TIFF 2015: The Round-Up

I’m back from TIFF (the Toronto International Film Festival), where I caught about 35 films. Average film quality was high this year—even if, compared to past TIFFs, I didn’t encounter any mind-blowers like Beau Travail (1999, my first TIFF), La Captive (2000), Still Life (2006), Syndromes and a Century (2006) or RR (2008).

I’ll soon be putting up a series of posts with impressions of the films. Meanwhile, here’s an overview.


Right Now, Wrong Then (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea)
The Other Side (Roberto Minervini, USA)
Arabian Nights vols. 1-3 (Miguel Gomes, Portugal)
Evolution (Lucile Hadžihalilovic, France)


The Treasure (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)
Invention (Mark Lewis, Canada)
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi (Jafar Panahi, Iran)


In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman, USA)
Office (Johnnie To, Hong Kong)
In the Shadow of Women (Philippe Garrel, France)
Night Without Distance (Lois Patiño, Spain)

Very Good:

The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (Ben Rivers, UK)
Afternoon (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)
The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin/Evan Johnson, Canada)
High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, UK)
11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland)


The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece)
Sector IX B (Mathieu Kleyebe Abonnenc, France/Senegal)
Minotaur (Nicolás Pereda, Mexico/Canada)
Bring Me the Head of Tim Horton (Guy Maddin/Evan Johnson/Galen Johnson, Canada)
The Event (Sergei Loznitsa, Ukraine/Netherlands/Belgium)
Francofonia (Alexander Sokurov, Russia)

Interesting, but Disappointing:

Murmur of the Hearts (Sylvia Chang, Taiwan)
Journey to the Shore (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan)
Mustang (Deniz Gamze Ergüven, Turkey)
The Apostate (Federico Veiroj, Uruguay)

Low Point of the Festival:

Les Cowboys (Thomas Bidegain, France)

Films I Was Most Sorry to Miss:

Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weereasethakul, Thailand)
Mountains May Depart (Jia Zhang-ke, China)
No Home Movie (Chantal Akerman, Belgium)
Lost and Beautiful (Pietro Marcello, Italy)

Fascinating, Need to Revisit:

The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan)
88:88 (Isiah Medina, Canada)

Most Thrilling Mise en Scène:

Office (Johnnie To, Hong Kong)
Evolution (Lucile Hadžihalilovic, France)

Best Scene:

Taxi driving class taught by South Asian instructor in Frederick Wiseman’s In Jackson Heights.

Memorable Onscreen Appearances by Directors:

Jafar Panahi (Jafar Panahi’s Taxi)
Tsai Ming-liang (Afternoon)
Guy Maddin (Bring me the Head of Tim Horton)
Sylvia Chang (Office)
Miguel Gomes (Arabian Nights)
Alexander Sokurov (Francofonia)

Best Pop-Music Soundtrack:

Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)

Most Narrative-Maximalist:

Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin/Evan Johnson)
11 Minutes (Jerzy Skolimowski)
High-Rise (Ben Wheatley, UK)
In Jackson Heights (Frederick Wiseman, USA)

Best Essay on a Festival Film:

Leo Goldsmith in Cinema Scope on The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers.

* * *

Writings on films at the festival:

David Hudson has collected links to reviews.

Cinema Scope posted over a hundred reviews during the festival.

Danny Kasman and Fernando Croce‘s epistolary exchange.

Michael Sicinski and Jordan Cronk on the Wavelengths program at TIFF.

— Several dispatches by Ignatiy Vishnevetsky.

pic: The Other Side (Roberto Minervini, USA)

Comments (17):

  1. Michael Guillen

    September 23, 2015 at 1:37 pm

    Always great to get your annual heads-up, Girish; thanks!

  2. girish

    September 23, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Thanks so much, Michael!

  3. Daniel Kasman

    September 23, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    "Taxi driving class taught by South Asian instructor in Frederick Wiseman's In Jackson Heights." —YES!

  4. Unknown

    September 25, 2015 at 7:41 am

    I actually found Cemetery of Splendour to be Weerasethakul's strongest film to date and certainly his least tedious, which I think is the main stumbling block with much of his work, the tedium.

  5. Tim

    September 25, 2015 at 9:11 am

    Great to see so much love for the film of the year, ARABIAN NIGHTS.

  6. girish

    September 25, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Thanks, all.

    Danny, it was great to see you, even if only briefly.

    Remy, my experience has been very different from yours: I find Apichatpong's work spellbinding–anything but tedious.

