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Sep 20 2015

TIFF Quickies: 45 Years,Invisible,The Witch,and more...

Five quick takes because otherwise I won't get around to writing about these!Grades are not binding and these are first quick impressions.

45 Years(UK,Andrew Haigh)
That sound you hear over a black screen as the film opens is a slide projector.If it hadn't been for Mad Men'sCarouselthat long defunct sound might not have been so easy to place.The slides will be important later on but to quote that famous episode:

This is not a spaceship,it's a time machine.It goes backwards and forwards,and it takes us to a place where we ache to go again."

Don Draper's famous monologue could well be a description of this film,too.The past suddenly rushes forward into the present via a letter bearing strange news and the husband (Tom Courtenay) aches too visibly to go back to it as the wife (Charlotte Rampling) slowly begins to reframe their lives between then and now.In his very short film career Andrew Haigh has shown a remarkable skill at romantic drama through the prism of time  (the impactful of the moment and the brevity of aWeekend,and the half century of a marriage through recalled feeling).The film is cooly mounted,not just in its color palette and the weather but in its chill vibe;nothing at all is really happening but everything is being considered and reframed.45 Yearsopens on December 23rd - Sundance Selects is apparently trying the exact same play they did for Marion Cotillard last year for Charlotte Rampling.Let's hope it works because she rises exquisitely to this film's challenge.A-

Invisible(The Philippines,Lawrence Fajardo)
The first scene inInvisiblefocuses on a steam pot that's getting ready to blow as we hear a conversation offscreen.That's a non too subtle way to announce a slow simmering drama ahead but typical of the visual strategy of placing a camera in one place and just watching,even when there's little to see.Fajardo looks at the plights of Filipino immigrants in Japan with both tenderness and hopelessness in these interconnected stories.Aunt Linda () ties the stories together as a landlady who permits illegals to rent her apartments -- she isnotan illegal as she has been married for decades to a Japanese man -- but her heart is still with the Filipino immigrant community who she checks in with regularly.

Among the stories is a middle aged gay romance,a sad hustler aging out of good paychecks and starting to look pathetic in the stage shows with his young twink competition,and a hardworking young man who runs into dangerous trouble with a coworker.I really wanted to love this picture.It's heart is in the right place and certain scenes have distinct empathetic pleasures.But the director,who admitted in a Q&A afterwards that he was trying to convey the drudgery of these lives,does that too well.The pace isexcruciatingin the way only art films can be when they aren't careful about when to hold a shot and when to let one go since there's actually no scene there.B-/C+

As I Open My Eyes(Tunisia,Leyla Bouzin)
I believe this is the first Tunisian film I have seen and I was often at a loss for exactly what was happening.To explain: the plot is easy enough to follow but the politics are not.Set during the Arab Spring this sensitive picture circles a young woman who is due to start medical school but just wants to sing for her band.The band is continually warned that they're in trouble with the police -- but they each have different ideas about what they can get away with -- but listening to their lyrics I could never suss out exactly why they were so threatening.The music is a major selling point and the young star is lovely though I wish the concert scenes and the camerawork had not been so repetitive from a visual standpoint -- the star's innocent but flirtatious smile is totally endearing but there are a thousand closeups of it.The combative but loving mother/daughter relationship which starts as the subplot and gradually takes over is unexpectedly compelling by the melancholy older-but-wiser end.B

Eva Doesn't Sleep(Argentina,Pablo Agüero)
Finally a movie for Argentinian Politics Majors who are also Necrophiliacs!

What did I just watch?Ithinkit was good --- possibly very good though it's unpleasant.This brilliantly titled film was among the most challenging films at the fest.Agüero presents a stylized history of Argentinian politics from the 1950s onward through the much-fetishized dead body of Eva Peron and the various men in charge who are defeated by both her memory and their inability to rid the country of her body.It's rare to see a film so fully embrace the POV of its villains -- the various narrators,dictators,politicans,soldiers and so on are nearly all misogynists who hate Evita (you hear "that bitch"more times than you'll be able to count) and despise the working classes who adore her.Some scenes go on interminably but many of the images have a weirdly hypnotic resonance and willfully begin or end in abstraction from lighting (particularly in Gael Garcia Bernal's segment),color (particularly in the Embalming sequence) or Denis Lavant (particularly in the Denis Lavant scene).


