Rep Cinema This Week: Art and Craft, Moebius, and The F Word
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Rep Cinema This Week: Art and Craft, Moebius, and The F Word

The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.

Still from Art and Craft.

At rep cinemas this week: a buoyant look at a professional art forger and the angry curator hot on his trail, a miserable dark comedy from Kim Ki-duk, and a sweet romantic comedy set in Toronto.

Art and Craft
Directed by Jennifer Grausman and Sam Cullman

Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)

“Nothing’s original under the sun,” Mark Landis insists early in Art and Craft, a buoyant look at the work of a consummate forger. As the film opens, the wily Virginia native—who has carefully copied hundreds of significant artworks and donated them to dozens of unsuspecting museums under the cover of any number of aliases—is the subject of an art-world manhunt by Cincinnati Art Museum collector Matt Leininger—an obsessive-compulsive sort whose pathological attention to detail rivals Landis’s own.

The tension between the two men—the bluffer and the authenticity-hound—gives a nice innate structure to Jennifer Grausman and Sam Cullman’s profile, which increasingly inches toward the men’s moment of reckoning at the first exhibition of Landis’s work, curated by his own nemesis. But it’s the directors’ deft sense of pacing and deep characterization of these men and their relationships to both their crafts and mental illnesses that make Art and Craft so good. Without having to reach for significance, they’ve managed to create a smart and incisive essay on what we mean when we talk about artfulness, craft, and originality in what Walter Benjamin called the age of mechanical reproduction.

Directed by Kim Ki-duk

The Royal (608 College Street)

There are confronting filmmakers, and then there is Kim Ki-duk, the South Korean auteur who has picked up as many international laurels over the years—including best director prizes from the Berlin and Venice film festivals as well as the latter’s Golden Lion for Pietà—as he has virulent detractors. So we arrive at Moebius, a film that racks up no fewer than three distinct castration plots before its first 15 minutes are through. The story of an average middle-class family driven to madness and aggression by wayward sexual impulses, Moebius is a thin dark comedy that puts far too much stock in its shocking violence and mildly interesting formal conceit, whereby nobody speaks, the better to universalize their situations as Man, Woman, and Child.

By sheer force of his idiosyncrasy, Kim has managed to hold onto a faithful crew of apologists who will find much to admire here, as they did in the equally miserable Pietà and the confessional Arirang. There are some who will find this a trenchant critique of the family unit and the lies it tells itself to stay functional, rather than, say, a literal 90-minute riff on that easily expressed idea. And there are others who will respond to some faint traces of mordant wit in the grotesquely exploitative set pieces. We respectfully disagree, but power to anyone who finds something worth watching here.

The F Word
Directed by Michael Dowse

Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Avenue)

Toronto’s been having a good year on film, with Denis Villeneuve setting his mind-bending Enemy amidst our ugly skyline, and now Michael Dowse offering the city up as the home for The F Word (uninspiringly retitled What If in the United States), a sweet romantic comedy about lonely urbanites. While presenting Toronto as Toronto is still a relatively novel idea—one received with mild applause at last year’s TIFF press screening when the Royal appeared undisguised—The F Word is actually best at staying within the comfort zone of romcoms past, ably delivering the dramatic and comic beats you’d expect while bolstering a pair of genuinely likeable leads.

Enter Daniel Radcliffe as Wallace, a British med school dropout carrying a torch for his recent ex (Toronto’s own Sarah Gadon, also in Enemy) and Chantry (Zoe Kazan), an animator in a seemingly stable relationship with a distant, moneyed sort. Wallace and Chantry have obvious chemistry, but decide to remain true to their initial deal to stay friends—that elusive word on which so many romantic comedies are staked.

There’s nothing especially new about The F Word, which repackages When Harry Met Sally’s basic conceit for the millennial generation, but, as with most of Dowse’s films, one comes away charmed by his capacity to simply let his characters bask in each other’s good company. That makes this a warm, inviting film set in a city that rarely gets to house such nice people onscreen.