TIFF Review: Short Cuts Canada 2

Take Me (Prends-moi).  Photo courtesy of TIFF.
“Have you ever held a stranger’s penis to put it inside his wife?” asks the nurse (Sami Soleymanlou) in the lovely film Take Me / Prends-moi (André Turpin, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, 10 min.), which opens Short Cuts Canada 2 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The anonymous nurse of Take Me provides a fine guide for the film’s frank and tender depiction of intimacy between persons with physical disabilities. The closeness between strangers is equally poignant and effective thanks to the authenticity of the film’s three strong performances and the honesty of the direction by André Turpin and Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette. Turpin and Barbeau-Lavalette mark two of the more notable names within the Short Canada Programme at TIFF this year, as Festival audiences will know Turpin’s work as a cinematographer on films such as Incendies and should recall Barbeau-Lavalette’s hand at directing 2012’s powerful film Inch’Allah (which Turpin also shot). Their brave and beautiful effort with Take Me is another complex human drama.

Chain Reaction.  Photo Courtesy of TIFF.

Equally complex is the entrancing experimental number Chain Reaction (Dana Gingras, 11 min.). This kinetic long take uses the human body as a paintbrush as two dancers in black body suits circle the canvas in a contemporary dance. Director Dana Gingras, who is also one of the dancers, shoots the entire film in a long take from a bird’s eye view as animated trails connect the dancers’ bodies in a hypnotic whirlwind. Chain Reaction plays with the audience’s perception of the physical and corporeal as the dancers’ bodies become intertwined in a mass of sound and images, broken only for a hilarious breather to ask if a bear shits in the woods. This intricate dance is a highlight among the experiment works in SCC this year.

SCC2 then changes gears with the contemplative Liompa (Elizabeth Lazebnik, 16 min.). Liompa dances the line between life and death as an elderly man on his deathbed (Alexey Serebryakov) watches his life flash before his eyes. Director Elizabeth Lazebnik shows an impressive hand at control, and the bright cinematography of Liompa is certainly lovely, but the film is almost too slow to bear. Death sticks around for the party in the offbeat drama On Cement / Sur le ciment (Robin Aubert, 14 min.), which brings an unexpected booty call to the programme when a dying woman calls a phone number scrawled on the underpass by a local drug dealer. Minou Petrowski gives a brave performance in this unconventional love story.
The Sands (Plage de sable). Photo courtesy of TIFF.

Short Cuts Canada 2 affirms itself as the sex-and-death programme of the festival when it ends with The Sands / Plage de sable (Marie-Ève Juste, 20 min.), another film with a resonant cocktail of intimacy and mortality. Shorts fans will hopefully recall Marie-Ève Juste’s excellent debut Avec Jeff, à moto, and her most recent work confirms that she is a genuine talent. The Sands will make viewers uncomfortable in their seats as it follows a group of friends on a weekend getaway where power dynamics, unspoken racial tensions, and a bit too much wine take the trip into dangerous territory. The discomforting power play that explodes from the romantic retreat in The Sands explodes the programme’s recurring interest in bodies, intimacy, and the control (or lack thereof) we may have over our own selves. The Sands makes a strong endnote to Short Cuts Canada 2, for, like many of the films in the group, it puts the body on display and unflinchingly confronts the unnerving vulnerability one feels when one is exposed bare to an audience.

Short Cuts Canada 2 screens:
-Saturday, Sept. 6 at 10:00 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
-Monday, Sept. 8 at 2:30 pm at TIFF Bell Lightbox 4

Please visit www.tiff.net for more information on this year’s Festival.