Early returns from the Toronto International Film Festival

The Toronto International Film Festival is back with a bang. Even though the options are a bit more limited for those who don’t attend the festival in person, there are still plenty of intriguing possibilities to be had.

Attached, a batch of films from the first opening days of the festival.

“Little Mum” – Céline Sciamma’s charming film takes place carefully at the beginning of autumn, a particularly enigmatic period when everything is in transition between summer joy and winter solemnity. We meet 8-year-old Nelly (Josephine Sanz) as she bids farewell to the other elderly women at the nursing home where her grandmother has just died. Accompanied by her grieving mother, Marion (Nina Meurisse) and her nonchalant father (Stéphane Varupenne), the young girl goes to her grandmother, where her mother grew up, to do the housework one last time.

While wandering in the woods, she meets another 8-year-old girl also named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), who turns out to be, by an unexplained and magical twist of fate, her own mother, for only many years. Naturally, the two immediately hit it off and spent the few days they spent together playing games, baking pancakes, taking a raft ride, and enjoying each other’s company. Sciamma, whose previous film was the scintillating “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, once again called on the visual magic of cinematographer Claire Mathon, to produce a work of singular beauty, albeit aptly. calm.

It is almost impossible not to fall for Nelly, with her jovial precocity (“I’m leaving!” She announces to her parents on their first morning in the house, after having swallowed her bowl of cereal), and her old-fashioned affect. soul – in one scene, she watches her father sleep in a crib and gently pulls the blanket over his shoulders – and the relationship she has with young Marion, even after explaining the situation to her, is remarkably low-drama, almost impassive. In one of the film’s most deeply felt moments, shortly before the couple are forced to go their separate ways, young Marion tries to allay Nelly’s fears about her adult mother’s apparent depression: “This n it’s not your fault, ”she said solemnly. “You didn’t make up my sadness.”

Rating: 10

“My Wife’s Story” – Based on the novel by Hungarian author Milan Fust, Ildiko Enyedi’s drama is one of those relationship dramas where spouses act totally impenetrable, no one is happy and everyone smokes constantly. This last element is no understatement: virtually every scene in the film is formed around the act of characters pulling out their silver cigarette cases and lighting up.

Set in the 1920s, we meet veteran captain Jakob Storr (Gijs Naber), as he brags to his businessman friend, Kodor (Sergio Rubini) at a Parisian cafe, that he could marry the next woman to enter the place. Much to everyone’s regret, this woman turns out to be Lizzy (Léa Seydoux), a young ingenuous, who takes an interest in the great captain and accepts his immediate offer of marriage, even if it could hamper her cosmopolitan lifestyle of hanging out. in bars and endlessly flirting with everyone, especially the wealthy twit Dedin (Louis Garrel, whose assortment of mildly dismissive expressions shake things up when he’s onscreen). Soon Jakob, an honest and straightforward man by nature, is turned into emotional knots by Lizzy, who alternately treats the hapless captain with a seductive cocktail of derision, lust and disrespect, turning her proud strongman into a moaning shell. . Enyedi uses a constant stream of atmospheric still shots – especially when the captain is on board the ship – and the actors do an admirable job with a script that sometimes seems poorly translated into English, but at nearly three o’clock, and with the minutiae of the sufferings that the captain endures documented endlessly in the midst of clouds of cigarette smoke, the film goes beyond its welcome. He has a strong enough draft, but not enough draft.

Rating: 5

“Attica” – A documentary on the infamous 1971 upstate prison uprising in upstate New York, the Stanley Nelson film, via news footage, modern interviews and surveillance footage from the New York State describes the five days in September when inmates knocked down their guards, taking many of them hostages and desperately trying to peacefully negotiate more humane living conditions for themselves.

The men all gathered in the central outer area of ​​the prison, known as “Times Square,” where they asked to be heard in person by a carefully selected observation committee (including some members of the press, a sympathetic senator named John Dunne, and Chicago 7 trial attorney William Kunstler), as well as state correctional commissioner Russell Oswald. Negotiating in what they believed to be in good faith, they had almost come to an agreement with the state, but when one of the beaten guards taken to hospital later died, Governor Nelson Rockefeller – leading the way running for president, and moving closer to President Richard Nixon, the original president of “law and order” – called for a massive build-up of state troops to pour into the yard and open fire.

