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7 Movies You Can Watch to Replicate the TIFF Experience at Home

By  · Published on September 12th, 2014

Open Road Films

It can be quite magical to be at a large film festival. There are hundreds to choose from – heaps of beautiful films that will never again leave their home country, indie delights that will receive the most minimal distribution, and of course, a smattering of Hollywood forays into deeper subject matter. You can meet people from all over the world, hear filmmakers and casts give insights into their productions, and have a valid excuse to eat piles of junk food as you race between screenings.

But after the fiftieth time someone pushes their reclining seat back so far that it’s pinned your legs to your own chair, or people come and go repeatedly throughout the movie, or someone pulls out their phone and someone else yells at them, or any of the other results of hundreds of people seeing countless films together, any film fiend will start to descend into madness and wish for the joys of home couches and television screenings.

This year, it’s not so hard to replicate the TIFF experience at home. There are filmmakers revisiting old tropes and material, actors honing talents that once made them stars, and features that nod to the films that came before. Here are seven films currently screening at TIFF, and the films they can be replaced with at home.

Nightcrawler = Donnie Darko

After eschewing the crappy Hollywood fare that was plaguing him, Jake Gyllenhaal returned to indies at the fest last year with Enemy and Prisoners. Having finally shed Source Code he returns to TIFF again with Nightcrawler, a film that finally pushes Gyllenhaal back into the idiosyncratic characters that made him a star.

In Nightcrawler, he plays Lou Bloom, a slimy thief who becomes a cameraman who races to capture all manner of accidents and death to sell to local news stations. Between the character’s shifty eyes and angst-ridden staring into a mirror, it’s easy to remember the role that made Gyllenhaal famous – the eponymous hero of Donnie Darko. This isn’t really Donnie 2.0; there is no charming charisma behind the strangeness, and Gyllenhaal looks more like some black sheep Uncle Darko no one in the family talks about. Lou is a creepy, but great reminder that it wasn’t only Gyllenhaal’s charisma that resonated in his early work.

Read our Night Crawler review

Clouds of Sils Maria = Rendez-vous

Clouds of Sils Maria and Rendez-vous are very different films – the former is about a woman and her female assistant as they prepare for a play; the latter is about a new actress struggling in a man’s world. But the film not only reunites Olivier Assayas with Juliette Binoche – it also revisits the material with keen, more modern eyes. In Sils Maria, Binoche is a woman dealing with the death of her mentor and revisiting the play that made her famous – only now she cannot play the ingénue – she must play the doomed, older lover.

In Rendez-vous, which he co-wrote and Binoche starred in, she is the new star – struggling to find a career-making gig and anxious to find the success that will allow her to be on her own without help from the many men who manipulated and even threaten her. It’s a film that boasts many names from classic French cinema, an interesting journey back to Binoche’s roots, and a film that makes for a good precursor to Sils Maria, which hits theatres in December.

Read our Clouds of Sils Maria review

Still Alice = Safe

In Still Alice, Julianne Moore is perfectly cast a 50-year-old woman who discovers that she has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Moore’s performance as Alice anchors the film, and is a beautiful evolution from her early role in Safe – from the fear of the unknown to the fear of an affliction that can’t be stopped, from the relatively clueless woman who will try anything to the intellectual who doesn’t want to lose her mind.

In Todd Haynes’ 1995 film, she is Carol White, a woman who becomes increasingly allergic to her environment and must remove herself from the world. The entire film rests on Moore’s ability to make unspoken pain and angst feel real and relatable without heaps of exposition and explanation. The actress has this uncanny ability to emote emotional and mental pain without melodrama or theatrics – the most subtle of movements or expressions speaking full chapters.

Ned Rifle = Henry Fool

Seventeen years later, Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool trilogy is finally coming to an end with Ned Rifle. Though the middle installment, Fay Grim, went on a wild diversion into Hartley-style spy games, the third film looks back at the story that started it all. Instead of more manic genre jumping, Ned Rifle is another simple, modest adventure of overly intellectual theorizing, melodramatic posturing, and awkward intrigue.

It’s pretty great to see Aubrey Plaza enter this world, but it’s also great to revisit the source. Nothing can completely hold the candle to Henry Fool, a film that so perfectly intermingled low and high-brow culture into the story of a mysterious and crass stranger who inspires a garbage man to become a poet. Hartley’s is a particular voice – one that manages to stay unique in an ever-growing onslaught of cinematic offerings.

Face of an Angel = Stories We Tell

In filming the story of Amanda Knox and Meredith Kercher, Michael Winterbottom decided to sidestep the whodunit and instead use a fictionalized (but reportedly accurate) version of the murder as a jumping off point to merge the news sensation, Dante’s “Inferno,” and the story of a director writing a script of the scandal while having tumultuous dreams and snorting way too much coke. Though the ideas are solid, the implementation is beyond heavy-handed – especially since other filmmakers have added themselves, or a fictionalized version of themselves, into films with better results.

On questions of truth and story, there’s no better alternative than Sarah Polley’s excellent Stories We Tell. Like Face of An Angel, Polley’s documentary explores truth, only she does so by focusing on the story itself. The film mixes the many reactions and recollections of those who both experienced a family event and those who only heard about it. Rather than just obsessing over the idea of truth, she explores it, the participants’ stories intermingling to reveal a semblance of truth that lies between wildly varying narratives and faulty memories.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream = Titus

Shakespeare is reproduced again, and again, and again, but no one does it with the awe-invoking creativity of Julie Taymor. A Midsummer Night’s Dream isn’t a big production, but rather a film of her brief stage production of the play between warring lovers and scheming fairies. To see her cinematic eye without the stage limitations, one must turn to her first film, Titus.

Rather than film the umpteenth “Romeo and Juliet,” Taymor chose the oft-forgotten “Titus Adronicus” – Shakespeare’s very own bloody horror piece. In Taymor’s hands, actors ranging from Anthony Hopkins to Harry Lennix to Jessica Lange tell the story of a victorious general who brings back hostages who destroy his life. There are people pies, savagery and the wild staging that made the Tony winner a creative powerhouse.

While We’re Young = A Master Builder

Okay. This is a cheat. The Criterion for A Master Builder isn’t out yet, but the fact that two films in 2014 make reference to the classic, but rarely referenced Ibsen play (While We’re Young starts out with a long quote from it), is worth mentioning. On one hand, we have Noah Baumbach’s most mainstream offering (starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried), and on the other, a wildly old-school recollaboration between My Dinner with Andre’s Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory.

The play follows an aging master architect whose stodginess is challenged by the arrival of a young woman (electrically played by Boardwalk Empire’s Lisa Joyce), and Shawn’s adaptation is a slightly modern, but still old-school, retelling.

Read our While We’re Young review

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