TIFF diary two


You'd think that one psychopath would be enough for a movie. As a character in Martin McDonagh's film "Seven Psychopaths" points out, they can get tiresome. But McDonagh, the prolific playwright and the director of the unconventional, black comic gangster movie "In Bruges," has managed to brilliantly orchestrate not only his seven whack jobs and as many narratives. Plus an intratextual bonanza of references to other gangster movies, cinema in general, and a self-reflexive critique of the creative  process and the nature of story-telling. Oh, and redemption too.

Let's start with the non-psychopath. The protagonist is a screenwriter named Martin (Colin Farrell), an alcoholic writer who is late on turning in a screenplay. He has a title, "Seven Psychopaths," but no beginning, middle, or end. His best friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), a flaky actor, offers unwanted advice, like suggesting Martin draw on the local serial killer who has been exclusively knocking off "middle to high-ranking members of Italian organized crime." So that's psychopath number one, which, as I mentioned above, should suffice for one movie.

But there are six more to go, and rather than list them all, let me just say that the most reasonable character is played by Christopher Walken  -- a dognapper named Hans Kieslowski. Hans also serves as a kind of critical voice, describing various drafts of screenplays as "layered" or lacking in developed female characters. So the film also provides its own critique in addition to everything else. Along with "Looper," it plays twisted games with the gangster/noir genre to very entertaining, and elevating effect.

That was last night. Today I saw  Ben Lewin's "The Sessions," in which Helen Hunt puts in a stunning performance as a sex surrogate; John Hawkes is equally affecting as  the paraplegic polio victim who hires her services. The film is on the same level of Oscar promise as "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" or "My Left Foot," and deservedly so. So is the another film I saw today, Derek Cianfrance's "The Place Beyond the Pines," in which Ryan Gosling plays a hot shot motorcyclist who robs banks to support his wife and baby. Kind of like a combination of "Drive" and "Blue Valentine," but then it becomes much more than that, the two-and-a-hour, hip cinema equivalent of a three-volume  19th century novel.

Therefore, after two days, it appears that the number of great movies at this festival may be overwhelming.

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