The Witch(Robert Eggers)
If you've managed to stay blind and deaf to this film's content,stay that way.Do not read this blurb because it's best to go in cold.The Witchtakes place in the 17th century when a Puritan couple,banished from their village community in New England,seek to begin anew.They build a home and farm in the clearing near a heavy wood for their goats,chickens,and four children.Almost immediately an unthinkable tragedy strikes.Debuting director Robert Eggers is supremely confident with the slow build even though he has the nerve to reveal the culprit immediately andthenmake you wait. Though some of the scenes are predictable once you're inside them,by then the film already has you frozen in your seat with its commitment to the unfortunate collision of Pious,Ignorant,Paranoid Christians and Terrifying Unfathomable Evil.It's hard to describe how spectacularly creepy and perverse it all feels in the last half hour.What a ballsy debut!A-

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Reader Comments (14)

If Rampling is nominated I want her to go all the way.A nomination being its own reward will not do.Overdue with a merited performance to backup a win.Lily Tomlin is secure for an eventual honorary statuette but Rampling has yet to appear in anyone's shortlist of foreign actresses who have been denied recognition from the Academy making them suitable candidates for honorary consideration.

Blanchett will have several opportunities for a third Oscar.If Mara is to win an Oscar soon it will be in supporting actress.Kentuckian trash could be a threat to win her second --- though I suspect they may wait until her fifth or sixth nomination to do so to avoid the inevitable meltdowns.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

I'm baffled by the universal acclaim for 45 Years.I found so much of the dialogue so insufferably trite that after this and the first season of Looking,I'm wary of revisiting Weekend (which I originally loved) out of fear that I might actually discover Haigh was actually just a hack-y self-indulgent undergrad from the get-go.

That said I have absolutely nothing but love for Rampling and Courtenay's performances in Years.The latter especially blew me away - probably since by this stage of her career I'm so used to Rampling being incandescent and enthraling that it's less of a revelation.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commentergoran

Re: the Argentinian movie

You've had me at Gael Garcia Bernal

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

/3rtful -- no one is secure for an honorary statue.they only give them to an actress about once or twice a decade.(Though we've had two years in a row now.) and that is not nearly often enough to cover the living giants who never won.

cal -- he's in like 10 minutes of it only and he's top billed.LOL.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nat: But is anyone in that movie much longer than 10 minutes?If so,I'd buy that it really does come down to fame level.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

volvagia -- this is true.Though two men,including second-billed Denis Lavant,have larger roles than him.

September 20,2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nathaniel: I want to believe the Academy is on a roll after selecting Gena Rowlands and Spike Lee this year for honorary recognition.The selection of Rowlands allows me to believe Glenn Close is a plausible inevitable recipient soon enough.Tomlin is right up there with Steve Martin.And he has his already.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

As long as Sundance Selects strategy is to get the movie outside of NY/LA/SF I am fine with December 23.If,however,it's just those markets and the rest of us have to wait until two weeks before the Oscar ceremony like with Cotillard last year then I am out and no longer cheering for Rampling.I live in an area with at least ten art house cinemas and 3.8 million people.If someone wants to compete for an acting Oscar it should hit my area with a one-week run prior to nominations morning.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

John T: Do you ever watch screeners online?

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

John T -- i've long proposed that films should have to open in the top markets (not just LA) by the end of the year to qualify...which would effectively end the cheating of "one week qualifiers"because that would be way too much work to do in multiple cities just for the sake of being in the race without having to face the public.Though i'm negotiable on the number of markets (I think top 5 markets would be a reasonable compromise but i'd prefer top 10 markets).I think it would go a long way to make the Oscars more accessible in this day and age of everything arriving around the ceremony time.亚博主页It's way more fun to root for films / performances that everyone can have real opinions about.

September 20,2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Pumped for 45 Years.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Zitzelman

I saw the trailer for "The Witch"which looks both classy and scary.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

So jealous that you've seen The Witch!I'm dying to see it.It's a shame it doesn't have a better distributor

September 21,2015 | Unregistered Commentersati

I didn't really care for The Witch,but Black Phillip totally needs to win some awards.Make it happen,Hollywood.

September 24,2015 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

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