Friday, September 07, 2007

TIFF - Movies Seen

Comments to be fleshed out, hopefully, as I've been bed-ridden for four days following a nasty bug caught on the last day I was at TIFF. Tiff.

Day 1

The Duchess of Langeais (d. Jacques Rivette): B+

This movie tries very hard not to break your heart, but does a little anyway.

The Mourning Forest (d. Naomi Kawase): C+

While I can always go for Shinto animal spirit mumbo jumbo, this movie is about an erratic child-man healing via group therapy. That is much too ask from this viewer.

Flight of the Red Balloon (d. Hou Hsiao-hsien): B/B-

Juliette Binoche is stressed out in this movie. Has anyone ever been stressed in a Hou Hsiao-hsien movie?

My Winnipeg (d. Guy Maddin): B+/B

I noticed that Canadians are very tickled by jokes about how bored and miserable people are in Canada. They were also very entertained by Guy Maddin's live narration of the film, as was I. That's the kind of special presentation that makes TIFF worth it.

Day 2

The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (d. Eric Rohmer): B+/B

What if someone filmed Nicaraguan fourth-graders doing a shadow puppet performance of Corey Hart's "I Wear My Sunglasses at Night" video? It would probably be as pointless and weird as this experiment in period camp. But would it be as fun?

The Man From London (d. Bela Tarr): C+

This movie has elegant tracking shots, images of lusciously inky black, and a guy trying to balance an apple on his nose. I wish I cared about the dude from London, though.

The Edge of Heaven (d. Fatih Akin): B

This movie had a pretty hot lesbian scene. But I think it ends up saying that German liberals should not be helping Turks. Or maybe not. Also, I'm kinda depressed that Hanna Schygulla did not spend 3 million euros to aid her in aging as gracefully Deneuve has.

Ploy (d. Pen-Ek Ratanaruang): C

This movie likes to do that trick where out of nowhere something totally shocking happens, but then it will say ha ha, just a dream. Besides that, it is mostly boring when it is not stupid.

Day 3

Secret Sunshine (d. Lee Chang-dong): B+/B

This movie features the ultimate helper guy. Also a woman who kinda cycles through the five stages of grief one too many times. Movie peters out, but this Lee Chang-dong sure knows how to direct actresses.

Les Chansons d'amour (d. Christopher Honore): C+

I love preening twits like the actor in this movie when he's in one of those French movies all about examining these preening twits under the microscope as if they were plankton on a slide. But who wants to go on an emotional journey with one?

Day 4

4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (d. Christian Mungiu): A-/B+

Remember when helper friend was stuck in her boyfriend's apartment, subjected to a torturous dinner party where conversation revolved around doctor gossip? Remember how badly she wanted to leave, how tense she looked as she took the champagne glass to toast, and how the camera doesn't even catch the face of other party guests? That was so awesome.

Happiness (d. Hur Jin-ho): B-

Terminal illness movie: -28 points. Soulless city slicker finds humanity in the countryside trope: - 31 points. Corny romance: -22 points. "I wanna hold your hand" scene: -10 points. Maudlin score: -5 points. Somehow turning on a dime into the preferred Destruction Wrought by Weak-Ass, Selfish Man movie: +60 points.

Sad Vacation (d. Shunji Aoyama): D+

I remember a flat, unnecessary movie called Texasville, a sad attempt by Peter Bogdonavich to capture the old magic of The Last Picture Show after producing a string of flops. This is Mr. Aoyama's Texasville, only the results are far worse.

Redacted (d. Brian DePalma): B-

I expected this movie to be abject crap, and so I was shocked when it was not totally retarded. While there are many scenes of community theater badness, DePalma is not afraid to show the central problem for U.S. soldiers in Iraq, which is that they are on a hair's edge all day, playing protector to their potential killers. And also, they've been letting in some serious nutjobs in there.

