TIFF ’15 – Day 3: The Wrath of Jorge

Helen Mirren again, rocking a bird on her head in Trumbo.
Helen Mirren again, rocking a bird on her head in Trumbo.

These are the kind of journalists you’ll meet at a roundtable at TIFF:

The keener: The one who write original questions in advance, doesn’t digress and makes faces when other reporters make silly questions. These are my people.

The slug: The one who doesn’t open his mouth the entire time, but will profit of his/her colleagues work.

The loudmouth: The one who speaks on top of others, often to say something completely obvious.

The rambler: Someone pathologically unable to make a question without a ridiculously long preamble, which often ends in no question.

The “in it for the famous people”: Sample question: “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be?” Also “What’s like to work with Russell Crowe?”

The prickly pear: Someone (likely a guy) who thinks his knowledge of film is so vast, no other opinion matters. Could be easily confused with a keener, but the questions are often mediocre.

Trumbo (USA, 2015): As biopics aiming for gold go, Trumbo packs a bigger punch than your average awards chaser. The film chronicles the ten years Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) spent on the black list, alongside nine other scriptwriters whose livelihood was destroyed because of their affiliation with the communist party.

Not one to roll with the punches, Trumbo fought for his freedom of speech and association against the American Congress, gossip reporter Hedda Hopper, fearful studio heads and the Duke himself, John Wayne. Even at his lowest, Trumbo run a racket of blacklisted writers who worked in secret for a small studio. How good was Trumbo? The man won two Academy Awards using other people as front.

The film is fascinating except for the segment dedicated to the Trumbo family dynamics, way too pedestrian compared to the fight against the powerful forces controlling Hollywood at the time. In his first high profile starring role after Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston delivers: The man once known as Walter White provides the character with a joie-de-vivre that serves as motivation and source of empathy. Four swans (the prairie dogs have been blacklisted.)

Remember (Canada, 2015): It’s not hard to understand why Remember is Atom Egoyan’s best film since The Sweet Hereafter: Unlike Ararat or the unnecessary Devil’s Knot, Remember deals with a reduced scope. Two aging men with retaliation on their minds.

Residents in an assisted living facility, Zev (Christopher Plummer) and Max (Martin Landau) share a common past: Both were Auschwitz prisoners during WWII and saw their families decimated by the Nazis. Stuck in a wheelchair, Max sends Zev on a revenge mission against the block fuhrer responsible for their deaths.

The assignment faces two stumbling blocks: Zev’s mind has been ravaged by dementia and relies on a letter from Max as reference point (think Memento, but rooted in reality). There are more than one German ex-pats that could be the culprit, and Zev must zigzag across North America to get the right one.

A nonagenarian, Landau is sharp as a tack, but Remember is Plummer’s movie. Zev’s lucidity comes and goes and you can see it in his eyes. His mission puts him in touch with the different faces of Germany during the war, not the subtlest of approaches but an undeniably compelling one. Remember plays with what we think we know about WWII. The strategy elevates the film above the genre’s average. Three and a half tattooed prairie dogs.

Un plus Une (France, 2015): A tonally confused, rather pointless dramedy about two people considering an affair, Un plus Une is yet another misfire of the once interesting director Claude Lelouch (A Man and a Woman). This, in spite of the very charming leads Jean Dujardin (The Artist) and Elsa Zylberstein (I’ve Loved You So Long).

Dujardin is Antoine, a composer hired to score a contemporary version of “Romeo and Juliet” set in India. In Delhi, the musician meets Anna (Zylberstein), the wife of the French ambassador (Christopher Lambert). The two become fast friends and soon becomes obvious they have plenty of chemistry. Alas, neither plans to step outside their respective relationships. A trip to visit renowned guru Amma may provide the answers to their dilemma.

The film starts as a mellow romantic comedy to turn midway into spiritual journey and end up as drama. It satisfies as none. The single, truest moment of Un plus Une comes courtesy of Amma, a real-life spiritual leader who has built an empire out of embracing people, quite literally. There is something about Amma that can’t be explained easily. She deserves better than being used as plot point in a forgettable movie. Two prairie dogs too close for comfort.

Tomorrow: I’ll ask the director of An Inconvenient Truth how can I win an Oscar with a PowerPoint presentation.

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.