TIFF 2022

Retour à Séoul Return to Seoul (2023)

My first, and favorite, of the festival.

The premise, a French-Korean adoptee finding herself in South Korea for the first time since her adoption, could easily have slipped into cliche. This avoided that. It remained elusive, too specific and slippery to be trite. Frustrating at times, in fact. But that frustration has only increased my interest since.

The Taste Of Apples Is Red 2022

70 year old men with 50 year old grudges. Wasn’t sure where this was going until the last 15 minutes of Chekhovian payoff.

Most remarkable, perhaps, for its skill in communicating and being steeped in a specific set of religious views, particularly with regards to the rules of reincarnation.

De Humani Corporis Fabrica 2022

Multiple walkouts. I nearly fainted during one operation. It’s miraculous what the body will do in response to purely visual stimuli. The man sitting to my left closed his eyes for perhaps half of it.

Lovely in its juxtapositions. The banal conversations about real estate against brain surgery (I can’t recall if that was the precise pairing). The primitive nature of hammer and chisel against ribs compared to the multi-device orchestration of a prostatectomy.

“I’m lost. I’m too zoomed in. Everything’s a bit abstract”, the surgeon said. Same here.

The King's Horseman 2022

World premiere!

Interesting as an adaptation along two axes: from stage to screen, and from English to Yoruba. It never really escapes staginess (though still better than The Whale), but something special appears to be happening in the latter case.

The cast and producer spoke at length about the injection of percussion, particularly talking drums, into the film to complement the spoken Yoruba, whose tonality is mimicked by the drums themselves. I’m far from able to assess the success of the approach, but I’m fond of this dimension of adaptation.

Living 2022

Infuriating. From the cast Q&A, it appears that the actors didn’t really understand what the story was about (procrastination? gender norms?) and so not too surprising that this fails to be even just a straightforward remake.

Icons, such as the bunny, remain without any of their meaning (the possibility of improving the world through one’s work). Scenes reshuffled to impart a hopeful message, rather than lament the unchangeability of these systems. It produces a far more individual-centric story and is weaker for it.

I didn’t even really like Ikiru and I’m mad about this.

Unrueh Unrest (2022)

Primarily interesting for its cinematography. The subjects are rarely in the center of the frame. People, animals, and objects emerge from the midst of the frame, or penetrate it from outside. This happens form the start, where our protagonist enters from the right, exits to the left, and then re-enters from the center, from behind a building in the background. An almost optical illusion-esque visual quality.

Also managed to be really funny, in an otherwise grim depiction of the oppression of measurement.

The Whale 2022

Setting aside the fact that it felt too play-y for me, the characters never really got to be characters? Ellie is effectively just the character Sink plays in Stranger Things. Thomas has an interesting character trajectory that then craters during a final plea to save Charlie. Everything feels contrived and unnatural.

Were it not for the metatextual story of Fraser’s comeback, I don’t think anyone would care about this.

Mato seco em chamas Dry Ground Burning (2022)

When picking movies for TIFF, I try to optimize for the high “maybe"s. If something is sure to be a big hit, I’ll avoid it here unless I’m seeing it with a big group (e.g. Joker). I go to the things that might need someone to root for them, and with few exceptions (e.g. Joker) I’m almost always rooting for them.

When those movies fall short though, it feels bad. I can happily hate on Joker, but I can’t do the same for this. There’s some excellent night photography near the start. I love blends of narrative fuction and documentary. This just didn’t work. Do I just never mention it? How does one share art that perhaps fails?

Pearl 2022

Within a few minutes, when Pearl racks up her first kill, it’s clear this won’t be about much other than “she’s crazy!”. This lacks the genre thrills I’d expect from something that knowingly doesn’t have much to say.

Thankfully, this is a kind of fun ride with Mia Goth just doing stuff (a similar formula that led me to liking Venom). I enjoyed hanging out with her, especially with the monologue towards the end.

EO 2022

Impressive to watch this manage to situate the film from the perspective of a donkey via purely visual means. Particularly color usage and shot-reverse-shot.

