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It’s almost hard to believe that SIFF is winding down to a close but thems the facts. With series eight now closed out, that leaves eight more films to do. Pressure is on. With this capsule reivew series now in the tail end, I can safely say that SIFForty has certainly had a wealth of good stuff to offer but they’re nothing if not hidden amongst a trove of unenviable watches. As always, the good is mixed in with the bad, paper-bagged and drawn at random. But of course, this is why you read reviews. This time around, every film listed is foreign. How critic-y of me. Still keeping within the rules and regs of SIFF protocol, these micro-reviews are sliced and diced down to a brief 75 words so you can read them fast, I can write them fast and the studio’s happy. So, short and sweet reading for you, much more time for movie watching for me. This could be the beginning (or is it getting towards the end now?) of a beautiful friendship.

Frank

dir. Leonard Abrahams star. Michael Fassbender, Domhnall Gleeson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Scoot McNairy (UK)

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With a big, fake head and a Jim Morrison-like access to lyrical poetry, Frank (Michael Fassbender) is as talented as he is prophetic, and potentially disturbed. Joe (Domhnall Gleeson), a talentless hack of a musician, wants to take advantage of Frank’s art; to transform it into a social media-friendly commodity. As Frank attempts to find his magnus opus, Joe dopily tries to package and sell it; a searing metaphor for Gen-X self-inflation en masse. Efficiently experimental, at times sermonist, and always outlandish, Frank is a powerful meditation on mental disease, commercialism and art, and all the brightly lit areas where they intersect. Frank also proves Fassbender can act like no other through a Papier Mâché helmet. (B)

The Grand Seduction

dir. Don McKellar star. Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Gordon Pinsent, Matt Watts (Canada)

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This delightfully moonstruck feature boasts Brendan Gleeson‘s comedian muscles and Taylor Kitsch‘s shtick (which, yes, is an anagram of Kitsch) for being the likable bad boy (Dr. Bad Boy here.) When their once-proud fishing harbor dries up,  Murray’s (Gleeson) only way to ween the town off the welfare checks is to secure a doctor in order to legitimize a bid for an oil repurposing facility. To do so, he and the town’s people unite to spy on Kitsch’s Dr. Lewis, transforming the town around them into Lewis’s own personal fantasyland. The gimmick is cute (without being too syrupy) and at times touching, reminiscent in tone to last year’s equally cheery/droll Philomena, and is an easy recommendation for the masses of moms and pops looking for a feel-gooder. (B-)

Venus in Fur (La Vénus à la fourrure)

dir. Roman Polanski star. Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric (France)

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As much a showcase for its two authoritative leads as it is an illustration of the power of theater, Venus in Fur continues Roman Polanski‘s streak of adapting plays in fearlessly simple terms. While Carnage felt a little forced in its translation to the screen, Furs works wonderfully and the adroit performances matched with the clever subjugation of gender roles present in David Ives‘s drama gives this pre-turn-of-the-century, play-within-a-play, dominatrix tale one to not soon forget. (B+)

Gold

dir. Niall Heer star. Maisie Williams, James Nesbitt, David Wilmont, Kerry Condon (Ireland)

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An ironically named film – even Silver or Bronze would seem somewhat an overstatement – Gold sends up the sports movie by mixing heavy themes and messy family drama amidst the quest for first place. Abbie (Game of Throne‘s Maisie Williams) is pressured by her (adoptive) father Frank, a mustache of a PE teacher, to win win win, so turns to performance enhancing drugs to improve her times, just as her real dad, Ray, enters the picture for the first time in 12 years. While it’s nice to see Williams in a leading role (and she’s never the problem), the resolution comes up short, as does some of the connective tissue getting us from point A to point B. As such, Gold is a film with high aspirations that only periodically hits its mark. (C)

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Click through for more recap segments and stay tuned for the next collection of four in this whopping ten part series.

Part 1: JIMI: All is By My Side, Zip Zap and the Marble Gang, Hellion, Fight Church 
Part 2: Cannibal, The Double, Time Lapse, Another
Part 3: Half of a Yellow Sun, Mirage Men, The Trip to Italy, Starred Up
Part 4: Difret, The Fault in Our Stars, The Skeleton Twins, In Order of Disappearance
Part 5: Willow Creek, Firestorm, Mystery Road, 10,000 KM
Part 6: Obvious Child, To Kill a Man, Night Moves, The Internet’s Own Boy
Part 7: Canopy, Intruders, The Babadook, Happy Christmas


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