So here is a list of the movies I saw this year in the order of quality:
The Poll Diaries (which seems an inappropriate translation, since the German name appears to be Poll) is probably the best movie I’ve seen this year. Much more consistent, though less compelling, than Route Irish, it is yet another great German film about the bad things going on in the supposedly happy pre-WWI Europe. The film is mostly great. The soundtrack is a little over-done and there are a few moments that verge on melodrama, but for the most part it is an excellent drama.
Route Irish (8/10)
At first I was really pissed off by the subtitles. I really don’t know why there were subtitles as it was in English. It bugged me so much that I was missing the quality of the film. Though I can think of no dramatic rationale for the video clips of Iraq and though there are a number of thriller cliches in the film I’ve decided they don’t weaken the emotional impact of the film’s condemnation of private armies. Besides, there were a few amazing scenes that made me forget the weaker ones. It’s a flawed movie but notable and worth seeing despite of it. Nearly great, I guess. Tough call.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (8/10)
Cave of Forgotten Dreams was of interest to me because it’s Herzog but also because it is his first 3-D movie. But what is the point of making a 3-D documentary? Well, it turns out it was very very helpful for this film. We see cave paintings that we probably will never get a chance to see live (this is the only film ever made of them so far, and access is restricted to a few weeks a year to specific scientists). It’s quite incredible to see the cave and paintings in 3-D. The film is a little overlong, but is otherwise a typically great Herzog documentary.
The Hunter (8/10)
The Hunter began very slowly but it was deliberate and made the faster events of the second half considerably more affecting and effective. Gun shots were so loud and rare that they stuck with you. There was a great car chase. The director (who gave one of the best Q and As I’ve seen at TIFF) claimed it was a western. I can see that. I liked it more after his talk. At the time it was “The best movie I’ve seen this year so far.”
Boxing Gym (7/10)
Boxing Gym is exactly what it says. I generally liked it but found it a little long. I think he was trying to convey how much dedication this takes. I get that, but a few less minutes would have worked. I had no idea how dedicated these people had to be. In that sense it was illuminating and educational.
Outside the Law (7/10)
Outside the Law is actually the sequel to Days of Glory; I had missed that somehow. It was too epic for its own good, like the other French movie was oblique. Too episodic too. At the beginning, each scene takes place in a different time. It’s an onslaught of subtitles. There were some poor staging as a result of trying to save time (so I supposed). At one point a captive is interrogated next to a TV showing the audience what was happening in France at the time. At another point a man makes a speech about a covert organization. These stretched my credulity. It was a decent film. It was a good film, actually. But it wasn’t great. Boucharib is still not a great filmmaker in my mind.
Lapland Odyssey (6/10)
Lapland Odyssey is a funny but predictable movie. A little too much CG as well, but I thoroughly enjoyed it nonetheless.
What can I say? ‘What the fuck?’ is over-used but it is entirely appropriate for this crazy, undisciplined and entirely ridiculous film. I know of no university like this where pretty people sit around with nothing to do (and no campus staff or professors in site either) and have disease free sex with everyone they meet. On the other hand, it’s mostly hilarious (albeit dumbly hilarious) and it is totally aware of its own limitations, budgetary and otherwise. Plus there’s a totally subversive ending. Is it terrible or awesome? It’s a little in between.
There are some funny moments at first but the tone rapidly turns serious. This is one of the rare American movies that are too vague for their own good. I struggled with the meaning of the ending quite some time. I must say that both lead performances are downright excellent, but the pseudo-mysticism of the movie didn’t gel with me, and if my interpretation of the ending is correct, I don’t think that I like it all that much. One to think about, anyway.
Deep in the Woods (6/10)
This is one of those French films that is too ambiguous for its own good… with an awful lot of rape in it. It’s interesting but it’s vague. It was provocative at least (15 people walked out, something I will never understand as I have yet to see anything in a theatre that was so offensive I would give up my purchased ticket) but I don’t think that it had the message the director seemed to be claiming for it during the very odd (and mistranslated no doubt) Q and A. He seemed to be claiming it was a comment on the state of narrative in the 21st century. That’s not what I saw. What I saw was very deliberate ambiguity about whether this girl was abducted and raped against her consent or whether she wanted it. I have to say, even though the film wasn’t all that great, it put me back in the TIFF mood. As I walked up Simcoe I felt like I was really at the festival and back to doing what I love and I really didn’t think about death or my grandmother.
Stake Land (5/10)
It doesn’t really have much of a beginning; it just throws you right in. This is a zombie vampire movie if I’ve ever seen one. The Vampires act like zombies. I don’t really know what to make of it. For an average length movie it seemed to be missing an awful lot. I sort of liked that, actually. It wasn’t so heavy on plot like most vampire films. But there were too many other issues. For example, the film breaks its own rules by introducing a super vampire when it’s necessary for the film to have some kind of climax. I liked the ending though. On the whole it was just too messy to recommend in any way. Maybe if this guy makes a few more films he’ll figure out pacing and the niceties of editing. Until then…
So all and all a pretty good year, even though I saw no absolute classics. FYI, the soundtracks to both Cave Of Forgotten Dreams and Deep In The Woods were fantastic.