It's a Free World... (d. Ken Loach): C+

Ken Loach tries really, really hard in this movie to not make a polemic about the Evils of Globalization by casting Pamela Anderson as a single-mom entrepreneur. But soon enough, each scene turns into either Illustration of the Destructive Logic of the Profit Motive, or Example for Why Capitalist Competition Dehumanizes Us All, or Why Must This Bitch Continue to Exploit These Poor Undocumented Workers, Why?

Day 5

Silent Light (d. Carlos Reygadas): B+

This movie is of course excellent. I would use the phrase "tour de force" except every moment in this movie is a "tour de force". Which makes me think maybe this movie has problems.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


My September unexpectedly freed up, and what better way to spend some free time than to catch five movies a day in one of the most attractive cities in North America? All accounts a bumper crop of festival goodies, most of which will be screening at the Toronto Int'l Film Festival. Alas, I won't be seeing too many of them, given (1) a short stay of four-and-a-half days; (2) the perverse programmers decided to schedule a bunch of cinephile must-sees at the same time-slot (on the 9 am-noon on September 9: the new Rivette, Rohmer, Roy Andersson, Kitano, and Pen-ek are all screening); and (3) I'm staying mostly away from major commercial releases. I'm aiming largely to catch movies that won't get a release, or at best, have one of those blink-and-it's-gone deals. I've been very bad about catching up to movies on one-week runs lately.

It also means I won't be seeing (or won't aim to see) many of my most eagerly awaited movies of the year, which I hastily rank this way: (1) I'm Not There, Todd Haynes' pomo Dylan riff (with Cate Blanchett!); (2) There Will Be Blood, PTA's long-awaited new effort (with DDL!); (3) No Country for Old Men, Coens' reputed return to form; (4) Paranoid Park, another Gus paean to troubled youth and shot by Chris Doyle (I fully expect this to be my favorite movie of the year), (5) Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited, boasting a typically great cast, trailer, and one sheet, though the Venice reviews are mixed; (6) American Gangster (Crowe + Denzel > 90s version of De Niro + 90s version of Pacino); (7) Ang Lee's steamy Eileen Chang adaptation Lust, Caution (Tony Leung in Tony "the Lover" Leung mode! Hot Chinese ingenue doing full-frontal!); (8) Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding, with Nicole and Jack Black; (9) the acclaimed My Kid Can Paint That; and (10) lastly, what do McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford have in common? Westerns with long titles conjoining two names? Hope for more. Jesse James is billed as a spiritual descendant of those languorous, poetic masterpieces, though I'd settle for a slightly more focused The Proposition.

Eight of the ten cited above will be playing at TIFF. But I think I can wait.

For some reason, the TIFF gods didn't schedule either the new (supposedly terrible) Wong Kar-wai or the new (supposedly terrible) Olivier Assayas. Cannes' fave Actresses is also nowhere to be found. Yet for all the whining one can do, it's hard to complain about four days where new movies by Jacques Rivette, Eric Rohmer, Guy Maddin, Bela Tarr, Hou Hsiao-hsien and the highly regarded Cannes bows Silent Light, Secret Sunshine and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days are all screening. With the exception of the latter, all of these face iffy prospects for commercial release.

My schedule below is borne of both necessity (I couldn't score tix to Mourning Forest, Secret Sunshine, or Redacted) and choice (I want the flexibility of having some slots open to take advantage of festival buzz). With ticket prices at close to $20 a pop, I'm also wary of taking chances on less touted features.

Anyway, TIFFers, give me a holla if you happen to be at the same screening.

