The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.
At rep cinemas this week, we have a Toronto-based comedy, a Herman Melville adaptation by Leos Carax, and a crime thriller from Johnnie To.
Everyday is Like Sunday
Directed by Pavan Moondi
Carlton Cinema (Showtimes)
Originally conceived as a web series, Toronto filmmaker Pavan Moondi’s lo-fi debut, Everyday Is Like Sunday, has the scruffy charm of mumblecore legend Joe Swanberg’s own online show, Young American Bodies. Shot and proudly set around Parkdale, the film follows friends and roommates Mark (David Dineen-Porter), Jason (musician Adam Gurfinkel), and Flora (Coral Osborne) as they deal with romantic travails and try to figure out what to do with their lives in the awkward arrested-development phase of their early thirties.
Though the film is not without its first-feature clichés, like Mark’s waking-up montage in the opening moments, Moondi has a good ear for how long-term friends speak in shorthand. The modesty of his approach to these characters’ minor ruts is a welcome respite from films that force their dawdling thirtysomethings to grow up in an instant.
The best moments here showcase the warm, easygoing chemistry between the leads, but Dineen-Porter also excels in the film’s major set piece—a long, platonic first date that unfolds through tentative gestures and conversational feelers. Already a successful stand-up comic and comedy writer, under Moondi’s direction, Dineen-Porter also proves himself a fine actor.
Directed by Leos Carax
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
After the financial boondoggle of producing The Lovers on the Bridge, which entailed building a full-scale replica of the then-closed Pont Neuf bridge in Paris, Leos Carax took nearly a decade to deliver his more modest (if also more controversial) follow-up, Pola X. An adaptation of Herman Melville’s poorly received successor to Moby-Dick (“Pola” is an acronym for the French translation of Pierre, or the Ambiguities, and “X” signifies Carax’s tenth draft), the film is both an outlier as compared to Carax’s typically dreamier output and an integral part of it, and it’s arguably his most sensitive depiction of young lovers on the fringes of social mores.
Like Melville’s novel, the film is about carefree young aristocrat Pierre (Guillaume Depardieu, son of Gérard), a writer who dreams of leaving his mark on the world with a transformative book, but who spends most of his days zooming around on his motorcycle and idling with fiancée Lucie (Delphine Chuillot) and mother Marie (Catherine Deneuve). If Pierre and Marie’s rapport seems a little too intimate, it’s nothing compared to Pierre’s eventual fall into the arms of Isabelle (Carax’s long-time partner Yekaterina Golubeva), a forest-bound wild child who haunts his dreams before she meets him and announces that she’s his long-lost half sister, and his ticket to a more authentic life away from the trappings of his wealth.
Sandwiched between the maximal lyricism of The Lovers on the Bridge, which always seems on the verge of becoming a full-blown MGM musical, and the genre play of Holy Motors, Pola X reads as Carax’s most classical film and an earnest adaptation of the source material. It’s also one of his most mature works, sensitive to Pierre’s desire for a more honest life but critical of his naïveté. His romantic narcissism, an editor tells him, is “as old as the world itself,” and while that’s also true of the story on the whole, Carax’s sympathy for young fools who hopelessly follow old scripts is palpable.
Directed by Johnnie To
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Johnnie To is one of the most prolific working directors in the world, let alone in his native Hong Kong. But unlike the middling late products of Woody Allen, his films don’t seem to suffer from the rate at which they’re produced. Drug War is a case in point: funny, tense, and equally effective as a police procedural and as an action thriller.
The rough beats of the plot, about the tense collaboration between a straight-laced policeman (Sun Honglei) on a sting operation and a wily drug lord turned spy (To’s frequent star Louis Koo), are familiar enough, but they’re given a shot in the arm by To’s interest in how everyone in Mainland China’s drug war, from low-level dealer to police captain, is playing a role in a drama of their own making. What sets Drug War apart from recent crime epics like The Departed, though, is its uncompromising nihilism and pristine execution. The finale, an endlessly ante-upping shootout that relieves the previous 90 minutes of white-knuckle suspense in a few concentrated blasts, is the most spectacular action climax in recent memory, as impressive for its writing as for its body count.