Fandor @ TIFF #7: Be-Twixt Killer McConaughey and Fake-spearean Garbage

In rough descending order of preference:

Twixt (dir. Francis Ford Coppola)
Unduly vilified by some, Papa Coppola’s slightly campy horror flick has many a pleasure to offer, not least the giddy thrills of several carefully arranged 3-D sequences. The movie is a return of sorts: not only to the grand flourishes of the baroque pageant that was the 1992 Dracula, but even to Coppola’s own exploitation-debut, Dementia 13. A heavy dose of literary tropes (the most delicious of which is a prolonged discussion of “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe himself) doesn’t burden the movie as much as it lends it some much-needed moral seriousness. In the end, Twixt presents itself as a meditation on the nature of creative process. Pony-tailed Val Kilmer (slightly on the pudgier side here) may not be your idea of a universal artist-figure, but Coppola furnishes the movie with so many outstanding HD images (many of them mixing color and b&w similarly to Rumble Fish), that there’s no doubt he himself is the real protagonist of the piece. – Michał Oleszczyk

Killer Joe (dir. William Friedkin)
Where in Bug, director Friedkin’s previous collaboration with playwright Tracey Letts, madness came gradually and insinuatingly, here it consumes the narrative right off the bat with thunderclaps, insults shouted to the rafters, and a bottomless Gina Gershon. But then again, this sweaty stew of lolitas, lunkheads and unchained ids might not have worked any other way: Hyperbolic vileness seems to flow right out of all the characters, and the actors revel in the juicy wickedness of this inspired redneck noir. There’s Emile Hirsch, dripping with desperation and puglike bravado; Thomas Hayden Church, doing hilariously slack-jawed reactions to the withering madness around him; Gershon, proving there’s no better snarler alive; Judo Temple, as softly perverse as a James M. Cain heroine. And then there’s Matthew McConaughey, who, as the titular assassin-for-hire, unveils a newfound sense of danger in his usual swagger and gives this wild blend of Blood Simple, Baby Doll and Teorema its alarming, pungent center. – Fernando F. Croce

Chicken with Plums (dir. Vincent Parronnaud, Marjane Satrapi)
Less engrossing than Persepolis, this brave foray into live-action filmmaking by Satrapi & Paronnaud is still heartfelt enough to put one into an accepting (and at times forgiving) mode. The story of a self-centered Iranian musical virtuoso – played with all the fierce despondency that only Matthieu Amalric can muster – opens with his attempt at buying a new instrument, and then moves on to his sudden, firm resolution to die. As we witness a veritable kaleidoscope of his life and imagination unravel before our eyes, the movie slowly but surely lets us in on the secret of the man’s broken life. Brilliantly described by Joseph Jon Lanthier as a cross between Unfaithfully Yours and Taste of Cherry, the film is all about transforming despair into playfulness – in order to arrive at new level of cosmic acceptance of grief. – Michał Oleszczyk

Dark Horse (dir. Todd Solondz)
“Oh my God, that wasn’t horrible,” a character sighs after an awkward kiss, thus supplying what is arguably the most positive sentiment ever expressed in a Solondz film. Basically a Kevin James comedy with all the bile and anxiety excavated and rubbed against the camera lens, the writer-director’s latest squirm-o-rama functions on a more modest canvas than his previous miserabilistic ensembles, detailing the desires and humiliations of a schlub (Jordan Gelber, who’d be perfect for a Harvey Weinstein biopic) who’s pushing 40 and still living with his parents (Christopher Walken, Mia Farrow). Characteristically full of derisive, kitschy details and unappetizing close-ups, it’s a relatively gentle (by Solondzian standards) vision of emotional paralysis and deformed relationships, working best in its flashes of cutting cruel comedy (as when fantasy propels Donna Murphy from mousy secretary to cougar’s cougar) and, especially, as the acid bath that the Rogen-Sandler-Ferrell axis of adorable arrested development thoroughly deserves. – Fernando F. Croce

Anonymous (Roland Emmerich)
“Was Shakespeare a Fraud?”, the ads ask, thus missing the point. The main thing to bear in mind is that Roland Emmerich isn’t. There’s an unmistakable earnestness to his complete lack of good taste and fine judgment in Anonymous. He’s not camping things up – this crass vulgarization of history, politics, poetry and art is his actual idea of what forceful filmmaking really is like. As he dramatizes a much-publicized (and much-distorted) notion that Shakespeare’s plays were penned by one Edvard De Vere, he pulls out all the stops. The movie is violent yet listless; it has so little actual energy that it needs to be mechanically propelled by a non-stop drone of generic music and frantic cutting. Emmerich is an aesthetic barbarian with no saving grace of naïvité; one endowed with nothing but strong chops and the desire to beat the viewer into a submissive pulp, so that the last words he or she will utter will be: “Roland, this is art”. – Michał Oleszczyk

Did you like this article?
Give it a vote for a Golden Bowtie


Keyframe is always looking for contributors.

"Writer? Video Essayist? Movie Fan Extraordinaire?

Fandor is streaming on Amazon Prime

Love to discover new films? Browse our exceptional library of hand-picked cinema on the Fandor Amazon Prime Channel.