Toronto International Film Festival – Day Five: Tales from beyond

One of the joys of TIFF is unlimited access to foreign films, a liberty discerning audiences don’t have the rest of the year as multiplexes around the world would rather dedicate most screens to Hollywood churn du jour. But I digress.

Other than originality and pace, the narrative is usually different. There is no need to fill in the characters’ past, or explain their behavior, or even give them closure. The three act structure is frequently dismissed, and this lack of consistency from one movie to the other keeps the audience on their toes.

Even terrible movies like the German engineered “Three” can’t be called average. Directed by former wunderkind Tom Twyker (“The International”, “Perfume”), “Three” is his first film shot by Twyker in the motherland since “Run Lola Run” (1998). In fact, it deals with matters European cinema started handling more than ten years ago, such as bisexuality and infidelity as practices accepted within a marriage.

Hanna and Simon, a couple very much settled in their ways, fall in love separately -but at the same time- with Adam. The comedic potential of this premise is squandered by focusing Simon mourning the loss of one of his testicles to cancer, and Hanna contemplating maternity at forty-something.

“Three” drags for over two hours and it becomes redundant. The film main contribution to the discussion about marriage is “sure, go for it, but don’t expect much. Actually, keep your options open in case of boredom.” Wow, groundbreaking.

One bi-curious prairie dog.

Much better and a lot less pretentious is the Australian crime drama “Blame”, by first time writer/director Michael Henry. A group of five youngsters head to the residence of the teacher they believe was responsible for the suicide of a pretty young teenager. The poorly planned and terribly executed operation causes the kids to turn on each other, as their attempts to extract revenge from the teacher fail repeatedly.

While hardly original, “Blame” is one tight little thriller that relays solely in the cleverness of the story to succeed. More than the psychological games they play, the biggest hoot is to observe how small consecutive errors lead to a catastrophe (three, according to plane crash experts). “Blame” may not make it to a theatre near you, but you’ll hear again from Michael Henry. Three and a half bloodthirsty prairie dogs.

Most press and industry types skipped the screening of the Italian rarity “The Cashier Who Liked Gambling”. The original title is immensely more interesting: “Gorbaciof”, the nickname of a taciturn gambler who -like the former Soviet leader- has a massive birthmark in his forehead.

The film is a character study of this Gorbaciof guy. When we first meet him, Gorbaciof is the kind of person who would keep a slice of the day’s earnings to later gamble them in an underground poker ring. His Droopy-like demeanor and quiet personality (there is barely any dialogue in the first half of the film) hide a capacity for violence. As he falls for a Chinese waitress, a previously unseen moral backbone emerges. But principles don’t really help anybody’s poker game, let alone pay the bills.

“The Cashier…” could easily stand next to “Gomorrah” considering both share the same gritty realism. Three prairie dogs playing poker.

Tomorrow is a mainstream day, with “Rabbit Hole” with Nicole Kidman, “The Whistleblower” with Rachel Weisz, and “Blue Valentine” with Ryan Gosling.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.