William Turner paints happy boats.

William Turner paints happy boats.

Today was a day full of interviews, some of which you should be able to read in Prairie Dog and Planet S in the near future. It’s the case of the one I had with Robert Kenner. Kenner, an Oscar nominee for Food Inc. has another potential nominee in the cutting Merchants of Doubt. An outgoing fellow, the documentary filmmaker is as merciless as Michael Moore, but not as antagonizing.

This abundance has made difficult to play roulette at TIFF. One of the joys of a film festival is to find yourself watching a movie otherwise you wouldn’t never be exposed to. Besides a lean, mean Belgian police thriller (The Intruder), a Spielbergian portrait of Dutch kids during Nazi occupation (Secrets of War) and a meaty German drama about assisted-death  (Tour de Force), I have leaned towards traditional fare.

Mr. Turner (United Kingdom, 2014): The always interesting British filmmaker Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Happy-Go-Lucky) gave the impression of mellowing out in recent years. His movies had become accessible, succinct, even funny. In a way, Mr. Turner is a return to form: A lengthy, nearly plotless character study of a somewhat unsavory character starring regular collaborator Timothy Spall.

A phenomenal Spall plays William Turner, a landscapes painter who had his heyday in the early-1800. Widely beloved by the art establishment at the time, Turner pushed the boundaries of naturalism: His marinas had an intensity seldom seen before. Turner wasn’t beyond putting himself in harm’s way to find some form of inspiration and paid dearly for it. His private life was considerably less palatable: A notorious misanthrope, the artist barely dedicated any time to his family and had a maid willing to satisfy every whimsy.

There isn’t a proper narrative arc in the film (unless you consider going from “miserable” to “slightly less miserable” character development), but a series of vignettes that depict Turner as a complex man, sensitive to nature, but not to people. At two-and-a-half hours long, Mr. Turner can be a taxing experience, but also a nutritious one. Like homework or broccoli. Three snobby prairie dogs.

Foxcatcher (USA, 2014): Bennett Miller, one of the best American directors currently at work won the Best Director award at the Cannes Film Festival for this unflinching depiction of the real-life murder of an olympic champion. Multimillionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell), a dilettante with delirious of grandeur, becomes the sponsor of a wrestling team led by Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). The younger brother of a ring legend (Mark Ruffalo), Mark has won medals in his own right, but always felt in the shadow of his more successful and gregarious sibling. Schultz sees the DuPont offer as an opportunity to forge his own way, and chooses to dismiss the glaring red-flags in the behavior of his benefactor.

Much has been said about Carell prodigious transformation into a sociopath, but Channing Tatum is as good if not better as the damaged, sullen Mark Schultz. Unlike the director’s previous efforts (Capote, Moneyball), Foxcatcher is less palatable and consequently, less audience-friendly. DuPont is an obviously unbalanced man who takes advantage of his position in life to manipulate others, and gets away with it by disguising his motives as “patriotism”. Feel free to draw parallels. Three and a half dogs throwing money at their problems.

It occurred to me that…

…Michael Moore is a very pleasant guy. Met him at an elevator, shook his hand and had a laugh in twenty seconds flat.

Tomorrow: How is Channing Tatum really like.