Early screenings impress at TIFF

(Contributed photo)

From September 5 to the 15, Toronto will transform into a local Hollywood as the Toronto International Film Festival, commonly known as TIFF, will take over 11 venues to screen over 400 films. The activity in the city has risen to an all-time high as locals and foreigners alike try to navigate the streets of Toronto around waves of press and paparazzi.

Attracting thousands of industry professionals and hundreds of thousands of attendees from around the world, TIFF has become one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

Based on Émile Zola’s controversial novel Thérèse Raquin, first time director Charlie Stratton brings to life a tale of adultery and murder taking place amongst the lower echelons of nineteenth century Parisian society.

Elizabeth Olsen takes on the role of the title character, a young girl cast aside by her seafaring father to her aunt, Madame Raquin (Jessica Lange), who forces Thérèse into an unwilling marriage to her ailing cousin, Camille (Tom Felton). Upon meeting Camille’s handsome friend, Laurent LeClair (Oscar Isaac), the disheartened Thérèse is swept up into a scandalous affair, which inevitably leads to disaster.
When asked why he chose to take on this adaptation as his first feature project, director Charlie Stratton explained, “There is something about the choices that we make, the wrong choices that we make, the wrong choices that we make out of passion and where that leads you.”
“It’s a story where you start by rooting for one person, and then it changes, and it changes again, and it changes again, and that’s pretty rare in a script.”
While Elizabeth Olsen, Oscar Isaac and Tom Felton gave very convincing performances, the most notable of the bunch is Jessica Lange portraying the most dramatically compelling role in the film as the domineering aunt and doting, grieving mother.
Matt Lucas, coupled with Shirley Henderson, effectively relieve the audience of the increasing tension throughout the film with their sporadic off-beat remarks.
“We had to find a way to dial it up and lead into it where we could,” said Stratton regarding the artistic choice to inject moments of dark humour into what would otherwise be a very heavy and melancholy film.
Although it is an impressive debut with a well-rounded cast, the film embodies little more than what is expected of controversial period dramas.
Stratton fails to make any lasting stylistic impressions beyond the multitude of dimly-lit rooms and the doom-gloom atmosphere of the haberdasher shop where the story unfolds.

Kill Your Darlings
Following the trend of the resurgence of the Beat Generation on the silver screen, director John Krokidas brings together an engrossing and fresh film recounting the formation of the Beats and the gruesome murder of David Krammerer.

The film stars Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg, Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr, Ben Foster as William Burroughs, Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac, and Michael C. Hall rounding out the main cast as David Kammerer.
Daniel Radcliffe fully fleshes out the role of Ginsberg, portraying him brilliantly as the sensitive and studious bespectacled undergrad of Columbia University. Dane DeHaan, in his impressive breakout performance, drives the story as an alluring and charismatic Carr bringing together what would later be known as the Beats with his questioning methods and passionate drive to break the mold.
Although David Cross as Ginsberg’s poetic father and Jennifer Jason Leigh as his paranoid mother aren’t awarded with much screen-time, their subtle presence is indicative of Ginsberg’s family life prior to his acceptance to Columbia.
As per usual, there is no shortage of clacking typewriters and rambunctious monologues, as it’s necessitated by all cliché Beat films; however, it does not detract from the story which comes together beautifully with a cleverly written script, passionate scenes interspersed with a contemporary soundtrack featuring TV on the Radio, and phenomenal performances from the entire cast.
Check our next week’s issue of The Cord for more on films from TIFF. 

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