Takashi Miike’s been one of the biggest shock jockeys of Japanese cinema for eons. Ichi the Killer (2001) was a high-splatter mark for lovers of extreme gore, and Miike’s output has been an extraordinary arterial gusher. Blade of the Immortal is billed as Miike’s hundredth film, and while one could quibble (glancing over his Wikipedia bio, I count somewhere in the mid-nineties), the fact is the guy’s made an astonishing number of films. And he’s only fifty-seven!
Blade of the Immortal finds Miike plying his grisly gonzo in the service of a long-running samurai manga. Is the legendary director finally in danger of becoming a hack, or does his blood-slicked blade cut through one more time?
Mudbound is a fascinating, moving film from director Dee Rees. Set in the deep south during the forties, this adaptation of Hillary Jordan’s 2008 bestseller is deeply affecting but not without its own contradictions, a sprawling literary epic that feels somehow too contained.
Francis Lee’s debut feature God’s Own Country finds its soul in the rugged English countryside, bleak and affecting. Getting raves on the indie circuit, it’s a stark romance about a young farmer discovering his sexuality. But is it Brokeback UK, or is there more to it?
Noah Baumbach knows families. Not feel-good crap or five-hankie manipulated drama. Baumbach families are a lot like the ones we share, with real awkwardness, back-handed affection and incidental trauma wound up together in the loving bonds of our flesh and blood. Despite its precious title, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) captures its titular extended clan with a disarmingly frank gaze. Debuting on Netflix today, it’s among Baumbach’s best films.
Next week, Blade Runner 2049 releases to immense hype, sans the original’s helmer Ridley Scott. That this is a good thing is almost undeniable, after Scott’s belaboured Alien sequels Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. Instead, fans will get a new replicant iteration, courtesy of French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve. That’s unequivocally awesome, cuz Villeneuve has been doing great work for awhile.
Showcasing Villeneuve’s talents is an easy win for TIFF, and they’re showing four key films from his modest filmography this week, starting tonight, Thursday, September 28th, with the inscrutable Maelström.
Zama, the long-anticipated return of Argentinian director-extraordinaire Lucrecia Martel, is an astonishing work of colonial examination and technical perfectionism.
Martin McDonagh’s likes his comedies like his coffee: black. Actually, I have no idea how McDonagh takes his coffee, if he takes it at all. But boy does he have a way with finding the humour in very dark situations. His first two features were uneven, but both In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths unearthed surprising depths among their myriad quirks. With his latest, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, McDonagh has created a richer film, bubbling with tension, stark satire and even a hint of that elusive trait redemption.
Dragonfly Eyes, Chinese artist Xu Bing’s first foray into feature-length filmmaking, is a direct glimpse into what the future of cinema might be.
Jenna Bass’s latest film, High Fantasy, is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of South Africa’s multi-cultural youth. Appearing as a sort of homemade travelogue, High Fantasy is filmed as if collected from a group of friends’ various iPhones and then officially edited together afterwards.
Man. I guess people were so depressed in the seventies they’d try just about anything. As we live through a fast-forward remix of the Watergate scandal, it’s interesting to take a look back at those strange, hungover times. The Commune is a Danish film set in the seventies, so a rather different milieu than Nixon’s America. But societal malaise was pervasive in Western culture at that time. From the talented but uneven director Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration, The Hunt), The Commune is a loosely autobiographical film of his own experiences growing up in that era. It’s a spare tale of a marriage pushed too far, veering into melodrama.