Tomorrow, the glorious cinematic mayhem begins. The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the largest film exhibitions on Planet Earth, but not all of what plays there will be premiere showings. Part of the mammoth program has been featured as part of the 2013 editions of Sundance, SXSW and Cannes. So to get you up to speed on where the first waves of reviews have brought these efforts, we’ve picked some of the best indicative reviews from those early fests.
There are plenty of films that have also played at Venice and Telluride, and we’ll bring that feedback to you as it gets crystallized. But in the meantime, here are some of the better 2013 festival offerings that audiences in Toronto will soon have for their viewing pleasure.
(In case any of these titles are unfamiliar, we’ve included a synopsis and a link to its film page, where you can find many more reviews from members of our Criticwire Network.)
A Selection of the TIFF 2013 Selection
Blue is the Warmest Color (directed by Abdellatif Kechiche)
Cast: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos
Synopsis: Abdellatif Kechiche’s bold, passionate and controversial love story about the tempestuous relationship between a sensitive high-schooler (Adèle Exarchopoulos) and an assertive art student (Léa Seydoux) won the Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): A (21 grades)
Read This Review: Twitch’s Ryland Aldrich explains how Kechiche earns the film’s brimming sensuality by giving us a fully-formed central couple.
The Past (directed by Asghar Farhadi)
Cast: Bérénice Bejo, Tahar Rahim, Babak Karimi, Ali Mosaffa, Pauline Burlet, Elyes Aguis, Jeanne Jestin, Sabrina Ouazani, Valeria Cavalli
Synopsis: Following a four year separation, Ahmad returns to Paris from Tehran, upon his French wife Marie’s request, in order to finalize their divorce proceedings. During his brief stay, Ahmad discovers the conflicting nature of Marie’s relationship with her daughter Lucie. Ahmad’s efforts to improve this relationship soon unveil a secret from their past.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): A- (19 grades)
Read This Review: Raffi Asdourian at The Film Stage writes that Farhadi does an effective job of balancing the ensemble while maintaining a pace that never lags.
Only Lovers Left Alive (directed by Jim Jarmusch)
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, Anton Yelchin
Synopsis: Set against the romantic desolation of Detroit and Tangier, an underground musician, deeply depressed by the direction of human activities, reunites with his resilient and enigmatic lover. Their love story has already endured several centuries at least, but their debauched idyll is soon disrupted by her wild and uncontrollable younger sister. Can these wise but fragile outsiders continue to survive as the modern world collapses around them?
Criticwire Grade (So Far): A- (14 grades)
Read This Review: Less minimalistic than his past efforts, this latest Jarmusch effort still retains the stylistic hallmarks that’s populated some of his best work, argues Jordan Cronk of Slant Magazine.
Gloria (directed by Sebastián Lelio)
Cast: Paulina García, Sergio Hernandez
Synopsis: Paulina García won the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for her performance as a vivacious, middle-aged divorcée who finds what may be her last chance for love while grooving on the dance floor of the local singles club.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): A- (6 grades)
Read This Review: Indiewire’s Eric Kohn writes that the film’s central character often exists as an object of pity, but Lelio and García adeptly portray her with a nuance that transforms her into something more representative. (Not only did García win Berlinale’s top acting prize, she also claimed that most coveted treasure: the top slot in the Best Performance category in our (end-of-festival Berlin poll.)
Like Father, Like Son (directed by Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Lily Franky
Synopsis: Two families — one rich, one poor — discover that their sons were switched at birth, in the poignant new drama from Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-Eda (Still Walking, Nobody Knows, After Life).
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B+ (16 grades)
Read This Review: Kore-Eda is in his wheelhouse of family subjects, writes Tim Grierson at Paste Magazine, but the gradual pace with which the plot unfolds and the material’s willingness to embrace familial imperfection puts this among some of the director’s best work.
