Superfluous Matter
TIFF 2013

For TIFF this year I saw three shows. I would have loved to see more but couldn't really justify the cost. I stuck to movies that are less likely to see wide distribution and made my choices with very little research or planning. Figuring out what to see at TIFF is daunting so I just don't try very hard and I pick stuff almost at random. Once again this strategy worked well for me. Overall I was very happy with the films I saw.

My first show was Short Cuts Canada Programme 1 which is a collection of six short films by Canadian directors. I chose this entirely because one of the films was the new one from Chris Landreth, a former employee of Alias and winner of an Oscar for his 2004 short, "Ryan." Chris's new film, "Subconscious Password" is fun stuff with crazy visuals that are typical of his style. The two other shorts I liked best from the collection were "Gloria Victoria" and "Remember Me." Four of the six films were in 3D, but Gloria Victoria made the best use of the technology I've ever seen anywhere. The animation style reminded me of the old-school, hand-drawn films of the NFB in the 1960s and 1970s, all impressionist and abstract. But to exploit the 3D Theodore Ushev layered many planes of such art and motion using the depth that is possible with stereoscopy. The images that flashed by were as intense as the music (the "Invasion" theme from Shostakovich's Symphony No. 7) and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Jean-Francois Asselin's film "Remember Me" was the most accessible of all the shorts with a simple plot and a pretty unsubtle critique of social media. It was hilarious though and perfectly executed. The other three films were interesting but they didn't really speak to me for whatever reason. I didn't really understand "The Sparkling River" or "Pilgrims" without getting the Internet to explain them to me. And "Cochemare" was just bananas. It had some cool visuals but I was hoping for more substance as I loved the directors' previous film, Madame Tutli-Putli, which I first saw at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival in France in 2007.

For my second show I saw The Fake, a Korean animated film by Yeon Sang-ho. I chose this movie because I enjoy animated films and I love when directors make an animated film that is targeted entirely at a mature audience. I really believe in animation as a story-telling medium for all subject matter; it doesn't have to be just for kids stuff. Anyway, from the description and information about the director's previous film it is clear this is not a movie for children. And it was indeed a brutal film to watch. At the end I felt a bit like I did after watching Requiem for a Dream (although not quite as bad, nothing tops that movie for being able to evoke absolute depression). Despite the emotional toll I still found "The Fake" to be an excellent movie. It somehow made you care about the protagonist who, even at the end, is still a rather terrible person.

My final film of the festival was Asphalt Watches, a Canadian animated film by Shayne Ehman and Seth Scriver. This film was funded through an Indiegogo campaign (similar to Kickstarter) and is a crude animated retelling of eight days the pair spent hitchhiking in western Canada. The animation was done with Flash and is way less polished than South Park or even Aqua Teen Hunger Force. The narrative is very disjointed with no particular purpose and random things often happen for no particular reason. But somehow it all comes together to make...something. I'm not sure what, but it wasn't boring. The directors were there for Q&A at the end and they both seemed a bit surprised to be part of TIFF at all. It was as if they accidentally made the movie and were surprised that it even exists let alone that people like it. I enjoyed the movie myself, but I'm not sure why.

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