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102 Reviews From the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival

By Indiewire | Indiewire September 8, 2012 at 3:25AM

The Toronto International Film Festival continues through next weekend, but Indiewire has already reviewed a significant portion of the program at various other festivals over the past year.
1
"The Paperboy"
"The Paperboy"

"The Paperboy"

Lee Daniels' "The Paperboy" is a rare case of serious commitment to outright silliness. The director's follow-up to "Precious" takes the mold of an investigative period piece set amid racial tensions in late-'60s Florida, but Daniels fries the dramatic content with a blazingly absurd grindhouse style as extreme as the humidity bearing down on his characters. It's possible to enjoy aspects of "The Paperboy" if you assume a certain self-awareness behind the campier bits, but even then, the movie drowns in an overwhelming barrage of excess. Read more here. Criticwire grade: D+

"Paradise: Love"

The first of a trilogy about a traveling Austrian family, Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise: Love" follows a middle-aged woman named Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) who travels to Kenya as a sex tourist. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"The Patience Stone"

Too much like watching a filmed stage play for its own good, "The Patience Stone" is a flawed attempt to discuss the position of women in the Islamic world. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C

"Passion"

Since earliest stages of Brian De Palma's career, his thrillers have constantly walked a line between self-parody and earnest pastiche. "Passion," a reworking of the late Alain Corneau's final film "Love Crimes," reassuringly falls into this camp, signaling a return to form for the director despite its many flaws. Much more than a simple revamp of existing material, "Passion" is a veritable De Palma remix, at once a classy suspense movie and an unquestionably silly affair. Regardless of its glaring flaws, "Passion" is reassuringly old school. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Peaches Does Herself"

Toronto-born, Berlin-based electronic musician and singer Peaches plays herself in the concert film “Peaches Does Herself,” a no-holds-barred explosion of post-punk and neo-queer performance art that mixes song, music, dance, theater, costumes and nudity. Think of it as a “Pina” for the queer and sexually liberated crowd; it’s not in 3D, but there are more than enough curves onscreen to make up for it. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B+ [Boyd van Hoeij]

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower"

In Stephen Chbosky’s largely endearing adaptation of his own young-adult novel, nothing says “I love you” like a painstakingly crafted mix tape. The early-‘90s setting for "The Perks of Being a Wildflower" means that the potentially precious references to Smiths songs are appropriate to the period even if the film – which touches on issues of sexual identity and mental illness – exhibits a more contemporary sort of frankness in regards to portrayals of teens on screen. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"

The philosopher Slavoj Zizek is not allergic to the sound of his own heavily-accented voice. Fortunately, he’s a bravura lecturer with a keen sense of what draws audiences to movies.  And his extended follow-up with Sophie Fiennes to "The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema" (2006) is that rare thing, a two-hour one-man punchline that teaches you something. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Pieta"

South Korean director Kim Ki-duk has made 18 movies, but his prolific output has not mandated an increase in scale. "Pieta," a curiously engaging and wickedly twisted tale of crime and punishment on multiple levels, displays its theatrical minimalism like a dour badge of honor. The entire narrative focuses on a pair of tortured characters unraveling the demons of their past. Kim's intense portrait is enhanced by the closeness he maintains to his subjects' fluctuating emotions. The movie looks blatantly frugal but, as it sounds a deeply sorrowful note, never cheap. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"The Place Beyond the Pines"

Derek Cianfrance's sophomore feature "Blue Valentine" was a tender actors' showcase that played loose with its timeline to explore the ups and down of a relationship. The director's latest effort, "The Place Beyond the Pines," contains a far more ambitious structure that covers four overlapping character arcs over the course of 15 years. That the movie succeeds both as a high-stakes crime thriller as well as a far quieter and empathetic study of angry, solitary men proves that Cianfrance has a penchant for bold storytelling and an eye for performances to carry it through. With "Pines," the gamble pays off. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Post Tenebras Lux"

At turns wildly beautiful and pointlessly nonsensical, "Post Tenebras Lux" is Carlos Reygadas' weakest movie, but frequently awe-inspiring nonetheless. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"Pusher"

Moving the action from Copenhagen to London, this remake of Nicolas Winding Refn’s 1996 thriller ditches some of the eccentricities of the original and delivers a well made, albeit run-of-the-mill gangster yarn. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Quartet"

