By Sean Boelman
The Toronto International Film Festival is usually a showcase for some of the highest-profile premieres of the year, but considering the strikes that are ongoing in Hollywood, there’s a larger focus on international cinema, indies, and acquisition titles from A-listers making their directorial debuts.
While films like Dumb Money and Next Goal Wins are still playing at the festival — and are sure to draw crowds even with their casts not being in attendance — we at disappointment media wanted to call attention to some of the more under-the-radar films you can see at this year’s festival.
The Human Surge 3
Eduardo Williams’s The Human Surge 3 is not the type of film I would recommend to the average moviegoer because it is so unorthodox, but for festival-goers who are more adventurous, it is absolutely not one to miss. The experimental film follows groups of people throughout the world as they wander through life. It’s a poetic rumination on themes both important and relatable, done in one of the most formally ambitious ways anyone has ever made a film.
Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person
Of course, one can’t go to TIFF without seeing a Canadian film, and one of the finest in this year’s festival lineup is Ariane Louis-Seize’s Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person. The deadpan horror-comedy with a wacky title recently premiered at Venice, where it got a mostly warm reception, but it’s likely to be even more well-received on its home turf. There’s plenty of great and charming humor in the film, but what makes it stand out the most is its genuine heart and poignant commentaries on a number of relatable themes.
Spirit of Ecstasy
Héléna Klotz’s thriller Spirit of Ecstasy is the movie that fans of high-intensity shows like Succession or Industry should see at this year’s festival. The film follows a quantitative analyst who hopes to rise through the ranks of the financial world at whatever cost. Although the premise and Klotz’s direction create a sleekly entertaining flick, the bigger draw here is arguably that the film is the fact that it is the acting debut of French popstar Claire Pommet (aka Pomme who gives a star-making turn here.
Kei Chika-ura’s Great Absence is a film that feels vaguely familiar, partially because it explores its themes with beats that many other films have before. But this poetic drama about a father and son who reconcile after the former’s dementia begins to progress severely is told with such a tender hand by Kei that it’s quite affecting. Although there are a few big, showy moments, the film’s strongest parts are those which are more restrained, riding on the quality of the performances.
For those looking for a more star-studded film to see at this year’s festival, look no further than the fisherman drama/crime thriller Finestkind. In a year where the premieres will be dampened a bit by a strike-related lack of talent, it’s nice to see a film like Finestkind still in the line-up, with an A-list cast led by Ben Foster, Jenna Ortega, and Tommy Lee Jones — even if they won’t be there to premiere the film. Throw in the fact that it’s written and directed by Oscar-winner Brian Hegeland (L.A. Confidential), and you have what should have been one of the festival’s hottest tickets on your hands.
The 2023 Toronto International Film Festival runs September 7-17 in Toronto, Canada.
The Snake Hole
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