TIFF Wrap-Up from Bruce!

TIFF 2009 was slightly smaller than it has been in past years but there were still 335 films to choose from, an absolutely impossible task. This year seemed generally higher in quality than past years but that could be simply the luck of the draw. At the end of the festival I had four clearcut 5 cat favorites:

DOGTOOTH - this Greek film makes one painfully aware that many interesting films rarely see the light of day in English speaking countries. This dark comedy is the story of parents who have succeeded in raising three children in a fortresslike compound. The three teenagers, a boy and two girls, have never seen another person other than their parents. When the father hires a sex worker to satisfy the biological urges of the son, things begin to unravel.

THE GOOD HEART - reunites Brian Cox and Paul Dano, this time in a black comedy from Iceland directed by Dagur Kári. No, Cox and Dano do not speak Icelandic as the film is in English and is set in New York City. Cox, a curmudgeonly bar owner, rescues homeless man (Dano) after the two end up as roommates in hospital. Each changes the other profoundly and things go swimmingly until a woman (Isild Le Besco) enters the picture.

LES HERBES FOLLES - this French absurdist comedy is the latest from master Alain Resnais (LAST YEAR AT MARIENBAD, HIROSHIMA MON AMOUR, PRIVATE FEARS IN PUBLIC PLACES). A stolen handbag leads a middle aged man into an adulterous affair with an emotionally unstable avaitrix. I totally agree with a critic who said the cinematic agility of this film seems more likely the work of a 27 year old than an 87 year old. The film won the Palme d'Or at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

VISION - veteran director Margarethe von Trotta succeeds in making the 12th century fascinating,with her tale of nun Hildegard von Bingen: the mother of herbal medicine; a composer,poet and the person most responsible for resuscitating dramatic arts which had laid dormant for one thousand years since the time of the ancient Greeks. Hildegard wrote liturgical musicals which the nuns in her convent performed and her music is very much alive today. Barbara Sukova is magnificent as the nun who had visions, a fatal attraction to one of the nuns in her order and a wily tactical ability to manipulate the chauvinistic leaders of the Catholic Church who held great power over the people. She even convinced the Archbishop and Pope that science and religion were compatible.

Other excellent films include: AN EDUCATION, LESLIE MY NAME IS EVIL, CHLOE, J'AI TUÉ MA MÈRE, POLICE ADJECTIVE, LIKE YOU KNOW IT ALL, CAIRO TIME, I AM LOVE and WHITE MATERIAL.

I am now kicking myslef for missing LES HERBES FOLLES. One correction: it won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes; THE WHITE RIBBON won the Palme d'Or.