The TIFF Diaries: Day 1 – Going Back and Forth + Capsules for Asako I & II, Assassination Nation, and Kursk

On my first day, I woke up earlier than I expected (at around 5:30 A.M. for the matter), but I headed over to ScotiaBank theater to press screenings for Asako I & II and Assassination Nation. On board the train over to Toronto, I’m wondering to myself if the notification ting is long enough after having missed a chance to RSVP for the Kursk red carpet – but ah, what the hell. I can’t let one missed opportunity bring me down so badly, and I know I’ll probably get another chance sometime soon so that I’ll have so much more to talk about quickly.

All of this having been said, I went into Asako I & II with relative ease, even though I was incredibly tired on the way to Toronto, I didn’t end up getting drowsy – almost as if I drank quite a fair amount of caffeine to help me move through the day. For what already proved itself to be a good day for me, Asako I & II was fantastic. It was the first Hamaguchi film that I’d seen, and knowing already the running time of Happy Hour, I can only say that I just wanted so much more out of that. I could watch two hours of a film like this, all about exploring how Asako has really been able to move through her life with an image of love having been set in her mind only to disappear then reappear in a matter of years.

Soon after, I ended up in the same theater for Assassination Nation, a movie that I was only going to be checking out thanks to morbid curiosity getting the best of me. But knowing that two friends of mine had also attended the screening, I already knew a good time was set to come my way. The film was really bad, but I also have to admit that seeing that my friends were just commenting on everything that the movie has been getting so wrong, I had a good time and I was never bored. But I’m wondering what it would have been like to watch a movie like this at Midnight Madness where I know it’s destined to be showing. And granted, I wouldn’t be able to make it to one of those screenings because I’d also be going back and forth to school (and finding transportation in Toronto is incredibly strenuous after midnight), but I want to know what watching a film like this with that sort of audience would feel like.

Unfortunately my time with Shak and Erik didn’t last rather long, as I ended up going back to Oakville because of a class that I was late for – only to find that it was merely an introductory class and I was excused by my own professor because I was going to TIFF. And not only that, but it came at the cost of me missing out on a press screening that I wanted to attend, that for Mike Leigh’s Peterloo – but really now, I’m always excited for a new Leigh. At least the moment I got home, I was able to catch yet another bus heading over to Toronto in order to catch Kursk, which would be about as late a night showing as they’d get for me.

So how did Kursk end up going for me? Let me just say, I ended up running into certain Film Twitter figures that I respected a great deal – starting off with me having planned a meetup with Danielle Solzman in the lineup, and eventually Elena and Manuela Lazic outside the theater. And then out of nowhere, I ended up meeting David Ehrlich in the lineup, so there’s quite a chance encounter for a person like myself. Though for as awesome as it may have been to have had this chance to run into many people off Film Twitter that I respected as much as I did, I do wish that I could say the same thing about the film itself. But being able to see Thomas Vinterberg, Léa Seydoux, and Matthias Schoenaerts in person? That was also pretty cool – even if I didn’t get red carpet access as I was hoping for.

I’ll also put this out there; as underwhelmed as I may have been by two of the three films that I saw on the first day, I never felt like I had any of my time wasted attending any of these screenings – as late as I would have ended up staying in Toronto for. If there’s anything that I’ve always loved most about being able to go to film festivals, it all stems from what it feels like being able to run into many other like-minded individuals that also share that same passion for film. But being a press member this year, it also feels rather nice that I would have been able to catch as many films as I can just with the need to show my own pass at the front. Here’s hoping that the rest of the festival continues to be as wonderful an experience as it was for me day one.

Capsules

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Asako I & II – It’s not easy to describe how complicated a feeling like love truly is, especially when you know you have an image set in mind about what you find to be the perfect individual for your everlasting love. In Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s film, we see a tale about what it feels like to be seeing double of this image, and it could have been made into the premise of a romantic comedy but it’s also quite thoughtful in the most unexpected sense. A full review is set to come soon.

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Assassination NationAssassination Nation opens with a list of trigger warnings, and desperately tries to pander to what I can only assume would be an audience of particularly liberal viewers, but even there it falls so flat. When talking about how it seems to understand what it’s supposedly portraying as “millennial culture” as defined by their connectedness to the Internet, it feels as if it was written by someone who is so out of touch with the way the world works or an edgy fourteen year old (as if the trigger warnings would already give you that idea), especially given its subject matter and setting in a town called Salem (get it, the Salem witch trials?) – I’m not so sure this film understands the audiences it would be set to reach because I can’t figure out who it’s for. At least the four leads keep it worth watching. A full review is set to come soon.

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Kursk – Thomas Vinterberg’s latest film about the Kursk submarine disaster is a touch too melodramatic, but the claustrophobia of being underwater and with the men on board fearing for their own lives never feels as if it has realized its full potential. The above ground sequences are fairly repetitive in their melodrama, and it never feels like it captures that sense of fear so well by jumping around between perspectives as often as it does because of how certain segments seem less engaging than the rest – and there’s no sense of connection. A full review is set to come soon.

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