Blog TIFF 12

PASSION (dir. Brian De Palma)


Five years after dropping the polemic bomb Redacted Brian De Palma is back to his old tricks. Beautiful women, tilted angles, split screens, an entire third act set in low, expressive lighting – the director’s signature B-noir style has come back to life.

But in service of what? For all its promise of sleazy thrills Passion is thin stuff. Its central relationship between a powerful executive (Rachel McAdams) and her immediate underling (Noomi Rapace) is ill-defined; it’s a sort-of romance, vague rivalry, and psychological showdown with stakes – credit for an ad campaign, the love of a boorish drunk – too low to arouse much interest.

De Palma has done time in many genres, but his best films are thrillers with an acute awareness of their own silliness. Passion seems to tow that line, and McAdams does an excellent job balancing menace and camp. But the movie’s sense of irony and concession to more graphic content is so commonplace in 2012, it comes off soft. Passion is a bad movie though, more regrettably, it’s often a boring one. 2/5 - Jesse Skinner

THE BAY (dir. Barry Levinson)  


Oscar-winning director Barry Levinson has said he never intended to make a “found footage” horror film at this stage in his career. Thank whatever god you believe in that he did.

The Bay, originally conceived as a documentary about the ecological devastation of Chesapeake Bay, is a triumph of gross-out cinema. Horror films — at least the good ones — tend to be allegories for larger social problems, and their graphic subject matter creates a causticity that eludes most documentaries. Especially when that subject matter happens to be parasites that eat people from the inside out. The film follows various citizens in the fictional town of Claridge, Maryland, as they try to survive an environmental crisis. It’s a jab at governmental ineptitude in the face of disaster.

Levinson uses the limitations of the found footage genre (cellphones instead of steady-cams, hand-helds instead of dollies) to full effect. Consider a death scene filmed by a static police cruiser: Only the façade of a house is visible, but the audience, bound by the camera’s unmoving gaze, is forced to listen to the holocaust inside. It’s a throwback to radio theatre, a medium where the perversions of the imagination reigned supreme.

The abundance of found footage movies has saturated the horror market, but Levinson reminds us just how good the genre can be when placed in the right (shaky) hands. 4/5Barry Chong

MR. PIP (dir. Andrew Adamson)


Mr. Pip is a surprise. The film relies on the quaint notion of white teacher / black students learning from each other, imposing a tea-cozy crackdown on cultural differences. Films of this nature invariably brew conflict as a convenient way to get everyone to play well together. And yes, such things do happen in the course of the film. But we're in the jungle of Bourgainville, at the heart of Papua New Guinea, in a small village caught between the warring factors of rebel soldiers and the red-skin army. The potential for violence is far heavier than just working through differences.

Mr. Pip is not the white teacher’s name, he is a character in Charles Dicken's Great Expectations. Hugh Laurie’s Mr. Watts is the teacher introducing words and storytelling - anything but the Bible - to his students. The whole village becomes enchanted but no one more than young Matilda, who longs to leave the island and join her father in Australia. When Matilda begins to see Pip as a real person things become, at first, whimsical, but ultimately turn tragic in unexpected ways. 3/5Thom Ernst

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