TIFF 2021, Day 8: Buckle up for Titane at the Cinesphere

Having learned from years of programming press screenings in the IMAX room at the Scotiabank, TIFF has been really smart about what it’s screened in large-format rooms this year; there was Dune, obviously, but other visually ambitious pictures like Dug Dug, Memoria and Medusa were upscaled to the six-storey screen. Even Yeon Sang-ho’s upcoming Netflix horror series Hellbound got to go big before it goes home, its tale of giant smouldering demons materializing in Seoul and literally dragging people to hell pounding people for two and a half straight hours.

So, trust me: while the noon screening of Becoming Cousteau and the 4 pm of Montana Story will likely be very impressive, today’s can’t-miss experience at the Cinesphere has got to be Titane at 8 pm. Julia Ducournau’s Palme d’Or-winning tale of sex, cars, murder, identity and belonging is one of the year’s wildest rides, and the idea of its fleshy, oily aesthetic on a screen as overwhelming as the Cinesphere’s has a perverse appeal the filmmaker would certainly appreciate. Ruben Impens’s glistening cinematography will dazzle at this scale, and Agathe Rousselle’s magnificent, unreadable performance as a young woman whose character arc can be best described as “going through some stuff” will land even harder.

I refuse to discuss the plot of the film at all, but if you can imagine David Cronenberg’s Crash and Clare Denis’s Beau Travail having furious make-up sex after a week-long fight, and raising the resulting baby on nothing but Leos Carax movies, that’s Titane. This is an endorsement. (Rating: NNNNN)

Also screening today

Those Cinesphere screenings of Becoming Cousteau and Montana Story I mentioned would be totally worth your while if you’re interested in either picture, and as the festival nears its end date, a number of films return for their final screening windows. Out Of Sync (digital availability 5 pm tonight, rating: NNNN), about a workaholic Spanish sound editor (Marta Nieto) who experiences an unexplainable cognitive disconnect similar to the Doppler effect, her hearing lagging behind her other senses by seconds or even minutes. Obviously this makes work impossible, but there’s a great deal more going on in Juanjo Giménez’s hyper-focused drama, which starts as a sort of companion piece to Darius Marder’s TIFF 2019 knockout Sound Of Metal… but goes somewhere very, very different. Watch it with as few distractions as possible.

Today also marks your last chance to catch Edgar Wright’s Last Night In Soho (6 pm, Princess of Wales theatre), Laurent Cantet’s Arthur Rambo (8 pm, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2; second digital availability at 9 pm) and Haya Waseem’s Quickening (7 pm digital, 9 pm at RBC Lakeside Drive-In at Ontario Place). And if you’re in the mood for an otherworldly European allegory rather than an African one, Lucile Hadžihalilović’s Earwig is also getting its last digital window at 7 pm tonight.

It’s also your final opportunity to check out Saul Williams and Anisia Uzeyman’s Neptune Frost (NNNN), which plays digitally at 7 pm. The Rwanda-shot sci-fi uses inventively tactile costume and production design to tell a story about the human labour and extraction that reframes how we think about the techie trappings of the sci-fi genre. It also veers into thorny melodrama and features sound design and musical sequences that demand a fulsome viewing experience (if you have a great audio setup at home, prioritize this one). (KR)

Fans of British director Terence Davies cannot miss Benediction (NNNN), his gayest film yet. This dream-like biopic of the poet Siegfried Sassoon offers a melancholic and scathing view of closeted life in Britain, and is full of the filmmaker’s cutting wit, haunting fades that upend our sense of time and impeccably detailed production and costume design. When the shady dialogue and the languorous sleepwear combine, Benediction is explosive. (KR)

Awards buzz!

Spencer’s single playdate at the festival seemed to confirm that Kristen Stewart is a definite player in this year’s awards cycle, but TIFF hasn’t produced too many contenders on the larger scale. (At this point in an ordinary festival we’d be saturated in enthusiastic e-mails from publicists jockeying to position their clients for the Fast Track To Oscar, which runs directly through TIFF’s photo studio.) There was a brief swirl around Benedict Cumberbatch for his turn as a toxically repressed rancher in Jane Campton’s The Power Of The Dog, but Netflix seems to be holding its big promotional push for the movie’s release in December. So what happens next? Is there a film poised to emerge from the shadows of TIFF’s final three days? Never say never, I guess, but I’ll tell you this for free: it won’t be Silent Night.

What to see tomorrow

Joachim Trier’s The Worst Person In The World is one of the final Cannes titles to arrive at TIFF – and I cannot wait to see it – but of course there’s that Steven Soderbergh surprise screening at the Princess of Wales. TIFF is now billing it as a “new” film, which means it might not be the improvised comedy he shot in Australia more than a decade ago and never released. I’m hoping it’s another Ocean’s movie, but made entirely with LEGO mini-figs being moved around by hand. Or maybe it’s an elaborate industry satire shot during his prep for this year’s Oscars. That totally seems like something Steven Soderbergh would do, doesn’t it?


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