Posts Tagged 'Hong Sang-soo'

MFF Programming Team Reports Back from TIFF 2013!


L to R: Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Kelly Reichardt at TIFF 2013 NIGHT MOVES Q & A. Photo by Scott Braid.

Greetings from Toronto, where the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival is in full swing. Each year Maryland Film Festival’s programming team heads to TIFF to take the pulse of the current world-cinema scene and scout films to bring back to Baltimore—conveniently, just as our own 2014 call for entries has launched.

As TIFF 2013 reaches its midpoint, our programmers are well on their way to watching ~40 films apiece in our quest to bring home another Dogtooth or Post Tenebras Lux. Here are some first reactions to films that may be of particular interest to MFF fans:



CLUB SANDWICH—From Mexico comes a coming-of-age story that has as much to say about parenthood as it does adolescence. The plot is very simple: a 40-something mother and her shy teenaged son, who have an unusually close relationship, vacation at a motel during its off-season. Mother and son enjoy a relaxed stay together, lounging by the pool, ordering room service, playing board games, and nurturing a rapport that’s half bickering, half affectionate teasing. But when another family arrives with a teenaged daughter who is just a bit older and more experienced, the two teenagers develop a flirtation—to both the bemusement and consternation of the boy’s mother. MFF followers may remember director Fernando Eimbcke from 2009’s Lake Tahoe; here he has developed a delightfully deadpan look at the first fumblings of love—and a mother’s unexpected reactions—that stands as his warmest, richest, and funniest film yet.



NIGHT MOVESKelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy; MFF 2011’s Meek’s Cutoff) returns with a quiet but riveting character study energized by extremely gripping thriller notes. Night Moves’ intimate tone will be familiar to followers of Reichardt’s work, but it also organically broadens her usual narrative scope as it tells its story of militant environmental activists who band together to plot the destruction of a river dam in Oregon. Jesse Eisenberg gives a restrained but winning central performance as a brooding young man whose actions steer him into unexpectedly gray moral territories; his bold performance sheds his usual persona as effectively as Michelle Williams did hers to star in Reichardt’s last two features. Where recent art-house thriller The East portrayed a similar subculture with cartoonish strokes, Night Moves counters with deep, knowing realism, fleshing out true-to-life personalities and dilemmas. As with all of Reichardt’s films, the natural world of the Pacific Northwest comes alive on screen to serve as more than mere setting, factoring heavily into the narrative and the poetically presented inner worlds of these characters.



THE SACRAMENT—The new thriller from Ti West (House of the Devil) is built around a veritable who’s who of familiar MFF faces, including Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Kentucker Audley, and Kate Lyn Sheil. As a fashion photographer (Audley) becomes increasingly worried about his sister, who’s joined a communal family as a means to escape her problems with addiction, he invites a Vice crew (including cameraman Swanberg) to visit the commune with him. There we meet his sister (Seimetz) and a diverse, seemingly harmonious cluster of family members who swear they made the right decision in shedding their belongings to live together with their new “Father.” But as the story deepens–with nods to both The Source Family and Jonestown–some disturbing horrors come to the surface.  West’s latest boasts a riveting payoff, not to mention excellent performances from all.

Still ahead this week are the latest from master filmmakers Claire Denis, Tsai Ming-liang, and Hong Sang-soo; new films from the directors of MFF sleepers Daytime Drinking and Blind Loves; the highly buzzed, fresh-from-Cannes thriller Blue Ruin by MFF alum Jeremy Saulnier (director of MFF 2007’s Murder Party; cinematographer of such films as Septien and I Used to Be Darker); and almost certainly some under-the-radar discoveries from newcomers.  With the festival’s annual “City to City” program focusing on the explosion of intriguing films coming from Greece, we have our hands full: indeed, when all’s said and done we’ll have viewed nearly 100 films from all corners of the globe. Stay tuned for more TIFF updates from MFF’s programming team, and thanks for reading!

Toronto Film Fest 2012 Wrap-Up from the MFF Programming Team

Director Alice Winocour of AUGUSTINE at TIFF 2012.

TIFF is an eleven-day festival that opens with a burst of excitement palpable throughout this metropolis of 2.5 million people, as buzz films and celebrity sightings become the talk of the town. A very different and almost curious mood permeates the last few days of the festival. Most films have screened twice already, and for their third and final screenings there are fewer filmmakers present, resulting in somewhat smaller crowds in the festival’s 20+ auditoriums—not to mention increasingly bloodshot eyes and a cicada-like chorus of sneezes and sniffles.

