Movies: #TIFF18, Toronto International Film Festival
Our correspondent finds ways to see all the Donald Trump-themed films he wants, and with no waiting required
By Jay Stone
(September 8, 2018) TORONTO — Today we invoked another Toronto film festival rule for the retired critic, which is that we don’t stand in line for anything. This is partly because life is too short, and partly because you might not get in anyway and so you’ve used up some of your precious remaining minutes idly shifting from one leg to the other, indulging in the futile hope of getting a seat that will probably be in the front row, and standing behind people who talk in bored nasal voices about their film festival experiences. One tries not to listen, but one is human, after all, and one is in danger of grinding away all the remaining enamel on one’s teeth.
The downside of this guideline is that one doesn’t get to see a lot of movies that everyone else is dying to see, which is perhaps not serving one’s readership, such as it is. The upside is that one gets to discover stuff that one wouldn’t otherwise view, despite the feeling that if the cinema is this empty, maybe one is wasting one’s time in an entirely different way.
However, what happened was that I got to see a lot of movies that reminded me of Donald Trump, for some reason, some of which will be very popular. They didn’t have lineups because everyone was rushing over to watch the new A Star Is Born and the first festival press screening of The Sisters Brothers. We’ll just have to catch those ones later, when the excitement has died down.
…What happened was that I got to see a lot of movies that reminded me of Donald Trump, for some reason, some of which will be very popular.
Here, then, is the report card:
Outlaw King: This extremely violent epic stars Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, a nobleman who was declared king of Scotland in the 14th Century, fighting for independence from English King Edward I, who was known for his punitive taxes. You could look at it as a kind of metaphor for NAFTA. The movie, the opening night film at TIFF, was produced by Netflix and it has the feel if a mini-series about the subtleties of a conquered nation trying to come to terms with its despotic leader while at the same time trying to break the shackles of dependence. You could look at this as a kind of metaphor for NAFTA as well. It’s also notable for the fact that Pine has a full-frontal nude scene, although unless there is some slang I’m not aware of, this apparently in no way explains why he was called Robert the Bruce.
Fahrenheit 11/9: Michael Moore’s new documentary is a no-holds-barred barrage of harangue and blame that tries to find the reasons for Donald Trump. These include the Republicans, the Democrats, Barack Obama, the New York Times, you and me, but especially you. Moore — who’s also pretty well a co-star of the movie — includes the stories of the Flint, Mich., water crisis and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting as examples of what’s wrong with America. It’s an all-out assault on the people Moore perceives of the enemies of democracy and if you went to the movies to escape the gavel-to-gavel coverage of Trump on TV, you may have to be put under sedation afterwards. The highlight: old newsreel footage of Adolf Hitler with Trump’s voice inserted into the fuhrer’s mouth.
Styx: From German director Wolfgang Fischer (What You Don’t See) is this stripped-down story of a doctor who sails her 12-metre yacht from Gibraltar to the Ascension Islands in search of Charles Darwin’s legacy. On the way she encounters a refugee boat that is slowly sinking, which becomes a symbol of middle-class comforts running up against the world’s dark realities and the immigration crisis. Like the 2013 Robert Redford vehicle All Is Lost, the first part of the movie is told almost without dialogue and while the story is perhaps too stripped down to have its full dramatic effect, it’s an accomplished, and technically adept, portrait of a humanitarian crisis.
Transit: The strangest Second World War story in memory — unless it’s not a Second World War story at all — comes from another German director, Christian Petzold (Barbara). It’s about a man who flees Paris ahead of the invading troops, and winds up in Marseille, where he has a chance to sail to Mexico and freedom. However, none of the production design is of Second World War vintage; instead, there are contemporary cars, modern settings and current references. In addition, the fugitive hero is German rather than French or American. He has borrowed the identity of a dead author, and in Marseille he meets the author’s widow, who is still waiting for her husband to appear. Their relationship has many echoes of Casablanca, including a romantic triangle and references to exit visas. The result is something of a disappointment, although the shifting chronology does underline the timelessness of the story. I sure missed Claude Rains though.
Main image: Michael Moore and Jared Kushner in Fahrenheit 11/9
Keep checking in with The Ex-Press for full festival coverage and reviews over the course of the festival, which runs September 6-16. For more details on each film, please visit the official TIFF site.
THE EX-PRESS, September 8, 2018
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