The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.
At rep cinemas this week: a delirious postmodern yakuza movie about movies, a humanist drama from France’s Dardenne brothers, and Bennett Miller’s frosty, Oscar-nominated true-crime story.
Why Don’t You Play in Hell?
Directed by Sion Sono
The Royal (608 College Street)
Japanese cult filmmaker Sion Sono deservedly snagged himself the audience choice award at last year’s edition of Midnight Madness for Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, certainly the bloodiest film to grace TIFF in some time, and arguably the most exuberant. An ode to genre filmmaking, 35-mm projection, and youthful artistic experimentation, Sono’s film is as lovely as it is demented.
The plot, such as it is, focuses on a group of novice filmmakers—charmingly named the Fuck Bombers—in search of the holy grail of action cinema. Their efforts to make a gorefest to transcend all the rest gets them embroiled in a yakuza war but, luckily for them, the rival sides are no less interested in the cinema, enlisting our happy filmmakers to record the impending clash in what will surely amount to the greatest yakuza documentary of all time.
Unabashedly silly and earnest in about the same measure, Sono’s film is as fun as a movie with this title really ought to be. Sono initiates will no doubt see a lot of Tarantino in the film’s pulpiness and endlessly self-referential nature, but the spirit here is singular, and the energy infectious.
Two Days, One Night
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
French masters Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne perfect their neo-neo-realist style with the familiar but affecting Two Days, One Night. Foregoing their penchant for nonprofessional actors, the brothers cast a star in Marion Cotillard. Cotillard plays Sandra, a woman who comes back to work following a serious bout with depression to discover that her position has been eliminated. Down but not out, Sandra is given one last weekend to persuade her colleagues to vote for her job over their bonus.
In the hands of lesser filmmakers, Two Days, One Night might have ended up being either a rote labour melodrama (with shades of Norma Rae) about a suffering working-class mother on the verge of financial and psychological catastrophe, or a feel-good comedy about triumphing over adversity. But you can trust the Dardennes to find the kernel of reality in even the most heightened scenario. Sandra’s efforts to persuade her colleagues one by one is humanist drama at its finest and most delicate, and the Dardennes coax a nervy, full-bodied performance out of their star.
Directed by Bennett Miller
Revue Cinema (400 Roncesvalles Avenue)
Bennett Miller returns to true crime with Foxcatcher, based on the eerie true story of multi-millionaire amateur sports patron John du Pont’s toxic relationship with Olympic wrestlers and brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. Anyone who knows how the story ends will feel a knot in their stomach as the sponsorship drama increasingly plays out like a psycho-thriller, while novices may wonder why even Mark’s early victories have such a funereal tone.
Miller directs the hell out of this tense material, though there’s no dressing up its hoariness: it feels as if not a scene goes by without a U.S. flag grimly foretelling the collapse of the American dream along with du Pont’s sanity. As far as the actors go, Oscar-nominated Steve Carell is arguably the weakest link as Mr. Burns doppelgänger du Pont, his performance buried somewhere under the prosthetic nose and moneyed Pennsylvania accent. Channing Tatum and Carell’s fellow nominee Mark Ruffalo are much more impressive as gentle Mark and charismatic Dave, the former (a criminally underrated comic as well as dramatic performer) delivering a nearly silent performance that serves as a pitch-perfect model of beefcake depression.