The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.
At rep cinemas this week: an absorbing documentary about treating violent mental health patients, a dark Woody Allen comedy about magic, and an offbeat take on the life of songster Nick Cave.
Out of Mind, Out of Sight
Directed by John Kastner
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)
In 2013, Emmy-winner John Kastner directed NCR: Not Criminally Responsible, a look at a man recently released from a psychiatric hospital after being deemed criminally inculpable of a violent attack committed in a delusional state. While his previous film looked at the challenges of coming back to society after such an episode, Kastner’s newest, Out of Mind, Out of Sight, examines the rehabilitative process involved in getting previously violent patients to the point of reintegration, returning to the Brockville Mental Health Centre to profile four patients in various stages of treatment.
Out of Mind, Out of Sight goes wide where NCR went deep: it looks not at a single subject but at a wider cast of characters, focusing a bit more of its attention on a mild-mannered but haunted man who killed his mother in a paranoid state and who is now struggling to establish relationships with his forgiving siblings. Not the least of the film’s accomplishments is its absorbing profile of how the workers at these institutions interact with their patients in both emotionally charged and everyday settings. The frankness of the interviews with patients is disarming, as when one woman gives an impromptu poetic retelling of the Pinocchio story while explaining her intense love for a stuffed animal she turns to for comfort. At times, though, one wishes the film would shed some of its redemptive tone—the last image is a freeze frame of a patient smiling in the outside world—in favour of a more critical assessment of its subjects, especially considering many of the male patients profiled have committed violent acts against women. Still, this is strong stuff.
Thursday’s screening will feature a conversation with Kastner (the chief of forensic psychiatry at CAMH) and a family member of one of the film’s subjects.
Magic in the Moonlight
Directed by Woody Allen
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Woody Allen follows up his Oscar-winning foray into Tennessee Williams territory (Blue Jasmine) with Magic in the Moonlight, an oddly grim return to the director’s old climes of romance, realism, and implausible May-December romances. Colin Firth stars as Stanley Crawford, a successful illusionist who finds himself whisked away from his Orientalist stage act in Berlin—unremarked upon in any meaningful way—by an old friend and competitor to debunk an American clairvoyant named Sophie (Emma Stone), a working-class mystic who has charmed her way into a rich old family. Needless to say, romance ensues.
Or, at least, romance ought to ensue. Though the gears of the script lock into place to ensure that skeptical Stanley and whimsical Sophie find a mismatched sort of love in each other’s company, Firth and Stone can’t muster much chemistry. Whether it’s the result of Stanley’s misanthropy and condescension toward women on the page or a more mundane problem between the actors, it doesn’t fly. What does register with a bit more verve is the corrosiveness of Allen’s script, a mean diatribe against humanity’s desire to at all costs mitigate hard reality with transcendent bullshit. Though that makes this a failure as a romantic comedy, it does make it as a curious sort of polemic against our habit of telling ourselves any number of lies to get by.
20,000 Days on Earth
Directed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Nick Cave fans will find a lot to croon about in 20,000 Days on Earth, an admirably offbeat, stylized look at a day in the life of the Australian singer-songwriter, sometime novelist, and murder balladeer. Rigorously plotted, controlled, and designed, Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard’s documentary is a near perfect doppelgänger for the perpetually self-fashioning artist, whom we see at work, at rest (in a conspicuously manicured home office), and, in the increasingly dreamlike sequences that take him out of his home, at play in the imaginative space of his car.
As slick as the profile is, newcomers to Cave may wonder what the fuss is about, particularly during a tedious extended visit to his psychotherapist—an all-too-convenient way (which the filmmakers exploit with a touch of irony) to disclose his personal backstory for the novices in the room. Whatever you think of him as a musician, there’s no denying Cave is the foremost expert on the history of Nick Cave, an he’s all too happy to expound on that, at one point delivering an illustrated lecture on his youth from a low-lit cellar that houses an archival collection of old band photos and clips. As that silly but ultimately touching moment might suggest (does Cave really own a library devoted to himself?), the overriding spirit here is hard to pin down, and that’s for the better. Whether this is a work of unabashed hero worship or playful self-effacement—and at times it is both—it goes down smoothly.