That said, the often-lighter crowds and lack of Q+As that mark many screenings make the final days of TIFF a great opportunity for the diehard cinephiles to jump in and smoothly attend 5 or more films a day. That’s exactly what the MFF programming team did, walking away with heaping plates from TIFF’s heaping buffet line of international and indie films (while being mindful not to make contact with the sneezeguard). The results? Some of the very best films we saw at TIFF this year, including:

Actor Nathalia Acevedo of POST TENEBRAS LUX answers questions at TIFF 2012.

POST TENEBRAS LUX – The new film from young provocateur Carlos Reygadas (BATTLE IN HEAVEN, SILENT LIGHT) masterfully touches down on issues of class, family, sex, and animal cruelty. Its sumptuous, otherworldly exterior shots use unconventional lensing to render a rural Mexican landscape but fantastical and warped. Audiences will be puzzling through this challenging film, a narrative with transgressive- and experimental-film elements, for years to come.

IN ANOTHER COUNTRY – Offbeat South Korean humorist Hong Sang-soo brings Isabelle Huppert into his unique comic fold with this story of three French women, all named Anne and all played by Huppert, who visit a small coastal village in S. Korea and encounter the same cluster of offbeat characters. One of the three Annes is a French film director, reportedly modeled after frequent Huppert director Claire Denis (an MFF staff favorite). Winning notes of Bunuel sound throughout, but the voice sounding these notes is singularly Hong’s—and this is both one of his best films and the one most likely to cross over to larger art-house audiences.

Director Don Coscarelli of JOHN DIES AT THE END at TIFF 2012.

JOHN DIES AT THE END—One of TIFF’s most popular programs is its nightly Midnight Madness series, and this new mind-melter from PHANTASM director Don Coscarelli was arguably the best cult film of the fest. Based on the novel of the same name, Philip K. Dick collides with Bill and Ted in this fun, high-energy story of a mysterious new drug that opens minds to other dimensions.

(L to R) TIFF Programmer Andrea Picard, Director Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Director Verena Paravel of LEVIATHAN at TIFF 2012.

LEVIATHAN—This film about large-scale commercial fishing off the coast of New Bedford, MA was perhaps the festival’s most visceral experience, crossing over from documentary into the realm of experimental film as it eschews interviews for violent bursts of location sound and unflinching (and sometimes unrecognizable) imagery of the vessel, the ocean, the sky above, and the bloody culling of each day’s catch. Co-director Lucien Castaing-Taylor directed the acclaimed pastoral documentary SWEETGRASS — also a visually splendid film, but of a very different look and tone.


(L to R) HERE COMES THE DEVIL Director Adrían García Bogliano, actor Laura Caro, producer Andrea Hernandez, and actor Francisco Barreiro at TIFF 2012.

HERE COMES THE DEVIL—Also from Mexico, director Adrían García Bogliano‘s gory horror film has one foot rooted firmly in the art-house, drawing heavy inspiration from Peter Weir’s mysterious classic PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK. A Mexican production from an Argentine director backed by U.S. money, this was a prime example of a creative, international genre-film production that knows its audience well.

AUGUSTINE – French director Alice Winocour impresses with this strong debut feature concerning the prevalence of institutionalizing young women under the catch-all diagnosis of hysteria in 19th Century Europe. Young servant Augustine suffers a seizure during a dinner party at her employer’s home. She is quickly whisked off to a psychiatric hospital where she becomes the star subject of the prominent Dr. Charcot’s neurological experiments. As she becomes aware of her illness, she gains insight into the dynamics of her institutionalization and her doctor’s motives, thus altering the balance of power between doctor and patient. Several films on similar subjects have been made in recent years (most notably Cronenberg‘s A DANGEROUS METHOD); what sets this one apart is a decidedly female perspective and an excellent insight into the devastating effects of a repressed, patriarchal society on women’s sexuality. Smart, gritty, and frank in its depiction of the time (with plenty of lessons for the present), this is not your average period costume puff piece.

THE CREMATOR – Chinese director Peng Tao‘s 3rd feature centers on the relationship between Cao, a lonely undertaker, and Xiuqiao, a young woman who is far from home on a journey to uncover the whereabouts of her sister. Cao may know something of the sister’s whereabouts, but is reluctant to share this information with Xiuqiao, until an unforeseen turn of events causes him to divulge. Interspersed with striking tableaus depicting Chinese funerary rites, THE CREMATOR is a beautiful and deliberately paced film that holds many subtle rewards.

Eric Allen Hatch, Director of Programming