The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.
At rep cinemas this week: A 1970s-inspired psychological thriller starring Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss; Guy Maddin’s most delirious and enjoyable pastiche yet; and the newest from Toronto DIY queen Ingrid Veninger.
Queen of Earth
Directed by Alex Ross Perry
The Royal (608 College Street)
American independent darling Alex Ross Perry follows up his prickly critical success Listen Up Philip with Queen of Earth, which bests its predecessor’s retro aesthetic—indebted to the novels and jacket covers of perpetual Nobel also-ran Philip Roth—with an even more ravishing nod to art-house psychodramas of yore. Immaculately lensed by Sean Price Williams and anchored by an emotionally taxing, high wire performance by Listen Up Philip and Mad Men MVP Elisabeth Moss, Queen of Earth deserves its inevitable comparisons to antecedents like Robert Altman’s Images and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion.
Moss stars as Catherine, a painter coming undone in the wake of a recent breakup as well as the mysterious death of her artist star father, whose estate she manages. Miserable, she retreats to the lake house of her best friend Ginny (Katherine Waterston), just like last year, only to find it soured by her friend’s new demeanour and creepy boyfriend (Patrick Fugit, as malevolent here as he was sweet-faced in Almost Famous).
Perry wrings great tension out of his claustrophobic setting and shapes some truly virtuoso sequences, including an indelible single-take sequence that parries between the friends’ respective monologues. And Moss and Waterston bring real sensitivity to tricky material, which is pitched somewhere between an exploitative genre thriller and an earnest portrayal of living with and caring for someone with a mental illness. If we’re a bit ambivalent about that project, which sometimes lands closer to dubious mainstream fare like Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan than to more respectable landmarks like Ingmar Bergman’s Persona, we’re still impressed by the film’s impeccable craft and performances.
The Forbidden Room
Directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
Guy Maddin surpasses his earlier ecstatic heights with The Forbidden Room, co-directed by Evan Johnson. Maddin has long carved a niche for himself as Canada’s most singular living auteur, with his penchant for German Expressionism, silent cinema and melodrama, and his compulsion to marry those forms to casually, taboo-breaking plots and boldly non-realist acting. In that regard, The Forbidden Room is much of the same, but, you might say, more so. It’s at once his most excessive film and his most deeply pleasurable, a seemingly bottomless cave of charming, star-studded (Mathieu Amalric! Hannibal’s Caroline Dhavernas!) vignettes in tribute to the cinema’s dreamlike aura and innate connection to memory and desire.
If that sounds a bit heady, rest assured that The Forbidden Room is also funny as hell, recklessly careening from setpieces involving a daydreaming volcano to a step-by-step guide to taking a bath, which naturally dissolves into an equally daft sequence featuring a submarine full of marooned deep-sea dwellers who turn to the air bubble in their flapjacks as their last oxygen supply. Needless to say, the logic is associative and free-floating and the effect alternately exasperating and enchanting.
He Hated Pigeons
Directed by Ingrid Veninger
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema (506 Bloor Street West)
Toronto independent filmmaking star and sometimes business godmother Ingrid Veninger—perceptively dubbed the queen of “humblecore” by The Globe and Mail’s Adam Nayman—follows up The Animal Project with her fifth micro budget feature, He Hated Pigeons.
Though Veninger’s previous film stayed grounded in Toronto, her newest, like Modra and i am a good person / i am a bad person before it, once again finds her in a guerrilla-styled shoot in an international setting. This time that doesn’t mean the European film festival circuit or a small city in Slovakia, but Chile’s Atacama Desert and the ice fields of of Patagonia, where Veninger tells the story of a young man’s coming of age in an extreme landscape.
Sunday’s screening is pay-what-you-can, and will be accompanied by a live score performed by Ohad Benchetrit and Justin Small of Toronto’s own Do Make Say Think.