The Globe's six favourite movies from TIFF

The Master

Many of the flagship films at this TIFF – Cloud Atlas, Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, Michael Haneke’s Amour – turn on the struggles of love, both romantic and spiritual. So does Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a post-Second World War portrait of the relationship between a megalomaniacal cult leader (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and an out-of-control shell-shocked sailor (Joaquin Phoenix) who becomes his acolyte. Arguably not a perfectly constructed movie (the wheels seem to scrape the rim for a stretch in the last half), it is a hypnotic one, from the luxuriousness of the images to the alarmingly physical performances of the actors. Both bigger than life and personal to Anderson’s favourite concerns (ambition, loneliness, shame), The Master is too odd to be this fall’s crowd-pleaser; think of this more in the league of Orson Welles or Herman Melville. – Liam Lacey

Simultaneously epic and intimate, a broad examination of America’s mythic compulsion and an eerie character study, The Master is a near-masterpiece and Anderson’s most provocative film to date. The setting is 1950, and the central tension pits the raw animalism of a scarred vet against the cerebral shamanism of a Scientology-like cult leader – that is, one man stripped of belief against the forger of a belief system. That’s where things get fascinating. With a homoerotic undercurrent, the opposites attract and, powered by a matched set of ferociously intense performances, the two reveal their disturbing similarities – each a loose cannon in the guise of a rugged individualist, symbols of American exceptionalism gone bizarrely awry. The contemporary relevance? Thomas Paine’s Common Sense has left the (nation) building – what remains is inflated and highly toxic nonsense. – Rick Groen

The Master deserves all the praise it’s been receiving. Every shot, every camera movement, every word is so well crafted that it leaves the mind swirling like the waters of the film’s opening shot. The movie takes time to digest – I’m still trying to make full sense of it – but that’s to its credit. With so much pabulum on screens these days, Anderson stands out in a minority of filmmakers willing to challenge audiences with ambiguity. And Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is so fully realized that he not only makes up for all that I’m Still Here nonsense, he guarantees himself an Oscar nomination if not an outright win. – Dave McGinn


A German-language movie adapted from an English-language book by an Australian director, Lore is an unusual project with an unusual angle on the much-examined history of Nazi Germany. It focuses on the five abandoned children of an SS officer trekking across defeated Germany in 1945. Director Cate Shortland turns one of the novellas in Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room into an intense, gripping film about indoctrination and war guilt. There is little dialogue and much description in the original; Shortland, in turn, produces something superbly filmic, full of startling images and shocking actions. Her camera lingers on a bloody body or a lush landscape with the same unblinking gaze while her young German cast offer up remarkably subtle performances as the children awaken from the Nazi dream. – Kate Taylor

London – The Modern Babylon

Julien Temple creates a collage of the last century of the capital’s history through a haze of the Small Faces and the Clash, Mary Quant and Piccadilly punks. It’s old ground for Temple’s documentary work. He’s even used some of this archival footage before. But with its London mobs and great music, you’d be hard-pressed to find another festival film matching this for sheer fun. – Guy Dixon

Greetings from Tim Buckley

I’ve seen a devastating film this year (The Act of Killing), an audacious one (Leviathan) and a smart one (No). But the best film? The one that took me by surprise, that delivered beyond trepidation or expectation, that wasn’t freighted with box-cars of hype or a collective holding of breath? That would be Greetings from Tim Buckley, directed and co-written by Dan Algrant. Biopics about musicians are always tricky but this one – about the late Tim Buckley (1947-75) and his son, the equally late Jeff Buckley (1966-97) – avoids all the pitfalls and features an Academy-worthy performance from Penn Badgley as the haunted Jeff. “I poured every ounce of myself into it,” Badgley said the other day. It shows. – James Adams

Hannah Ardent

I don’t know if Hannah Arendt, based on the Eichmann trial and the political theorist’s own tribulations, is the best film I’ve seen here. But I can’t stop thinking about it. I can’t stop thinking about her. Arendt – played here by the great Barbara Sukowa – is like the Iron Lady of thought, but iconoclastic, not fascistic. The film deals with the events that brought about her late life’s work, particularly the idea of the “banality of evil,” and doesn’t shy from her psychological difficulties. There are still so few films about female geniuses that we can’t afford for any of them to be bad. Thank God this one’s so good. – Sarah Nicole Prickett

Room 237

For this viewer, the festival’s most satisfying movie is not only about a movie – Stanley Kubrick’s infinitely puzzling and re-watchable 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining – but about how movies can make us mad. After interviewing five particularly obsessive “Shiners” about their variously strange but meticulous interpretations of the film’s “real” meaning, director Rodney Ascher lets their voices play out over scenes from this and other Kubrick films and any movie that helps make the point. Whether it’s really a film about the genocide of Native Americans, Kubrick’s role in faking the footage of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a metaphor for the Holocaust or even just a kid with sixth sense and a possessed dad terrorized in a remote hotel, The Shining comes to stand for something much more than a particular film, its maker or even these especially intemperate enthusiasts. It’s about our need to get lost in the maze. -Geoff Pevere

d y i n g to see the master tho, especially for my boo joaquin
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