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Friday, September 28, 2007

/* I'd rather be a rockstar */ - About A Son - DAY 8 at TIFF 2006

With the release of About A Son one year after TIFF 2006, we present this brief musing from our first sighting back then in Varsity 7.

from Toronto International Film Festival 2006

It's been one week in this coccoon that is the festival. It's been 37 films down and here we are heading into the final three days of the festival to reach the magic 50 -nowhere to go onward ! sleep, where are you?

Day 8 was a series of astounding performances and intelligent, well articulated directorial movies in This is England; Alain Resnais masterful in Coeurs with one of my favourite actresses at 05 TIFF : Isabelle Carré; a trip through Olympia and Seattle that might have been through the eyes of a rockstar named Kurt, the dazzling looks of Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, and the black and white future of Renaissance.

With the imminent release of About A Son and a subsequent CD soundtrack this is a lookback at the documentary.

Kurt Cobain - About a Son
6 p.m.

Kurt Cobain - About A Son is a minimalist travelogue set in the Washington state neighbourhoods where Kurt Cobain grew up starting Aberdeen, Olympia, then finally in Seattle, eventually to Seattle. The presence of Kobain is on ly heard in a series of hours and hours taped interviews done with the author Michael Azerrad for Come As You Are: The Story of Nirvana.

Kurt Cobain is seen as an outsider who changes the cultural landscape - Kurt Cobain is the tip of the iceberg. "People don't deserve to know about me," "I'd rather be a rock star." His attitude is sarcastic yet caring. Nihilistic jerk. I hate journalists. Everyone wants to see us die. He downplays his stardom.

Behind his voice, the people, the sights and places that could have been seen by Kurt come on screen:
Re-bar Dry Acres Crocodile Restaurant Mecca Cafe Vain Lewiston Queen City Moore Theatre Olympic Fireplace Twinkle Pig #3 Cherry St Milk Terrace Oak Harbour City Pawn Caffe Vida United States Post Office Broadway Super 97 cent Store Lambert Building ...

About A Son is a melancholy sojourn with music from influential bands of the time [ including Mudhoney's Touch Me I'm Sick with whom Nirvana shared a half single, The Melvins, REM, Iggy Pop, Vaselines, Butthole Surfers, for punctuation ] - not until the end do the lasting images of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana come on screen - the alter ego that lit the torch, The Man Who Sold the World.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

/* Bianca is in town for a reason */ - Lars and the Real Girl

Thursday, Sept 13, 2007
Scotiabank 1

Directors in their preamble to the crowd when they introduce their movies to an awaiting crowd always touch upon how the Toronto Film Festival is "a people's festival" - a festival not catering strictly to the industry and critics, but a festival where the people come out to see the films and their reaction is gauged.

Lars and the Real Girl is a people's film - a warm and hilariously funny breakout movie that touches the heart.

Lars is a young introverted man more prone to living alone in his brother's garage than getting out despite the efforts of his brother's wife Karin [played with a endearing sincerity by Emily Mortimer]. However, Lars is by no means agoraphobic, he has a real office job and is a reluctant participant in the banter. His co-worker includes one with a predilection for online activity not condoned in offices. And there is the new girl who seems to have an eye for Lars despite his standoffish behaviour.

Then one day, a large box arrives at Lars's door. And life is never the same again as Lars's brother Gus [ the puzzled Paul Schneider seen in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford as Dick Liddil and as Paul in All The Real Girls ] and Karin are introduced to Bianca, a "missionary from Brazil."

The town is in for the ride of its life, and Patricia Clarkson [ what is a TIFF without Patricia Clarkson? ] as the analyst delivers it straight to Gus and Karin: "Lars has a delusion."

"What is he doing with a delusion?"

Under the gentle suasion of Karin, the whole town comes onboard in its support for Lars' situation. While the town adjusts and adapts to the presence of Bianca in many oddball and implausible situations [which garner great laughs from the audience], it is Gus who is the most perturbed by what is going on and the continuous proximity of Bianca, he wonders just how long he has to live and put up with his brother's delusion?

However, due to Bianca, Lars, a lonely soul burdened by some hurt from the past, starts to come out of his shell, gradually living in the real world, having private talks with Bianca, going out on dates, and in public explaining Bianca's background to people. Kelly Garner, the girl with a heart of gold, still has her eye on Lars.

Lars and the Real Girl is a story of compassion and love while reconciling the past, yet laden not with pathos but a real sense of the human soul.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My Mother Loves Women


At the birthday party of their mother, the three beautiful Spanish daughters are in for the shock of their lives when they learn their mother has a new lover.

The daughters are named from their romantic father from characters in El Cid : Elvira, Sol and Gimena [the lead of In The City - another TIFF 2003 film]

Mother and father having recently split and divided their seemingly happy lives together - one filled with music and togetherness as evidenced by group photo of the mother and daughters by the piano when they were younger. To see their father figure being replaced in their lives by a woman is to say the least a non‑subtle shock.

The zany Leonora Watling plays the sensitive daughter Elvira who is filled with insecurities and selfdestructiveness who never lets anyone come close to her and allows herself to be underpaid and trampled by her boss at the book publishing company. To boot, she also has her own hidden novel in a drawer that has not seen the light of day by anyone else. [The ubiquitous Leonara Watling has appeared in Talk to Her and the recent My Life Without Me as the daft hairdresser.]

Furthermore as Elvira's loving father tells her she is more like her mother than she knows, which worries her considering her mother's present situation and further crazes her as she lets out in public. Apparently father knew of the mother's twosome but was less shocked about it than the daughters. All the older men in Leonora’s life - the father, the psychologist seem to rationalize away her mother's attraction to women. As her father explains it from the book of Sapphic: it is an untranslatable attraction between two women not forth sake of physicality but of the attraction of beauty. Sophia and Eliska literally play beautiful music together as they show the daughters during the birthday piano recital of the second movement of Schuman's Fantasia.

At her next session with her psychologist Elvira is on the couch after a sleepless night - the words "my mother is a lesbian" ringing through her head all night. The psychologist who is in love with his tank of angel fish compares her to the fish - and her cure is to be self-assertive and push her mother for a loan so she can be on her own and be the artist she wants to be. Paradoxical in its way: someone trying to be on her own yet relying on her mother for money. "Consider it a loan."

But it is the last straw when the daughter after finally working up the nerve to ask her mother for the money discovers there is none: all the millions have gone to Eliska for her student loan - even the proceeds of the sale of granddad's orchards.

My Mother Likes Women is a delightful film that in its own European way pushes the envelope that charms its way into the hearts. The attraction between the mother Sofia and her new friend Eliska has many insurmountable barriers: Sofia is Spanish and Eliska is from the Czech Republic, Sofia is many years older. The two play beautiful music together.

Sol - the youngest sister and the singer in a punkrock band debuts a song she just wrote while the whole family and Eliska is at attendance at a concert - it’s naughty and declaims "My mother likes a woman" -Understandably afterwards mother is not pleased nor are the daughters. They still push forward their scheme to find someone who will ply her ways on Eliska and discover the underside of nightlife - they venture into a lesbian bar for the first time and it is a beautiful world that defies the cliché seediness. The ladies are all beautiful. The three split up and look for a candidate. One who is dressed in man's clothing foists her charms upon the nervous Elvira at the bar and buys her a drink. But it is the young and sprightly Sol who finds that the women in the club are hitting on her so she volunteers to seduce Eliska.

But as they find out at a mother-lover-daughter outdoor sortie that it is Eliska and Elvira that have a mutual rapport - they both have a liking for poetry as Elvira quotes Emily Dickinson. They talk for hours.

Compounding the melodrama is the presence of an author who is being courted by her boss's publishing house that Eliska falls completely in mad with. Of course she sabotages the potential relationship while trying to figure out how to deal with Eliska.

Love hurts and love triumphs over all in the end in this daft and funny tale with its little messages.

The scheme to break up the two lovers goes through many flaws in the execution and the

Delightfully wacky and pushes the envelope

/* Why do we fall in love ? */ - Dopamine



from 2004

Dopamine starts with the actual director of the movie comes on screen first and tells a story about his memories of his father.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter is released in the brain during pleasure, a chemical produced in the brain when someone falls in love. With Dopamine , the movie, what you have is a quirky charming look at the notion of love between two people coming from two extremes – from one side is a geeky obsessive science type and on the other side is a San Francisco kindergarten teacher living in a private world of pain and loneliness. Working under the postulation that the attraction between the male and female of the species is solely chemical, Rand, a software worker with his team consorts developsa program that creates artificial life – a bird called Koy Koy that can intimate interaction with the user in front of the monitor.

When the program is tested with schoolchildren for the San Francisco school system he meets up with an attractive young teacher in the guise of Sarah McCaulley [ played by the adorable Wade Wells from Sliders ]

Sarah's obvious connection is with Winston, Rand's overly aggressive colleague from the animation software team and she does not spurn his advances until the moment they were to get into bed. This colours his reaction to her as a crazy psycho.

