Toronto 2018

A Dozen Contenders in Toronto

On Film / The Daily — Aug 8, 2018
Elisabeth Moss in Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell (2018)

In just a few years, Platform has become an significant launchpad at the Toronto Film Festival, focusing on distinct directorial voices working in a wide range of genres. Inaugurated in 2015 and named after Jia Zhangke’s film of the same name, it has been host to premieres of Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, Armando Iannucci’s The Death of Stalin, and other titles that have gone on to international acclaim.

This year’s section will present twelve films from Europe, Asia, the U.S., and Mexico and will open with a film about a competition. In Tim Sutton’s Donnybrook, an adaptation of the novel by Frank Bill, an ex-marine and a drug dealer face off in the titular fist fight for a $100,000 prize. Driven by such a clear-cut conflict, Donnybrook looks to be a change of pace for Sutton, whose previous features, Pavilion (2012), Memphis (2013), and Dark Night (2016), have all been meditative slow-burners.

Platform will close with the debut feature from French directors Caroline Poggi and Jonathan Vinel, known for such short films as After School Knife Fight (2017). In Jessica Forever, a woman leads a group of boys seeking to leave their violent pasts behind them. Another French entry comes from actor, director, and screenwriter Emmanuel Mouret. Mademoiselle de Joncquières is a loose adaptation of a story taken from Denis Diderot’s late eighteenth-century novel Jacques the Fatalist and His Master. A widow aims to punish the lover who left her by hooking him up with a courtesan.

Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell, just announced as part of the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate, features Elisabeth Moss as a punk rocker hellbent on sabotaging her life—and her band. Her Smell was shot by Sean Price Williams, the accomplished cinematographer who’s worked with Perry on Golden Exits, with Michael Almereyda on Marjorie Prime, and with Josh and Benny Safdie on Good Time. He also shot Kate Plays Christine, directed by Robert Greene, who’s edited Her Smell.

Platform’s third American entry is Destroyer, Karyn Kusama’s highly anticipated followup to her 2015 horror film The Invitation. The new crime thriller stars Nicole Kidman as a Los Angeles police detective forced to reckon with her past when the leader of a gang she infiltrated years ago reappears.

From Benjamín Naishtat, the Argentinian director whose History of Fear (2014) and El Movimiento (2015) have premiered in competition in Berlin and Locarno, respectively, comes Rojo. The drama set in Argentina in the mid-1970s traces a lawyer’s growing unease as a private detective begins snooping around his sleepy hometown.

Patricia Clarkson stars as another detective, hers specializing in homicide, in Carol Morley’s Out of the Blue. Morley had made several shorts before drawing international attention with Dreams of a Life, her 2011 docudrama about the discovery of the body of a woman three years after her death (her television was still on). In Out of the Blue, Clarkson’s detective investigates the murder of a renowned astrophysicist.

The River, from Kazakh actor and director Emir Baigazin, probably best known for 2013’s Harmony Lessons, focuses on five brothers who accidentally discover that the modern world is a threat to their traditional ways. The River will see its premiere in the Orizzonti program in Venice. Mexico will be represented by Alejandra Márquez Abella, who won a special jury award in Fribourg for Semana Santa (2015). In her new film, The Good Girls, a well-to-do couple struggle to cope with the economic crisis that hit Mexico in 1982.

Austrian actor Markus Schleinzer, who has appeared in Michael Haneke’s The Piano Teacher and The White Ribbon, made his directorial debut in 2011 with Michael, which centered on a pedophile who keeps a young boy in his basement. We may see that theme resonate anew in Angelo, based on the true story of an African boy abducted in the eighteenth century and forced to become the Viennese court mascot.

In The Innocent, from award-winning Swiss director Simon Jaquemet, a neuroscientist faces a spiritual crisis when a former lover reenters her life after having spent twenty years in prison. Cities of Last Things, from Taiwan-based director Ho Wi Ding, is a series of three vignettes told in reverse order, each of them about one man’s relationship with women.

TIFF’s forty-third edition will open on September 6—two days before Venice closes and two days after Telluride wraps—and will run through September 16.

For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.