  7. Unknown

    September 25, 2015 at 3:26 pm


    Maybe I need to revisit Syndromes and a Century, since I've only seen that one once. But I've watched Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee twice each, and I have yet to be entirely sold on them. Actually, now that I think about it, I only found Uncle Boonmee tedious but found the 'spiritualism' of Tropical Malady too on the nose whereas in Cemetery of Splendour it's merely implied. I haven't watched Blissfully Yours yet, however.

  8. Unknown

    September 25, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    But mind you, I was extremely pleased with Cemetery of Splendour, which I noticed Vishnevetsky only gave a 3/5 on Letterboxd. I think I may like it more than Jauja in fact, although I'm not sure yet.

  9. Nathan

    September 26, 2015 at 7:06 am

    I'm actually not too far off from Remy's position. Syndromes and a Century is for me Apichatpong's one true, hands-down absolute masterpiece; the mirror structure introduces a comparative social element, and its direct anchoring in modernity through its depiction of the city (something I easily fall for) clarifies things which are left somewhat unclear in other works of his that I've seen. And the most spell-binding moments (the black hole, the older woman looking at the camera) suggesting a haunting otherwordldliness without having to actually refer to other worlds, quite a feat in itself.
    Otherwise, Apichatpong has struck me as consistently excellent, but like Remy I've never been completely, unreservedly won over, though I often can't quite figure out why. Something about the geometry of the shot, maybe, which sometimes seems blurred in comparison to the absolute clarity of Syndromes and a Century? But to agree with Remy again, Cemetery of Splendor is a clear runner-up for me, a film open to the possibilities of light and time in a way few others recently have been.

    The other film I've had serious misgivings about this year is Arabian Nights, about which I thought that the project's intentions were to be more admired than the actual film. It came out over three months in Paris, one volume a month, and thankfully I found that each volume got better than the previous, but vol. 3 was the only one that convinced me. I find it says something quite serious about his project that the best one of the three is the one which most radically goes against his whole discourse, i.e. the one in which fiction and documentary are *completely* separate!

  10. Unknown

    September 26, 2015 at 7:58 am

    I live in Paris too, and it didn't really occur to me to go see Arabian Nights. Should I? Some of the smaller theaters may still be running it.

    A little off topic, but I can't believe it took me until almost age 27 to make it to the 'Grand Action' for a screening, as it has to be the coolest of the old Latin Quarter revival houses. I went there to see Bergman's Persona last night. I would usually just go to Le Champo or the Filmotheque du Quartier Latin and sometimes Le Reflet Medicis, and of course first run theaters to see first run films.

  11. Unknown

    September 26, 2015 at 8:08 am

    Now why didn't Cemetery of Splendour enter the main competition at any of the major festivals like Cannes, Berlin, and Venice? Was it too 'out there'? Also, is there some unwritten rule which stipulates a film can't enter the main competition at multiple major festivals? So if a film is up for the Palme at Cannes it can't compete at Berlin or even Toronto…

  12. Tim

    September 26, 2015 at 1:17 pm

    Remy, Arabian Nights is a must-see! 😀

  13. Unknown

    October 9, 2015 at 9:31 pm

    Why didn't you like Journey to the Shore? What made it quite good for me was the fact that it shouldn't have worked 'on paper'. On paper it should have been a complete transcendental catastrophe, but it was far from that. It was one of those films that 'worked' even though it shouldn't have.

  14. girish

    October 16, 2015 at 2:37 pm

    Remy, I am actually very favorably disposed to Kiyoshi Kurosawa. Even when I find his films uneven (which is most of the time), I'm still eager to check them out. And he's always thoughtful, witty and unpredictable in interviews.

    JOURNEY began well for me: the quiet humor in the early scenes of Yusuki's sudden appearance, their travel to and stay with the printer–and the gentle mystery of those scenes. But the rest of the film left me dramatically unengaged, and I slowly began to lose interest in it. For me the last 2/3rds of the film didn't have the light-ironic, slightly distanced tone of the first part of the film. But it's not a movie I would be averse to seeing again, to test my response.

  15. Unknown

    November 20, 2015 at 1:03 pm

    The Lobster actually exceeded my expectations, not a bad film at all, and the complete lack of method acting made it compelling. Also Girish, did you not watch Son of Saul?

  16. girish

    November 20, 2015 at 1:05 pm

    Remy, I enjoyed THE LOBSTER too–and its stylized performances. I tend to like Lanthimos's films best when they are at their most controlled and circumscribed within a "closed system"–like all of DOGTOOTH or the first half of THE LOBSTER.

  17. Unknown

    February 25, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    Hi girish. Most of your films i saw. all these are really good.

Comments are closed.