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TIFF 2009: Valhalla Unlocked

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Enter the Void

Today’s Picks
12 p.m. – Joe Dante introduces It’s a Gift (Jackman Hall)
12 p.m. – Enter the Void (Scotiabank 1)
3 p.m. – Short Cuts Canada Programme 4 (Jackman Hall) – Review
4 p.m. – Valhalla Rising (Winter Garden) – 4/5
7:15 p.m. – Short Cuts Canada Programme 5 (Isabel Bader) – Review
8:45 p.m. – Tales from the Golden Age (AMC 3)
9:15 p.m. – Vengeance (Ryerson)
11:59 p.m. – [REC] 2 (Ryerson)
After the jump, reviews of Valhalla Rising and Short Cuts Canada Programme 5.


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Valhalla Rising

Today’s Reviews

Valhalla Rising
(Nicholas Winding Refn)
Valhalla Rising is monolithic. Massive, slow, and awe-inspiringly impactful, Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest film changes gears completely from his legendary crime dramas (such as the Pusher trilogy) with a story of oppressive Norse hardship that begins in the Scottish Highlands and ends in the new world, or as its characters know it, Hell. The always amazing Mads Mikkelsen plays One Eye, the totemic centrepiece of the film, who can see destiny and silently, mightily helps his companions reach it without question. Split into chapters and paced slowly—characters rarely talk and their journey is one of such despair that there are long periods of torturous emptiness—Valhalla Rising is likely to frustrate those expecting a more traditional film. But as artistically framed and ordered as this film is there are still moments of horrifying viscerality (at one point featuring literal viscera) and identifiable emotion. Refn sees this film as his “science fiction movie,” and its mythic journey from one gorgeous, near-alien landscape to another and the madness and turmoil that result fit the milieu of hard SF, as unlikely as that sounds, but especially when layered with such an astonishing post-rock soundtrack. Valhalla Rising is like a dream or nightmare whose sensations linger and colour your days—even if you can’t remember the details. 4.5/5
Valhalla Rising plays today at the Winter Garden at 4 p.m. and at Scotiabank 3 on September 19 at 12:15 p.m..

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Unlocked / Record

Short Cuts Canada Programme 5
Fish in Barrel (Randal Okita) – This exquisitely shot short’s visuals work so well in tandem with its original music—from the admittedly unknown to us composer Matthew Rogers—that it feels a bit like a really well produced music video. Not a criticism, exactly, just an observation. 4/5
Unlocked (Mio Adilman) – Adilman’s story of a man, B, who keeps finding his bike double-locked—and whose attempts to beat his demons are challenged by his mother’s abuse—fizzes with B’s internal rage, so much so if someone in the theatre annoys you during it (by using their bloody BlackBerry or something) you’ll probably punch their head off. 4/5
IKWÉ (Caroline Monnet) – If a five-minute short can’t hold your attention long enough for you to work out what it’s about, then it’s probably not so great. A cheap-looking and artistically obscure short. 1.5/5
La Vie Commence (Émile Proulx-Cloutier) – It sort of spoils this film to explain what it’s “about”, and while what it’s about really isn’t that amazing, this is a well produced short that presents its story subtly and powerfully. 3.5/5
Edge of the Desert (Lea Nakonechny) – This short falls into every single stereotype of the bad independent short. Awkward acting. Stilted dialogue. Shot in black-and-white. Single-note characters. Ends abruptly and inconclusively. We could go on. 1/5
Record (Dylan Reibling) – A nice little short where the “punchline” isn’t necessarily apparent from the get go, and the joke itself is worthy of consideration. Cleverly done, if not really that exciting. 3/5
Short Cuts Canada Programme 5 also features Vs.. It plays tonight at 7:15 p.m. at the Isabel Bader, and at Jackman Hall on September 16 at 4 p.m..

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