Piers Marchant at TIFF, Day OneSeptember 8, 2017
Happy End: Michael Haneke isn’t known for his compassion, exactly – he is, after all the filmmaker who made Funny Games essentially to shame American audiences’ love of violence – but hidden within the folds of his new ensemble drama, there are tendrils of tenderness, if even a bit twisty. We are witnessing the dissolution of a capitalist oligarchy, a construction and real estate concern, formerly lead by a now-suicidal octogenarian Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), before bequeathing it to his sure-handed daughter, Anne (Isabelle Huppert), who in turn wants to turn it over to her damaged son, Pierre (Franz Rogowski), just coming to realize his own severe limitations. Then, there’s the patriarch’s son, Michael (Mathieu Kassovitz), a doctor made good, already cheating on his second wife, shortly after the birth of his own baby boy; and his teen daughter, Eve (Fantine Harduin), who comes to live with the clan shortly after poisoning her own mother, and herself feeling suicidal as a result. We come at these characters and stories each in their own orbit, and the effect is like watching protons collide together, splashing energy en route to picking up steam to collide again. Ever unflinching, Haneke’s camera catches them at their lowest ebbs, none more chilling than when Eve informs her father that she knows all about his cheating, and also his complete inability to love anyone, including herself.
The Square: Well, it turns out to have won the Palme d’Or for a reason. Ruben Östlund’s film takes on great swaths of societal discord, everything from the art world to human compassion and the lack thereof, and somehow shapes a craftily satisfying narrative with it. We meet the dashing Christian (Claes Bang), as the modern art museum curator, pulls himself out of a hungover stupor in his office to perform his charming magic on a journalist (Elizabeth Moss), there for a TV interview. The museum is about to introduce a new exhibit, a simple 4×4 cut piece of cobblestone street that the artist deems a place of “ and __.” Christian is certainly slick, with his Tesla, natty suits, and ever-present scarf – he’s clearly quite taken with himself, in fact – but not so far gone that he can’t see when he’s made a huge mistake, as he does shortly after a sophomoric stunt designed to get his stolen cell phone returned to him. The thing is, much as with the hapless Tomas in Force Majeure, Östlund has a penchant for taking these highly pampered men, who assume their warm cocoon is somehow innate and not conjured out of their money and success, and stripping them down to the studs. What’s more, he savagely ridicules their assumptions until they’re forced to accept their deficiencies, at least to a point.
Manhunt: Fans of John Woo – that is, generally, fans of his films through the early ‘90s – can rest easy on this one: He plays this ludicrous fugitive-from-justice action thriller like a kind of greatest hits package, only a lot more incoherently. We aren’t two minutes in before the first squibs begin to fire off in slo-mo, and there are more flying doves jammed into this thing than a new-age wedding. You can forget such matters as “story,” “characters,” “dialogue,” and “narrative logic,” so my best advice would be don’t even try that stuff. Instead, watch the endless chases and ridiculous, violent show-downs and be thankful that you’ve already seen Hard Boiled and don’t have to remind yourself how good he used to be.
Tomorrow: I plan to see the rough, cinema vérité goings-on of The Rider; jump into Kore-eda’s intriguing sounding mystery, The Third Murder; take in Sean Baker’s Tangerine follow-up, The Florida Project; catch Ben Stiller in Mike White’s new, weirdo comedy Brad’s Status; and, possibly give, Omerta, Hansal Mehta’s quasi-bio pic of Omar Sheikh, a try.