Monday, September 9, 2013

TIFF Day 2

Horns
The first swing and a miss of my fest. Joe Hill's novel as directed by Alexandre Aja. The novel was a bit of a mess, but with an interesting premise and ideas that made it worth sticking with (church-going general good egg starts turning into a demon and is conflicted on the use of his new-found powers in an attempt to find the killer of the love of his life). The seemingly endless flashbacks and scattershot pacing made it hard read for me at times, but in the end I found it enjoyable enough. I had hoped that its conversion to a movie would alleviate most of my issues with the text - quicker pacing, tighter motivations, etc..

It handled most of that well, but fucked up in enough other ways that the movie ended up worse than the source material. Ig's horn growth has the effect of getting those who see him to spill their darkest secrets and desires. In the novel, this comes off as a bit creepy, revealing the blackness in everyone. The early exchanges are particularly bleak, making some of the middle ones (ie.- his family) seem less so, and just sad. However the movie handles these transitions poorly. They're played as dark humour, which is fine, but it takes a few seconds to realize that people are actually spilling their guts to Ig. Casual conversation turns to darker talk, but seldom gets to the level of the book. For example, the priest is turned from an uncaring adulterer to just another guy who believes Ig killed his girlfriend.

There is also no explanation given for Ig's transformation. The book's requires a definite suspension of disbelief (beyond that required for a guy to grow horns), but at least it's there. That explanation is removed in the opening shot of the film.

Most egregious is the change to the real killer. In the book we slowly learn of his true nature. That he's a thief and a psychopath and rapist who hasn't been right since he was a child, but has convinced the world that he's the salt of the Earth by following his twisted view of Ig's example. In the movie, this psychopathy isn't realized. He's comes off as just a creep who was looking out for himself.

And then there's the casting. Radcliffe as Ig is fine. There are moments when he's obviously stretching, but he generally works. Joe Anderson is quite good as Ig's brother, although the changes to that character made little sense. Max Minghella is also capable as Lee Tourneau, for what little he's given. But my biggest issue is the casting of the women. Juno Temple as Merrin is awful. Her acting style doesn't work at ALL with the character and comes off as stilted and awkward. Meanwhile, Kelli Garner does what she can with Glenna, who is practically unnecessary in the adaptation vs her more important (yet still secondary) roll in the novel. I walked out thinking that they mixed up the casting sheets, as both actresses would have been superior in the other's role.

The film is beautifully shot though. I can't argue with that assessment. Gorgeous colours,  and impressive visuals abound. But that's hardly a reason to see it.

Here's hoping that whatever adaptation of Locke & Key (Hill's amazing graphic novel series) comes about is superior to this.


Triptyque
Robert Lepage's 9-hour play, Lipsynch, has one three-part triptych taken from it for this film. An exploration of what we take for granted every day, through three connected stories.

First is Michelle, who works at a Quebec book store, where she has that unbelievably encyclopedic knowledge of everything the store carries that one finds in these old shops. But Michelle hears voices, self-harms, and has never been well. Her sister wants only what's best for her, but Michelle laments her lost voice as a poet. She realizes the medications to control her schizophrenia are necessary, but that their side-effects rob her of the life she truly loves.

Then there is Thomas, a German neurosurgeon in London who has developed a tremor in his hand. His attempts to control it are for naught, and the toll this takes on him threatens his marriage and his passion. He turns to alcohol to steady his hand as he prepares for another surgery to save another life.

Marie is a jazz singer who has a brain tumour. She has been slurring and forgetting words, and her surgreon, Thomas, has informed her that the removal of the tumour may result in temporary aphasia, a terrifying thought for someone who relies on words to make her living. However, as her story progresses, we learn that this isn't the most devastating side effect.

The stories aren't in exact chronological order, so we learn the fates of the central characters before they do, removing the drama and tension that this film is unconcerned with. Lepage seeks to convey they interconnectedness of words, and voice, and memory, and speech. He does this by showing the betrayal of our most important piece - our brains.

Beautifully shot and acted, with a wonderful melding of directorial styles between Lepage and Pedro Pires, Triptyque is a meditation on loss, love, and communication.

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