TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
The mood has inevitably changed at this
year's fest. Screenings go on, and the ever-extraordinary volunteers are doing
an amazing job of trying to help hapless filmgoers by providing info regarding
reschedulings, cancellations, etc.
Not only do a large number of
visitors and industry professionals come from New York, but a great deal of the
prints do as well. With plane service still down today, a few prints that were
to arrive are simply not here.
Many journalists and industry people
from New York that I spoke to are looking to take a train from Toronto - it's a
shlep, some 12 to 14 hours, but I think it would provide a certain peace of
mind after this week.
Screenings have gone on, with some strange events
occurring. I went to go to a Yugoslavian film that looked a little bit dark and
depressing, and when the lights dimmed, a French relationship movie began.
Luckily, it was a good French relationship movie, so all was well.
trickled in during the day, as yesterday's events were certainly the talk of
the town. Some were questioning whether or not the festival should have been
cancelled yesterday, others were suggesting that it was vulgar to continue at
all. The organizers no doubt have escalated security, but it was pretty
invisible and didn't prevent people from getting into screenings.
changes, too, in the external elements of the fest - there have been a number
of pro-Palestinian/Intifadah protesters handing out leaflets on Bloor Street
during the week. They are not there now.
The films go on, most parties
are cancelled (the closing gala might even be off), and the sense of
celebration of cinema has been dulled. Still, the art is exhibited, and the
Directed by: Mike Figgis
Since his success with Leaving Las
Vegas, Mike Figgis has been actively trying to expand the borders of
Pretentious? Sure. But his experiments are
certainly interesting to watch.
Shot on DV, Hotel uses multiple
"windows" within the frame to tell its story. Dutch angles and night vision
shots mix with improv scenes and playful digs at Dogme-style.
Set in a Venice hotel and the piazzas and canals of the city, the story
is a tad confused. We are introduced early on to a cult of flesh-eaters,
toasting a cameoed John Malkovitch over servings of human. The main storyline
involves a group of actors improving a Dogme-like version of The
Duchess of Malfi. The off beat characters, crazy brit director, and
sycophantic yet conniving producer add up to a colourful mix of personalities.
A highlight of the film's split-screen technique is a flamenco
performance - here the device is used to stunning effect. One panel focuses on
the dancers feet, another on a wide shot, a third on her gyrating hands, and
the forth on her face, her lips, her hips. Combined it makes for a seductive,
intimate examination of the dancer's movement, as your eyes shifts between the
different angles, all taken in together at once. It is a magical moment in the
Sadly, the film does not contain as many of these moments of
magic as it should. Its convoluted, highly allegorical story line will put off
many. However, it is certainly a fresh and original take on digital cinema,
and, for no other reason, it may be appreciated as a film stretching the very
form of filmmaking.
Directed by: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld
screening at the Uptown started with an announcement of condolence for the
victims of New York and the Pentagon. Not necessarily a nice way to start a
sweet, romantic comedy about a flustered New York women as she looks for love
in New York.
This film is the flipside of Sex in the City - gone
is the sense of sardonic self-loathing and sluttiness, and instead a sweet and
loveable film plays out. It's the best kind of chick-flick, fun and intelligent
without being pandering.
The hook is that Jessica's a nice Jewish girl
who thinks she may be in love with another women. The family interplay is
wonderful, with a tight script and warm performances. Everyone is simply fun to
watch, and the comedy is played with a sense of sweetness that's never
saccharine. This is like a good brit flick (Four Weddings) or perhaps a
John Cusack-style indie film. Very fun to watch.
The downer, of course,
is that every five minutes ago there would be an establishing shot of the lower
Manhattan locale. The audience would "slump" together, losing the sense of fun
the film was trying to present. These are shots of New York that act as filler,
that establish millieu and are always taken for granted. After yesterday, these
shots, and many other things, may never be taken for granted
Ma femme et une actrice
Directed by: Yvan Attal
I went to see a bitter
Yugoslavian film, but when the credits rolled, I was in the screening of a
different movie. The events of yesterday prevented the screening copy arriving,
so I got to see a film that I had originally missed the screening of. I was
thankful, as the film turned out to be quite fun.
Quirky French films
like this can either work really well or be absolutely intolerable. Thankfully,
this proves to be a very enjoyable comedy about jealousy. Having lived a year
in France, I can attest to the fact that there is a symptom of incredibly
beautiful women going out with average looking men. This must cause some sort
of collective tension explored by this film - the lead's wife is a famous
actress, he's a sports journalist. He must deal with the fact that she makes
love on screen for all to see, a like that he's simply not connected
The film moves from Paris to London, and the inclusion of Terence
Stamp was a wonderful surprise. He is as always fun to watch, and his lecherous
advances are downright serpentine.
A good, clever relationship comedy
that really works. Glad I saw it.
Directed by: George Ratliff
Often the best films
I see at Toronto are the documentaries. From American Movie to IMr.
Death, the docs that screen here are almost uniformly excellent. Hell
House is no exception.
A fundamentalist church in Texas creates a
haunted house each Hallowe'en in order to "scare people toward Christ." The
film tracks the audition process, as the neighbouring high-school has its
students giddily auditioning for "Abortion girl" or "AIDS patient." The sense
of anticipation is palpable, as they wait anxiously for their part to
What's remarkable about the film is that it is presented without
comment or criticism - the perspective of these people is simply presented.
Subtle elements provide appropriate black-comedic fun - when they are asked to
draw a satanic pentagram, the organizers instead paint a hexagramatic "star of
The tour of the house itself is a surreal mix of cheap gore and
religious zeal. It's a penetrating look into life in rural Texas, and a
thoroughly enjoyable, disturbing, and darkly-funny film to
Directed by: Cory McAbee
Wow. A black-and-white,
cardboard set, 1930's Buck Rogers-style musical romp. God bless Midnight
There's not much plot, but the songs are catchy and the acting
silly. The scene in the bathroom stall is especially memorable. A ridiculous,
very fun film.