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Sunday 15 December 2019
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What She Said! with Christine Bentley & Kate Wheeler

TIFF Tidbits, Mick Jagger Channeling Truman Capote, The Friend with Dakota Johnson and Jason Segel Will Rip Your Heart Out, Closing Night Science and Love, Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Lopez’s TIFF Flicks Now in Theatres, and Keira Knightley in Fact-Based Spy Thriller Official Secrets

#TIFF19 continues apace with its exhausting and exhaustive schedule of juicy films from around the world through Sunday when the People’s Choice Awards are announced. Another year of stars manoeuvring the red carpets as fans call out for selfies, the parties, the events and street fair vibe, mere appetisers for the main events – the films!  Check www.tiff.net/films to see what screens now through Sunday, and catch audience favourites you may have missed earlier. Saturday’s Closing Night Gala Radioactive by Marjane Satrapi concerns the scientific and romantic passions of Marie and Pierre Curie, and the reverberation of their discoveries throughout the 20th century and including the atomic bomb. Stars Anya Taylor-Joy, Rosamund Pike and Aneurin Barnard. www.tiff.net/events/radioactive

One of my favourite TIFF offerings this year was The Friend, a powerful, emotionally challenging story of love. Dakota Johnson plays a wife and mother of two who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her husband played by Casey Affleck accepts the live-in help of his best friend, played by Jason Segel; he’s dealing with his own issues and believes helping them in their daily lives is his duty and through that, might find his own redemption. The reverberations of love in the home then heals and comforts in palpable ways even if they can’t stop the outcome. This is an intelligent, non-manipulative gem, and a profoundly moving examination of empathy in crisis. Take your hankies, as this is a cleansing, rejuvenating experience.  Here are the filmmakers discussing this wonderful film.

TIFF entry The Burnt Orange Heresy is an art heist thriller and a portrait of a famed art critic who will stop at nothing to scoop a reclusive octogenarian artist’s latest and hopefully last piece. It’s a four-hander with Danish actor Claes Bang as the tricky critic, Elizabeth Debicki as his newly minted American sex buddy a teacher trying her hand at “whoring”, Donald Sutherland the artist who lives on the property of a Truman Capote-esque collector played by Mick Jagger! Lots of high art, music, and skullduggery. The critic befriends the artist to set him up for the definitive career-making first look at his work; he hasn’t produced anything in decades. The girlfriend develops an authentic bond with the artist unwittingly putting herself in harm’s way while the critic plans his coup. Lots of pretty things at look at but this is a gritty noir, a hard-edged portrait of a psycho eaten by naked ambition.

In regular release following its TIFF bow is John Crowley’s film adaptation of Donna Tartt’s award-winning novel The Goldfinch. It is a big experience. I hadn’t read the book so this review is based solely on the film’s merit and Ill admit I’m haunted by it.  It moves fast, constantly blowing up worlds (literally) changing the landscapes in mere heartbeats, sinking and rising, simmering with violent emotions, as violent events erupt time and again. We get inside the head of Theo the poor, tragically unlucky boy who grows up to be a successful antiques dealer; our hearts are with him and only late in the game do we learn of his willful duplicity, and more violent turns.

The remarkable Oakes Fegley plays young Theo who witnesses the death of his mother in an art gallery terrorist explosion and who grabs her beloved painting of the goldfinch to keep it safe. Ansel Elgort is Theo the adult, the young Turk coming apart at the seams obsessed by the painting. It speaks to our obsession. with inanimate objects, although you could argue that art is not inanimate. The pathetic bird trapped by a chain in the painting, survived hundreds of years only to be stolen under adult Theo’s watch. Nicole Kidman is the definition of aristocratic ice as his foster mother and she is formidable, her character having perfected a glossy image to protect herself from the madness in her family. Jeffrey Wright is warm and compassionate as another benefactor, who takes in a shell-shocked Theo some months later.  Luke Wilson, Sarah Paulson, Finn Wolfhard, Aneurin Barnard, and a freaky Boyd Gaines form the ensemble.

Hustlers Jennifer Lopez’ Oscar vehicle, co-starring Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo and former stripper Cardi B based on the article The Hustlers at Scores, gets the glossy screen adaptation/ Lorene Scafaria’s portrait of strippers on the make, drugging and robbing clients as somehow getting back at an unfair world. “Women’s empowerment” is the credo on one side and “what if the tables were turned” on the other. It’s big and scintillating and full of eye candy, great music, incredible pole dancing by fifty-year-old Lopez, and while you know what they’re doing is beyond the pale, you can’t help but root for them and their spunk.

Keira Knightley plays real life British Intelligence translator Katharine Gun in Official Secrets who in 2003, is angered by US President George Bush, Colin Powell and Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blairs’ insistence on declaring an unnecessary war on Iraq. Gunn knew there was zero evidence of weapons of mass destruction in the country and that war was intended to sew up its oil industry for the US. Gunn leaked a top-secret memo from the US NSA requesting that Britain spy on five UN Security Council members to force them to vote for such a war. Two weeks later Bush proposed war. Gunn was charged with treason and imprisoned, her Turkish husband was threatened with deportation but she refused to stop the fight, drawing the worlds attention. Interesting, scary stuff, based on Gunn’s memoir.  Co-stars Matt Smith, Rhys Ifans and Ralph Fiennes.

Available now on Digital and On Demand platforms worldwide if the 30th Anniversary Edition of director DeWitt Sage’s award-winning feature documentary Distant Harmony: Pavarotti in China, remastered with clear rich colours and heart stopping sound.  this month. In 1986, Luciano Pavarotti went to Beijing to with his La Bohème, performing for 150 million people. Watch the most famous opera singer of his time tour the country, chat with locals, enjoy the culture and encounter roadblocks in this gorgeous rendering of the original doc. This was back in the day when China was opening up to the West, before it closed up again.

And speaking of singing, Jessie Buckley’s phenomenal performance in Tom Harper’s WildRose makes this unusual Cinderella story tug at the heart strings. Drug addicted, irresponsible and unable to properly care for her children, single English mother Rose-Lynn nurses a seemingly ridiculous dream of making it as a country western singer – in Nashville. She can’t stop herself from continuous fails, so her mother (Julie Walters) lays down the law. She’ll raise the kids until she straightens up. Rose-Lynn reluctantly takes a cleaning job that changes everything. Her employer (Sophie Okonedo) recognises her talent and drive and together they conspire to get her to Music City. Impossible as it seems, Rose-Lynn‘s tenacity and natural talent may overcome her self-destructive impulses. Wild Rose is emotional, infuriating, satisfying and deeply human, Buckley’s talent is true and watching her incredible journey is in itself, healing. Now on Demand and DVD.

by @annebrodie
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