TIFF Day 04: Scandals, girlfriends, artists | Arts & Culture | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

TIFF Day 04: Scandals, girlfriends, artists

I am feeling oddly disconnected from people during this festival, which happens when you spend your days in a box watching projections. I had a couple polite conversations early on, but I haven’t made any festival friends or even gotten worked up about trying to meet particular writers like I normally do. Ah well. At least it's not hot.

Tabloid is a weird little movie by Errol Morris, who takes time off from life-altering documentaries to bring the story of one Joyce McKinney, who was arrested in England in the 70s for allegedly kidnapping a man from the Mormon church, shackling him to a bed and forcing him to have sex with her. Her side is that he was the love of her life and she was rescuing him from the church. She became a cult celebrity in Britain, which subsequently ruined her life in America—and this was before the internet. A southern blonde, McKinney is what is known as “a firecracker” and she’s a great, lively subject even before she gets her dog cloned into five puppies. It’s a well-told story without any consequence or larger meaning, and it’s the first round of applause I’ve witnessed at press screenings this year.

I had three choices for noontime—Bruce McDonald’s anticipated Trigger, a Canadian film about an actress trying to make it in LA, Dirty Girl, and the one I went for, Girlfriend. Written and directed by Justin Lerner, it’s about a man with Down’s Syndrome (Evan Sneider in his screen debut) whose mother dies, leaving him alone. He’s got a crush on Candy, who he grew up with (Shannon Woodward, who you will recognize as victim/perp of the week if you watch procedural crime dramas, is terrific), and she’s a single mother with a cash flow problem, so she lets him take care of her financially and see her naked once in awhile. I was unsettled for the entirety of the thing, which hints at violence via Candy’s ex Russ (Jackson Rathbone, apparently of the Twilights) and beautiful but foreboding shots of deserted woodlands, rivers and train tracks. Shit inevitably goes down, and the ending is very uncomfortable but really the only possible conclusion. Understated, well-acted and likely never to be heard from again, Girlfriend is the kind of movie you come to film festivals to see.

Less successful was Woman Art Revolution—A Secret History, a rather chintzy documentary from Lynn Hershman Leeson about the struggle of female artists to be recognized by the contemporary art world. Leeson narrates and puts her own art in the movie—subverting what she calls the negative practice of “self-omission” instead of what it really is, “Michael Moore Syndrome”—and pieces together clips from the 70s to 2009. (Most of them are time-stamped 2006, which is maybe when this was trying to come out.) As a film it’s got low production values—hugely detrimental in a documentary about visual art—and as a statement it’s got a shrill old-school-feminist bent not helped by Leeson’s portentous narration—but it is, as the title suggests, a nice little history lesson, following the exploits of Judy Chicago, the Guerilla Girls and the fight to get women exhibited, hired as curators or even respected as equals. I am ignorant of visual art—Sue Carter Flinn would be better critic here—but despite its film-schoolish leanings, Woman Art Revolution should be considered required viewing if one is a lady in the biz.

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