Dustin Hoffman's directorial debut is mainly of note because the iconic actor takes his first stab at working behind the camera. The lightweight story, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood's play about a retirement home for aging classical musicians, plays by the rules and lets the performances lead the way. Satisfactory as an actors' showcase, "Quartet" mainly works because of its implied double-narrative: While the characters strive to show they still have talent, the actors do as well, and they nimbly transcend the limitations of the material. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"Road North"

The latest film of Mika Kaurismäki, the Brazil-based older brother of "Le Havre" director Aki, takes the filmmaker back to his home country of Finland. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"Reality"

"Reality" makes the case that society renders everyone impossibly small. The first and last shots of Matteo Garrone's drama take place from extreme heights that make their focal point blend with their surroundings. Everything in frame takes on the dimensions of a dollhouse, as if the Italian filmmaker has assumed a godlike awareness. The compositions suggest that people are inherently trapped by their surroundings and never fully capable of realizing it. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Reincarnated"

Snoop Dogg likes weed. That was common knowledge long before the alternative youth culture magazine Vice asked its global editor Brit Andy Capper to take his camera to Jamaica and show Snoop foraging down hills in search of a perfect high. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B-

"The Reluctant Fundamentalist"

Moshin Hamid’s novel follows a conversation between a Pakistani university professor who post-9/11 has turned his back on a successful Manhattan-based finance career and an ambiguous American stranger. “Monsoon Wedding” director Mira Nair uses the book’s hint that this mystery American is a C.I.A. agent as her main plot device, turning the observational novel into a full-blown thriller. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"Room 237"

Stanley Kubrick's 1980 Stephen King adaptation "The Shining" endures for many reasons -- from its supremely horrific mood to the technical feats used to create it. However, the lively voices in "Room 237" take that admiration to an entirely new plane of awareness. A search for deeper meanings in Kubrick's movie, Rodney Ascher's film is a brilliant collage of interviews with academics and other experts in the art of textual analysis. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Rust and Bone"

Satisfying for what it is, the movie merely confirms director Jacques Audiard's skill with engaging actors in the potent theme of retribution. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"The Sapphires"

The selling point for "The Sapphires" isn't the lively soundtrack so much as the people singing it: Four Aboriginal woman hired to sing soul music to troops in Vietnam in 1968, a year after being denied Australian citizenship. Read more here. Criticwire grade: C+

"The Secret Disco Revolution"

“The Secret Disco Revolution” exhumes the music and style from dance records of the 1970’s and follows the genre’s short life up to the “Disco Sucks” gathering at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1979 that blew up disco records. The archival vault is huge, full of music and footage. Now there’s also plenty of academic research on the phenomenon. It’s all there in Jamie Kastner’s documentary. Read more hereCriticwire grade: A

"The Sessions"

"I'm always in somebody's way," says Mark O'Brien (John Hawkes), the Berkeley writer stuck in an iron lung and desperate to find love in "The Sessions." His desire to improve his experience by seeking a sexual encounter forms the bulk of this undeniably sweet, affecting movie as it explores the impact of physical bonds on personal contentment through O'Brien's heartbreaking commitment to a difficult task. Less dreary than uplifting, "The Sessions" succeeds as a light romance with heavy material. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Seven Psychopaths"

Despite its silliness, "Seven Psychopaths" bears the mark of a personal work for Martin McDonagh if for no other reason than the lead character played by Colin Farrell is named Marty and suffers from a major case of writer's block. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Silver Linings Playbook"

David O. Russell's movies have always been lively affairs, but none maintain the same fluid comedic inspiration of "Silver Linings Playbook." Adapting Matthew Quick's novel both as solo screenwriter and director, Russell assembles a small, bubbly cast for an unexpectedly charming romcom that frequently dances -- at one point, quite literally -- between cynicism and bittersweetness with largely winning results. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Sightseers"

British filmmaker Ben Wheatley has earned a following on the genre film festival circuit for a pair of distinctive movies with two very different moods. His 2009 debut "Down Terrace" followed a family of criminals through a series of amusing misadventures, suggesting Wheatley's proclivity for enlivening dreary circumstances with an odd sense of play. However, 2010's grave "Kill List," in which a jaded hit man struggles with marriage problems, went great lengths to expand his range. With the arrival of "Sightseers," Wheatley's aesthetic strengths finally start to fall into place. This hugely entertaining tale of serial killers in love neatly merges the neurotic black comedy of "Down Terrace" with the morbid twists of "Kill List," inching close to defining the director's overall style. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Spring Breakers"

"Spring Breakers" wouldn’t be a Harmony Korine movie if it wasn’t polarizing in some way. Sure enough, the latest by the director of "Gummo" and "Trash Humpers" seems calculated to outrage, titillate and/or exhaust viewers with its gleefully nihilistic portrayal of spring break in St. Petersburg, Florida, seen here as a slickly stylized, slo-mo bacchanal of keg stands, bong hits and topless coeds. Criticwire grade: B+ Read more here.

