As a means of rounding up Toronto’s various cinematic goings-on each week, Movie Mondays compiles the best rep cinema and art house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements.
Kim Hye-Ja in Joon-ho Bong’s Mother. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.
With the Images Festival wrapped as of Saturday and Hot Docs not kicking off until late next week, this may seem like a nice week for Toronto cinephiles to take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy some of that nice weather we keep hearing about. Well, no such luck. This week may be an inter-festival lull, but there’s still heaps of great stuff to see.
The Royal (608 College Street West)
The Royal’s week-long engagement of La Danse: Le ballet de l’Opéra de Paris continues until Friday. The latest from American direct-cinema documentarian Frederick Wiseman (High School, Primate), La Danse follows two of the director’s favourite threads: examining the multifarious operations of institutions (something he’s been preoccupied with from 1967’s The Titicut Follies through to 2006’s State Legislature), and dance (previously explored in 1995’s Ballet).
The Bloor (506 Bloor Street West)
A few blocks away, The Bloor continues its tango with cult cinema, showcasing two special presentations of slasher cinema sleaze. Chris Alexander continues his Film School Confidential series with 1974’s Shock of the Mutilated, a gleefully awful abominable snowman picture from softcore porn filmmakers Roberta and Michael Findlay that may well be grindhouse cinema’s first (and only) Yeti-sploitation flick. Rue Morgue magazine’s presentation of Bigas Luna’s 1987 Spanish horror film Anguish on Thursday seems a safer bet for anyone less susceptible to the splendours of crap (to borrow a phrase from Michael Chabon). One of the more adventurous horror films of the ‘80s, Anguish stars Zelda Rubenstein (best known as the squeaky medium from the Poltergeist films) as a crazed mommy using hypnosis and other paranormal puppetry to force her son to collect the eyes of local moviegoers. Featuring multiple layers of “movie-within-the-movie” framing, Anguish was meta-horror almost a decade before Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Scream made meta-horror the norm.
The Revue (400 Roncesvalles Avenue)
If you like your X-ratings a bit artier, The Revue is screening Bernardo Bertolucci’s steamy art-house staple Last Tango in Paris on Wednesday and Thursday. A cause célèbre of both film artistry and censorship when it was released in 1972 (Pauline Kael famously called it “a movie people will be arguing about for as long as there are movies”), Bertolucci united a multinational cast including Marlon Brando, Maria Schneider, Jean-Pierre Léaud, and Maria Michi in this explicit yarn of anonymous erotic embroilment. It may not be an ideal date movie, but it will give you some pretty nifty recipes for that leftover stick of butter at the back of your fridge.
The Cumberland (159 Cumberland Street)
But if you see only one movie this week, make it Joon-ho Bong’s Mother (Madeo), which unspools all week at The Cumberland. Widely lauded when it screened at TIFF last fall, this South Korean thriller from one of Asian cinema’s most vibrant exports (Bong helmed the fantastic 2006 monster movie takedown The Host and the even better 2003 drop-kicking cop procedural Memories of Murder), Mother stars a extraordinary Kim Hye-ja as (yet another) obsessive mother taking the law into her own hands after her dull-witted son (Won Bin) is accused of murdering a young girl. Funny, gripping, and shot with the sort of refined stylishness that has come to define Bong’s films (including one of the most feverish finales in recent cinema, South Korean or otherwise), Mother is the kind of exceptional international offering you need to catch in theatres before it disappears to the DVD dustbin.
And of course, anyone itching for more festival-format filmgoing won’t have to wait long, as the 18th Annual Toronto Jewish Film Festival gears up this Friday, featuring new features, documentaries, retrospectives, and other kosher contributions from Jewish filmmakers from across the globe. Also opening in wide release on Friday is the Toronto-shot Kick-Ass, an ultraviolent superhero fantasia based on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic books.