Lacking the sense of fun and creative character design that made his past films somewhat bearable, Guillermo del Toro’s latest feature, The Shape of Water (viewed at Toronto International Film Festival 2017) has almost nothing within it of interest. Opening with a voice-over describing “the princess without voice”, the film sets itself up in the realm of the fairytale. But rather than engaging with the genre in a meaningful way, del Toro’s film is boring, broad, and unoriginal, without any magic or charm.
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Ope (Zainab Balogun), a struggling chef, decides to return to the Royal Hibiscus Hotel owned by her parents in Lagos after quitting her London job. Seeking comfort in her childhood home, things go awry when Ope begins a romance with Deji (Kenneth Okolie), a guest who just happens to be working on a deal to buy the hotel. Directed by Ishaya Bako and viewed at the Toronto International Film Festival 2017, The Royal Hibiscus Hotel has all the makings of a conventional romantic comedy, but in Bako’s hands, conventionality is at its best.
In a recent conversation with the NY Post, Patti Smith noted that her show at Summerstage became a tribute to her late husband in a roundabout way. The September 14th performance “was not something specifically planned, it was a positive piece of fate… The band was asked to play Central Park on 14 September, which is Fred’s birthday and it seemed natural that we center the concert around him.”
Kathleen Hepburn’s feature debut, Never Steady, Never Still, viewed at Toronto International Film Festival 2017, leaves a lot to be desired. Théodore Pellerin stars as Jamie, a young, aimless man living in Alberta, Canada. He struggles with his identity and sexuality while his mother, Judy (Shirley Henderson) attempts to deal with the progressing symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. But with underdeveloped characters who rely on garish representations of difficulty, the film is never sensitive enough to its subjects.
In 2012, Denis Côté directed Bestiaire, a documentary which captured with simultaneous cold objectivity, and tender sensitivity, the lives of zoo animals, allowing them to be looked at, but also to look back. Côté created a space for a new visual relationship with animals. Taking up this same style, Ta peau si lisse, at Toronto International Film Festival 2017, focuses this time on five bodybuilders.