THE BEST OF TIFF 2019
Every September cineastes from around the world descend upon the streets of Canada’s largest city for the Toronto International Film Festival.
By Jason Gorber
For decades now TIFF has been the launching point for Oscar winners, art films, experimental wonders and wacky midnight fare, a smorgasbord of cinematic delights with almost 250 features playing over 11 days With selections from other fests like Cannes, Venice and Telluride, as well as world premieres and other discoveries, it’s easy to lose yourself with all the choices. With some major titles like Joker making an early splash before going on to major theatrical runs, others are destined either for smaller theatres or even VOD services. Here, among many, are some key titles from TIFF 2019 to cherish.
Bong-Joon Ho’s film is nearly impossible to dislike – and, frankly, if this film doesn’t work for you, I recommend giving it another shot until it does because it ain’t the movie’s fault. It’s a master work by the Korean legend, a pretzel-like narrative that has so many tonal shifts. In lesser hands, you’d get whiplash. Instead, we’re led, carefully and convincingly, through a story that deals with family, finances, and duplicity in some extraordinary ways. It’s not only one of the greatest films of the year, it’s one of the greatest films, period.
Kantemir Balagov’s story about women in Leningrad in the aftermath of the Second World War is a beautiful representation of contemporary Russian cinema. With stunning performances and a lyrical pace, the impact of these characters as we slowly decode what has driven them with the effects of trauma powerfully expressed blows you away. It’s a deeply intelligent, deeply moving film that deserves to be sought out.
The Safdie brothers haven’t quite got the name recognition of the Coens, but their gritty and unique crime dramas are proving time and time again to be truly special. Their latest stars Adam Sandler in a role we’ve been waiting years for, a fidgety and high-strung diamond dealer who gets way over his head. With a dash of executive producer Martin Scorsese’s own magic added referentially, the film feels very much like a crazy, stressful ride as we’re caught up in the incessancy of the situation.
The People’s Choice winner and TIFF World Premiere by Taika Waititi is just your everyday run-of-the-mill satire about hate, where a young boy’s imaginary friend is Adolf Hitler. It is a film that walks a tightrope and makes it all the way across, a feat of dexterity that’s all the more astonishing when one considers just how appalling the film would have been with less sure footing. Terrific performances, a moving storyline and impeccable direction – Jojo is just great.
Some may dismiss Trey Edward Shults’ latest film as being akin to Babel or even the egregious (yet Oscar winning) Haggis-directed Crash, yet that would miss out on the poetic and narrative elegance of Waves. It’s a film that provides a rich and unique look at a series of circumstances often shrouded by preconception, and as the film’s two act structure plays out there are numerous ways in which these negative expectations and connotations are confronted. With exceptional performances, a rich and moving story and a political message well worth debating, Waves is well worth diving into.