"Stories We Tell"

Sarah Polley's efforts behind the camera have showcased tender performances attuned to nuanced fluctuations in shared screen chemistry. Both her Oscar-nominated 2006 directorial debut "Away from Her" and the recent "Take This Waltz" explore the deterioration of relationships in minute detail. While her third feature, "Stories We Tell," marks a shift to nonfiction for the filmmaker, it similarly foregrounds the subtleties of human expression and the secrets embedded within it. A blatantly personal account of her Toronto-based family's rocky developments, "Stories We Tell" marks the finest of Polley's filmmaking skills by blending intimacy and intrigue to remarkable effect. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Tabu"

A head-scratchingly lyrical immersion into colonialist metaphor and historical memory, Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' third feature "Tabu" reaches for the dreamlike experiences of Apichatpong Weerasethakul's oeuvre with a bold structure that defies genre specifics. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Thanks for Sharing"

The directorial debut by "The Kids Are All Right" co-writer Stuart Blumberg, this ambitious comedy-drama about three men coping with sex addiction hits notes all the way up and down the scale. Often effective if inevitably erratic, the result finds room for everything from broad comedy to moments that strive for the darkness of "Shame," Steve McQueen’s far more severe take on the same subject. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"To the Wonder"

Terrence Malick's approach to cinematic philosophizing is so consistent it frequently threatens to devolve into self-parody. However, he never lacks a commitment the strain of lyricism visible throughout his career. While few will deny that the director sometimes leans too heavily on introspective voiceovers and majestic shots of nature as signposts for his spiritual obsessions, even his transparent stabs at big ideas contain an earnest search for meaning. "The Tree of Life" was the epitome of Malick's cosmic fixations, but the comparatively muted "To the Wonder" delivers a similar collage of memories and desires in more easily digestible fragments. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Tower"

More than once in "Tower," the discomfiting first feature from Canadian writer-director Kazik Radwanski, 34-year-old loner Derek -- memorably played by newcomer Derek Bogart -- issues a dubious refrain: "I don't want you to think I'm some sort of weirdo," he says. Of course, that's all anyone thinks of this squinty-eyed, cartoonishly bald and finicky bachelor as he juggles odd jobs while living with his parents. Getting uncomfortably intimate with Derek from the first scene of "Tower" until its last, Radwanski dares the audience to feel differently about him. It's no easy task. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"War Witch"

Canadian director Kim Nguyen's intense portrait of a young African woman Komona (Rachel Mwanza, who won an acting prize for her performance at the Berlin International Film Festival) kidnapped from her village and forced to become a child soldier is both light on details and rich with them. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A-

"Watchtower"

The two central characters in this modest but effective drama by Turkish director Pelin Esmer want nothing more to be left alone. And until circumstances force them into each other’s lives in "Watchtower"’s later stages, they are largely able to achieve this goal. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B

"What Maisie Knew"

The latest by the directorial team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel is a modernized take on Henry James’ novel about a sweet little girl who’s saddled with two of the world’s worst parents. Mostly sticking with Maisie’s limited point of view, McGehee and Siegel are able to create some finely nuanced moments while avoiding any excesses of sentimentality. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B-

"What Richard Did"

“What Richard Did” follows a role-model athlete into a party, and after a violent drunken spasm of jealousy, a rugby teammate is dead. Director Lenny Abrahamson’s second feature shifts from a light airy palette on the beaches near Wicklow to darkening tones as his story devolves from jostling bonhomie into death and guilt. Read more hereCriticwire grade: B+

"When I Saw You"

Annemarie Jacir has done something remarkable in her sophomore feature film. She’s managed to couch the tricky subject of the 1967 Palestinian-Israeli war into the romanticised tale of a mother’s love for her son. Read more here. Criticwire grade: A

"Yellow"

Nick Cassavetes has yet to hit on a filmmaking style to rival his father's legacy, but with "Yellow," the director of "The Notebook" presents a relentlessly unhinged portrait of emotional turmoil with bold stabs at expressionistic representation at every turn. It's not only Cassavetes best movie but a fascinating alternative to conventional melodrama that burrows inside its troubled protagonist's head and unleashes her emotions in vivid terms. No matter how messy it gets, "Yellow" renders a troubled subjectivity with striking creativity. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B+

