A special report from our Senior TIFF Correspondent

Les Filles are grateful to Peter Murphy for his time and insight. Some of Les Filles would like to note that unlike some others, Peter is not a scrub and takes advantage of living in Toronto and having the privilege of being able to go to TIFF and see all these wonderful films. Meanwhile, Alina is a scrub and feels bad and promises to mend the error of her ways.

TIFF is wrapping up today and it sounds like some big films to look for at Oscar time will be Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave starring Chiwetel Ejiofor from Serenity with Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Alfre Woodard, among others; John Wells’ August: Osage County with Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor; and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney — and probably Benedict Cumberbatch because he’s in the first two and probably everything else in theatres this fall.

Other films at the festival that I’m looking forward to are Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom with Idris Elba, Philomena with Dame Judi and Steve Coogan, Parkland about JFK’s assassination, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s comedy (and directorial debut) Don Jon, and The Stag — an Irish comedy with Andrew Scott (Moriarty on BCC’s Sherlock).

At the festival I don’t usually try to see the big films that will be in Cineplexes soon, but rather those that might not get wide release in Canada. Last year I saw Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing and The Last Supper, a Chinese film set at the end of the Qin Dynasty.

This year I saw three very different films: Une Jeune Fille by Québec director Catherine Martin, Libertador by Alberto Arvelo, and a Japanese remake of Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven by Sang-il Lee.

Une Jeune Fille (which played at the Art Galley of Ontario) is about a teenage girl whose sick mother gives her a photo of the Gaspé region of Québec before passing away. The girl, Chantal, runs away to the Gaspé where she ends up working on a farm for Serge, a loner in his thirties. I was a bit apprehensive about the film because from the trailer it was clear that it was going to be a lot of landscape cinematography and silence between brooding characters. It was these things but it all worked, it had a nice story and the pace of the film while gradual, didn’t drag. One of the film’s greatest achievements was to develop the friendship between Chantal and Serge in a realistic feeling way without being creepy. It made me want to look for more by Catherine Martin.

Libertador, a Venezuela/Spain coproduction, is an historical epic about Simón Bolivar who lead the wars of independence for most of South America. Imagine a biopic about George Washington made by Peter Jackson and you have a sense of the scope and tone of this movie. I think it was more concerned with myth-making than historical accuracy, but I was okay with that. Lead actor Édgar Ramírez looks nothing like paintings of Bolivar (more like David Boreanz or Jon Snow, in my opinion [Ed. Note – you know nothing, Peter Murphy, specifically, you don’t know that Jon Snow is played by Kit Harrington]) but he did a great job carrying this movie including switching, apparently effortlessly, between Spanish, English, and French as needed. He may be a household name in a couple years.

Among these films Unforgiven is the one I most expect to see nominated for a Foreign Language Oscar this year. Ken Watanabe played the Clint Eastwood role and was great as always. Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido during the Meiji period made for a cool parallel to the American Old West, as ex-Samurai outlaws fled the forces of modernisation for the northern frontier populated by the indigenous Ainu people. Like the original, this is a very well made film that is morally and emotionally sophisticated. I liked that killing is not done lightly and has consequences. Also if any director needs Morgan Freeman and he’s not available they should call Akira Emoto. I really want to see that guy in a remake of Shawshank now, please.

One more film that I did not see but friends with great taste told me was spectacular was The Past by director Asghar Farhadi, whose film A Separation won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2012. I saw A Separation and will be looking for The Past when it is released internationally.

That was my 2013 TIFF. If 100% of my films were good I don’t even want to think about how much I’m missing from the over 300 films that played at the Festival this week. As I’m writing this the TIFF People’s Choice Award has not been announced [Ed. Note – it was announced that day and it will surprise no one to know that 12 Years a Slave took it] but past winners such as Slumdog Millionaire and The King’s Speech have gone on to win Best Picture Oscars, so keep an eye out for that if you’re looking for something good to see in the next few months or just want an edge in your Oscar pool.

~PM

Liked what Peter had to say about movies? You should hear him talk about comics! You can find him on Twitter here.

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