2001 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
September 8


I skipped the earliest of films today in favour of a few minutes more sleep. Generally a very pleasant day. It was very hot and humid, making a strain on the AC in several of the theatres. The Varsity public screening of Prozak Nation in particular was sauna like.

Still haven't seen any mind blowing films yet (excluding, of course, mind blowing in the literal sense as exhibited last night by Versus), but it's obviously early in the fest. Star encounters with the likes of Ricci and Jason Biggs paled in comparison to the downright glee shown by Andy Lau's very own fan club, complete with bright orange t-shirts. He seemed to be continuously signing autographs, and smirking in a movie star way at the blushing Asian ladies.


ANDYMANIA




Address Unknown
Directed by: Kim Ki-duk

From the maker of The Isle comes a horrifying but stylish take on the effects of the US Army's presence in Korea. The Isle was one of the most memorable films from last year's fest, with scenes like a man making sushi by filleting a live fish and putting it, sans sides, back in the water, to a scene where the lead puts fish hooks up her vagina and yanks most of her insides out.

Address Unknown is a simple tale about Dog butchery, bullying, American imperialism and Korean bigotry. The scenes are fantastically gruesome to watch, but despite all the intensity, it, almost amazingly, never plays as gratuitous or exploitational.

If the film has a major fault, it is that the performances of the Americans are laughably, distractingly bad. Sub-high school play bad. It's obvious that they are either actual US servicemen, or whatever punk-ass Yanks they found at the local hostel.

Nonetheless, this serves as an excellent example of the best of festival films, a movie so clearly different than what you'd normally see in the multiplex. Horrifying and intense, there is a strong line of beauty that makes you want to watch to the end. This would have been a truly excellent film had he shelled out a couple more dollars for white boys who could actually act.

Grade: B+




You Really Got Me
Directed by: Pal Sletaune

A strange mix of Ransom and Still Crazy, You Really Got Me is a rock 'n roll kidnapping movie set in Norway. A fun little film filled with quirky characters. It all holds together in the end, and is one of those flicks that you can just lie back and enjoy.

Grade: B-




Mr. In Between
Directed by: Paul Sarossy

A Sarterian, Existential angst movie, with an assassin forced to confront what he does. A sort of dark flipside to Grosse Pointe Blank, with a little bit of Eyes Wide Shut thrown in.

This is the debut effort from Paul Sarossy, a nice Toronto boy who was DOP on many of Egoyan's films (and even the Toronto-shot X-men). The film is fairly interesting, but does seem to take itself a little too seriously. The milieu is fun to visit, and his character is slick enough to be cool, but in the end it plays just a little too much over-the-top. At the least, it's a pretty film to watch.

Grade: C+




Prozak Nation

Directed by: Erik Skjoldbjaerg

This film will certainly find praise from a lot of viewers. They will be struck by the manic performance of actor/producer Christina Ricci, they'll shed tears as Jessica Lange tears up the set, and even sniffle as that Davinci's Inquest guy does his best Blow Up-style photographer shtick as the asshole father. People will use words like "brave" and "honest", and they'll say that this is the type of movie that they've been waiting for.

They'll all be wrong.

Prozak Nation is a manipulative, cloying take on depression, a watered down film from a watered down book. Gone is the limited amount of social commentary that the gen-x tome contained. Instead, this is melodrama, pure and simple. Performers yelling at one another for a good hour and a half. By the end, you hate them all, and wouldn't mind if Ricci's character actually went through with her suicide attempts just to add a little drama.

One thing the film does is show that Rolling Stone has a penchant for recruiting young writers. After last year's fest fav Almost Famous, Prozak Nation shows another writer getting acclaim from a music review. Where Crowe's reviews (and I've read a bunch of them) are truly poetic and mature insights into the rock 'n roll scene, Elizabeth Wurtzel's piece on Lou Reed, excerpted in this film, sounds like purile high-school angst drivel. A metaphor, perhaps, for the film as a whole.

This is an after-school special with reasonably good production values. On TV, it'd star Meridith Baxter-Burney or Farah Fawcett as the mom. Bonus marks for the creepyness of Anne Heche as a Psychiatrist, given her recent confessions that she was crazy when she was gay.

Candle-lit love scenes with Jason "I'm not just a Pie-Plooker" Biggs push this almost to camp, but not quite. The Joy Division poster on her wall tries to inject irony perhaps (no Morresey t-shirt?), but in the end it plays like a bad first-year Women's Studies essay - full of bluster, free from content.

Grade: C-





Full Time Killer

Directed by: Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai



Last year's Mission was for me a big disappointment. Sleeping in for a bit this morning certainly helped this one along. An interesting plot borrowing liberally from film references (Léon, etc.). It's a straight ahead action movie with the positive addition of plot development.

While certainly not bombastic in the style of Versus, there was enough punch and cool set-pieces to keep one awake - the climax alone looks like it defies several thousand fire-safety laws. Andy Lau is slick as ever, and the sheer exuberance of all the performances makes for a truly fun ride.

One thing this film demonstrates is that I have to give Mission a second chance. After a good and long nap, that is.

Grade: A-/B+