TIFF ’15 – Day 9: Before Jorge

Julie Delpy is wonderful. Her movie is not.
Julie Delpy is wonderful. Her movie is not.

I’ve nursed a crush on Julie Delpy since I was 17 and I saw back-to-back Europa, Europa and Voyager. It crystalized upon watching Before Sunrise, the movie that launched thousands of backpackers in pursuit of their own feisty French gal (few were successful).

This Friday I met her in person. The circumstances weren’t ideal: I was accompanied by three journos unable to come up with half a decent question, and she was escorted by her co-star in Lolo, Dany Boon. She was less than bewitching, but vivacious, funny and talkative, very much like her character in the Two Days saga.

Hopefully I’ll get another chance to talk to her (minus inept reporters).

Lolo (France, 2015): Julie Delpy has built a nice side career for herself as a film director. True, none of her movies have made an impact at the box office, but her portraits of complex, smart women has at least being acknowledged by critics everywhere.

Lolo is Delpy’s most high profile movie to date as a filmmaker: French comedian Dany Boon (Welcome to the Sticks) co-stars, Thierry Arbogast (The Fifth Element) is the cinematographer. It’s also Delpy’s weakest.

The erstwhile lead of the Before trilogy is Violette, a sophisticated 45-year old divorcee who falls for the French equivalent of a townie (Boon) while on vacation. The twosome attempts to continue the relationship in Paris, but come across an insurmountable obstacle: Violette’s son, Lolo. Despite being in the cusp of twenty, Lolo harbours a massive Oedipus’ complex and has a knack to drive her mother’s lovers insane.

While in the beginning the movie keeps a foot on reality, Lolo becomes increasingly zany as it progresses. This doesn’t mean it gets any funnier: You know you have a problem when the most entertaining bit comes from notorious crank Karl Lagerfeld in a cameo. Good on Delpy for trying to stretch her wings (and play her age), but thw material is not up to par. Two desolé prairie dogs.

The Witch (USA, 2015): Even though it was preceded by glorious reviews, I failed to see the point of The Witch, a gimmicky, pretentious horror flick that only succeeded in boring me to death.

Based on testimonies and records from the New England pioneers whose puritanical views led to a vicious witch-hunt, the film chronicles a family’s descent into madness after being exiled from their settlement. Following the kidnapping of their youngest and other unfortunate events, the clan begins to suspect the eldest daughter may be into witchcraft. She is not, but nobody is willing to listen.

Director Robert Eggers uses Old English for the dialogue, an approach that instead of accentuating the strangeness of the tale, makes you wish for earplugs. Eggers’ notion of horror is a lot of yelling and hysterical behaviour. The actors are strong and undeniably committed, yet their characters are so unkind, it’s difficult to care for them, even the bratty twin toddlers.

Since the filmmaker tries to walk the line between realism and otherworldliness, The Witch feels half-baked as horror movie. In fact, it’s closer to a scholarly paper without actual appreciation for the genre. One prairie dog way into The Craft.

That’s it for TIFF ’15, folks. The one thing I learned this year: Roundtables are for suckers.

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.