It is rather ironic that the lady looking for her own form of companionship in the world would become the recipient of a beta test for a friendship software program. As well, Rand, the lead designer of the program would let hard science get in the way of biology and chemistry. He overanalyses the way he sees coupling in the world and denying what is so obviously in front of him. Whether Rand and Sarah actually make that love connection seen in awkward steps on the screen gives the film a winning edge and made this a fan favourite at Sundance in 2003.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

DAY 12 - /* life and death are always connected */ - Eastern Promises


My name is Tatiana

Eastern Promises is a taut psycholigical thriller that only director David Cronenberg can create. Shot in London, England, Cronenberg has a history of violence Viggo Mortensen in conjuring the atmosphere of the Russian underworld menace: the vor v zakone. He depicts the brutal cutthroat world existence beneath a patina of elegance and greasy slime under the guise of old world charms set in a high class Russian restaurant, all ruled over with a velvet glove by Semyon [Armin Muehler-Stahl]. Semyon's son Kirill played maniacally by Vincent Cassel is a wild out of control character who parties too much, given to women and drink, and killing people while keeping his "driver" and soldier Nikolai at his beck and call. Mortensen plays the role of Nikolai with a steadfest demeanour - he does the dirty work for Kirill without question and advises him, what lies beneath the calm surface is a mystery. However, the two love and look out for each other like brothers.

On Christmas Eve, Naomi Watts as the emotional Anna Khitrova, a midwife, comes by accident into this netherworld when she discovers the diary of a young Russian speaking girl Tatiana. The mother dies, the baby lives. Life and death are connected. Watts's concern for Tatiana in trying to get in touch with the girl's family leads her to steal Tatiana's diary. The worlds of Anna and her family in London: her mother and Russian uncle Stepan, and that of Nikolai collide when Ana tries to get the diary translated. She brings photocopied pages of the diary to the trying to be helpful Semyon in order to get Tatiana's address. Little does Anna know of the danger she is getting herself and her family mixed up in. Her English mother Helen and Russian uncle Stepan [ who at one point in his life was a part of KGB ] find the original diary and set to translate the pages themselves. The uncle has a clear distaste for the vor . Tatiana's diary is an ugly story, a fourteen-year-old girl coerced into a world of prostitution. The details of a diary ultimately reveal the darkest secret - and Semenov vies to get his hands on the original diary.

Eastern Promises ultimately hinges upon the hidden prowess of Viggo Mortensen as Nikolai, the ever cool "I am just driver." Nikolai is an enigma, his body a living canvas of tattoos telling the story of his Russian prison experience. The near bond between him and the wrought and desperate Naomi Watts [ on the 21 Grams edge again, her performance underpinned by Anna's working in the childward while encumbered emotially by the loss of her own child at birth, again the play between life and death ] as she seeks the truth about Tatiana and confronts the vor with the truth. A history of violence precedes Cronenberg and the shock of the imagery and brutality does not fail.

Anna's quest to find closure for the memory of the deceased Tatiana draws Eastern Promises to its fateful end.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

DAY 11 - /* there's got to be a morning after */ - The Day After

And now here we are - the day after

no apocalypse - just trying to connect the dots back to reality ...

The arrival of a new Resident Evil movie always signalled that TIFF is in the air - and sure enough Resident Evil Extinctionis imminent. In a different age, when Resident Evil 2 came out it was a coin toss between going to see that or going to the opening weekend of TIFF - it was a close call back then. TIFF somehow prevailed and it still does today.

Trying to overcome the sheer exhaustion of days of less than four hours sleep per night or day and keeping something posted extracts its toll as we veg out on the sofa watching House season one while recollecting TIFF07 moments and going over the assortment of bests [and some worsts].

The aftermath of the ten days of TIFF07 and the days beforehand leading up to the festival is that little bit of stardust that still twinkles and the memories of you are me as we are all together ... chacun son cinema ...

The final schedule of the Festival Pass films we conquered and saw : {scroll down past the white space which we somehow cannot get rid of}

RYERSON THE BRAVE ONE THU 9/6/2007 09:00pm10:59pm
Scotiabank 1 Les Amours d'Astree et de Celadon FRI 9/7/2007 09:30am 11:19am
Scotiabank 4 The Mourning Forest FRI 9/7/2007 12:00pm 1:37pm
Scotiabank 3 Joy Division FRI 9/7/2007 02:45pm 4:18pm
Scotiabank 4 THE MAN FROM LONDON FRI 9/7/2007 06:00pm 8:15pm
Ryerson THE VISITOR FRI 9/7/2007 09:00pm 10:58pm
Scotiabank 2 Control SAT 9/8/2007 09:00am 11:01am
Scotiabank 3 Captain Mike Across America SAT 9/8/2007 11:45am 1:22pm
Ryerson Battle in Seattle SAT 9/8/2007 03:00pm 4:40pm
Ryerson JUNO SAT 9/8/2007 06:00pm 7:36pm
Scotiabank 1 Chrysalis SAT 9/8/2007 09:45pm 11:14pm
Scotiabank 1 LUST, CAUTION SUN 9/9/2007 09:00am 11:52am
Scotiabank 2 Starting Out in the Evening SUN 9/9/2007 1:00pm 2:51pm
Scotiabank 1 Les Chansons d'amour SUN 9/9/2007 03:30pm 5:05pm
Ryerson The Girl in the Park SUN 9/9/2007 06:00pm 7:49pm
Ryerson Chaotic Ana SUN 9/9/2007 09:15pm 11:15pm
Ryerson No Country for Old Men MON 9/10/2007 09:00am 11:02am
ELGIN The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford MON 9/10/2007 11:00am 1:40pm
ELGIN Elizabeth: The Golden Age MON 9/10/2007 03:00pm 4:55pm
Scotiabank 1 UNE VIEILLE MAITRESSE MON 9/10/2007 06:30pm 8:24pm
Scotiabank 2 NORMAL MON 9/10/2007 09:00pm 10:44pm
ELGIN Across The Universe TUE 9/11/2007 11:00am 1:13pm
ELGIN Nightwatching TUE 9/11/2007 02:30pm 4:51pm
SCOTIABANK 1 KING OF CALIFORNIA TUE 9/11/2007 07:00pm 8:45pm
Scotiabank 14 Naissance des pieuvres TUE 9/11/2007 09:45pm 11:10pm
Scotiabank 3 Bill WED 9/12/2007 09:00am 10:37am
ELGIN Cassandra's Dream WED 9/12/2007 11:00am 12:48pm
ELGIN Atonement WED 9/12/2007 02:30pm 4:33pm
ELGIN La Fille coupée en deux WED 9/12/2007 06:00pm 7:55pm
Ryerson I'm Not There WED 9/12/2007 08:30pm 10:45pm
Ryerson Silk THU 9/13/2007 09:00am 10:48am
ELGIN Margot at the Wedding THU 9/13/2007 12:00pm 1:32pm
Scotiabank 1 Lars and the Real Girl THU 9/13/2007 02:30pm 4:16pm
ELGIN Angel THU 9/13/2007 06:00pm 7:59pm
Scotiabank 1 Smiley Face THU 9/13/2007 10:00pm 11:24pm
Scotiabank 2 MARRIED LIFE FRI 9/14/2007 09:15am 10:45am
Cumberland 3 The Tracey Fragments FRI 9/14/2007 12:45pm 2:02pm
Scotiabank 1 MAD DETECTIVE FRI 9/14/2007 03:00pm 4:29pm
ELGIN Chacun son cinema FRI 9/14/2007 06:00pm 7:59pm
Varsity 1 Les Bons Débarras FRI 9/14/2007 09:30pm 11:24pm
Scotiabank 1 Le Voyage du ballon rouge SAT 9/15/2007 10:00am 11:53am
ELGIN Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who SAT 9/15/2007 02:30pm 4:30pm
Ryerson NOTHING IS PRIVATE SAT 9/15/2007 06:00pm 8:04pm
Cumberland GLORY TO THE FILMMAKER! SAT 9/15/2007 09:30pm10:44pm
Varsity 6 VEXILLE SAT 9/15/2007 11:45pm 1:20am

Saturday, September 15, 2007

DAY 10 - /* mama? c'est fini */ - the last day at TIFF - Nothing is Private, Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge, Amazing Journey, Glory to the Filmmaker!

cue The Bugs Bunny Show theme

Can this really be the last day ?
Alarm clock ... check
Pulse ... check
Breakfast ... are you kidding ?


