The French seem to have a penchant for creating realistic period films without recourse to the gaudiness and ostentation that spoil many American or Merchant/Ivory attempts. The period is recreated as a setting for a particular kind of tale, not as a cliché or forced attempt at injecting some “culture” or “significance” into an otherwise […]

The Spanish Prisoner

For some reason, David Mamet’s scripts always remind me of Nabokov. The deliberate, beautifully crafted phrasing, the immaculate use of language, and the carefulness of pronunciation of the characters (“Lo-lee-tah”). There is a playfulness in Mamet’s language, a mix of the colloquial with the sublimely cool. The playwright/screenwriter/director also often employs a really clever technique […]

Chinese Box

With “Chinese Box”, Wayne Wang has filmed what he himself described as a “love-hate letter” to Hong Kong. Shot on location during 1997 following the events of “repatriation” as they happened on the streets, Wang has crafted a challenging, moving, intensely personal film that traces the unbearably complex relationships between China, Hong Kong and Britain […]

Diary 3

I’m not sure for how many years it has been going on, but one of the most enjoyable things that I’ve discovered at this year’s festival are the “midnight madness” screenings. Screening animation or “alternative” fare, the “midnight madness” programmers have amassed an eclectic, diverse program. It is quite easy to get tickets ahead of […]

I Married a Strange Person

Bill Plympton is one weird animator and cartoonist. From his “25 ways to Quit Smoking” to his MTV promotional shorts, his scratchy, distinctive style is quite far removed from the Disney mould. He is also almost unique in the animation world. for he draws every frame of his films himself (with the colouring done, as […]

?? – A Chinese Ghost Story – The Tsui Hark Animation

In North America (and much of the world), the phrase “animated film with musical numbers” is likely to invoke images of Disney. But not everywhere; in Asia, home-grown animation is king, with especially the Japanese “anime” the recipient much of popular and critical acclaim. The Chinese (and those in Hong Kong) have also been carving […]

Diary 2

Life is not always easy for the plebeian reviewer. Press passes do not abound, nor do free tickets, cheap transportation, or, most depressingly, invitations to the parties for the “cool” people. One seldom feels so socially designated (or denigrated) as during festival time, walking past all the beautiful people with their beautiful hair as they […]


Andrew Nicol’s “Gattaca” has a compelling premise – the “not-to distant future” is a world where your genetics determine your socioeconomic position. With predictive calculations deciding life expectancy and other potential health risks drawn from one’s very genetic code, discrimination lies much deeper than the skin’s surface. Ethan Hawke plays a man conceived “out of […]

Diary 1

Toronto, September 5, 1997 The Toronto Film Festival works a little differently from other festivals as regards class distinctions in the audience. There are a variety of “levels” of tickets for the Gala screenings, ensuring that the “Gold” patrons, those affiliated with the major sponsors, get the priority seats. They get to enter first; then […]

Men With Guns

In most of the press releases for John Sayles’ latest film, “Men With Guns”, reference is made to Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness”. While Sayles’ film does portray a “journey of discovery” for a central character, with various physical and philosophical confrontations along the way, the comparison to Conrad may be a little abrupt. Unlike […]