Day 1: September 4

Well, here's hoping I'll become more fit (I'd like to think I have the credentials for the moniker "film critic phisique"). The walk from the press office to the screening room has doubled to 20 minutes each way. Which means I'll hang out there less, I guess. I can hear the cheering from here...

A "get down to business" day - while I'm still awake this early, I try to be more experimental. At this time I'll try films just because they fit in the schedule this early on. Trust me, I wouldn't have experimented with a "poetic" and "modern" French film on, say, Thursday.

Please note: the word for this year's festival is "eschew", defined as "to shun or avoid". I've found it in at least four summaries in this year's program guide. Try to use it in your own conversations as you wait in line to see your next film!

I wish that the French flick could be mentally eschewed. Alas...

Gun-Shy
Directed by: Dito Tsintsadze

    

Ah, Germans. Wacky, wacky Germans.

They tend to make some funky films, usually with a shade or two of darkness thrown over some sweet domestic tale. Gun-Shy plays as a strange hybrid of chick-flick meets action movie, Serendipity with a sniper rifle.

It's the tale of a pacifist who delivers "meals-on-wheels" to the elderly. The plot kicks into gear after a woman, without prompting, drops the protagonist a note proclaiming "please help me". From here, a connection is tenuously built, with all the starts and stops that make relationships so painful (and truthful) to watch on film sometimes. The whole "love thing" gets mixed in with some old-fashioned adultery, Nazi-era snipers, old women hanging from ceilings, and even a taste of that good ol' narrative chestnut, "an old man throws himself down a flight of stairs in his wheelchair for no good reason". It's an odd movie to be sure, both creepy and sweet at times, and it's certainly fun to watch. Certainly better than any Touchstone production starring the latest "it" girl with some handsome film star. Maybe they just need some guns?

Grade: B

Alexandra's Project
Directed by: Rolf de Heer

    

I think I'm certainly in the minority of North Americans (let alone international viewers) that a) saw Bad Boy Bubby and b) loved it. So it was with much excitement that I saw de Heer's name on this year's sched. The flick's been getting a lot of bad press, but I for one was totally taken by this film. A great festival flick, totally over the top in its intensity, creepiness, and artistic flair.

Sketching the plot here hardly does the film justice, but it's probably best not to read any synopses that give too much away. Suffice it to say, it's a film about marriage and some of the darker things that creep into dysfunctional relationships. The performances are wrenching, multi-faceted and totally believable. There's a remarkable sense of craft, with creative lighting and colour palettes creating several intricate moods. It plays as part thriller, part psycho drama, but really tends to play around with the genres rather than settle in for the ride.

Very glad to have seen it, and I highly recommend a viewing.

Grade: A-/B+

Sansa
Directed by: Siegfried

    

Hitchcock. Kurusawa. Spielberg. Kubrick. McG.

These directors all earned the right to go by some catchy one-word handle. But Siegfried? As in "and Roy"?!!

In one punny sequence, the lead character's name is toyed with in French - "sans ça", loosely translated as "without XXX", where "XXX" means, well, whatever. This film, par example, is sans plot, sans direction, sans moments of interest, sans enjoyment whilst watching.

The whole flick plays as a precocious mess, screaming "oooh! look at me, I'm trying to be clever!" The main character starts in France, traveling on through Eastern Europe, Russia, Japan, Egypt, Central Africa, and beyond.

His goal - to hook up with hot chicks.

Honestly, that's the depth of the characterization. He's a bum, though a cute one, and despite the lack of clothing change through his transcontinental transiting (avec sleeping in railcairs) he manages to hook up with quite a few. One relationship he's unable to shake is with a similarly aligned old guy who's also a famous conductor (musical, though the train metaphor, going in and out of tunnels, is certainly there for all to see).

Ever been to Europe and seenthose right pricks accosting women on the street for no particularly good reason, other than just 'cuz they can? This is a film about one of those guys, and the women clearly idiotic enough to fall for that style of charm. It's revolting, insulting, and a really feeble attempt to be both cool and clever. If that weren't bad enough, a good half of the film is devoted to shots of strange faces throughout the world ("oooh! ethnic!"). The trip to India where the producers didn't bother paying for the lead actor to join proves to be the most comical element.

Sensa's a hideous failure, laughable if it weren't for the fact that many will fall for it's overtly pretentious claims to being "modern" or "arty".

Grade: FAIL

Memories of Murder
Directed by: Bong Joon-ho

    

A genre-bending cop flick based on a true story about a serial killer/rapist in South Korea. Hard to believe, but there are genuine moments of humour mixed with pathos, mostly in the form of the absurdity of the actions of the police investigators. There's some real tension built into the story, and it's stylishly shot and executed. It plays as quite a refreshing take on this style, and, except for the heavy handed ending, proves to be an enjoyable and provocative flick, definitely worth seeking out.

Grade: B+