Each year for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), my husband Rich and I try to pick mostly smaller movies, often foreign language ones, that would not come to our local theatres. This year, we are watching 43-45 movies including the 8-10 that we watched in advanced screenings prior to the start of the festival. During the actual festival, we will average 4 movies per day for the first 8 days of the 11 day event before slowing down in the final 3 days. My selected movies include 13 from USA, 6 from Canada (almost considered a foreign movie in our US-centric film industry) and 26 from various other countries including China, South Korea, Japan, Indonesia/Malaysia/Thailand, UK, France, Spain, Russia, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Nigeria, Egypt, Serbia and Iraq, with 24 being subtitled foreign language films. I was surprised how many Nordic countries were represented in my selections this year, with Denmark being the only country missing from my picks. I tried to choose more “happy” or “whimsical” movies than my husband, since I can only be tense or depressed for so many sittings and still find it enjoyable. Rich chose more war and horror movies, which I wanted no part of. So we will watch 31 movies together and 12-14 separately. It should be another good festival if we can make it through without collapsing from exhaustion.
The 5-set Wimbledon final played in 1980 and won by Borg, is regarded to be one of the greatest tennis matches ever played, including a 20 minute long fourth set tie-breaker that went 18-16 in McEnroe’s favour. The movie contrasted the icy calm composure of the experienced four-time Wimbledon champion Borg as opposed to the fiery demeanour of the up-and-coming superstar of the future, McEnroe. But what was most illuminating was learning about the back stories of each player, with the film concentrating more on Borg since he had the most interesting childhood. We were surprised to learn that as a young tennis protégé from a poor family, Borg’s temper and antics rivaled if not surpassed McEnroe’s behaviour. Borg’s tantrums and histrionics, including loud rants and smashing racquets, caused him to be suspended from his local tennis club and declared “not right in the head” (as per the English subtitled translation of the movie). It was not until his long-suffering coach convinced him that he needed the reign in his emotions and channel that fury into his game that Borg started to have success.
The actual match itself was exciting to watch, with the swelling score pumping up the drama, even for those who already knew the end result. The crowd initially favoured Borg, giving him huge cheers while booing McEnroe, who had loudly berated the chair umpire during his previous semi-final match against fellow countryman Jimmy Connors. But McEnroe showed surprising restraint during the long final battle and even though he eventually lost, his mastery on the court won over the spectators, who gave him a standing ovation when he accepted his second place prize. This was an exciting movie to watch, especially for tennis fans, but I wish that they had used more real footage from the actual match in order to show the winning points, as opposed to focusing so much on close-ups of the actors, as they feigned making the shots. It will be interesting to compare this movie to the other tennis movie that we will watch, Battle of the Sexes.
The featured exhibit inside the museum consists of multiple mounds of gravel on the floor. A running joke involves people walking up and looking perplexed at the work and then walking away. When a Zamboni-like floor cleaner tries to navigate around the mounds, you know that this is not going to end well. Another exhibit features a large-screened video of a grunting, menacing “ape-man”, again with no real explanation as to context or meaning. At a charity donors dinner, this work turns into performance art when the ape-man makes an appearance, antagonizing and attacking the guests.
The titular “Square” is a newly commissioned conceptual art piece consisting of a white square demarcated on the courtyard in front of the museum. According to the artist, the square represents a sanctuary where all people should be treated as equals and must care and provide aid for each other. To promote this exhibit, the museum hires an ad agency who comes up with a wacky promotional video meant to attract interest through “shock and awe” tactics but ends up offending and infuriating the public. Several of the scenes depict the plight of the homeless, making me wonder if this is a Swedish social issue that the director wants to draw focus to, or is the message a more general plea for compassion and tolerance. This was my first movie of the festival so far that was just pure fun. After watching a slew of serious movies with deep or depressing topics, I needed and totally enjoyed this.
In Act 2, Marlina tries to get to the police station to search for justice, carrying the severed head in a sling as evidence of her attack (and partly as a trophy?). She starts off on a bus headed for town, accompanied by her very pregnant friend who is about to give birth any time, as well as a bossy woman who is trying to get her nephew to his wedding along with two horses that are part of his dowry. Eventually Marlina ends up on a horse, still slinging the severed head by her side, providing the iconic image of the lone Western hero riding into town. All the while, she is trying to avoid the inevitable standoff with the remaining two bandits. I usually don’t like the Western genre but I was enchanted by this very stylish take on one, that celebrated kick-ass girl power.