Subway from Bloor Station to Osgoode station: 12 minutes
Run from Osgoode station to Scotiabank theatre: 7 minutes
Run up the esclator: 2 minutes
Climbing to the top of the theatre ... heart attack city

Le voyage du ballon rouge
10 a.m.
Scotiabank 1

As one would expect from Chinese director Hou Hsiao-hsienLe voyage du ballon rouge est to be très lègere - an homage to the original 1956 le Ballon Rouge from Albert Lamorisse which followed a red balloon's fanciful path through Paris. Juliette Binoche as Suzanne is a harried mother taking care of her son on her own in Paris while she juggles a career as a puppet master and playwright. The puppets are a metaphor for the strings she pulls and the helplessness in her life. Bringing a semblance of balance to her life is the Taiwanese film student Song Fang hired as the nanny for her son Simon. Song as a creative exercise makes her own film on a small handheld camera following Simon walking around Paris with a red balloon. The rest of the film is very reminiscent of the claustrophia of Interiors or Cache with its static single camera shots in Suzanne's crowded apartment. Most of Suzanne's woes center around juggling her busy schedule, her ex-husband's friend Marc from downstairs who lives with his girlfriend in their other apartment without paying rent, and trying to find the lease agreement so she can evict him as well as trying to find space for her stepdaughter currently living in Brussels with her grandfather but expected to study in Paris in the fall. Expecting Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge to have a certain lightness, it just does not quite measure up. However, the sojourns of Suzanne and Song and the last shot of the balloon flying over the city is Paris at its most evocative.

Cin cin a mon ballon rouge

Amazing Journey : The Story of The Who
2:30 p.m.
VISA Elgin

The kids are alright ...

May 27, 2005

The Who needs your help

Townshend, Daltrey looking for footage from fans

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- The two surviving members of The Who are producing a documentary about the British rock band's turbulent history, an ongoing 40-year saga of death, drugs and timeless tunes.
Guitarist/songwriter Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey have joined forces on the feature-length project with Murray Lerner, an Oscar-winning documentary director who first filmed the band during the 1970 Isle of Wight festival.
Tentatively titled "My Generation: Who's Still Who" -- a reference to their breakthrough 1965 hit "My Generation" -- the film is scheduled to come out next year. Lerner said there are plans for a theatrical release, a CD and a multi-disc DVD set. "There will be very unusual stuff, hopefully, that never was seen before," Lerner told Reuters. "We're looking for material like fights between them, on and off the stage, unruly fans that make it difficult, weird incidents on the stage, interviews with ex-wives and girlfriends."
To that end, the filmmakers have set up a Web site,, seeking material from fans.

Come on the amazing journey
And learn all you should know

- from Tommy

The Elgin audience was ready to rock out for this grand theatrical screening of Amazing Journey : The Story of The Who. We scored the best seat in the house, first balcony, first row, dead centre which made the experience extra sweet. This is the very theatre that did hold the original Tommy and floor level seat T50 was the very seat sat in by Pete Townshend.

Amazing Journey, the movie compiles interviews and much unseen documented footage throughout their career as their story is unfolded told through the analogy of the various tracks of a double vinyl album: side one begins with a quick flashback through the iconic images that represent the Who, the Pete Townshend windmill, the climactic laser shots from Won't Get Fooled Again with Townshend sliding on his knees, then setting out to tell the story beginning with a tribute to John Entwistle with his addiction to H [ the department store Harrods where Entwistle lavishly shopped for clothes and shoes in quantity which led to his often bankruptcy ] ... from the various lineup and name changes, the pre-Who days of The Detours to The Who to The High Numbers and back to The Who ...

From a collection of thousands of reels of unarchived film material and photographs, some never before seen and archived for posterity for this project, The Who's history is brought to screen, the Who's stylish conversion to becoming Mods, the anthem My Generation, concept album The Who Sell Out, the rock opera Tommy, Lifehouse which becomes Who's Next, the mod album Quadrophenia about the clash between Mods and Rockers in Brighton 1964, the next step to the movies Tommy and Quadrophenia, the influence of managers Kit Lambert and Shal Talmy, the tragedy of Cincinnati 1973, side four ending with The Who as it stands today: the duo of Daltry and Townshend performing Tea and Theatre. The directors of Amazing Journey only this surviving pair who have become great friends could live up to the legacy of being The Who.

Of course, The Who just would not be The Who without Keith Moon and it is such a joy and sadness to see this dynamic personality and maniacal drummer in performancewho lived life at maximum r&b. The historical performance on The Smothers Brothers show with the blown-up drumkit is shown to full effect.

Amazing Journey : The Story of The Who is an amazing compendium of interviews with Daltrey and Townshend, the two surviving members of The Who "filmed" in high-def which just leaps off the screen, along with a new generation of fans and musicians influenced by the Who, such as Eddie Vedder, The Edge, ex-drummer Kenny Jones, Steve Jones from The Professionals and the Sex Pistols, Noel Gallagher, even Sting.

The Amazing Journey which is actually set to be released on double disc DVD on November 5 is the bookend to The Kids Are Alright and should more than satisfy addicts of The Who. The film comprises disc one, and the second disc promises more extras, interviews. And the director told me there is hope of another concert footage disc. Of course, no home system will be able to match the size of the screen or the speaker system of The Elgin.

6:00 p.m.

You're a good girl.

A hotly sought ticket at TIFF07 with even a fourth screening added for press/industry and the public, but we were back for the last time at Ryerson in the balcony.

In Nothing is Private, nothing is private, not even a girl's passage into womanhood. The most dangerous suburban 9/11 film at TIFF07, what goes on behind closed doors with Jasira - a naive yet sexually aware 13-year-old Lebanese-American girl who is the subject of male desire - is the focus of Nothing is Private.

What appears superficially to be another indie film with the scene's top actors - Maria Bello and Toni Collette for starters [ what would a TIFF be without Toni Collette ? ] along with Aaron Eckhart [also in the festival with Bill] and Peter Macdissi [ from Six Feet Under ] is subverted by the fact that this is Alan Ball behind the helm and the screenplay - a dark return to American Beauty form - the music is right for the era: Edie Brickell, REM ... as President Bush sends his troops off to the Gulf War to bring down Saddam Hussein as seen on CNN.

After her mother Gail discovers what her daughter was doing with Gail's boyfriend, Jasira is sent across the country to her father in the heart of Texas where she can learn what it is like to live under the control of a male. Jasira is going through the process of what it is like to becoming a woman, but she is given little sympathy or support, even her mother takes her strict father's side when he says Jasira will not be allowed to wear a tampon. Jasira's father Rifat has no sympathy for the invaded side, he has become just as Americanized as his neighbours, cheering just as much for the elimination of Saddam as any American, which includes a US Army reservist [Eckhart]and his mean son who uses a variety of derogatory terms such as "t head" "c jockey" "sand " . But in the process of settling in, Jasira's father sets her up with a job to babysit the neighbour's son. While babysitting, the son Zack blithely reads his father's collection of Parade porn magazines and curiously Jasira picks one up and has a fantasy reaction with the girls in the pages and in the process has her first "O".

The father discovers her reading his magazines one night, and asks her why she is reading them. He is stunned when she says she likes them because they give her an orgasm. Jasira is not unattractive by any means and he falls at that moment under the spell of her body and proceeds to caress her which she does not resist ... and then there is her new highschool boy friend who just happens to be black ...

The turn Nothing is Private takes from that point on is a seriously twisted black look at sexuality, prejudice, and what is goodness and innocence. There is a feeling of almost utter helplessness as this young girl Jasira is at the beck and whim of the males who crave and control her subjecting her to unspeakable mental and physical abuse - but by the end who has the upper hand?

9:30 p.m.
Varsity 8

Venice prize for Japanese helmer
- good for Takeshi Kitano !

It is 9:30 pm on the last day and this is not the last film of our TIFF07?

So we come to the Varsity 8 for the first time this festival - this is without doubt our least favourite place to see films because of its old fashioned seating and the bumpy tall heads that get in the way - nonetheless the Varsity 8 the last of the largescale grand traditional movie theatres [seating around 1200]. Kitano is worth the sacrifice.

It all started with a gangster film like this

After hitting a creative rut, director Takeshi Kitano deconstructs his career after he publicly vows to never again make a gangster movie.

Beware Office K: puppet Kitano and alter ego "Beat" Takeshi appear on screen in Kantoku Banzai! - a glorious upbeat send-off of the genre movies.

Pondering his new direction, he deftly demonstrates several plotlines which show Kitano's deftness with genres. His first effort Retirement is in the line of Yasujiro Ozu whom international directors such as Wim Wenders admire shows assuredness but after he asks:
Who wants to see a boring film that spends thirty minutes just showing its characters drinking liquor and tea?
he aborts the project. Team K delves into other genres that are definitely off the beaten path for Kitano, but shown with a deft hand: a reflective period piece not entirely unlike Goodfellas, a romance, Americans remake Japanese horror movies all the time so he conceives a J-horror piece called Noh Theatre [complete with outtakes!], another samurai period piece Blue Ninja 2: the Return - all ideas that get turned down or bog down in the director's disillusionment of repeating himself. Time after time, puppet K [who represents the depressed version of Kitano ] throws himself off a bridge or commits other suicidal acts after each defeat. But one idea catches on: maybe a CG piece - about a meteor about to hit Earth. As the ever-present narrator notes that in a Hollywood version a H-bomb would be sent up to destroy it - but Kitano has his own story: The Day After. Starring a mother and daughter team - the mother outrageously dressed, the daughter with a duck puppet on her arm. And somewhere along the way the end of the world is on its way.