"Zaytoun"

The suggestion is that all enemies can get along once they get to know each other, even in the most desperate of circumstances. Dream away. In this expression of Israeli-Arab wish fulfillment, written by Nader Rizq, a Palestinian living in the U.S., there’s too much warm-hearted optimism for either Israelis or Arabs to take it too seriously. Read more here. Criticwire grade: B

"The Act of Killing"
 
"After the Battle"
 
"Amour"
 
"Antiviral"
 
"Argo"
 
"At Any Price"
 
"Berberian Sound Studio"
 
"Beyond the Hills"
 
"The Capsule"
 
"Far From Afghanistan"
 
"Frances Ha"
 
"The Gatekeepers"
 
"Ginger and Rosa"
 
"In the Fog"
 
"The Hunt"
 
"Hyde Park on Hudson"
 
"Jayne Mansfield's Car"
 
"The Last Time I Saw Macao"
 
"Leviathan"
 
"Like Someone in Love"
 
"Looper"
 
"Lore"
 
"Love, Marilyn"
 
"Midnight's Children"
 
"Mekong Hotel"
 
"Me and You"
 
"More Than Honey"
 
"Museum Hours"
 
"No"
 
"On the Road"
 
"The Paperboy"
 
"Paradise: Love"
 
"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"
 
"Post Tenebras Lux"
 
"Reality"
 
"Room 237"
 
"Rust and Bone"
 
"The Sapphires"
 
"The Sessions"
 
"Sightseers"
 
"Spring Breakers"
 
"Stories We Tell"
 
"Tabu"
 
"Tower"
 
"War Witch"
 
"The Act of Killing"
 
"After the Battle"
 
"Amour"
 
"Antiviral"
 
"Argo"
 
"At Any Price"
 
"Berberian Sound Studio"
 
"Beyond the Hills"
 
"The Capsule"
 
"Far From Afghanistan"
 
"Frances Ha"
 
"The Gatekeepers"
 
"Ginger and Rosa"
 
"In the Fog"
 
"The Hunt"
 
"Hyde Park on Hudson"
 
"Jayne Mansfield's Car"
 
"The Last Time I Saw Macao"
 
"Leviathan"
 
"Like Someone in Love"
 
"Looper"
 
"Lore"
 
"Love, Marilyn"
 
"Midnight's Children"
 
"Mekong Hotel"
 
"Me and You"
 
"More Than Honey"
 
"Museum Hours"
 
"No"
 
"On the Road"
 
"The Paperboy"
 
"Paradise: Love"
 
"The Pervert's Guide to Ideology"
 
"Post Tenebras Lux"
 
"Reality"
 
"Room 237"
 
"Rust and Bone"
 
"The Sapphires"
 
"The Sessions"
 
"Sightseers"
 
"Spring Breakers"
 
"Stories We Tell"
 
"Tabu"
 
"Tower"
 
"War Witch"

This article is related to: Reviews, Toronto International Film Festival, The Act of Killing, At Any Price, Amour, Antiviral, Argo, Berberian Sound Studio, Beyond The Hills, The Capsule, Far from Afghanistan, Frances Ha, The Gatekeepers, Ginger and Rosa, In the Fog, The Hunt, Hyde Park on Hudson, Jayne Mansfield's Car, The Last Time I Saw Macao, Leviathan, Like Someone In Love, Lore, Love, Marilyn, Midnight's Children, Mekong Hotel, Me and You, More Than Honey, Museum Hours, On The Road, The Paperboy, Paradies: Liebe, Post Tenebras Lux, Reality, Room 237, Rust and Bone, The Sapphires, The Sessions, Sightseers, Spring Breakers, Stories We Tell, Tabu, Tower, War Witch (Rebelle), Watchtower, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Home Again, The Impossible, Thanks for Sharing, Fill the Void, Zaytoun, Fidaï, 7 Boxes, Love is All You Need, Quartet, Mr. Pip, Great Expectations, Arthur Newman, The Lords of Salem, The Secret Disco Revolution, What Maisie Knew, What Richard Did, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, The Iceman, Once Upon a Time Was I, Verônica, Blancanieves, Mumbai's King, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Yellow, Passion, As if We Were Catching a Cobra, Just the Wind (Csak a szél), Peaches Does Herself, Lunarcy!, Pieta, The Patience Stone, Reincarnated , English Vinglish , Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, Disconnect, Road North, The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, Pusher