Toronto After Dark 2014 Review: Predestination

 

Never do yesterday what you should do tomorrow, reads a sign in the early minutes of The Spierig Brothers’ delightfully loopy new film. Another reads, If at last you don’t succeed never try again. There are many of these twisted bon-mots lifted verbatim from Robert Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies” and scattered throughout its film adaptation, Predestination. Here is the thing about time travel movies: much time is in fact spent waiting around for things to catch up, even if it is only for that moment when Doc Brown sends his dog Einstein 60 seconds into the future. It leaves plenty of time to read the signs.

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Trailer: Force Majeure

ForceMajeure

This dark comedy of gender roles and familial morality from Sweden was a hit in both Cannes and Toronto. The trailer is cut with a wry precision and a sense of showcasing intimate conflict alongside epic scenery. I personally missed the film due to conflicts with other screenings, and because it is coming to Lightbox in Toronto later in the month, and indeed, Magnolia is giving the film a commercial release in select cities. From the TIFF Catalogue:

On a family skiing vacation in the French Alps, Tomas and Ebba are enjoying lunch with their two children when their meal is suddenly interrupted by thunderous booms emanating from the mountain above them. The complacent Tomas initially dismisses the possibility of danger — but when it appears that there may be an avalanche, he grabs his cellphone and bolts, leaving his wife and children to fend for themselves. The remainder of the film monitors the fallout from this fateful incident, as husband and wife hotly debate what actually occurred, and what Tomas’s proper response should have been — a battle that eventually threatens not just Tomas and Ebba’s relationship, but those of the people around them.

Fantasia Review: Predestination


Never do yesterday what you should do tomorrow, reads a sign in the early minutes of The Spierig Brothers’ delightfully loopy new film. Another reads, If at last you don’t succeed never try again. There are many of these twisted bon-mots lifted verbatim from Robert Heinlein’s short story, “All You Zombies” and scattered throughout its film adaptation, Predestination. Here is the thing about time travel movies: much time is in fact spent waiting around for things to catch up, even if it is only for that moment when Doc Brown sends his dog Einstein 60 seconds into the future. It leaves plenty of time to read the signs.

Starting in the middle, (or end, or beginning, as these things go) Ethan Hawke plays an unnamed G-man in the time travel bureau. Rushing through a labyrinthine industrial complex and multitasking to diffuse a bomb whilst in the middle of a gun-fight with his nemesis, a mysterious man we soon find out is called “The Fizzle Bomber,” this particular agent’s principle case-file. Things do not go well and he is horribly burned in the blast just before he jumps back to his temporal handler. A smart-suited bureaucrat played Noah Taylor, who, by the way pretty much the market for this role cornered (see: Edge of Tomorrow, Vanilla Sky and The Double), he signs off on some serious reconstructive surgery, and sends the still unnamed agent back to the field; specifically to the 1970s to gets a job as a bartender, to do that waiting thing, not on tables, on time.

With little to cling to only scant minutes into the movie, we are invited to start theorizing what this whole movie is on about, and we get to settle into the dimly lit, wood-paneled watering hole as a new character, possibly the fizzle bomber, takes a seat at the bar. This new fellow, played by Sarah Snook made up to look like cross between David Bowie and Jodie Foster, is a thirsty pulp writer who, after meticulously rolling a cigarette, engages both the agent cum bartender (and by extension, us) with a little banter, and a couple of bad jokes (again, signage) before settling into a lengthy autobiography that will contort into its own kind of ludicrously incestuous logic. Things are convoluted enough that it might just put a fork in the whole business of making puzzle-box time-movies for good. Subtly referencing may of the big ones that came before this, the cutest being the ‘zero-point’ of time travel in this universe is about the same time of that successful test of a certain DeLorean in August 1985. There are others, generously free of clever-for-cleverness-sake, never getting in the way of the story. They are also best left unspoilt here to be discovered or ignored.

If Predestination is a satire of the paradox sub-genre (from La Jetee to Looper) it is probably unintentional, it is still shockingly effective and infectious and a damned fine yarn. Look around at your fellow audience members if you happen to catch this in a cinema of strangers or in the company of friends, and try to guess where they are in terms of catching up with the films bag of tricks. If you cannot spot the sucker in the room, well, then…

Michael and Peter Spierig have a talent for making glossy science-fiction pictures with richly detailed worlds on (relatively) low budgets. They trade image and narrative propulsion over emotion or empathy, but these are sacrifices made for the simple joys of their own brand of robust entertainment. From Undead (Zombies) to Daybreakers (Bloodsuckers) to Predestination, they get better with each outing, and become more…er…Spierig. That is to say, their films are empty calories in terms of any real empathy or allegory, but tilting towards a sugary caffeinated rush. And even if you get a bit giddy racing ahead of a certain temporal field agent who is increasingly swallowed by the wake of his own butterfly flaps and clean-up efforts, take a moment to admire the clockwork and consider this, Mr. Heinlein’s final signpost: “There is no paradox that cannot be Paradoctored.”

Kidman Has A Sex Change (Of Sorts)

NicoleKidmanTomas Alfredson became a household name, at least among genre film fans, with the release of Let the Right One In. The film of young love between a vampire and a little boy was both gorgeous and touching while never feeling forced or falling prey to the melodramatic romance present in another vampire/human romance.

I had originally missed these news but Alfredson has signed on to another delicate project, this one just as interesting if not genre based. The director will be taking on the task of bringing to the big screen the story of Danish painter Einar Wegener. If you’re not familiar with Wegener, you’re not alone. Though successful, Wegener doesn’t seem as known for his work as for his private life, a life which was quite colourful. You see, Wegener was the first man to undergo a sex changer operation to become a woman, a procedure which he endured in 1931 at a time when the procedure was still experimental.

Screenwriter and playwright Lucinda Coxon is adapting The Danish Girl from David Ebershoff’’s award winning novel of the same name which provides a fictionalized account of Wegener’s life, a life which will be embodied by Nicole Kidman. Kidman is an obviously talented actress and though she has seen her share of bad make-up and noses, I have a hard time picturing her as a man which leads me to guess that perhaps a large part of story takes place after the operation, focusing on Weger’s life as Lili Elbe.

The film will start production soon and will precede Alfredson’s previously announced spy project.