Toronto 2011 Journal, Part 5: What a ‘Shame’
I'll save my full comments for later, but suffice it to say that director Steve McQueen ("Hunger") has made a thought-provoking, intense drama that's easily the best thing I've seen so far in Toronto and is also one of the best films of the year. Not only that, it touches on subject matter dealt with in other Toronto films and simply bulldozes over them. Playing a successful New York professional with deep sexual addictions, Michael Fassbender is a darker, more desperate character than even Woody Harrelson's dirty cop in "Rampart." The film's examination of shaky family bonds is even more mysterious and penetrating that those in the superb "The Descendants." And when it comes to Fassbender films about sexual perversity that are playing Toronto, it sure beats "A Dangerous Method."
I was as tired as any time I've been at Toronto when I went to see "Shame," but the movie's titanic force instantly woke me up. As a critic, I'm very sensitive to the idea that reviewers don't always see movies under ideal circumstances. (You had a bad day, you're getting over a cold, traffic to the screening room was just terrible.) And yet I think it's important to not let those factors affect your opinion of the film, even though that can be very hard to gauge. (Is this film slow, or am I just tired?) "Shame" reminded me that, while it's important to stay cognizant of those external factors, great movies are great movies no matter what. I now feel re-energized for the rest of my stay.
Today, I'm going to be checking out two films for sure, and they couldn't be any different. The first is "Albert Nobbs," the period drama starring Glenn Close as a 19th century woman disguised as a man. If you're the kind who gets invested in Oscar buzz, Close has been getting a lot of attention for this role, mostly because it's been a passion project of hers for years.
The second is "Alps," the follow-up film from "Dogtooth" director Yorgos Lanthimos. Here's the plot description: "A mysterious underground outfit, going by the name of ALPS, offers bereaved individuals a very unusual service: they stand in for their dearly departed." So, no, Lanthimos hasn't decided to go for a mainstream romantic comedy after his dark breakthrough success.
We'll see how the rest of the day goes from there. In the meantime, here's a ranking of the films I've seen at Toronto, including movies I screened before the festival. This is from worst to best....
14. "This Side of Resurrection"
11. "The Artist"
9. "Sarah Palin: You Betcha!"
8. "Damsels in Distress"
6. "A Dangerous Method"
4. "Take This Waltz"
3. "The Descendants"