(The Last Supper, tiff.net)
Lu Chuan, director of City of Life and Death, returned to TIFF this year with The Last Supper, or, How the First Han Emperor Was a Massive Dick.
Presented as a set of non-linear flashbacks, Liu Bang, the first emperor of the Han dynasty, recalls important events from his life. His focus is on two men he regards as his greatest enemies: Lord Yu and General Xin. Spanning from his early years as a poor peasant to his final minutes on his deathbed, Liu Bang’s life is truly an epic one. He joins the rebel forces, works his way up the ranks, becomes a beloved leader, and finally takes the empire for himself. His ambition is his greatest asset and he perceives any ambition in others as a great threat to his person, even as he strongly criticizes those who lack any. As the film progresses, even he seems unclear as to why Lord Yu and General Xin are his enemies, having presented him with no hostility through the course of their relationships.
Just as City of Life and Death was a no holds barred retelling of the despicable Rape of Nanking, Lu Chuan here does not back down from presenting some of the not so nice aspects of the birth of a golden age in Chinese history. The story is difficult to follow at times due to the constant jumping back and forth in time, but overall is well worth the time put into it.
(Here Comes the Devil, tiff.net)
Truly, I have never seen such dramatic rocks as those in this film.
Beginning with a gratuitous lesbian scene which has no bearing on the rest of the film and segueing into a home invasion which has only minimal bearing later on, Here Comes the Devil is an interesting journey, but tied together with only the loosest of threads.
A family consisting of a mother, father, son, and daughter go on a day trip into the countryside. The children decide to hike up to the top of a nearby hill while their parents partake in some afternoon delight. Hours later and the kids haven’t returned. Having become quite worried, the parents contact the police and later retire to a motel to wait out the night until they can continue the search in the morning. As they’re about to head out in the morning, the police return with their children. The parents are overjoyed and the children seem happy enough, but over the next few days they start behaving erratically. It becomes obvious that something happened while they were on the hill.
Here Comes the Devil asks a lot of questions and provides very few answers. In other circumstances this wouldn’t be a problem, but the questions are so varied and seemingly unrelated that it just becomes confusing. Pair that with overly dramatic music and zooming shots on various rock formations, and the movie gets a bit silly at times. This was definitely a case of enjoying the film at first for its individual parts but realizing it didn’t hold up to any sort of scrutiny once it was over. Pretty on the surface, but only about an inch deep.
(The Master, tiff.net)
Much has already been said by others about Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, so I’ll just keep it to point form here.
- It isn’t specifically about Scientology, but is about a cult of personality that bears some very similar processes.
- Joaquin Phoenix is fantastic though his performance doesn’t quite match Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood.
- There are so many ways to interpret the film that it’s hard to get a good bearing on what it’s really about in a single viewing.
- There is one dream sequence and one flashback, neither of which give the viewer any obvious hint that they are not simply chronologically part of the story and can be a bit confusing.
- Paul Thomas Anderson just does whatever he wants with his movies regardless of what the “established” rules of cinema are, doesn’t he?
- The Master is a film that will stand up over time and will be regarded very highly in the years to come, even if it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves now; the slightly better There Will Be Blood may be the only thing to tarnish it.
I can’t think of a more appropriately titled film to end off this year’s festival with. Fin (The End) is a Spanish movie about a group of old friends who have a reunion at a cabin far from civilization. During an argument on their first night there, a bright flash occurs in the sky and the power goes out. After discovering that none of the vehicles will start either, they begin to get a little worried. The next morning, one of their little group has disappeared, presumably to go for help, and the rest of them decide to leave as well. As they travel, they discover the extent of the event which has occurred is much larger than they could have imagined.
I love apocalyptic fiction and Fin is one of the better ones I’ve seen recently. Instead of focusing on the lengths humans will go in order to survive, it takes a slower paced approach and is more about humanity’s relationship with nature and the inevitable end that everybody will face. It’s also just a neat movie - I liked it and it was a good way to tie things up for another year.