As Kitano literally blows up his career in an apocalyptic ending: out of The Life of Brian is borne Glory to the Filmmaker ! [ Hopefully Glory to the Filmmaker is not career suicide - but the DVD is slated for Japanese release on 11/11. ]

Now what?

11:45 p.m.
Varsity 6

Vexille is a post-modern look at the evolution of mankind done in an evolved 3D version of CGI anime. Vexille is a nihilistic look at a future where humanity in a new era of biotechnology fears the potential to be replaced by machine.

Futuristic Japan 2077 : a country to be feared and worshipped as Japan goes into self-imposed isolation in defiance of a worldwide U.N. treaty ban on bio and robot technological advancement. The huge Japanese monopoly DAIWA shuts down the walls of Japan to the world, and only silence has come out of the country over the past 10 years.

Special Agent Vexille works with the American organization SWORD who target the head of DAIWA in a commando raid, and in the aftermath of battle come out with a leg which they discover is a radical new advancement in biotechnology that threatens the evolution of humanity.

A dazzling animated look at an I, Robot world from director Sori complemented with a techno soundtrack from Paul Oakenfold, Vexille's CG animation is 3D rendered almost down to 2D with human characters on the scale of the first Final Fantasy movie, and lots of realistic violence, warcraft, weapons of war, guns, and the deadly whirling metalloid worms called JAGS which bore through metal in nothing flat.

DAY 9 - I didn't know there was a murderer in the house - Married Life, Tracey Fragments, Mad Detective, Chacun Son Cinema, Les Bons Débarras


The homestretch with 35 films down and two days left.

Day 9 of 10 lies ahead starting off with a wickedly dark Married Life - then a lot of mad scurrying around town to get to the various venues - the first and last time uptown to the Cumberland 3 in the heart of festival Four Seasons hotel stardom and Yorkville if you know where to look and the first time then back downtown to the Scotiabank then cross down the street sideways to the Elgin and finally uptown for the first time at the Varsity.

9:15 a.m.
Scotiabank 1

With overtones of All That Heaven Will Allow Sirk and the ominous tension of Dial M for Murder Hitchcock, the audience is taken for a noirish ride into the hidden secrets and deceits behind married life and the premise you cannot build happiness upon the unhappiness of others. Married Life is based on John Bingham's 1953 novel Five Roundabouts to Heaven. Set in 1946, Harry Allen [the everyman Chris Cooper has fallen out of love with his wife Pat [Patricia Clarkson - what would TIFF be without Patricia Clarkson?] and has confessed this to his long-time and best friend Rich [Pierce Brosnan who still looks as dapper as ever] and over dinner and drinks the apple of his eye and paramour Kay is introduced to Rich - and it had to be the dazzling blonde Rachel McAdams [as Kay] - someone who could instantly command the attention of everyone including the two men at the table.

I didn't know there was a murderer at the table

The trouble with Harry is he is too in love with Pat to cause her suffering at the expense of his happiness so the sinister plan is set in motion for Harry to achieve both.

12:45 p.m.
Cumberland 3

Come on Frank you know I love surprises

Director Bruce McDonald is a Canadian icon well-known for Roadkill, Highway 61, Hard Core Logo, Picture Claire [with Juliette Lewis], The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess, and now The Tracey Fragments based on the novel by Maureen Medved. Starring the mercurial Ellen Page who came just off the set of X-Men: The Last Stand, she launches herself 100 percent into this 14 day shoot in Winnipeg [ followed by seven months of editing ] to produce the multiscreen marvel that is The Tracey Fragments.

My name is Tracey Berkowitz, 15, and I am a normal girl.

Or as Tracey Zerowitz she is a marginalized young teen by the other more developed girls at school because of her own flat chest and outsider mentality. Tracey is barely coping with a pair of barely in control parents - and she has trained her nine year old brother Simon to behave like a dog - barking and playing fetch.

And in her fantastic world, she is in love with the new kid Billy Zero, the cool Andy Warhol Paul Morrissey-ish figure.

Tracey rides the buses of Winnipeg for hours on end depending on her mood just to kill time and observe the lying lowlifes of humanity who insinuate themselves into her life - and she is always on the lookout for her brother Sonny who she often thinks she catches flashes of after losing him one day in the park.

Tracey's life and personality splintering apart as seen by the constant multi screen images that dominate the movie - the angular shots shoot back and forth in time - embodying her Reality Bites MTV attention deficit. Besides being shot in Winnipeg, added Canadian touches include the Broken Social Scene score.

Ellen Page, embodying a young Patti Smith, lives and breathes Tracey Berkowitz in The Tracey Fragments. Nearly destroying a phone booth in one scene, she gives a maximum effort that sizzles. Bruce McDonald proves he can shoot commercially with an artistic eye in some of the beautiful love scenes envisioned by Tracey with Billy.

This is the fifth starring movie from Ellen Page that we have seen: starting for us with Love That Boy, then Hard Candy, X-Men: The Last Stand, and now with this TIFF's wow Juno, and The Tracey Fragments she is already a must-see talent on the rise.


3:00 p.m.
Scotiabank 1

note: It takes 22 minutes to go back downtown from the Cumberland to Scotiabank

shark's fin soup, steamed fish, half a roast chicken, a bowl of steamed rice

Chinese detective movies tend to be the fare of what is seen on OMNI television or you can get something innovative. Director Johnny To last year offered at TIFF06 both Election 1 and Election 2. This year with longtime collaborator Wai Ka-fai they offer Mad Detective.

Detective Bun solves murder and disappearance cases in the most unusual way. At the get together for his boss's retirement, Bun cuts off his ear and offers it as tribute.

In the afterwards, he is forced to retire but his mind is still active. Did we mention Bun sees the inner personalities of the people before him.

Whether or not he is psychotic, a detective on the Hong Kong force looking to solve a case of a detective who disappeared after a shootout in the park and the subsequent series of murders using that gun looks to the talents of Bun.

Mad Detective is a strange film - not only does Bun look at his new acquaintance as a cowering boy, his friend's partner has seven diverse personalities including a sexy woman and a fat gourmand. As well, Bun goes out to dinner with a wife that only he can see and the restaurant owner always puts up with the charade, thinking Bun is only mourning a long lost wife. Meanwhile, Bun's real wife is still very much in the picture.

Bun is still working on cases on his own - the walls of his room plastered with newspaper headlines and articles of the crimes - it's a descent into a beautiful mind. Yet Bun's wife still asks him about solving a particular case and he comes up with the solution: the nephew.

Ultimately, wrapping up the case of the missing detective involves digging deep into psyche and betrayal, and an ending in a hall of mirrors that has to be seen to be believed, let alone understood.

6:00 p.m.
VISA Elgin

In this delightful two hour presentation of skill and love, various internationally reknowned directors each present a three minute short in this compendium tribute to the 60th anniversary of Cannes. Some lovely and lyrical, some political in the line of Amos Gitai and Wim Wenders, and some just strange, can you say Lars Von Trier being Lars Von Trier, David Cronenberg as the law Jew on earth about to commit suicide live on air, Atom Egoyan. It was so nice to see Jeanne Moreau reminisce about Marcello Mastrioanni, and the parade of movies L'Avventura, 8 1/2, Alphaville, Charlie Chaplin and other classics referenced in the background to these short treasures.

Les Bons Débarras
9:30 p.m.

Les bons débarras is a true French Canadian classic from 1979 and Charlotte Laurier who is the waif 13-year-old Manon was present for the question and answer.

With Francis Mankiewicz as director and Michael Brault cinematographer little could go wrong.

Set in the outback of Quebec, Manon lives with her single mother who is pregnant by the chief of police. Les bons debarras features Charlotte Laurier's first ever performance as the gamine with the face of an angel and the joual spewing mouth of a guttersnipe. Her loud swearing and abrasive personality is a dizzying contrast to the moments she spends reading deep into the Emily Bronte gothic romance novel Wuthering Heights.

Manon is very possessive of her mother Michelle [played with such exasperation and desperation by Marie Tifo] and intensely jealous of any man who comes between her and her mother. They together live with her brother Guy, a large man with the mind of a child, and the epitome of the Quebecois drunken lout, doing menial woodchopping to keep the family alive but going out every night for more beer.

Manon's plotting to keep her mother to herself only illuminates the fact that she is only a child living in a fantasy.

The scenes in Les Bons Débarras are very long and natural, and Charlotte Laurier replied in turn that as a child there were not many takes of each scene, she just had to come to full speed as quick as she could and there were only usually three takes, five at most, just to keep the scenes fresh and spontaneous.