In the chaotic bloodbath that followed, some 29 prisoners and 10 hostages were killed, and dozens more were beaten, tortured and cited as examples. Unsurprisingly, the uprising, made up mostly of colored prisoners, met with savage brutality. Such was the racist atmosphere that immediately after the rebellion was suppressed – but before it was revealed that soldiers actually killed a third of the hostages in the process – a police captain’s update local was greeted with applause and chants of “white power!” a crowd. Heartbreaking, but necessary – Nelson points to the film’s climax with gruesome stills of death and suffering – and yet another remarkable document of outright brutality that those in power will use to challenge their authority.

Rating: 8

“Night Raiders”: Given that the United States has become so bogged down in its own debate over racial atonement in recent years, it is possible that some Americans are unaware of the racial calculation that is going on with our neighbors by elsewhere friendly from the north. Canada is undergoing a painful examination of its own brutally racist history of forcing Indigenous children into special residential schools, where they have been routinely beaten, tortured and killed for nearly a century.

Danis Goulet’s film, which she wrote and directed, sets her social commentary in the future, after a brutal civil war divided Canada into a utopia for “citizens” and a hellish landscape for anyone in the world. on the other hand, including, we must presume, any indigenous people, whose children are identified by roving drones and automatically taken to the school of forced indoctrination. Niska (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers), a screaming woman from the bush, has been hiding in the forest with her 11-year-old daughter, Waseese (Brooklyn Letexier-Hart) for years, but when the child gets her leg caught in a bear trap and the wound becomes infected, her mother is forced to let her have her removed so that Waseese can receive proper medical care.

In misery without her, Niska lives in the dilapidated town and spends her evenings outside the fortress-like dormitory where her daughter is being held. There, outside the school grounds, she ends up meeting a group of free Crees living in an encampment deep in the woods, where they chase the children from the school to join them in freedom. . Responsible for taking the freed children further north, Niska only agrees to go if they can free Waseese first. With its direct line to the common practices of the past, Goulet’s film could easily have degenerated into so much topical didacticism, but instead, it’s done sensitively, with solid performances from its cast and enough focus. visual acuity (and good art direction) to make it work surprisingly well. As the director pointed out in her pre-screening commentary, all of the government policies portrayed in the film were, in fact, based on the horrifically real policies of the Canadian government for many horrible years.

Rating: 6.5

“Murina” – Many teenagers may claim to hate their parents, but few are as provocative as Julija (Gracija Filipovic), a young woman living on an otherwise idyllic Croatian island with her wise mother, Nela (Danica Curcic) , and quite domineering, former sea captain father, Ante (Leon Lucev). Subject to the regular brutal commands of her father, who demands that she go underwater hunting with him every morning, and unable to convince her mother to leave him, Julija is as trapped as one of the captured moray eels that Ante favors for. dinner (the film operates with such metaphorical lines quite often, as befits its title).

However, when an old, very wealthy friend of Ante comes to visit her, Julija begins to plan a potential escape plan. Apparently there to hear Ante’s plan to build an expensive complex on land the village cannot use, Javier (Cliff Curtis) instead takes the opportunity to reconnect with Nela and befriend his daughter. now full of hope. Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic’s film, which won the Camera d’Or at Cannes in July, is indeed stunning to watch (although with its picturesque cliffs and stunning blue sea, DP Helene Louvart certainly has had a lot of work with her), and Filipovic is thoroughly engaging as the downtrodden but fierce Julija – her anger is almost entirely contained in her eyes, the one thing that betrays her rage to be commanded endlessly. As lyrical as the movie can be at times, it’s still grounded in some pretty harsh reality – there are plenty of shots of stabbed eels and gutted fish, with Kusijanovic’s steadfast camera holding the shots as if you dared to turn away. – which makes its end enigmatic, a sequence more dreamlike than concrete, gives the impression of being a bit of a cop.

Rating: 6

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