VIFF Capsule Reviews #5

Mr. Turner was obsessed with light. He studied it for years, always trying to find a better way to capture it on the canvas. Mike Leigh and his frequent cinematographer Dick Pope use this knowledge to craft one of the year’s most gorgeous films. Every shot, for almost the entire length of the film, is a master class of illumination, shadow and color balance, making for a wonderful mash-up of art forms. Cinema influenced by other art forms can be a good thing!

In the title role, Timothy Spall provides a crazy mixture of slouches, sneers and, yes, many grunts. But he makes the man real despite a stylized, though subdued, performance.

Even more subdued is Steve Carell as John du Pont in Bennett Miller’s disturbing Foxcatcher. Carell, as a rich man who decides to coach wrestling on his estate, is quiet, often motionless and uncertain for much of the film and only gets more comatose as the story goes on. Quite the opposite is Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz, all balled up aggression and frustration. The cast, including the always steady Mark Ruffalo, anchor the story, but it is Bennett Miller who gives the film much of its creepy air; his use of silence and some scene framing is inspired. The story, if you don’t know it, as I didn’t, is a shocker (a lady in the audience even let out a scream at one point).

The last film for me this year actually let me down, compared to expectations. Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria is enjoyable to watch, features warm, engaging performances from Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart, and brings up a lot of interesting points about acting and what we bring to a role. Only, I could not make any connections between the various parts to find a whole. There are echoes of Copie conforme and Vanya on 42nd Street, until a new subplot shows that no, there aren’t. Every time I felt I had a lock on the film it eluded me. Perhaps with repeat viewing one day it will make more sense.

A VIFF Top 10

1. Mommy
2. Mr. Turner
3. Hill of Freedom
4. Heaven Knows What
5. Winter Sleep
6. Horse Money
7. Foxcatcher
8. Two Days, One Night
9. Preggoland
10. Maps to the Stars