Les Bons Débarras has always been a favourite film of ours, [studied and reviewed], and seeing it again on the screen after many years brings the magic of the film and the festival.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

DAY 8 - /* it's been a long crazy journey */ - SMILEY FACE, Silk, Margot at the Wedding, Lars and the Real Girl, Angel

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Day 8!

The exhaustion factor is setting in - and 30 films down, 15 to go. Sleep is a rare commodity and even the Starbucks iced coffee can only last so long. How many times can you watch that this next script has a twist - two cowboys, one horse trailer in front of the movies - and say goodbye to the volunteer from yesteryore ads.

9:00 a.m.

Silk is the entrancing effort from François Girard, who gave us The Red Violin. Silk is silky but slow paced with Michael Pitt turning in his proverbial brooding performance a la Bertolucci The Dreamers and Keira Knightley as his devoted wife eager to have a child which means ... The period travelogue sequences through France to Russia on the way to the mysterious Japan are gorgeous to behold - yet Silk does not have that full bodies gloss to it - this is an economical yet compelling story of love and the clash between cultures.

12:00 p.m.

Margot at the Wedding with Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh felt like a version of the Danish dogme Celebration with its dangerous dialogue and underplay of hidden menace. Undoubtedly, this derives from director and writer Norm Baumbach's sharp eye and ear who has been seen and felt before from indie classics Kicking and Screaming, and The Squid and the Whale. Every time we see Jennifer Jason Leigh we swear she is the best actress on this planet - and coupling her role of Pauline with Nicole Kidman as the Margot of the film is a casting coup taking both back to their indie Birthday Girl / Anniversary Party roots. With Jack Black thrown into the mix as Pauline's humourous fiance Malcolm, Margot at the Wedding is full of surprises and dark secrets that emerge into light. The children in the film are no slouches either in the acting department and how they have to cope with their emotionally challenged mothers is a lesson in life.

2:30 p.m.

Lars and the Real Girl is all that and so worth it and called the hit of the festival by Noah Cowan, the co-director of TIFF, [ and Ellen Page in Juno is right up there too ]. [ There are two Biancas, and the director and Ryan Gosling each have one. ] An "emotionally beautiful" movie, everyone takes Ryan Gosling's character Lars and Bianca so close to heart. To spoil this movie now would be a shame.

6:00 p.m.

Angel is the first English spoken movie from French director Francois Ozon who has offered in the past Huit Femmes [ 8 Women ] amongst other delights and Angel is another delightful fantasy with a dark ending for author Romola Garai as all French fantasy movies seem wont to do.

Scotiabank 1
10:00 p.m.

The lineup was long for this seventh presentation at TIFF from Gregg Araki who was here three years ago with the acclaimed Mysterious Skin. Smiley Face is the ultimate female stoner movie and would have been nothing without the comedic and physical talents of Anna Faris. Anna Faris is so dead on and compared as the next Lucille Ball or Carole Lombard by Araki.

/... more to come

Our Day 10 Saturday evening looks like the following now:
we have Joy Division at 8:15 to 9:48 p.m. at Cumberland 3
Glory to the Filmmaker at 9 pm to 10:44 p.m. at the Varsity 8
Vexille at 11:30 p.m. to 1:20 a.m. at Varsity 6
Lou Reed's Berlin 11:45 p.m. to 1:10 a.m. at Varsity 8

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

DAY 7 - /* Ain't life grand ? */ - Bill, Cassandra's Dream, Atonement, I'm Not There, /* Vous me dégueulez */ La Fille Coupee en Deux


The first week of the festival is already over and 30 films down - the lack of sleep is clearly setting in and the coffee is not winning - figuring on four hours most per night after shuttling off home after the gala nights before and no weekend crash in sight. After the mad rush hour dash down to the Scotiabank theatre it was an elegant afternoon at Elgin for Woody Allen and Cassandra's Dream, Keira Knightley and James McAvoy in Atonement and the nouvelle vague [French new wave]'s Claude Chabrol's La coupee en deux capped off with the innovative look at Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes's I'm Not There.

9:00 a.m.
Scotiabank 1

You don't have to pay me to be your friend

A very strong comedy with a sardonicism along the lines of Igby Goes Down, Aaron Eckhart off last year's Thank You For Smoking dons the persona of Bill, a disillusioned man at his high school for a ceremony. Bill has married into a wealthy family, and been given a high level position vice-president of Human Resources at the First Family Bank. Bill's face is on the posters for the bank alongside his father-in-law, the president to whom he reports and with whom of course he has the family dinner with his wife, Jess. Jess, the hot blond Elizabeth Banks [the face behind Betty Brant on the Spider-Man franchise] may be having an affair with the local TV anchorman Chip Johnson [Timothy Olyphant] - a suspicion Bill has cultivated that develops into a restraining order against Bill.

The frustrated Bill, demonstrated by a drawer full of Snickers bars he keeps in his desk and a stash around the house, has a plan to get out of the bank: investing in a doughnut franchise, not too unlike Krispy Kreme.

At this point in Bill's life, in comes Logan Lerman as the Kid who comes in as part of the school mentoring program. Bill has "no time" in his non-existent schedule for this Kid who is full of smarm and self-confidence not to mention a well-laden wallet which he uses to get inside the charms of Lucy [Jessica Alba] as the lingerie saleslady. Always two there are, but which one is the mentor and which one is the master?

Bill endures a series of very public humiliations [ as does Jess herself ] as a consequence of his suspicions about his wife and Chip. But in a turnabout, The Kid helps Bill not just get back, but get even with life and his wife, developing self-confidence with a snappy new wardrobe and getting back into shape in the pool, and the Kid securing Jessica Alba as Bill's "wife" who agrees to stand-in during the appointments with the doughnut franchisers [albeit for a price]. Everything blows up at the end as Bill's father-in-law decides to run for mayor and make the announcement at the party and ...

11:00 a.m.

Ain't life grand?

It is only with the slightest whiff of irony that Cassandra's Dream could evoke such a statement from one of the stars, but under the helm of Woody Allen, he leads his star tandem of Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell through a tale of two woeful constantly skint brothers Terry (Colin Farrell) and Ian (Ewan McGregor) who each have a dream of life outside the restaurant kitchen and garage of south London. The brothers evidently have a clear and tight bond with each other. It all starts with a sleek sailboat they have their eye on and trying to come up with the means to get the money. The problem is solved when Terry wins a longshot bet at the dograces on one called Cassandra's Dream - and hence the name of the boat.

Ian likes to dress sharp and drive in style [ borrowing a flashy car from his brother at the garage ] - he has dreams of being a spa owner in California and he catches the eye of the lead attractive actress Angela (dark-haired Hayley Atwell) with ambitions of her own at a play he attends and who he begins to court in hopes of taking her to America with him. The brothers sail on the boat with their new girlfriends and life looks good.

Terry's streaks of luck come and go - it is clear he has a longstanding issue with drinking and gambling way beyond his means - and finally it seems the boys' luck has run out.

The brothers' Uncle Howard squeezes a grand favour from the boys in order to secure future safety and financial backing - one that puts them in a dicey dilemma. Watching the brothers react in horror to the idea - Terry crumbles and Ian tries to dodge the bullet - but once it is clear they have run out of time they have to act.

Cassandra's Dream is a worthy and quick successor to the latest line of Scoop and Match Point - each little gems of a morality play - that shows Woody Allen still has that sharp edge. Ewan McGregor still gets by on his charm while Colin Farrell as the inwardly imploding brother who draws the audience deeper into this very dark comedy.

2:15 p.m.

I just wanted to give them the happiness they deserve

BAFTA winning director Joe Wright was nice enough to show up for the afternoon gala but too tired to do a question and answer. However, he led off with a nice story about growing up and audience participation and how it related to the movie.

Atonement is a story of the imagination - what goes on in the mind of a little girl sets the course for this drama. It is not a new theme, along the lines of The Bad Seed, The Children's Hour where a child's imaginings take over with grave consequences to the victims.

Atonement brings Keira Knightley and James McAvoy full circle - Academy Award nominated Keira Knightley back in 2005 starring in Joe Wright's directed Pride and Prejudice, James McAvoy appeared in Becoming Jane, [Jane Austen, that is]. Atonement is fuelled by heightened imagination and dramatically charged with below the surface tension and yearning - and will definitely lead us to reading this well-read novel by Ian McEwan.

Set in 1935, before the war to come, Robbie [James McAvoy} is the son of one of the servants of the Tallis mansion, and a polite model of decorum and manner who has been educated at Cambridge, who hopes to catch the attention of Cecilia, the eldest daughter of the Tallis family. But an innocent incident between Cecilia and Robbie at the fountain at the mansion is seen through the eyes of the young and precocious daughter Briony in an entirely different light. Briony has her own feelings for Robbie, and one night once again what Briony's active imagination fuelled by jealousy claims to have seen one night and who she accuses as the culprit sets the future of everyone around her with dramatic consequences well into the future.

