The 2023 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival began on Sept. 7 and runs through Sept. 17.
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World
Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World
Much of Radu Jude’s latest film, Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World, takes place in a car in Bucharest. It’s a kind of “day in the life” of a PA, Angela (Ilinca Manolache), who’s working on producing a safety video for an Austrian company trying to clean up its image. Shot in black and white but interrupted by flashes of colour — notably videos from Angela’s phone, a series of vulgar and hilarious TikToks she makes where she assumes the persona of Andrew Tate thanks to a filter that makes her bald and unibrowed — the film is a delicious hybrid of point of view. She drives across town for most of her day, meeting with people who suffered workplace injuries. She interviews them briefly, assembling a small collection of auditions to show their clients. She’s bombastic, persuasive and quick-tempered. One senses she could talk her way out of any problem.
Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World showcases Jude’s talent for capturing the “moment.” In a cinematic landscape where the realistic trajectory of a project spans years, he taps into the zeitgeist from a wildly incisive and hilarious perspective. His productions and turnaround are quick. His previous film, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, was perhaps the funniest and darkest exploration of the pandemic. Impressively, he was able to articulate the way it coincided with the rise of fascism in the West via social media. Though running at nearly three hours, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World similarly captures an online kineticism as Jude has an innate sense and talent for subverting meme culture. Repetition and unpredictability add structure and suspense to the film, evoking contemporary life’s overwhelming but pointless decadence. The film isn’t just about channelling the chaos of modern life, though. It also features pointed criticism and portrayals of the exploitation of the worker within a corporate landscape that’s focused on the image of benevolence rather than the reality of what that might entail.
Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World currently has no release date.
Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros
Menus-Plaisir Les Troisgros
For over half a century, Frederick Wiseman has delved into American institutions in works like Welfare, High School and Belfast, Maine, offering unfiltered glimpses into society’s complexities. At 93, Frederick Wiseman, an iconic documentary filmmaker, can still astonish. His latest work, Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros, is an immersive four-hour documentary that transports viewers into a 3-Michelin-star restaurant in the picturesque Loire region of France. Across four generations, the Troisgros family has meticulously honed their gastronomic artistry. The film unveils their culinary brilliance and contributions to France’s groundbreaking nouvelle cuisine.
True to Wiseman’s style, there are no voice-overs or talking heads. Viewers absorb every detail, from debates over new recipes to visits to local suppliers, portraying intricate human relationships. The Troisgros kitchen defies stereotypes of pretentious French chefs, operating more like a high-tech laboratory. The chefs continuously hone their techniques through experience and guidance, creating a perfect rhythmic choreography.
Beyond culinary artistry, the documentary reveals a seamless harmony between labour and nature. It highlights the Troisgros family’s dedication to organic farming and meticulous ingredient sourcing, tracing each step from nature to the plate. More than a visual feast, it delves into the intersection of humanity and the natural world to pursue culinary excellence. Wiseman’s ability to capture institutions’ essence, even the most delectable, is a testament to his cinematic prowess. This culinary odyssey enriches foodies and cinephiles, reminding us why Wiseman remains a legendary filmmaker.
Chef Michel Troisgros wisely notes in the film, “cuisine isn’t cinema.” This insightful comparison prompts us to explore cinema beyond its visual spectacle. Like a gourmet dish, cinema is meant to be savoured and contemplated. In an era dominated by fast-food entertainment, resembling junk food or easily digestible pop-corn movies, Wiseman’s work reminds us of cinema’s depth and richness. It urges us to relish its flavours and nuances, like savouring a fine culinary masterpiece. Menus-Plaisirs – Les Troisgros encapsulates the essence of cinema, reinforcing that cinema is, indeed, fine cuisine. (Chico Peres Smith)
Menus-Plaisirs Les Troisgros does not currently have a release date.
Bertrand Bonello has to be one of the most compelling postmodern filmmakers working today. At his best (and The Beast ranks among them), he embraces fragmentation, chaos and reproduction to explore our relationship with the world, particularly how technology creates distance and alienation from authentic meaning. Yet, Bonello bridges the gap between artifice and the real in The Beast through a century-spanning romance. The film opens in the future, where artificial intelligence has taken over. Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) struggles to find work, so she signs up for a program that will “purify” her DNA by helping her heal the traumas of her past lives and dull all her strong emotions. We see two of her different incarnations: a pianist married to a dollmaker living in 1910 Paris and a model housesitting for a friend in 2014, partially inspired by the killings of Elliot Rodger. In all three iterations, Gabrielle meets a mysterious man she’s inexplicably attracted to.
