2001 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
September 7



VERSUS'S BRAND OF UPTOWN FUN

The horror.... the horror.....

Day one, a six hour film. Day two, six films in a row. With a festival seemingly devoted this year to all things diabolic, I'll need another six to make it par for the course.

A good day today. Highlight had to be the live-action martial arts demonstration on the Uptown stage. Stranger things have not been seen methinks. It all started when Colin, the Midnight Madness God, and Nobu, his trusty sidekick, did their damndest to provide me with satisfaction regarding an allotment of tix for the week. In short, it's nice to feel loved, especially given that most years of the fest at least someone made it their business to make my life hell, rather than easy.

Damn, there's that hell again. It just keeps creeping up this year...




All About Lilly Chou Chou
Directed by: Shunji Iwai

The first really exciting discovery for me at this year's fest, Lily is an intoxicating, exotic film. It is remarkable not for its flamboyance but for its stark honesty, captivating visual flair, and a style of filmmaking that differs from anything on this side of the Pacific.

The is perhaps the first film that authentically captures elements of the internet. Forget the over-the-top paranoia of normal ‘net flicks, this film presents with surprising clarity and honesty the particular diction of chat rooms and IRC. It's a film about adolescent disenfranchisement that never seems forces or gratuitous, presenting a convincing mood of pathos for all the main characters as they deal with teen life in Japan.

The chat room elements serve as part Greek chorus and part narrative impetus, a powerful balance that runs through the whole film. With good sound design, the different typing sounds speak louder than most dialogue, as the screen titles speak volumes about the intimate reflections of the chat participants.

There is nary a missed beat, and the tone is impeccable throughout. By dealing with despair and hope without artifice or stereotype, Lily proves to be an exciting example of world-class cinema.

Grade: A-



Exterminating Angel
Directed by: Louis Bunuel




This early 60s effort from Bunuel continues to impress. Vulgar, obnoxious, and extremely clever, the film mixes surrealism with sarcasm. Trained bears, sheep, and Bunuel's typical contempt for the church all mix to create a classic of cinema. Kudos to Cinemateque once again.

Grade: A



Italian for Beginners
Directed by: Lone Scherfig

With the introduction of the Dogme 95 aesthetic, many filmmakers created stark, intimate dramas that dealt with intense and shocking issues. From The Celebration to The Idiots, the Dogme films have certainly embraced off-colour topics. With Italian for Beginners, the flexibility of the Dogme rules is effectively demonstrated - with Italian for Beginners, an enjoyable, light romantic comedy has been filmed utilizing the same "limitations" and the other, darker movies.

While the story is forced at times, Italian for Beginners is at the core a sweet, enjoyable movie that even the most casual movie-goer would enjoy. It avoids becoming cloying and over predictable while presenting a warm comic turn. A pleasant surprise that further emphasises the aesthetic possibilities of the Dogme code.

Grade: A-/B+



Eden
Directed by: Amos Gitai

Gitai's films have been for me hit and miss. I found Kadosh to be intolerable, with incredibly long, boring takes finding the camera lingering on tiny trivial detail. The point is made in a couple seconds, yet his intention is to let the 10 minute take play out.

Kippur, on the other hand, used this device to great effect, making us watch uncomfortable moments of helplessness or violence with an unyielding camera gaze. In an action movie, where the cuts often outnumber the gunshots, this was a remarkably effective device.

Eden is much more in line with Kadosh. Told in English, it's the story of Jews in Palestine during the second world war, as they hear snippets of what's going on in Europe. The film could have been an interesting and compelling tale, but instead Gitai's technique interferes. Watching rows of bricks get laid just becomes numbingly boring, while extreme long takes make performances seem strained and awkward.

Based on an Arthur Miller story, the author himself makes a cameo in the role of a father. His lack of acting technique is fun for a few minutes, but after 15 or so it becomes painful. I hope that Gitai can temper his desire to slow things down to such and extent, and that he avoids the types of cliché circumstances he employs in this film.

Grade: D



Pauline et Pollette
Directed by: Lieven Debrauwer

A Flemmish-Belgian Rain Main with two old women as the leads. Sounds enthralling, huh?

An accidental film for me, a scheduling stumble that found me in a film I hadn't planned on seeing. The description filled me with dread (the use of the term "bittersweet" is usually a dead give-away).

The film was thankfully short - just as the conceit was starting to wear thin it ended. Certainly no shocks here, the film should appeal to those clambering for a "nice" movie at the fest.

Grade: C


VERSUS BOY GETS AN ALTOIDS SPANK



Versus
Directed by: Ryuhei Kitamura

We live in a post-genre world. Archetypes are no longer references, but instead the products that reference the archetypes get recycled.

Too cerebral? How 'bout this….

Versus kicked fuckin' ass.


Versus is a Yakuza (Japanese Gangster) / Zombie / Samurai movie with funky swords, beautiful women and plenty of ridiculous Kung Fu-style action.

It owes more to Raimi than to Jackie Chan, with a palpable Evil Dead-vibe running through the flick. Add in a dose of Highlander and Return of the Living Dead for good measure and you get the scope of this film. It's a spot-on, perfect film to open the Midnight Madness schedule. Colin, you rock.

I personally think the Nobel committee should look into granting a special award for one shot in this film - a POV from within a skull that has been punched through. The image of the red skullular tunnel with teeth sticking up in the foreground and another attacker in the extreme background perfectly framed and shot with enormous depth of field embodies all that is good about the MM format. Simply awesome.

Grade: A