the incoherent visuals part of the time. 😉 Godard’s ‘Breathless’ is one very old-fashioned and traditional film compared to this one. I’ve no idea why they place this in a 268 seat theatre. I’d wanted to see Pina but didn’t, however, I have a feeling that the 3D in that one is very different from the 3D in this one. This one, for me, there’s no need for 3D. Maybe, well now I get it, maybe the use of 3D is a satire in itself.
      I really enjoyed Clouds of Sils Maria. The acting is excellent with the three female characters playing off against each other. Maps of the Stars is one black horse, bold and stark. I don’t mind it. Curious to know what you think.
      And oh, I missed two films that had very high acclaims. Wonder if you’d have the chance to see them: ‘A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence’, and ‘Phoenix’ (This one is by the director and the actress of the German film ‘Barbara’)
      Looks like you’ve got a good list. Have a great time!


      1. Neither of those films, Pigeon or Phoenix, are playing at the NYFF, Arti. Two more we wanted to see that were sold out were Beloved Sisters and Hill of Freedom. Thanks for the heads up about what we can expect from JLG. The last Godard we saw was Film Socialisme. Milton was apoplectic and also ravenously hungry. He left ATH screaming, “Never again will I subject myself to one of Godard’s films!” Fast forward four years later and he’s first in line trying to get us tickets to his latest. I was so hoping this could turn into a Lame Adventure.


  6. Your review of Time Out of Mind reminded me of an old joke from my days in Liberia. We used to giggle at the people who’d come out for a week-long, “in depth tour” of West Africa. Even when they stuck to only one country, it was superficial at best. Most of the time they were perfectly fine and well-intentioned people, but the assumption — that dipping a toe equals taking a swim — just isn’t true.

    The one I’m most interested in here is Seymour: An Introduction. Well, and Still Alice. I just read an interesting post this morning about the power of reinventing the self. I wasn’t ready to buy in. Reinvention too often reeks of posturing and fakery. (Growth and change, not so much.)

    But my point: I’m really interested in what remains, in the midst of change. Have you seen this wonderful, viral video of a moment of recognition? It’s one of the most touching minute-and-a-half pieces of “film” I’ve seen.


    1. Linda,

      To save time, I actually listened to Still Alice the audiobook while driving, get it finished before I went to Toronto. That’s why I felt the film being ‘too loyal’ to the book, I could actually remember the some of the lines, now turned into dialogues, and nearly all the scenes. If you haven’t read the book, maybe it’s better so you’ll watch the movie fresh. Thanks for the video, very moving.


  7. I had no idea Still Alice had been made into a film. I liked that book very much – as well as Genova’s second, Left Neglected. I can see Julianne Moore in the role and will be on the lookout for it. We don’t have as many theater choices as larger cities, although I think Savannah may have a film festival. I’ll have to check it out. You’ve listed quite a few I would be interested in seeing.


  8. You are quite the movie buff Arti 🙂 I on the other hand am hopeless, if I see half a dozen movies a year that’s a lot and almost all will be either French or English.. but like yourself I am a huge fan of Juliette Binoche, was looking forward to seeing ‘Words and Pictures’ but it didn’t seem to have a long play time in the theatres here in Perth, will have to catch it on DVD.


    1. Grace,

      You know, Ripple Effects at first began as a movie review blog seven years ago. Will post about the Conversations with Juliette Binoche as soon as I could compile my thoughts and notes. Thanks for throwing in your two pebbles into the pond and stirring up ripples. 😉


  9. Thanks to the generosity of my cousin I watched Still Alice and Time Out of Mind at TIFF14. I totally agree with your comments on both films. While I didn’t think Still Alice was a great film, I do think Julianne Moore did a great job in her portrayal of the professor stricken with early Alzheimer. I will definitely be rooting for her come Oscar season. As for Time out of Mind, I too think it was a big disappointment. I always thought Richard Gere was a pretty good actor up to this point, that like Leonardo Dicaprio, his acting was not given due credit because of his good looks, but this movie proofed me wrong. He was totally unconvincing as a homeless man, siting through the film I kept thinking why the heck did he take on this project! The irony is he will be honored at the upcoming New York Film Festival. If this amateur thinks that his acting is not up to par, what would his peer think? I feel soooooo sorry for him:(((


  10. I was in town during TIFF this year..and didn’t partake in any of the screenings. We breezed through King St. W. area on our bikes where they had closed off certain streets for a weekend for various public TIFF events. Saw the line-ups.

    It’s been over a year since I saw a movie. I can’t quite explain my disinterest right now…parallel to me not reading a novel for last few years. I’m an English lit grad.!


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