Winding and tangential, The Beast overflows with references and detours. The film features beguiling motifs: dolls, knives and pigeons. There are many scenes of Gabrielle (though, perhaps even at times, a fourth-wall-breaking Léa Seydoux) acting in an expansive green screen – recreating critical emotional incidents within the film. The impossibility of Gabrielle’s romance with Louis (George MacKay) takes on different forms but consistently touches on challenging and painful emotions, including longing, dread and fear. An ode in many ways to the beauty and humanness of irrational action, thought and feeling, The Beast is a sprawling film with challenging ideas that emerges as consistently entertaining and engrossing. (Justine Smith)
The Beast does not currently have a release date.
Evil Does Not Exist
Evil Does Not Exist
The first image in Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Evil Does Not Exist is a smooth longshot of trees seen from below. It’s a wintry landscape, the white overcast sky almost glowing against the silhouette of the tree branches. The image holds long before we hear the first sign of human life: the crunch of human footsteps in the snow. The first cut reveals the culprit: a young girl wandering alone. The film takes its time to unfold, slowly introducing characters and actions. A man collects water at a stream, meets with friends, and forgets to pick up his daughter at school. Set in a small village in Japan, we begin to understand the importance of water in the community, particularly as a company taking advantage of new subventions trying to build a “glamping” (glamorous camping) ground upstream.
Hamaguchi has become a rather big name in international cinema thanks to the popularity of his films Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy and the Oscar-nominated Drive My Car. His style is patient (code word for slow) and inquisitive, but not without humour. The story of the two company reps forced to endure a humiliating meeting is especially funny, and their arc is a satisfying contrast to the peaceful residents at the heart of the village. The film showcases the power of community in a portrait of slowly encroaching urbanization and the destructive elements that come with it. Fable-like in its structure, the film has a foreboding atmosphere as hints of the film’s horrific ending slowly accumulate until its devastating finale. The film highlights the importance of having a close, intimate relationship with the natural world. The film also carefully highlights the importance of work and responsibility within self-actualization. The search for meaning has to be accompanied by intention and community. (Justine Smith)
Evil Does Not Exist does not currently have a release date.
Stamped From the Beginning
Stamped from the Beginning
Stamped From the Beginning begins by provoking the audience and the film’s many talking heads, “What’s ‘wrong’ with Black people?” Directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams, it boldly delves into the troubling history of anti-Black ideas in the United States, inspired by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s book of the same name. This 85-minute documentary examines these ideas’ history and enduring impact on modern racism. Brilliantly edited by John S. Fisher, the film employs compelling techniques, including music supervised by composer Amani K. Smith and visual sampling with a tremendous dynamic sensibility, enhancing the historical narrative’s accessibility and emotional engagement with the audience. At its core, it’s a testament to rigorous scholarship, featuring on-camera insights from Kendi and prominent female academics and activists like Dr. Angela Davis, Dr. Jennifer L. Morgan, Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, Carol Anderson, Brittany Packnett Cunningham alongside a variety of other intellectual female voices.
Director Williams intentionally elevates the voices of overlooked, critical, sometimes forgotten Black women intellectuals, vividly resurrecting the stories of historical figures who confronted racism. Poet Phyllis Wheatley, memoirist Harriet Jacobs and journalist Ida B. Wells emerge as powerful narrators in this compelling documentary. Stamped From the Beginning fearlessly scrutinizes the sanitized legacies of iconic figures like Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, illuminating racist incongruencies, imperfections and omissions in conventional historical narratives. This critical examination underscores the film’s commitment to revealing uncomfortable truths about America’s still complex history of systemic and structural racism.
What distinguishes Stamped From the Beginning is its ability to bridge history with the contemporary by effectively emphasizing the value of comprehending the past to confront present and future challenges. This documentary is thought-provoking and an essential viewing experience, inviting audiences to explore racism’s deep-rooted nature in American history deeply. By weaving academic insights, storytelling finesse and underrepresented perspectives, Stamped From the Beginning instigates viewers to critically examine their beliefs and biases, inspiring them to be part of a more responsible future. (Chico Peres Smith)
Stamped From the Beginning will be released on Netflix on Nov. 15.
For more on the Toronto International Film Festival, please visit the TIFF website.
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