No, TIFF 2014 was primarily a delight, offering a smorgasbord of digital and celluloid delicacies along with its inevitable non-edibles. Further, TIFF and similar festivals may be the only option for seeing certain works theatrically, even in major metropolitan areas, now that the distribution of non-mainstream films has been cherry-picked for commercial potential by chains such as Landmark and Angelika or left at the mercy of budget-squeezed college and museum programmers. One admittedly specific example: Margaret Honda's transcendent Spectrum Reverse Spectrum, made without a camera on 70mm film, exists in only two prints, one of which was screened at TIFF 2014. There will be no digitized version or additional prints per the filmmaker, so good luck seeing that one no matter where you live.
Opening TIFF 2014 was The Judge from director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers), a courtroom drama starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Robert Duvall. You can go here if you're interested; I wasn't. My entry to the fest was Olivier Assayas' The Clouds of Sils Maria, which recalls in its skillful juxtapositions of "being" and "acting" the filmmaker's Louis Feuillade tribute, Irma Vep (1996). The shaky bond between a middle-aged actress (Juliette Binoche, late of Godzilla) and her tech-savvy young assistant (Kristen Stewart) mirrors the characters of a Chekhovian play they testily rehearse about a calculating neophyte in the business world who cruelly usurps the role of her elder supervisor and lover. Binoche's character once starred as the younger woman but must now portray the victim opposite an up-and-coming enfant terrible (Chloë Grace Moretz). Assayas has claimed that he wrote the film for Binoche, whose stunning performance rivals her work in Bruno Dumont's Camille Claudel 1915 (2013). Binoche and Stewart's complex characterizations set the stage for a festival filled with notable performances by women, a welcome rejoinder to the two-dimensional female cyphers of contemporary popular cinema.
Blake Williams' Red Capriccio recycles YouTube video of a Chevy Caprice police car intercut with crumbling urban architectural structures, all filtered through color filters with near-stroboscopic impact. Williams has said that his film's imagery and juxtapositions were inspired by Capriccio painting and symphonic composition, hence the title's descriptive pun. Viewers are instructed to wear 3D glasses; however, the effect is not one of heightened depth perception but of pulsing, color-saturated intensity.