TIFF 2019: ‘The Twentieth Century’

Depending on who you ask, Canadian cinema may well be celebrating its 100th year this year and, despite the general dismay that it continues to attract from some, it is still very much able to be as innovative as any other national cinema.  Why the history lesson?  Because that may be the best way to introduce Matthew Rankin’s The Twentieth Century, at once a great addition to the Canadian cinematic canon and a bitter poisonous love letter to early-20th century Canadian history, specifically the rise to power of one William Lyon Mackenzie King.

The Twentieth Century is a heavily fictionalized telling of King’s life, from the moment he falls in love with the woman he cannot have to his ascension to the position of prime minister.  Of course, along the way, the audience is introduced to lesser known aspects of King’s life, such as his boot fetish, his friendship with a young tubercular child, and his uncontrollable masturbation.  There is also plenty of time devoted to King’s family life, bullying from his colleagues, and a completely iconoclastic take on Canadian-ness and political power.

You may remember Matthew Rankin from his work with Guy Maddin, so you may be going into this film with some idea of what to expect and, frankly, you wouldn’t be incorrect: this is visually very similar to a Maddin film with a slightly more immature sense of humour, meant in the best way.  However, whereas Maddin seems to be more obsessed with generic qualities of early cinema, Rankin is more interested in the aesthetics;  borrowing liberally from 1920s cinematic experiments to create a film which often feels like a dream.  Add to that the unusual cast of characters and you get a film which will confound you as you exit the theatre.


The Twentieth Century screens at TIFF on: 

Saturday, September 7 at 12:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre (Press & Industry)
Tuesday, September 10 at 11:59 p.m. @ Ryerson Theatre
Wednesday, September 11 at 5:15 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre (Press & Industry)
Thursday, September 12 at 9:45 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre
Saturday, September 14 at 1:30 p.m. @ Scotiabank Theatre

Rating: 14A
Language: English
Runtime: 90 minutes

For more information on the festival, visit the official TIFF webpage here.

Buy tickets here.

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Shahbaz Khayambashi: @ShaKhayam

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