If you’ve been anywhere downtown in the last two weeks, you probably have noticed that TIFF season was upon us. Whether you’re interested in seeing the films, volunteering, or on the lookout for celebs, many U of T students find themselves involved. This year, I decided to up my own festival game, seeing 25 movies.
Music is undoubtedly a key element to film, whether it is the score providing support for what’s on screen or a memorable soundtrack moment being forever tied to the scene in which it’s played. The broad range of films at TIFF have an array of musical moments, and I’ve created a small playlist to recognize some of the best that I’ve seen.
Song: “Trying” by Bully
Film: Her Smell
The TIFF film that’s stuck in my mind the most this year is Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell, in which Elisabeth Moss plays the frontwoman of ’90s all-female punk rock band Something She. Providing the music for the fictional band is Alicia Bognanno of the band Bully. The Nashville band has garnered acclaim for their music, which mixes an indie and punk rock sound with emotional rawness and directness.
Something She has a few louder songs throughout the film, but they really stand out when Moss’ character Becky Something performs acoustically; the lyrics and arrangements really show Bognanno’s and Moss’ talents. Bully’s song “Trying,” from their 2015 album Feels Like, is a good mix of both.
Song: “Windowlicker” by Aphex Twin
Gaspar Noé’s film is about a French dance troupe in the mid-1990s, who get together to rehearse and then party. But when a bowl of sangria that the group has been drinking from throughout the entire night turns out to have been spiked, the night quickly descends into paranoia, despair, and a show of humans at their lowest. Before that happens, however, the film is a joyous showcase of people expressing themselves in the way they know best, through dance.
The movie is scored by an assortment of French house songs, which play almost constantly throughout the film.
One of the most recognizable songs is intelligent dance music classic “Windowlicker,” by electronic musician Aphex Twin. In this sequence, we see the film’s main character, played by Sofia Boutella, stumble through hallways, affected by whatever was in the sangria. The song is quintessentially weird, and its bizarre rhythms fit perfectly with Boutella’s physical performance.
Song: “Chandelier” by Sia
Film: Vox Lux
One of the joys of heavy TIFF-going is being able to see the many filmmakers’ different views on contemporary life, and Brady Corbet’s Vox Lux feels like the most modern and reflective of the current world. The film touches on school shootings, pop stardom, media image, a loss of innocence in culture, internet terrorist groups, and art’s relation to trauma.
The film features a bizarre pairing behind its music: pop star turned experimental artist Scott Walker, and indie pop singer turned pop star Sia. Sia’s “Chandelier” is a song that well represents the chaos and catharsis in the film and has already cemented itself as one of the best pop hits of the decade.
Song: “The Shallow” by Lady Gaga
Film: A Star Is Born
Arguably, no film has dominated TIFF conversation as much as Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born remake. Having two major celebrities both take on different jobs from what they are known for in a big-budget and ambitious film is exciting. The film boasts a great trailer, but there are 27 seconds of it that stand out from the rest. I will admit that I did not see this film, and the song featured has not been released yet, but it is worth noting as possibly the defining song of the festival.
Immediately, the viewer is struck by Lady Gaga’s vocals, which are more emotional than most songs or movies this year, without even using words. The song has become somewhat of a Twitter meme, and it shows how it has captured people’s hearts before, during, and presumably after the festival. We’re far from the shallows now.