TIFF ’14 – Day 7: Winnipeg Red

Zoe Saldana's legs and the Ruffaluffalo in a scene of Infinitely Polar Bear.
Zoe Saldana’s legs and the Ruffaluffalo in a scene of Infinitely Polar Bear.

As the herd of journalists and industry people starts to thin a bit, I have now the chance to catch up with some of the festival’s oddest titles. None more strange than The Editor, an hilarious Winnipeg production that’s easily the best Canadian title I’ve seen this year at TIFF. The Editor is an homage to the giallo films Mario Bava and Dario Argento made popular three decades ago. This is not your average parody: Directors (and protagonists) Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy know the original material upside down and are savvy enough to mock it the great effect: The terrible ADR, the questionable acting, the hardboiled yet painfully earnest dialogue. The Editor provided me with one of the best times I had at TIFF, and this is a movie starring Paz de la Huerta.

Infinitely Polar Bear (USA, 2014): Mistreated at the last Sundance Film Festival, Infinitely Polar Bear is one of those quirky family indies that once were all the rage and now aren’t cool enough for the Park City crowd. Mark Ruffalo -who is having a very good year- shakes off his trademark lethargy to plays Cameron, a manic-depressive father of two girls. Cam is unable to maintain a job, so his wife (Zoe Saldana) is forced to pursue higher education in another city in order to become the sole provider. Suddenly turned the sole caregiver of two precocious daughters, things don’t completely fall apart, and that could be considered a triumph.

Set in the 70’s, Infinitely Polar Bear has several things going for it. Ruffalo and Saldana are very strong in it, and their struggle for normality feels real. Also, kudos for treating mental illness as something that can’t fully be managed by ingesting handfuls of pills, and favoring character over cuteness when casting the girls. It’s a bit of a stretch to believe someone with Saldana’s looks could fall for a manic outsider, but once you have accepted that, the film can be compelling, if not touching. Infinitely Polar Bear will be distributed by Mongrel, so it’s likely to hit the province. Three bipolar dogs (two happy, one sad).

Teen Lust (Canada, 2014): Movies that don’t live up to their premise are a dime a dozen, but this phenomenon is all too palpable in the Winnipeg-made Teen Lust. In a twist on the traditional storyline “horny teenager wants to get laid”, the subject in question is the son of satanists who is about to be sacrificed to prevent the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. He must be a virgin for the ritual to work.

Motivated by his impending demise, Neil (Jesse Carere, Skins) goes in urgent pursuit of a mate, with the assistance of his ne’er-do-well best friend (former Spy Kid Daryl Sabara) and the girl who is obviously in love with him but he doesn’t notice (seriously, Neil has it coming). Meanwhile, Beelzebub’s entire church is trying to cockblock him.

None of the madcap action that ensues is as amusing as it should. For a swear-happy, Satan-inspired flick, Teen Lust is remarkably tame: This is one of those movies where people have sex with their clothes on. The portrait of women is questionable at best: They exist in two categories: Harpies and sex objects. The Winnipeg-set flick wastes a game Cary Elwes and Kristin Bauer (fresh from the True Blood trainwreck) as head satanists on behalf of decidedly less interesting characters like, uh, Neil. If you settle for mildly amusing while doing the dishes, this movie is for you. One prairie dog volunteering to be sacrificed.

It occurred to me that…

…Elvis Mitchell, curator of the Film Independent series at LACMA and the host of “The Treatment” podcast, is possibly one of the nicest film critics I have ever come across, alongside the lovely Stephanie Zacharek of The Village Voice. After a quick chat about our favorite movies this TIFF, he asked for my card to read some of my stuff. It may just be politeness, but it beats every other critic around.

…unlike with Michael Moore, I had no chance to mention to Ethan Hawke the ridiculous influence of his movies in my life: The Before series, Dead Poets Society and Reality Bites may not be perfect, but I saw them at the right moment and the right circumstances.

Tomorrow, adventures of a gay codebreaker in World War II.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.

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