I’ll try to write more about these titles in some format somewhere… in the meantime…
1. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Christian Mingu) – believe the hype. Best written, best acted, best directed film I saw at TIFF.
2. Useless (Jia Zhangke) – of his films so far this is perhaps the lightest on its feet, but by no means lightweight — a fascinating, shape-shifting look at the clothing industry in China that overturns your expectations every half hour.
3. Profit motive and the whispering wind (John Gianvito) – a conceptually simple and unexpectedly moving meditation on 400 years of of social progress in America (and by proxy, the world), visualized chiefly with shots of the gravesites of nearly 100 martyrs and activists across the country.
4. Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong) Cindi and I talked about this film more than any of the others. I have plenty of misgivings about the bad behavior-riven second half but the first half is a near flawless set-up. The acting is superb.
5. My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin) one of Maddin’s more laudable efforts, containing some of the most inspired false memories of any personal documentary.
6. Eat For This is My Body (Michelange Quay) shockingly audacious visionary trip through a post-colonial Haiti of the mind.
7. The Princess of Nebraska (Wayne Wang and Richard Wong) – Wang’s attempt to understand contemporary Chinese America has a youthful infusion of energy thanks to Wong’s often inventive cinematography.
8. Mourning Forest (Naomi Kawase) – Wonderfully observant first half gives way to less inspired and plot-driven second half. Acting is really great though.
9. The Man from London (Bela Tarr) – Tarr’s long takes are luxuriously sinuous as always, but film feels insubstantial given its genre trappings and lack of layers.
10. A Thousand Years of Good Prayers (Wayne Wang) – good intentions, mediocre execution.
Last year Toronto was a revelatory funhouse; this year it was a welcome relief from the pressures of my current life and a much stronger signal that I need to steer my life to allow for more exposure to such environments. I really need to be involved in the world of professional cinephilia on a deeper level than I am now. In any event it was great to see many friends and acquaintances again — I was especially glad to meet for the first time: my longtime festivals editor Michelle Carey of Senses of Cinema, Adam Nayman of Eye Weekly, Girish Shambu of his much-feted namesake blog, Sean Axemaker of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and others I’m probably forgetting…