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Toronto International Film Festival 2006 - UPDATE #5

Directed by Ray Lawrence

That Jindabyne is based on a short story comes as absolutely no surprise, as the film feels as though it's been needlessly padded out to achieve a longer running time (at 123 minutes, there's simply no denying that the movie is far longer than it has any right to be). Starring Gabriel Byrne and Laura Linney, Jindabyne follows four men who - while out on a fishing weekend in the country - come upon a dead body and elect to carry on with their trip rather than report the corpse. This doesn't sit well with their friends and family - nor their community at large - and the men soon find themselves forced to justify their actions. It's an awfully ridiculous premise, and although it's entirely possible that it worked within the context of Raymond Carver's short story, the movie generally comes off as an overwrought and flat-out silly piece of work. Screenwriter Beatrix Christian attempts to compensate for the lack of content within Carver's 24-page story by throwing in a whole host of needless subplots, including countless sequences in which two children with sociopathic tendencies harass each other and whoever else happens to be nearby. It's a shame, really, given the effectiveness of Ray Lawrence's directorial choices and the uniformly stellar cast.

out of

Directed by Pedro Almodóvar

Quirky and melodramatic to an almost absurd degree, Volver casts Penelope Cruz as Raimunda - a hard-working Spaniard who must cope with the sudden appearance of her mother (a woman who's been dead for several years). Complicating matters is the sudden death of her abusive husband and an unexpected gig as a caterer for a local film production. It doesn't take Volver long to firmly establish itself as a ludicrous, distinctly trashy piece of work that has little to offer all but the most ardent Pedro Almodóvar fan, and there's simply no overlooking the vibe of desperation inherent to virtually every aspect of the movie. This is despite an opening hour that's actually kind of engaging, as the director focuses on Raimunda's various problems; nobody does trashiness quite as well as Almodóvar, and he's infused Volver with an unmistakably heightened sense of reality. But as the movie progresses and the whole dead-lady-who's-not-dead-anymore stuff goes front and center, it becomes virtually impossible to actually care about any of this. To describe Volver as frustrating is an understatement; there's a lot here that works, but there's far more that's simply interminable.

out of

Sur la trace d'Igor Rizzi
Directed by Noël Mitrani

Sur la trace d'Igor Rizzi stars Laurent Lucas as Jean-Marc Thomas, a disgraced pro-soccer player who has turned to criminal endeavors as a means of supporting himself. Though he's become adept at breaking into homes and robbing donut shops, Jean-Marc receives an opportunity for a much more lucrative payday after a local thug offers him a job as a hitman. Writer/director Noël Mitrani spends an inordinate amount of time following Jean-Marc as he wanders aimlessly from one wintry location to the next, and accompanies such sequences with meaningless narration from the character in which he laments the loss of his beloved. But because Mitrani never gives the viewer a single reason to care about Jean-Marc's plight, the majority of Sur la trace d'Igor Rizzi remains thoroughly interminable and flat-out dull. That Lucas - ordinarily a personable and charismatic presence - delivers an inaccessible, completely closed-off performance certainly doesn't help matters, nor does Mitrani's choice to infuse the movie with a distinctly low-rent visual style that's unusually unpleasant.

out of

Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid

Though it deals with the same sort of subject matter as last year's The Exorcism of Emily Rose - a deeply religious girl is thought possessed and an exorcism is authorized - Requiem generally has the look and feel of a typically slow-paced foreign drama. That being said, Sandra Hüller's subtle, undeniably powerful performance certainly goes a long way towards elevating the film to something that's much more memorable than it should've been. Hüller stars as Michaela Klinger, a meek young woman who finally breaks free from her ridiculously overbearing mother - only to start suffering from bizarre episodes that may or may not be otherworldly in nature. Director Hans-Christian Schmid has infused Requiem with an austere sort of vibe that effectively echoes Bernd Lange's spare screenplay, while star Hüller deftly steps into the shoes of a complicated character that is - more often than not - far from likeable. And although the film is never quite as compelling as Hüller's performance, this would probably make a fitting companion piece with The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

out of

This Filthy World
Directed by Jeff Garlin

Though it'll undoubtedly hold more appeal for fans of John Waters - this goes without saying, as the film consists solely of 86 minutes of Waters addressing a college-aged crowd - This Filthy World is accessible enough to ensure that even the filmmaker's detractors will likely walk away satisfied. Sporting a kitschy dinner jacket and his trademarked pencil-thin moustache, Waters takes his audience - and, by association, the viewer - on a tour of his admittedly deranged mind, offering up a whole host of stories and opinions on various subjects. Though he briefly touches on all his films - yes, Divine actually ate dog poop in Pink Flamingos - Waters generally focuses on his perverse childhood and day-to-day pet peeves. And while a lot of this stuff is genuinely funny - he notes that his current hobby is saying inappropriate things to children - there's no getting around the film's distinct vibe of unevenness (though, to be fair, it seems likely that Waters' followers will find little here to complain about). And for those hoping for some dishy behind-the-scenes tales, Waters has nothing but the nicest things to say about some of the more famous folks he's worked with (including Johnny Depp, Melanie Griffith, and even Stephen Dorff). If nothing else, however, This Filthy World makes it abundantly clear just why Waters makes the sort of films he does.

out of

These Girls
Directed by Tahani Rached

Depressing and sad, These Girls follows a group of homeless Egyptian women (and some men) over several weeks as they attempt to forge some kind a life for themselves and their children. Filmmaker Tahani Rached doesn't shy away from portraying the relentlessly bleak nature of her subjects' existence, though there's absolutely no denying that the film suffers for precisely that reason. The repetitious structure and lack of likeable figures transforms These Girls into an increasingly frustrating experience, as there's not a whole lot of new information to be gleaned as the movie progresses (we get it; life sucks for these people). And while Rached is occasionally able to cajole heartbreaking revelations out of her subjects - ie one woman claims she'll kill her unborn child if it's a girl - the whole thing never quite manages to rise above the level of slight (awfully slight) curiosity.

out of

© David Nusair