La fille coupée en deux
North America premiere
6:00 p.m.

After a brief introduction about nouvelle vague director Claude Chabrol by TIFF CEO Piers Handling, we were blessed by the presence of Ludivine Sagnier who walked on stage and said a few brief words to the Toronto crowd: "it's my first time in Toronto"

Vous me dégueulez

The nouvelle vague is back at TIFF this year. Claude Chabrol [L'Enfer, Betty, Ceremonie amongst 90 plus films] is back in all his fine form and fury with La Fille Coupée en deux. The film is commanded by a fierce performance from Ludivine Sagnier [notably from Swimming Pool and 8 Femmes]. Submission and hints of something sinister are a subtle subtext to this film that on surface is glossy and brimming with bright music with superb performances from François Berléand and Benoît Magimel as the men duelling for the affections of Ludivine.

Ludivine Sagnier's character is television weathergirl Gabrielle Aurore Deneige [ last name Snow in English ] but she is anything but pure as Charles Saint-Denis [ François Berléand from TIFF 2000Stardom ]is the famous writer who meets her at a booksigning at her mother's store and he as an older father figure teaches her in the ways of love while competing for her affections is a rich and young spoiled playboy Paul André Claude Gaudens [Benoît Magimel from La Haine], the heir to the Gaudens drug fortune who is smitten by her as well. On the surface Charles Saint-Denis is a kindly old gentleman who is having a florid affair with a younger woman while he will not leave his wife. But on the day of her birthday, and the aftermath there is evidence something sadistic untoward going on.

There is some dark secret between Saint-Denis and Gaudens which leads to Gaudens' bitter feelings towards Saint-Denis. Deneige allows herself to be courted by both these men, one whom by his ways and charms has her on a string, and the other because he is there with his youth and money. Will Gabrielle make the ultimate choice?

La fille coupée en deux shows the fearlessness in the roles which Ludivine Sagnier
takes to heart, and in the end of the film Gabrielle is the true hero, remaining true to her self.


8:30 p.m.

An incredible bio picture of the multi-faceted Bob Dylan brought to life. The chameleon is portrayed by a wide range of seven stars from Christian Bale to Heath Ledger to the audacious Cate Blanchett who assumes the most recognized 60s incarnaton. I'm Not There is an extremely likable film with great performances throughout. The first phase of Dylan is Woody played as an 11 year old black by Marcus Carl Franklin who has a voice that has to be heard to be believed in the duet of Tombstone Blues with Ritchie Heavens. That so many actors can emerge in the guise of one life has been seen before in movies such as Todd Solondz Palindromes or in a Luis Bunuel films. And then there is the Dylan music, the sheer breadth of the music whose familiar refrains are the brick and mortar of this film.

Todd Haynes who always come up with something interesting as evidenced by Far From Heaven, Velvet Goldmine and Safe is to be commended for the remarkable achievement that is I'm Not There

Cate Blanchett as the Jude incarnation uncannily captures all the nuances of the shaded Bob Dylan and gets the voice just about right.

/... more

DAY 6 - /* girl */ - double bill of Evan Rachel Wood Across the Universe & King of California, first love in Naissance des pieuvres & Peter Greenaway!

Tuesday, September 11

cue The Beatles Hold Me Tight

Score! Just landed a ticket tonight for King of California at 7 p.m. Which means we can see Lars and the Real Girl on our Thursday schedule. 21 films down, so far to go.

Tuesday is marked by double bill Evan Rachel Wood day with her starring in Across the Universe at the Elgin and King of California down at Scotiabank. Miss Wood is the busiest actress here actually appearing in four movies at TIFF07 with the addition of In Bloom [ which we had a ticket for but conflicted with Juno ] and a voice in the indie animation Terra [ again with the time conflict ]. Miss Wood is in tow and been seen partying and dining throughout the celebrity hotspots with a certain
M Manson.

11:00 a.m.

Across the Universe

The Elgin is the best place in the world to see Across the Universe - an exuberant and thoroughly delightful lookback at "the gory glory of the 1960s" [as director Julie Taymor in attendance for the question and answer put it]. The Beatles anthology is the stepping stone to the story between a boy Jude and a girl Lucy who live on opposite sides of the ocean : he in Liverpool, and she somewhere in America. Jude comes to America and in specific Princeton University in search of his birth father who met his mother in England during the War. He meets up with Max who he saves from being caught by the authorities after an evening's travails. Max invities Jude to his house for Thanksgiving weekend, and on that one star-crossed night Jude and Max's sister Lucy meet and connect.

Everyone in the cast can truly sing, and most of the singing is indeed "live". Across the Universe starts off with Jude's plaintive singing by the seaside of Girl then the movie really launches with a rousing rendition of Lucy [with thoughts of her boyfriend] singing Hold Me Tight complete with homage to a certain young leatherclad band at the Cavern. Taymor warned if you thought Evan Rachel Wood could act, you would be astounded to hear her singing voice as well. The songs of the Fab Four are the narrative to this story of three fateful years in America in the late 1960s marked by the dying of the young in Vietnam, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Timothy Leary and Ken Kesey references - and the growing of consciousness of Lucy from innocent schoolgirl who spends a summer at a New York City tenement with Jude who becomes an artist, her brother Max unsuccessfully trying to escape the draft and new friend and landlord Joplinesque / Robert Plant style singer Sadie and Hendrix-like guitarist Jojo in New York City - and alas, Lucy's boyfriend is killed in action. Lucy becomes a radicalized war protester. After many adventures including one magical mystery tour aboard the Koolaid Express bus, Jude and Lucy find themselves separated not just by politics but by immigration who after one incident during the Columbia riots Jude is arrested and deported. The choreography and presentation of the 33 songs used in Across the Universe often left the audience clapping at the end of each episode. The Beatles songs have been rescored and reinvented - certain Beatles trademarks are there but "one chromosome away" from being The Beatles itself - otherwise it might as well just be The Beatles. Jude and Lucy find themselves separated not just by politics but by immigration who after one incident at the Columbia riots Jude is arrested trying to save her and he is subsequently deported back to Liverpool. Of course by the end love triumphs because after all: all you need is love.

The question and answer session with Julie Taymor was detailed with stories of the rehearsal process, the casting search for all "her children", the emphasis on the live performance, the pre-records but always ready to do the song live.

2:30 p.m.
The Elgin

I was watching the night - I was nightwatching

Back to the Elgin again - this time for Peter Greenaway's Nightwatching. Maybe the one miscalculation of the day because we could have been or should have been at Sleuth at 3:45 p.m. at Ryerson. But there is just a certain fortitude and stick-to-itness that is always necessary to endure Peter Greenaway. [ You try six hours of The Tulper Suitcases at the Varsity - we remember one morning screening of The Tulper Suitcases 1 and 2 in Varsity 8 at 9 in the morning and there were 8 people tops in the whole floor. That was the year of Intermission when Colin Farrell was at the top of his game].

The year 1642. At the behest of his wife Saskia, Rembrandt mindfully agrees to a commissioned group painting of the Amsterdam Musketeer Militia in a group portrait that would become The Nightwatch.

The story behind Rembrandt's famous painting The Nightwatcher is explored - hypothesizing a murder has been committed and amongst the characters on the canvas is the killer himself. The consequences of Rembrandt's audacity after this painting was done - on commission by the group itself! - are a detrimental blow to his life and career.

Nightwatching the movie is a stagey presentation with Rembrandt and various critics breaking the fourth wall convention to directly speak out to the audience - and Greenaway gives them close-ups and latitude. Rembrandt is far from a saint but deeply in love with his wife while consorting with the help. Of course in every Greenaway movie nudity abounds. Old fat people, young maids, and Rembrandt himself [played as an arrogant, profane, yet caring - no man has just one facet after all by Martin Freeman].

Nightwatching turns out to be an audacious or pretentious but grand disappointment.

7:00 p.m.
Scotiabank 1

Michael Douglas just had to show up and the theatre was packed. As narrated by the precocious Evan Rachel Wood as Miranda, the daughter of Charlie who she never calls "dad", who is forced to fend for herself at home for two years as her father has been in a mental hospital for the past two years.

After Charlies comes home, he tells Miranda about a book. From a diary Charlie read in the hospital library, he deduces that a certain Father back in ancient California left behind a treasure and all the clues are in the maps and the pages of the diary. And willingly or unwillingly, Miranda is on the ride of her life as she joins in his quest for the gold. Of course the search is the foundation for the father and daughter to search for their own meanings of their life that has encroached upon their previously isolated territory which is now dominated by the ever expanding and pervasive world of Costco and McDonald's and Chuck E Cheese. Michael Douglas's crazed personality of Charlie is convincing enough to take Miranda and the audience along for his adventurous fixation on finding the gold.

