TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
Finally got to see a film I've been
looking forward to greatly, the Jeunet-helmed Amelie. Ran into
Jean-Francois finally - it's such a wonderful feeling to have these festival
friends that you can return to year after year. Didn't find it too difficult to
get back in the swing after yesterday, and squeezed in four films. I tried to
stay for the midnight madness (a collection of strange videos for songs from
people like Aphex Twin) but left after an hour. I simply wasn't in the mood for
that type of music, I guess. Perhaps I'm getting old...
Directed by: Stanley Kwan
Fests are often good for seeing
films that seem like they'd be very difficult for the filmmakers to put
together. I've actually seen quite a few mainland-Chinese films that deal with
Gay-male love, an aspect of Chinese culture that's obviously at odds with
typical Western views of that nation.
This film takes the Tiennamin
massacre as its subtle backdrop, so subtle that it all happens though sounds
heard off-screen. The story is essentially a melodrama involving a rich
40-something and his 20-something lover. The developer and the architecture
student have a up and down relationship that provides a narrative throughline.
One interesting element of the film is how it is so flexible with its timeline,
jumping ahead when the story demands it without fanfare or obvious
Directed by: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
"Jeunet is the bastard love child of
Kieslowski and Gilliam"
- Jason Gorber, Uptown 1, Sept
Jeunet once again demonstrates his
almost frightening grasp of cinematic language, creating a thoroughly
enjoyable, quirky, beautiful film.
The movie is joyful and whimsical,
floating through Monmartre with its tounge placed firmly in cheek.
Amelie herself is very beautiful on screen, while the films strange
tale unfolds with enough mystery to keep it engaging. An enormous pleasure to
watch the story unfold. A subtitled movie even for those who hate subtitled
Directed by: Tim Blake Nelson
Tim Blake Nelson,
known to most audiences for his slack-jawed performance in O Brother Where
Art Thou, crafts an existential dialogue on making choices in the most
horrifying of conditions.
Set in Auschwitz II, the film follows the
Jews who chose a few more months of life and privileged accommodations in
exchange for their service rendered for the Germans. They helped herd the
people into the chambers, told them to disrobe and that "all would be fine",
and, finally, scooped the bodies up, got rid of hair and teeth, and shovelled
the burnt bodies into the crematoria.
The Gray Zone focuses on
the 12th group of these Sonnnenkommanders, who actually managed an uprising
that resulted in the destruction of several of the chambers. An interesting
historical moment, but the film fails to capitalize on the inherent drama. It
spends too much time being overwrought and wordy, coming off too much like the
play it was derived from.
It unsuccessfully tries to bridge the gap
between pathos and establishing a sense of realism, coming across as forced.
Overweight prisoners and Harvy Keitel's German accent distract from the mood of
the film. The scenes of carnage, though well done, lack the impact that a more
experienced hand may have brought. There is a sub-plot involving a survivor
from the chambers that feels forced, and in the end the film spends too much
time on pedantic discussions when a simple image (like the girl in the red
dress in Schindler's) would be far more effective.
Directed by: Josef Fares
A warm, sweet Swedish romantic
comedy about culture shock in Scandanavia. The story surrounds a Lebanese-Swede
in love with a home-grown Swede, a star-crossed lovers kind of shtick. When the
lead is obliged to marry someone that has been arranged by his family, he
agrees to a ruse engagement in order to save both families embarrassment.
The story is predictable, but it is fun to watch. Jalla! Jalla!
means to "hurry up!", and the film works at a quick pace that compliments the
performances. A well shot and performed comedy.