I felt the movie drag towards the end, and I wasn’t sure what each successive vignette was adding to the overall experiene. Being a (recent) cat owner may have made this film landed with greater emphasis than it would’ve prior.

Im Westen nichts Neues All Quiet on the Western Front (2022)

Some very Come And See vibes throughout, but without being nearly as effective at communicating Paul’s inner state.

While watching, I couldn’t help wondering: who’s this movie for? Am I part of the intended audience? I couldn’t help but think the answer is “no”. There’re a lot of additions here about national socialism that seem to be saying something to someone. But what?

The Wonder 2022

Never really engages with the possibility that this might be a miracle, and is worse for it. We never really doubt that, and how it’s faked isn’t an interesting mystery to solve.

The Brechtian artifice of stories stuff wrapping the film is intriguing, but is this the best vehicle for that message? Our lives are a story we tell ourselves, and we can change them, but the central figures here don’t. One changes the other, and throughout we’ve identified with the changer. This produces a skepticism rather than an empowerment, and ends up feeling a bit too cute.

브로커 Broker (2022)

Does it produce a feeling or understanding of found family beyond what Koreeda’s other work has? Perhaps not. But what we do get is a demonstration of an artist who’s really skilled at depicting their space doing it well. And maybe that’s enough!

Assembles so many vivid tiny moments that in aggregate evoke a sense of a whole person being projected onto the screen. It’s impressive. Especially the scenes in the ferris wheel.

La hija de todas las rabias Daughter of Rage (2022)

I put this movie on my list solely because it was made in Nicaragua, and I’m so glad to have.

Similar to EO in being road-movie-esque, but here the vignettes all feel of a perfect length and I never grew impatient.

Never slips into misery porn (the mercury poisoning easily could have), and juxtaposes the genuine despondency with so much beauty, not dissimilar from the landfill itself slipping into the lake.

Vanskabte Land Godland (2022)

Iceland as the wild west. I’ll confess I didn’t totally get it, but I certainly responded to it. Some of my absolute favorite visual sequences in recent memory here. “Terrifically beautiful”.

헤어질 결심 Decision to Leave (2022)

Perhaps not as interesting as it thinks it is? Also succumbs to a pesky affliction of needing to explain everything in minute detail when not needed (namely, the voice memo).

2 Lizards 2020

I thought I had an allergy to COVID stories, but it turns out I only had an allergy to COVID allegories.

Women Talking 2022


Notes from Q&A: Lots of elements found in the edit. Color scheme. Cropping of men’s faces. Voiceover existence and perspective.

Thinking about adaptation, the splices of ceiling-view shots does a lot to layer visual meaning on top of a ton of (great) dialogue.

Plan 75 2022

I love the casting of Chieko Baisho. I feel her age more than many actresses, because of knowing her from the Tora-san films. Reminiscent of Pulse in its grappling with loneliness, though from a distinct cause.

I didn’t totally understand some of the choices, particularly with Maria’s finding (stealing?) money and Michi’s escape. I really want to watch the short to reassess.

Butcher's Crossing 2022

I’d rather have a feature length exploration of the epilogue than any of the narrative stuff prior, which isn’t even close to being as bleak or brutal as those few images.

Ang Pagbabalik ng Kwago Leonor Will Never Die (2022)

Adorable and heartwarming. So much of the humor comes from the editing, which being in a shared cinematic language, perhaps helped with the international reception. So too is the language of 80s schlock action a common heritage.

I missed this at CAAM Fest, so was glad to see it here in this setting (a midnight showing) rather than in a museum context. The cast and crew seemed stoked to be there, and that feeling was infectious.

R.M.N. 2022

Intriguing use of Yumeji’s Theme, likely drawn from In The Mood For Love, whose partner swap plot is slightly echoed by what we know of the past between Csilla and Mathias.

Ultimately, I didn’t really respond to this. The town hearing scene was brutal and hilarious, but everything else seemed a bit distant from me, in a way I wish I could clear.

Always fond of movies that think about their subtitles. Here, colored by Romanian, Hungarian, or “foreign”.