Friday - September 7, 2007

Same Day tix - The Mourning Forest - Scotiabank 4 - 12:00 pm
The Orphanage - Sb 1 - 10 pm

Slots open - (a) 5 pm - 7 pm (Nap)

(b) 9:30 pm - 12 am The Orphanage - Sb 1 (10 pm)
Control - Sb 2 (9:45)

Tentative Schedule

09:45 am - 12:00 pm Rivette - Sb 2
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm (Mourning Forest - Sb 4)
02:45 pm - 04:45 pm Hou Hsiao-hsien - Ryerson
08:00 pm - 09:30 pm Guy Maddin - Wintergarden (Visa Screening Room)
10:00 pm - 12:00 am [Slot (b)]

Saturday - September 8, 2007

Same Day tix - [Choices from (a), (b), and possibly (c)]

Slots open - (a)11 am - 3 pm - The Man from London - Sb 14 (12:30 -3)
My Kid Can Paint That - Sb 2 (12:15-2)

(b) 3 pm - 7 pm - Edge of Heaven - Sb4 (3:30 - 5:45)
Useless (Jia) - V-8 (4:30 - 6)

(c) 9:30 pm - 11 pm (Socialize - Poker?)
Happiness (Hur Jin-Ho) - Sb 1 (9:30)
Chrysalis - Sb 4 (9:45)

Tentative Schedule

09:00 am - 11:00 am Rohmer- Isabelle Bader Theater
12:00 pm - 03:00 pm [Slot (a)]
03:30 pm - 05:45 pm [Slot (b)]
07:00 pm - 09:00 pm Ploy (Pen-ek) - Sb 14
09:15 pm - 12:00 am [Slot (c)]

Sunday - September 9, 2007

Same Day tix - Secret Sunshine - Sb 1 - 11:45 am
Slot (a)

Slots open - (a) 9 am - 11:30 am - (Rush Secret Sunshine if no same day tix avail)
(Sleep in)
Lust, Caution - Sb 2 (9:15 -11:45)
XXY - Sb 4 2 (9:30-11:00)

(b) 5 pm - 9 pm - (City stroll/shop/surf net)
The World Unseen - Sb 3 (6-8 pm)
Barcelona (A Map) - Sb 4 (6:45-9)

Tentative Schedule

09:00 am - 11:30 pm [Slot (a)]
11:45 am - 02:15 pm (Secret Sunshine - Sb 1)
03:30 pm - 05:00 pm Les Chansons d’amour (Honore) - Sb 1
05:00 pm - 09:00 pm [Slot (b)]
09:15 pm - 11:00 pm Chaotic Ana- Ryerson

Monday - September 10, 2007

Same Day tix - 4 Months, 3 Days - Cumberland 1 - 10:00 am
Redacted- Varsity 8 - 6 pm

Slots open - (a) 9am - 12 pm - 4 Months, 3 Weeks... - Cumberland 1 (10 -12 pm)
In Bloom- Sb 2 (12:15-2)

(b) 12 pm - 2:30 pm - George Romero’s Book of the Dead - Sb3 (1:00 - 2:30)
Chrysalis- Sb 1 (12:30 - 2:00)
Happiness - Cumberland 3 (12:15 - 2:15)

Tentative Schedule

09:45 am - 12:00 pm [Slot (a)]
12:00 pm - 02:00 pm [Slot (b)]
02:30 pm - 05:00 pm Shunji Aoyama - Sb 4
06:00 pm - 07:30 pm (Redacted -V 8)
08:00 pm - 10:00 pm Ken Loach - Wintergarden (Elgin)

Tuesday - September 11, 2007

Same Day tix - Jellyfish - Cumb-1 - 2:30 pm or Man from Plains - V8 (2:15 pm)

Slots open - (a) 9 am - 12 pm [ten movies screening but nothing to see]
Night - Cumberland 1 (9 - 11)
Terra - Sb 10 (10 - 12)
Buddha Collapsed Out of Shame - Sb 4 (9-10:30)
Love Comes Lately - Sb 1 (9:15 - 11)
(Sleep in)

(b) 2:30 pm - 5 pm Jellyfish - Cumberland 1 (2:30 - 4:30 pm)
Man From Plains - V8 (2:15 - 4:15)

Tentative Schedule

09:45 am - 12:00 pm [Slot (a)]
12:15 pm - 02:15 pm Silent Light - Scotiabank 4
02:30 pm - 05:00 pm [Slot (b)]