I’m up in NYC for the IFP’s Independent Film Week (more on that later), so let’s put a lid on finishing up the balance of my Toronto selections with the rest of these quick takes:
THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED (4-Stars) – J Blakeson’s taut little British thriller is a heckuva lot of fun and shows just how much you can do with just 3 actors, especially when one of them is the wonderful Eddie Marsan (Mike Leigh’s HAPPY-GO-LUCKY). Two blokes are ready for their big score when they execute their prep work to perfection and kidnap a rich girl. Confining her to a bed in a temporary apartment while they await their big payday from Daddy, things don’t exactly go as planned.
THE WHITE STRIPES UNDER GREAT NORTHERN LIGHTS (3-Stars) – My only music film of the festival! An arty, cool (lots of b&w), intermittently wonderful look at Jack and Meg’s Canadian tour for “Icky Thump,” complete with some surprising numbers and performances in unusual spots in every single province. Their spontaneous mini-gigs the afternoon of each regular concert add a lot to the festivities. Emmett Malloy’s film won’t convert any non-believers, but it’s definitely a treat for hardcore fans.
THE ART OF THE STEAL (4-Stars) – Philadelphia power brokers and politicians conspire to transplant the priceless Albert C.Barnes collection of Post-Impressionist masterpieces (the greatest private collection in the world) to the Philly Museum of Art against many’s wishes, including the last will and testament of their owner. Don Argott’s totally engrossing and infuriating doc is very well done and allows the audience to get a look at these spectacular works of art, even as we curse those trying to “steal” them. Perhaps a bit too many talking heads for my taste, but word is a sale is imminent and it will have distribution shortly.
WAKE IN FRIGHT (3-Stars) – Fancy a drink? More alcohol is imbibed in this long-lost 1971 Australian debut from Ted Kotcheff (supposedly released here as OUTBACK) than I’ve seen in a film in ages. Part grindhouse and part sweaty, over-the-top drama with moments of odd humor, the film follows a young teacher whose overnight stay in an outback mining town on his way to Sydney turns into a 5-day bender of nightmarish proportions. An actual kangaroo hunt and a slimmer Donald Pleasance as a drunken, violent (who isn’t in this movie?) doctor add to the bizarre proceedings. They don’t make ’em like this anymore…
MICMACS (5-Stars) – One of my favorite films of the festival! Jean-Pierre Jeunet (DELICATESSEN, AMELIE) is back with this charming, funny, downright magical comedy in which a band of salvage artists and circus misfits help an ex-video store clerk get revenge on the the two weapons manufacturers responsible for the landmine that killed his soldier father and the stray bullet that hit him in the head in a freak accident. This is gorgeous filmmaking–as visually inventive as you’ll ever see, plus a wonderful cast (including Danny Boon, Dominique Pignon, and the actress who played SERAPHINE).
SOUL KITCHEN (4-Stars) – Acclaimed German director Faith Akin surprises fans and critics alike with this terrific comedy about a young Greek man trying to succeed with a funky restaurant in an old warehouse. A sleazy, ex-con/brother with a gambling problem, a rock-star chef, a girlfriend leaving for China, a ball-busting tax collector, a villainous Udo Kier (what else would you expect?), and some awesome old music help create a gumbo of a food film that drew an extraordinary amount of applause at the press screening. A film that’s this much of a crowd pleaser has got to get picked up, no?
A SINGLE MAN (4-Stars) – Master fashion designer Tom Ford makes a formidable film debut with this visually stunning period piece based on the novel by Christopher Isherwood. Set during one day in the early 60s, the film’s focus is a gay college professor unable to deal with the grief from the loss of his longtime lover eight months after the car accident that claimed his life. Colin Firth and Julianne Moore are excellent, and the film is a lush and classy piece of art, but I wonder if straight audiences will be interested unless there’s Oscar nominations attached? Huge buzz from Venice and the first major pickup at Toronto, with the Weinstein Company hoping they have the next BROKEBACK or MILK. Only time will tell…