Blue Ruin (directed by Jeremy Saulnier)
Cast: Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, David W. Thompson, Brent Werzner, Stacy Rock, Sidné Anderson
Synopsis: A classic American revenge story, “Blue Ruin” follows a mysterious outsider whose quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Finding himself in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family, he proves to be an amateur assassin.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B+ (6 grades)
Read This Review: There’s plenty of darkness and violence, but one of the elements that sets this tale apart for critics like William Goss, writing at MSN Movies, is that the main character of “Blue Ruin” is motivated by sadness just as much as he is revenge.
Jodorowsky’s Dune (directed by Frank Pavich)
Cast: Alejandro Jodorowsky, Michel Seydoux, H.R. Giger, Chris Foss, Brontis Jodorowsky, Nicolas Winding Refn, Richard Stanley, Gary Kurtz
Synopsis: This fascinating documentary explores the genesis of one of cinema’s greatest epics that never was: cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s (El Topo) adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi classic Dune, whose cast would have included such icons as Salvador Dalí, Orson Welles and Mick Jagger.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B+ (6 grades)
Early, Early Consensus: Rather than try to garnish the story, Ioncinema’s Jordan M. Smith explains how Pavich wisely yields the floor to Jodorowsky himself, allowing the subversive director to describe the masterpiece that never was.
Don Jon (directed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt)
Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tony Danza
Synopsis: Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs and stars in this comedy about a womanizing Jersey boy who finds there’s more to life than constantly scoring when he becomes involved with two very different women (Scarlett Johannson and Julianne Moore).
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B (25 grades)
Early, Early Consensus: Dealing with a protagonist and subject matter that could easily lend itself to broad strokes and overstuffed ideas, Gordon-Levitt keeps things appropriately subtle and incisive, argues Drew McWeeny at Hitfix.
Kill Your Darlings (directed by John Krokidas)
Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Ben Foster, David Cross, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen, Kyra Sedgwick, John Cullum
Synopsis: In this dynamic portrait of the early days of the Beat Generation, a young Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster) become embroiled in the notorious 1944 murder of Burroughs’ childhood friend David Kammerer by the object of his affection, the Rimbaudian Beat muse Lucien Carr.
Criticwire Grade: B (15 grades)
Read This Review: While the film was a hit with audiences and the performances are almost uniformly praiseworthy, the attention to setting details has the tendency to be a little crippling, writes A.A. Dowd at TimeOut Chicago.
Young & Beautiful (directed by François Ozon)
Cast: Marine Vacth, Geraldine Pailhas, Charlotte Rampling, Frédéric Pierrot, Nathalie Richard
Synopsis: Festival favourite François Ozon (In the House, 8 Women, Under the Sand) directs this coming-of-age chronicle of a young French girl that takes place over four seasons and four songs.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B (14 grades)
Read This Review: Rather than become a moral condemnation of French culture, The Atlantic’s Jon Frosch explains that Isabelle’s tale becomes even more compelling because we’re never quite sure why she chooses such an unorthodox career path.
Borgman (directed by Alex van Warmerdam)
Cast: Jan Bijvoet, Hadewych Minis, Jeroen Perceval, Alex van Warmerdam, Tom Dewispelaere, Sara Hjort Ditlevsen
Synopsis: This eerie, imaginative home invasion drama concerns a nomadic tribe who are driven from their network of shelters, abused and humiliated, and wind up waging a conflict against an affluent household.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B (12 grades)
Read This Review: Stripping the traditional home-invasion/torture story of a greater political message and making a monstrous man the unrepentant focus actually works to the film’s advantage, argues The Playlist’s Jessica Kiang.
The Great Beauty (directed by Paolo Sorrentino)
Cast: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli, Carlo Buccirosso, Iaia Forte, Pamela Villoresi, Galatea Ranzi
Synopsis: Provocative Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino reunites with his Il Divo star Toni Servillo for this portrait of a world-weary journalist searching for his long-lost idealism while drifting through the dolce vita of Rome’s high spots and fleshpots.
Criticwire Grade (So Far): B- (10 grades)
Early, Early Consensus: In length, visual style and storytelling, “The Great Beauty” is unabashedly overindulgent, something that drew Film.com’s Jordan Hoffman in.