There is a high hilarity and comedy in this first time effort from Chuck Cahill and produced by the Sideways team led by Alexander Payne which will guide this movie to a enviable first step niche.

9:45 p.m.
Scotiabank 14

A look at first love in the lives of three young French girls in the world of synchronized swimming. All being fifteen years old, Naissance des Pieuvres [ Water Lillies ] strikes a sensitive and provocative chord as the gamine and reserved Marie attends a synchro swim competition. Marie is friends with the plump Anne who is on the team, but Marie longs for first kiss and is drawn to the perfect blonde Floriane as a way of getting into the synchronized swim classes. Floriane has a reputation of being a flirt and a slag, and she is the eye of the handsome boy on the boy's swimteam.

Floriane lets Marie into her world of the pool and her relationship with her boyfriend. The overtones of F****** Amal or Show Me Love ring bells but there is the subtle wit of first time director and writer Céline Sciamma that gives this movie a real pleasing charm.

Now we have to grab one hour of sleep before the day begins. And more to come ...and just in case you were interested our initial schedule has changed several times - just keep scrolling down

RYERSON THE BRAVE ONE THU 9/6/2007 09:00pm
Scotiabank 1 Les Amours d'Astree et de Cela FRI 9/7/2007 09:30am 11:19AM
Ryerson The Brave One FRI 9/7/2007 11:45am 1:44pm
Scotiabank 4 The Mourning Forest FRI 9/7/2007 12:00pm 1:37PM
Scotiabank 3 Joy Division FRI 9/7/2007 02:45pm 4:18pm
Scotiabank 4 THE MAN FROM LONDON FRI 9/7/2007 06:00pm 8:15pm
Ryerson THE VISITOR FRI 9/7/2007 09:00pm
Scotiabank 2 Control SAT 9/8/2007 09:00am 11:01am
Scotiabank 3 Captain Mike Across America SAT 9/8/2007 11:45am 1:22pm
Ryerson Battle in Seattle SAT 9/8/2007 03:00pm 4:40pm
Ryerson JUNO SAT 9/8/2007 06:00pm 7:36pm
Varsity 8 IN BLOOM SAT 9/8/2007 07:00pm 8:30pm
Scotiabank 1 Chrysalis SAT 9/8/2007 09:45pm 11:14pm
Scotiabank 1 The Visitor SUN 9/9/2007 09:00am 10:43am
Scotiabank 2 Starting Out in the Evening SUN 9/9/2007 1:00pm 2:51pm
Scotiabank 1 Les Chansons d'amour SUN 9/9/2007 03:30pm 5:05pm
Ryerson The Girl in the Park SUN 9/9/2007 06:00pm 7:49pm
Ryerson Chaotic Ana SUN 9/9/2007 09:15pm 11:15pm
Ryerson No Country for Old Men MON 9/10/2007 09:00am 11:02am
ELGIN The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford MON 9/10/2007 11:00am 1:40pm
ELGIN Elizabeth: The Golden Age MON 9/10/2007 03:00pm 4:55pm
Scotiabank 1 UNE VIELILE MAITRESSE MON 9/10/2007 06:30pm 8:24pm
Scotiabank 2 NORMAL MON 9/10/2007 09:00pm 10:44pm
ELGIN Across The Universe TUE 9/11/2007 11:00am 1:13pm
ELGIN Nightwatching TUE 9/11/2007 02:30pm 4:51pm
SCOTIABANK 1 KING OF CALIFORNIA TUE 9/11/2007 07:00pm 8:45pm
Scotiabank 14 Naissance des pieuvres TUE 9/11/2007 09:45pm 11:10pm
Scotiabank 3 Bill WED 9/12/2007 09:00am 10:37am
ELGIN Cassandra's Dream WED 9/12/2007 11:00am 12:48pm
ELGIN Atonement WED 9/12/2007 02:30pm 4:33pm
ELGIN La Fille coupee en deux WED 9/12/2007 06:00pm 7:55pm
Ryerson I'm Not There WED 9/12/2007 08:30pm 10:45pm
Ryerson Silk THU 9/13/2007 09:00am 10:48am
ELGIN Margot at the Wedding THU 9/13/2007 12:00pm 1:32pm
Scotiabank 14 King of California THU 9/13/2007 02:15pm 3:51pm
Scotiabank 1 Lars and the Real Girl THU 9/13/2007 02:30pm 4:16pm
ELGIN Angel THU 9/13/2007 06:00pm 7:59pm
Scotiabank 1 Smiley Face THU 9/13/2007 10:00pm 11:24pm
Scotiabank 2 MARRIED LIFE FRI 9/14/2007 09:15am
Cumberland 3 The Tracey Fragments FRI 9/14/2007 12:45pm 2:02pm
Scotiabank 1 MAD DETECTIVE FRI 9/14/2007 03:00pm
ELGIN Chacun son cinema FRI 9/14/2007 06:00pm 7:59pm
Varsity 1 Les Bons Debarras FRI 9/14/2007 09:30pm 11:24pm
Scotiabank 1 Le Voyage du ballon rouge SAT 9/15/2007 10:00am 11:53am
ELGIN Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who SAT 9/15/2007 02:30pm 4:30pm
Ryerson NOTHING IS PRIVATE SAT 9/15/2007 06:00pm
Cumberland 3 Joy Division SAT 9/15/2007 08:15pm 9:48pm
Cumberland HELP ME EROS SAT 9/15/2007 09:15pm
Varsity 8 Lou Reed's Berlin SAT 9/15/2007 11:45pm 1:10am

Monday, September 10, 2007

DAY 5 - /* That picture is awful dusty */ - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford - Normal - the Canadian "Crash"


Day 5 already and the festival is halfway over - 21 pictures down 25 more to go ...

Monday was the day of the big movies hitting TIFF for the non-gala second screenings. The great white whale is The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with the reappearance of Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Then there is the Coen brothers.

9 a.m.

How many times can you say you got to see No Company for Old Men at 9 in the morning ? And its end time ran past the start time of the movie down the street at the Elgin.

And after racing down to the Elgin only to find the door closed because The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford had already started ...

9:00 a.m.

It's a mess

No Country for Old Men [from the Cormac McCarthy story of the same title] is simply not just another slow-moving Fargo set in the Texas desert. This story is a case of being the wrong man at the wrong time - rancher Llewelyn Moss [Josh Brolin [ who also appears in the Coen's contribution to Chacun Son Cinema in an amusing piece called World Cinema ] comes upon the bloody aftermath of a drug deal gone bad. The stash of heroin is left behind in the truck which does not interest him but through his excellent tracking skills he finds a survivor under a tree and a suitcase of money, two million dollars worth of it, and he does not resist. Because of the money, Moss becomes a man on the run. Evading his pursuers, those behind the drug deal in the first place, and a crazy serial killer named Anton [Javier Bardem] on his tails who has an unconventional collection of guns and a deadly arsenal ...

Tommy Lee Jones is the laconic sheriff who with his assistant is a step behind, trying to make sense of all the clues, deciphering the trail of dead bodies, blood and all the interested parties who want the money back. He is trying to get to Anton by going through Moss, who is also being tracked by the financiers who provided the money in the first place for the deal and hire bountyhunter Carson Wells [Woody Harrelson] to get the suitcase back. No Country for Old Men becomes more absorbing more by the moment hoping the ever-clever Moss makes his getaway while trying to elude the killer Anton and his deadly arsenal of very large calibre weapons [including an airtank used to kill cattle] - bloody, high tension duels in hotel rooms, alleyways and in the streets, and Harrelson is already caught up to Moss. The whole movie becomes a battle of wits and survival insticts ... By the end of the whole mess, a retired Bell is left lamenting for a time gone by.


11:00 a.m.


The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a far from glamorous, naturalistically told tale set in 1881 of the retirement years of the James gang which is simply too long, and even though it has drama it is not dramatic. The narrative has a similar style to Dogville and Manderlay with the players seemingly just playing out their parts until the end of the movie - if you felt that Kevin Costner movies felt long then The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford feels like 2 hours and 40 minutes.

That picture is awful dusty

But slowly, ever so slowly the characters of the last collection of the James gang and start to breathe life, and Casey Affleck as the nineteen-year-old Bob Ford not yet a member, begins to draw the attention towards the climactic moment of the film when Jesse James climbs on the chair to dust off the picture. His dream of becoming a member of the James gang and his eternal fascination of the Jesse James myth and legend [ marked by a shoebox collection full of articles and stories on James and the way he eyes a naked Brad Pitt with his back to the door in the bathtub ] turns to a dark jealousy and doubts for his safety. Jesse James constantly belittles the young Ford and begins to suspect the true loyalties of those around him. Then there is the bounty on Jesse James's head which becomes irresistible to the Fords.

The movie is one of character development set against the elements of nature - the downhill slide of the 34-year-old Jesse James gunslinger in retirement, pictured an ever brooding [played by the sad blue-eyed Brad Pitt] beset by insomnia, old wounds and violent mood swings, mirrored in the bitter winter shots [set in Alberta].

