An enervating early start, with the fabulous
Dylan(s) movie kickstarting the day. The middle films were a bit more mediocre.
In fact, I did my first walkout this year (something I try very hard to
avoid). Unfortunately, it was a film from someone I had enjoyed in the past,
but unfortunately this film about a small town, shot sans script and much
forced humour, simply couldn't sustaining me at this point in the festival for
more than the half hour that I gave it.
The Midnight Madness screening
was a hot ticket, and well worth the buildup. Colin, the programmer, told an
amusing story about how one of Miike's email accounts has "Gummo" as the prefix
because he saw the word in the program guide for TIFF, and simply likes the
word (he also refuses to see the film, which, of course, is a wise decision.)
As Miike once again couldn't make the trip to Toronto, but there were two of
his principals there, both of whom were extremely charming and generous. The
filmmaker also created a very special video for the Fest crowd, as he held up
cards in English while he spoke his native tongue, indicating how much he likes
the Toronto crowd and the festival in general.
The boisterous audience
really does make a huge difference for films of this ilk, and it was a pleasure
to sit in this screening with a bunch of hooting, hollering Midnight Maniacs.
I'm Not There
There are a couple of things
that need to be in place in order for you to enjoy Hayne's pic about the spirit
and music of Bob Dylan. First of all, you have to like Dylan. I'm not sure
those that can't stomach what they feel to be a nasally voice and aggressive
manner will derive any pleasure from this. Secondly, a passing knowledge of the
man and his history would help, as many of the symbols and references would be
incoherent to the uninitiated. Thirdly, you'll have to be open to the style of
the film, agreeable to the jumps in logic, setting, and even cast member in
this drenched-with-metaphors film.
All caveats in place? Good. You can
then sit back, and enjoy one of the finest biographical films ever made,
period. Ironic, since the biography isn't of a man, per se, but the bio of a
lie, a construction, the fair and tall tale of the troubadour who rode the
rails as a youth, learned guitar from someone named "Blind" or "Lemon" or some
such thing, and burst on the scene with his pointed, "pointing" song. A man, or
the idea of a man, who is also and at once, a black boy, a woman, a grizzled
actor, a witness testifying, and a horseman from another time. This is a not a
film about Robert Zimmerman, yet it borrows heavily from the character that he
has inhabited for the last half century or so. This is a fiction about a lie
more true than the truth, the story of the story, with metaphors writ large on
the screen, metaphors about the smiling simile that is Bob Dylan.
film is less impenetrable than Dylan's lyrics, but just. It throws historical
references out like rice at a wedding - look, the Beatles are doing Hard Day's
Night in the background! Look, he's got his arm around the long haired
girlfriend as he walks the streets of New York! Look yet again, a crazed
balding folkie is with an axe, trying to cut the cables to stop the racket at a
New England folk festival! Stories too weird to be true are, of course, drawn
directly from the historical record, but transplanted here onto other
characters with rustic, rural names like Woody, Billy, or Jack.
many faces of Dylan are played by six unique actors, each bringing something
unique to the portrayal. The performances are extraordinary. Simply put, Cate
Blanchett reaffirms that she is the best actress of her (or perhaps any)
generation - the last scene in the limo is breathtaking. Christian Bale is
almost as perfect, and Heath Ledger was unrecognizable to me, so deep was he
into the character he was portraying. Only Gere seemed out of place (more so
even than the black boy, a phenomenal performance by Marcus Carl Franklin), yet
this uncertainty seemed perfectly sensible for the phase of the myth that he
was playing. On the supporting front, David Cross as Ginsberg provides great
hilarity (the crucifix scene an absolute joy), and the casting of Julianne
Moore as the Baez-like folkie is a stroke of genius.
