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Inside TIFF 2012 Day 1: Looper Opens 37th Edition

11:50 PM: A quick word on two more disappointments for the day (I promise they won’t all be so negative for the next ten days!). Kim Ki-duk’s return to form after his ghastly Arirang is merely a return to firm and solid ground. Pieta is the ugliest film I’ve seen in a long time, aesthetically and thematically, to the point where the dead pixel that popped up on the lower-left quadrant of the image every now and then (visible for probably a good 20-25% of the film) offered a welcome respite from the actual content on display. That content is comprised of a multitude of gruesome beatings, dismemberments, and killings, all dubiously informed by a topical sense for economic mercy – I cripple you, you get insurance money; I satisfy my sadistic urges, you pay off your debts. Things get more depraved when a woman shows up claiming to be the protag’s estranged mother, after which matters gravitate from the ridiculous to the gross (and still ridiculous).

Faring even worse, despite landing on the opposite end of the Beauty scale, is Peter Mettler’s The End of Time, a that just would not end; it’d be better served by the title Intro to Time given it’s rudimentary and positively naive inquisition into the grand question, “What. Is. Time?” Since the theme is so large and broad, the film aspires to same, and therefore – more often than – not focuses on subjects that really have little to do with time or what makes it interesting (sidetracks include LSD, circles, the Hadron Collider, and a rave). The footage is TV grade polish and sparkle, ripe for an evening air on the Discovery HD channel (where many of Mettler’s films belong, to be honest); the exception, naturally, is a climatic descent into avant-garde trippiness, harkening back to  2001: A Space Odyssey to spark a most unflattering comparison of ambition vs. accomplishment. Completing the circle of the evening in which mother’s have their say, the film closes with a borderline non-sequitur in which Mettler’s mother, upon being asked ‘What time is it?”, says, “May 9, 2010, Mother’s Day in fact,” thus finally concluding the film’s endless sequence of epilogues. [Blake Williams]

3:45 PM: Sandwiched between two outstanding Cannes revisitations (In Another Country and Like Someone in Love), I caught what I can only hope will be the worst film I see for the entire festival: Kinshasa Kids. In its first ten minutes, the tired question ‘fact or fiction?’ arises when a mother from the highly impoverished city of Kinshasa argues with the cameraman, yelling “the white man is filming us!” she then proceeds to argue and scream as usual as if the camera weren’t present. Certain scenes feel more acted than others, but the ambiguity becomes increasingly problematic as the stakes are raised for the eponymous children. How to justify, for instance, a scene where a young girl is captured by a group of men and dragged away (presumably to be raped), and the ‘white filmmaker’ stands and films it happening without intervening? ‘Filmmakers’ Distance’ etc., sure, but if the best interests were truly in mind for these kids, Marc-Henri Wajnberg wouldn’t have laid back for the pitiful cut to the after-burn, the raped girl sitting, moping pensively by herself. Then there’s the music, which is supposedly the mode of escape for the kids, yet it gets edited over in showy cutting, such as a scene that remixes one of their jam sessions so that it transforms into a music video for Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’. Poverty porn only scratches the surface of the offenses on display here. [Blake Williams]

8:00 AM: The 2012 Toronto Int. Film Festival kicks off today, and over the next 11 days our team comprised of me, Blake Williams, Jordan Smith, Nicholas Bell, Jesse Klein and new to the site, Leora Heilbronn will be blogging in our daily Inside TIFF blocks. Our extensive coverage of the 37th edition will include a smorgasbord of links to our reviews, interviews, and tweets (follow here: Today, the fest opens with Rian Johnson’s third feature film – he was here for The Brothers Bloom in 2008 and now headlines the fest with Looper – which receives its theatrical release September 28th, but Torontonians have a couple of venue possibilities tonite, while journos such as myself will kick off the festivities at the Lightbox later this morning. [Eric Lavallee]

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