The stoic sufferers in the film are the women who have to endure hardship and loneliness.

The ending is not spoiled by the nature of the title - but the character assassination of Bob Ford from hero to coward by the end is unexpected by Ford ...

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
is an artistic triumph with its patina of authenticity and cinematography, but it is a long long story of long riders in a West that had long gone by. The last photographs of Jesse James endure to this day but there were no celebrations for Bob Ford.

3 p.m.

I am Elizabeth!

Elizabeth : the Golden Age will probably be the movie of the year at Oscar time - it is really that majestic and good - and deals with the time of Philip and the Spanish Holy War conquest of the world with its eyes set on Protestant England - the bit of history that is the Spanish Armada attacking England was well covered in that British series about battles in history - Elizabeth the Golden Age was shot in 70 days so there wasn't enough budget and time to do the entire three week battle - but the bit about breaking the formation and the rocks is accurate enough - and the question and answer session was illuminating.

North American premiere
6:30 p.m.
Scotiabank 1

Catherine Breillat made it to Toronto again - despite her stroke she introduced her film : the costume drama Une vielle Maitresse. She did the question and answer - and there is a lot of Asia Argento on display in the costume drama Une Vielle Maitresse [ and some male bums and other females ]

world premiere
9:00 p.m.
Scotiabank 2

The evening was capped off with a Canadian film NORMAL from our fave Vancouver director Carl Bessai who made his fifth appearance at the festival [ and Normal is the fourth Bessai film we have seen including Lola and Emile ]. Carl Bessai brought most of his leading cast with him onstage including Carrie Anne Moss as the grief stricken mother unable to come to terms with the loss of her son in a tragic accident [ cue Sigourney Weaver and Girl in the Park ] and Callum Keith Rennie as the catalyst in the events and lives of the character of Normal. Normal is not an exploration of the ongoings of American Beauty type suburbia, although Victoria, BC is very posh from the air. While this movie will probably only hit festivals and a limited Canadian run - because in its present form with the stepson accidentally seeing his stepmom naked and then there is a love scene between the two followed by the father coming home early so the son has to go into the bathroom to hide and the stepmother has to engage the father to prevent dad from going into the bathroom where the son has to hide but unfortunately have to see his dad's bum before making his escape - of course - this movie is Crash-like but more realistic and it is cool to see Canadian movies because Canadian movies are cool and show things that just aren't done in America.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

DAY 4 - /* C'est dégueulasse */ - Chansons d'amour & /* Movies are for people with time to kill */ - Lust, Caution

Just some quick notes for now until the rewrite

9:15 A.M.

Lust, Caution which started off at 9:15 on a Sunday morning ! a beautiful drawn-out Ang Lee drama spoken in the Mandarin dialect set in Japanese occupied Shanghai in 1942 and going back in time to the student days before the Chinese war with the Japanese and the resistance movement that arose and how a group of idealistic university students plot to assassinate a Chinese turncoat who now works for the Japanese government. One of the ladies makes the supreme sacrifice of her self in order to help the cause. The love scenes are long and intense and necessary to the dramatic confrontation between the leader of their resistance group and the girl.


1:00 P.M.

Starting Out in the Evening is a real revelation with Frank Langella as a distinguished well-mannered author of the 1960s on the verge of career rediscovery due to the adulation of a Master's English student Lauren Ambrose hoping to write her thesis on his work - and Lili Taylor as Langella's daughter who on the verge of turning 40 desperately wants to have a child. The director who was introducing the movie to the afternoon audience broke down as he tried to give his thanks to Frank Langella who actually showed up for the question and answer following.

3:00 P.M.

C'est dégueulasse

I hate going to movies alone
- Ludivine Sagnier

Chansons d'amour a musical tribute with clear allusions to Jean-Luc Godard's A Bout de Souffle [Breathless] and Francois Truffaut - not quite as nice as Huit Femmes par Ozon, and marred by clumsy translations of the lyrics.

world premiere
6:00 P.M.

The disappearance of a child is a mother's worst nightmare - and the after effects of this tragedy in a family's life is the foundation for Sigourney Weaver's eclectic performance in Girl in the Park which is further reinforced by the even more bizarre presence of street kid survivor Kate Bosworth who Sigourney takes under her wing as hints are dropped that this may be the long lost daughter.

9:15 P.M.

The Spanish movie Chaotica Ana is an over the top but well thought-out visual work of art from Julio Medem [ from Sexo y Lucia ] that will just leave you shocked and wondering what is going on - however the young Spanish actress Manuela Velles who was present for the screening is gorgeous and naked enough on screen.

Day 5 brings out the big guns in the schedule with
No Country for Old Men at 9 at Ryerson or
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford at 11 at the Elgin
[ or skip the last fifteen minutes or so of No Country to run down the block to the Elgin ]

Elizabeth : the Golden Age at the Elgin or Juno at the Paramount at 3 [ tickets for both ]
followed by the ultimate experience - TIFF with Catherine Breillat's La Vielle Maitresse at 6 p.m.
[ unless we can score a ticket for The Savages at 7 ]
then Carl Bessai's Normal at 9

Saturday, September 08, 2007

DAY 3 - /* Have you written your second Oscar speech yet? */ - /* Thundercats are go */ world premiere of Juno, The Battle of Seattle, out of Control

Saturday September 8, 2007

Just a brief runthrough for now of what happened on Day 3 because we have to wake up in four hours to get ready for the TTC Yonge bus downtown [ everyone can say ewww! now ]

Today was nigh the best day we have ever spent at TIFF - rivalling the day we got to rivalling the day we saw Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon for the first time at TIFF with director Ang Lee in attendance at the Uptown theatre one - it heralded an age of martial art movies that had never been seen before by the mass Toronto audience - the crowd was dazzled by the fight sequences set to the tempo of the incessant drumbeat and flying through the forest treetops or over the rooftops - after one fighting sequence the crowd gave a loud applause.

Woke up got out of bed dragged a comb across my head

9:00 a.m.

Early morning Saturdays starting off at 9 in the morning with Control - the biography of Ian Curtis and Joy Division directed by their photographer Anton Corbijn [ who happens to shoot all the good U2 stuff amongst other things ]. As soon as Sam Riley had Ian Curtis's signature stage moves locked in we were hooked. It is rather odd that Corbijn does not reference his own photos of Joy Division but his eye and treatment of black and white is everywhere in how the movie is lensed.

11:45 a.m.

At 11:45 we had the second to next world premiere of Captain Mike Across America - with Michael Moore there - it's a great great Michael Moore concert film documenting his 2004 Slacker tour to rally the student vote - so he gets a standing ovation at the end - then Q&A

world premiere
3:00 p.m.

3:00 p.m. brought Stuart Townsend's project Battle in Seattle to TIFF at Ryerson theatre for its world premiere - and many of the lead cast were there : Andre Benjamin Michelle Rodriguez Martin Henderson Woody Harrelson and someone sleeping with the director by the name of Charlize Theron who claims "I only wanted to sleep with the director" - then the Q&A followed

The cast and executives all sat in their own row in the theatre amongst the audience and were watching it - The Battle of Seattle is a project of passion like Bobby was last year for Emilio Estevez, and it succeeds on every level - bringing back to life the battle in Seattle which turned into a war during the WTO talks in 1999 - very moving, and action packed police brutality abounding - the compassion and the spirit - with the ending of the movie everyone cheered and gave the cast a standing ovation - haven't seen that quite before at TIFF

Thanks WTO - it's been a riot.

world premiere
6:00 p.m.

Two years to the day of Thank You For Smoking and at the same 6 p.m. timeslot director Jason Reitman comes back with the world premiere of Juno - even more brighter and funnier and virtually the whole leading cast was there in support - J.K. Simmons aka Jonah Jameson, Alison Janney, Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner, Michael Cera and *Ellen Page* as Juno / "Junebug" to her dad - and they were all sitting in their reserved row - the movie couldn't be heard half the time for all the laughter coming from the audience due to the smart and very arrested devlopment script - and once again by the end everyone around them was giving the cast a standing ovation. The whole cast was introduced back one by one stage and another standing ovation for Ellen Page - and another Q&A

and it all ended off at 9:45pm back to Scotiabank 1 came Chrysallis - a smart French science fiction movie with martial arts and guns, lots of guns

as we said - it was like one of the best days ever at TIFF and this was only Day 3

now we have to get up by 6 a.m. to catch Lust, Caution because the TTC subway does not run until 9 a.m.

... Rule #15 : Sleep, the final frontier - you can only dream about it

We have to ask ourself do we want to see Juno yet again or Elizabeth in the same timeslot - can we recapture the Juno magic ? [ obviously seeing Juno at 6 today meant we had to eat our ticket for In Bloom at 7 with Evan Rachel Wood ]

Does TIFF get any better than this?