If you’re still casting about for TIFF films to add to your schedule at this point, you are probably either a queue-scarred festival veteran or a curious newcomer who wasn’t quite curious enough to buy a pass. Numerous screenings have already sold out, though many of them only represent your earliest chance to see the movies in question; everyone must know that the galas are an exorbitant frill by now, but you’d also be wise to hold off on anything with a looming distribution deal or wider release soon after TIFF, a category spanning a cinematic spectrum from Dredd to The Master. (And, of course, “off sale” doesn’t always mean “no hope” – rush lines frequently yield a return on your extra temporal investment.) At the time of writing, there were still tickets remaining for one or more screenings of all these promising films.
Something in the Air: The followup to French director Olivier Assayas’ epically tense study of cosmopolitan terrorist Carlos the Jackal, this film evokes another volatile political milieu, albeit without any plane hijackings. Some time after the leftist uprising of May ’68, shaggy-haired Gilles (17 years old, as Assayas was in 1971) vies to reconcile his artistic leanings with a commitment to his teenage comrades, especially the radical vagabond Christine. If Carlos and its Feelies songs were any indication, even the soundtrack will be a painstaking exercise.
Burn It Up Djassa: Few West African features end up in theatres here, so this crime drama from Ivory Coast may never return to Toronto in any form once TIFF ends. The synopsis makes that sound like a shame: noirishly desperate to escape his life as a cigarette-seller, young Tony descends from a second career in harmless vice to real criminality, until an act of jarring violence sets his own brother and the other local police after him. It’s all narrated by a nameless storyteller in the Nouchi dialect.
As If We Were Catching a Cobra: As the Syrian rebellion metastasized into vicious civil war, Bashar Assad’s regime still had the wherewithal to torture a pesky and insouciant caricaturist. Ali Ferzat was brutally assaulted by masked enforcers, who made sure to break the hands that were bringing him so attention. That didn’t work. Hala Alabdalla’s documentary follows Ferzat and several other Arab cartoonists attempting to pursue a subversive form amidst revolutionary chaos.
Bestiaire: Congrats to Denis CÃ´té for the best production still of this year’s festival programme. That enigmatic giraffe above lives in Hemmingford, Quebec’s Parc Safari, one of several animalistic milieus that CÃ´té filmed for his moving bestiary. There’s no conventional narrative in Bestiaire, but it doesn’t have the rhetorical feel of a cinematic essay either; the camera regards these fantastic creatures, and sometimes they gaze back, as if in silent dialogue.
Walker + The Capsule: One of my fondest TIFF memories was a midday screening of Tsai Ming-liang’s Face, during which at least half of the less-than-packed crowd bled out into the light. Jean-Pierre Leaud, Jeanne Moreau and Laetitia Casta weren’t enough to make up for the director’s habit of minutes-long static shots, I guess. But I love his deliberate, trance-like style, and the new short Walker only appears to slow its mesmeric pace further, tracking a Buddhist monk’s exceedingly gentle journey through downtown Hong Kong. Part of the avant-garde Wavelengths segment, it’s paired with The Capsule, a “twisted fairy tale” by the producer of last year’s festival highlight ALPS.