This film will
surely find an audience open to its many charms, but I fear for many more they
will be closed to its subtlety, its elegance, and its sheer bravado. Under the
conceit of multiple story lines and the dream like imagery is a uniquely
powerful work touching upon the genius of Dylan and his music. The songs
utilized in the film, chosen with great care from the massive catalogue,
drawing alternate versions where appropriate, missing the obvious gags for the
perfect music at the perfect time. The new performances by the movie's house
band are made up by musicians equally in tune with the spirit of the film, and
their contribution is seamless to the whole.
Like Scorsese's No
Direction Home or of course the seminal Don't Look Back, both of
which this film explicitly mimes in parts, I'm Not There merely touches
on the myriad facets of Dylan's music, muses and career. It's an irreverent
film that paradoxically is made with great reverence for its subject, an
extraordinary accomplishment for anyone willing to embrace it.
Directed by: Todd
After last year's
back-to-back magical romps and the continuing slew of biopics, it must have
been inevitable that someone greenlit a picture about Harry Houdini. While
Gillian Armstrong wouldn't necessarily be the director that you first thought
of to do such an endeavor, it's less surprising when the story proves to be one
of complicated romance.
Guy Pearce plays Houdini, the illusionist who
spent much of his time debunking so-called psychics that preyed upon the fears
and regrets of their audience all under the guise of mysticism. Catherine
Zeta-Jones is in a mother-daughter psychic vaudeville act, and gets caught up
in a competition to see who can provide the dying words of Houdini's mother.
The mood is well set, and the performances fine, but in the end this
proves to be an unexceptional film. There's a lack of magic in the tale, a
sense of doom and gloom that mars even the most passionate moments, yet a
fairly pedestrian structure that hardly surprises the audience. In the end it's
an average, forgettable film, a poor comparison to last year's films about
magicians. Unlike the legend that was Houdini, this film is unfortunately fated
to be forgotten about.
Directed by: Gillian
John Sayles sets his latest
film in a sticky, sunburnt Alabama of 1950. "Pine Top" Purvis (Danny Glover)
runs a dilapidate juke joint called the Honeydripper, eeking by with
performances by authentic Blues artists. As the neighboring bar uses its
recorded songs to drive traffic through its doors and away from the HD, Purvis
presents an idea to do one last bash with a celebrated New Orleans rocker in
order to save the day.
There are some fine musical performances
throughout (a finger-synching piano role for Glover notwithstanding), with the
likes of Keb' Mo' giving the soundtrack an authenticity. Unfortunately, it all
feels a bit trite, the "2 weeks to retirement" Glover simply not being able to
be taken seriously in this role. The supporting cast do their part, but it all
seems too predictable to make any serious dent. From a filmmaker known for his
hard biting films, this fluffy film with its schoolbook look at the South is a
Directed by: John
SWD is a deliriously
bent, un-apologetically incoherent blast of a film. This is the disfigured
lovechild of Leone's Western shtick and hyper-gory Hong Kong action tropes,
with dialogue performed by some diabolical Berlitz "Lern to Speek Inglish"
For casual viewers, the obvious connection would be to
the filmmaker who shows up first on screen, Quentin Tarantino. Roughly a
Romeo and Juliet story mashed with the usual rival gang banter of
Western lore, the plot is certainly not the most original or captivating
element. The enjoyment from the film instead comes from its sheer bravado, a
steamroller of ridiculousness that plows down any worries about the subtleties
of dramaturgical construction.
There's plenty of gun fights, kicking,
silly dialogue, over the top screaming villains and slick low-angled shots to
keep the thing rolling. The English is so poor that it is subtitled, but the
cadence of the performance (mostly mumbled phonetic acting) provides a certain
sense of musicality to the dialogue. Even Quentin chooses for his own speaking
role this slurry delivery, and it gives the whole thing an even greater sense
of silliness and fun.
In the end, this is no cerebral post-modern take
on cinematic appropriation; it's a ridiculous film with, a unique and insane
vision, the irreverent flipside to Leone's own fascination with Asian cinema.
As convoluted and clunky as its title, SWD succeeds greatly in providing
great entertainment, and is a pleasure to watch.
Directed by: Takashi