TIFF’s eighth day is best spent with Wavelengths and romantic dramas.
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Wavelengths has always been one of TIFF’s strongest programmes, owing to the consistently good taste of curator Andréa Picard, but this year sees a major shift as the sidebar of avant-garde shorts from around the world expands, welcoming the orphaned experimental features from the now defunct Visions programme. The change has been a great success, with Wavelengths boasting some of the best films at the festival, and today’s a good opportunity to catch a few of them.
First up is Carlos Reygadas’s dreamy Post Tenebras Lux (), the award-winner whose spiritual ruminations and trick photography left audiences both mesmerized and baffled in Cannes. It’s a strange film that we won’t pretend to completely understand (we’re still puzzling over the animated red demon who makes two brief appearances), but it’s also graceful and surprisingly funny, as hallucinatory childhood memory-films go. There’s also Mekong Hotel, the new feature from Thai master and Palme D’Or winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who charmingly encourages English speakers to call him “Joe.” The film, which is preceded by Mati Diop’s Big in Vietnam, about a forest-set adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons, is a meditative look at the violent undercurrents of Thai history, filmmaking, and, as per Joe’s usual, reincarnation.
Striking as they typically are, Wavelengths selections aren’t for the faint of heart. Those in search of more accessible art-house fare might find Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways () a happy medium. The film follows the titular male-to-female transgendered schoolteacher through a tumultuous 10-year relationship with a manic but devoted production assistant. It’s as florid as Dolan’s previous two films, and far too long at over two-and-a-half hours, but the actors are terrific, and the love story is deeply romantic despite Dolan’s needless showboating.
If Dolan’s stylistic flourishes aren’t to your taste, there’s always Smashed (), another strong relationship drama, starring Scott Pilgrim‘s Mary Elizabeth Winstead—finally granted a proper lead after punching below her weight class in Final Destination 3—as a young alcoholic who struggles to come clean without much support from her otherwise loving husband. The story is admittedly a bit familiar, but Winstead is terrific, and ably supported by an impressive cast that includes Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and the wonderful Octavia Spencer.