A Double Dose of Hallelujah

by Matthew Curtis
September 9, 2008 5:53 AM
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I could say that for some of the movies I've been seeing up in Toronto, but I was actually referring to the Leonard Cohen song (himself a Canadian I believe) bookending my day yesterday. First thing in the morning it was the original playing in Starbucks on my way to the Cumberland, then much later in the day it was a Spanish version (!) playing in Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's terrific SUGAR. One thing is certain--no matter who's doing it or what language it's in, this is one great tune.

More festival films in brief:

SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (5-stars) - Warner Bros.' loss seems to be Fox Searchlight's gain with Danny Boyle's adventurous, romantic, humorous, even suspenseful picaresque tale of the trials and tribulations of an orphan boy in India who grows up to find himself on the Mumbai version of TV's Who Wants To be a Millionaire . This was one of the huge buzz films coming out of Telluride, and audience reaction here will only add to the momentum.

IT MIGHT GET LOUD (4-stars) - Focusing on Jimmy Page, The Edge, and Jack White, this wonderful addition to the rock doc canon gives us three generations worth of classic electric guitar history and anecdotes. Bringing these 3 guys together to shoot the shit and jam is a joy to behold, and the whole thing is nicely edited and chock full of great archival footage.

FIRAAQ (3-stars) - Renowned Indian actress Nandita Das makes her directorial debut with searing drama about the horrifying violence between Hindus and Muslims in the state of Gujarat in 2002. This as an ambitious film with many powerful moments, but there's too many characters and storylines that don't really gel by the film's conclusion. And once again we get a look at domestic violence and how Indian men mistreat women, though not quite to the degree of Deepa Mehta's new film.

MEDICINE FOR MELANCHOLY (4-stars) - What a pleasant surprise! This beautifully shot, monochromatic low-budget American indie by Barry Jenkins follows two attractive young people for the next 24 hours after a drunken one-night stand at a party. The fact that that they're black and live in San Francisco make this low-key, urban romantic comedy something special, even if the comparisons to IN SEARCH OF A MIDNIGHT KISS and the Linklater/Hawke/Delpy movies are inevitable.

ASHES OF TIME REDUX (2-stars) - Never saw the 1994 original, but it's pretty clear why Wong Kar Wai's only martial arts film was also one of his most obscure. Even with the new re-editing, enhanced color processing, and revised musical score, this tale of an amnesiac samurai, a "problem solving" sword for hire, and the troubled people who cross their path, is just not that engaging in its melodrama and plot machinations. Visually though, the cinematography by Christopher Doyle is often stunning, and it is fun to see Leslie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and Maggie Cheung do their best with the material.

--Matthew

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