October 15, 2007

TIFF 07 : 4

In Antarctica, Herzog searches for what drives people to this place so far outside of society. Escape, peace, adventure, ego, madness, the secrets of the universe and the humble celebration of humanity are what he finds--a frozen sturgeon, a popcorn necklace and paper flowers. The universe begins to see itself as we begin to see it...right? It's a little loosely structured for my taste, but maybe I'd need to watch it again. Very entertaining, and definitely eye opening, Herzog deftly captures the quirky inhabitants of this strange little community of searchers. Encounters at the End of the World

Useless is a film that I thought was going to be about the contrast between Chinese Haute Couture and industrialized labour; maybe a meditation on what fashion is, what it really means, how it functions in society, and its worth. It wasn't really. Or maybe it was, but was too long and too cold and too objective to hold my interest, and to make me want to form connections. It was very boring--even for me. Useless

An historic sequel. Attractive, but very fragmented and a little overwrought. Spain is way overly caricatured--I mean, really really villified. Sillified. Mary the Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth herself were awesome though; In the end, I think the script was maybe just kind of funny. Elizabeth's big turning point revelation is just silly, and her rallying speech is kind of flat. The idea here was to play Warrior Queen against some interior, hidden Winsome Woman. The whole thing is just too muddled in plot, and too melodramatic. Attractive though. Elizabeth: The Golden Age

From the filmmaker of Shake Hands with the Devil comes an engrossing documentary about Ariel Dorfman, Allende party member, and witness to the atrocities of Pinochet's dictatorship. When all members of the party were executed, Dorfman was kept alive so he could tell the world their story; this is it. Party history lesson, and part rumination on home, death, the meaning of exile, and our need to accept and reconcile differences. Really incredible documentary footage of rallies in Chile. It could have been more tightly and pointedly structured, but a terrifying and important film nonetheless. A Promise to the Dead: the exile of Ariel Dorfman

October 12, 2007

TIFF 07 : 3

Slingshot is a frenetic, verité style journey into the world of poverty stricken Manila. Violent, morally ambiguous, and at times terrifying, this film seems to honestly portray this society on the brink of destruction. Sudden flares of violence, theivery and infidelity describe social conditions that seem insurmountable. Unfortunately, the film is too sprawling, never ending--I wish it were more focussed; it's restless energy is both its strength and undoing. Incredible and upsetting and long. Slingshot

Perhaps the very worst film of the festival. Poorly structured, pretentious, annoying, boring, inarticulate, insubstantial; wholly unsatisfying. Boldly drawn out ie, loooooong scenes are poorly concieved and executed; aimless. The poetry of the banal the director attempts to celebrate is instead a parade of overdressed extras: the girl on the bike, the woman with a trombone case, the man with flowers and a limp. Hideous, immature, uninsightful compositions, scenes and sequences play flat and shallowly, as clever as the director attempts to be. The subversion of narrative structure--setup and payoff--severly injures this film from minute one; the director fails to let us identify with the characters and so we never ever do. Awful. Dans la ville de Sylvia

Terror's Advocate is a biography of French lawyer and staunch anti-colonialist Jacques Vergès. Defender of Algerian revolutionaries, Palestinian terrorists, a Nazi torturer and countless dictators, Vergès is depicted as a complex, mysterious (his inexplicable disappearance for eight years) and morally righteous man, and through the film you really come to understand his intentions and point of view; it's an incredible story. The film suffers from a lack of direction however, and is too loosely organized for its own good. Truly fascinating though. Terror's Advocate

A very personal documentary about director Guy Madden's hometown. Mixing important and frivilous, public and private, real and fantastic accounts of historical events, Guy dissects not only his own longings and aversions to his hometown, but also hints at why any of us feels attachment--and disappointment--in the places we inhabit. Chronicling such strange events as the pack of horses frozen in the river (an attractive destination for young couples), the flattening of Happyland by a bison stampede, the rash of ectoplasmic sceances in the 20's, the dissolution of the Winnipeg Jets hockey team and arena and the commonality of orange jello, Guy also rents his childhood home for a month and hires actors to play his family. Strange, very funny, sad, very funny, sad and nostalgic. Highly recommended (although probably especially if you're from Winnipeg). My Winnipeg

October 10, 2007

TIFF 07 : 2

In honour of the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival, a collection of 35 three minute films about the cinema was commissioned by the festival director Gilles Jacob. A mixed bag, but fun and refreshing overall--expecially after a spate of loooong movies. There are really awesome films by Lars Von Trier, Ken Loach, the Dardennes brothers, Walter Salles and a few others; there are a couple of really terrible ones too. Surprisingly, there are a number of recurring elements: crying women, excited children, blind people remembering... A great little tribute to the cinema. Chacun Son Cinema

Night is essentially an essay about night and our relationship to it. It's the kind of film I really want to like, I guess because I'm curious to see how they structure it; how they decide to tell a story about something essentially neutral. It's reminiscent of Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi, or an Eames film or a learning channel documentary, rife with star fields, traffic flows, and night storms in time lapse (which are amazing, by the way). The film is loosely organized into segments on fear, home, nightlife, those who work at night, etc. and offers some surprisingly, beautiful and smart insights into the nature of nighttime: that it becomes a showcase for light; that it not only sounds different from the day, but richer; that the dusk is the day negotiating with the night to create evening. I do wish it were more directed, more narrowing, and more articulate, but overall it was pretty enjoyable. Night

Go ahead and make fun of me, but Glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts was a pretty good documentary. Smart and broad, it shows Philip on the Cyclone roller coaster with this family, conversing with Chuck Close in his studio, in footage of his involvement with the emerging SoHo scene of the 60's and 70's, and making pizza while collaborating on a new opera from his second home in Nova Scotia (Canada). It depicts him as a real human being; brilliant, frustrating, driven, fun, private and very kind. It's long and the mid section drags, but overall it's well worth watching for some insight into the man; I do wish though that we could have seen more about his process. Like a portrait, it is not definitive, but it is defining. Glass: a portrait of Philip in twelve parts

Maybe the best film I saw at the festival. Sharp, tense, assured; exciting, terrifying, heartwrenching, honest. This film, originally made for TV, easily and elegantly navigates between past and present tense and does it cleverly and clearly; the exposition reveals and changes the way we see the characters, offers us greater insight into their motivations, and forces us to ask questions. It does have a couple moments that seem out of place, but otherwise, it's a brilliantly played and very fully realized piece of cinema. If you're going to see this, don't find out anything about it. A+ Boy A

October 08, 2007

TIFF 07 : 1

So here they are, in no particular order.

Margot at the Wedding was actually one of the last films I saw at the festival; it was smart, funny, articulate, subtle, obscure and very full of Noah Bombachisms. More cynical and darkly toned than his previous film, the Squid and the Whale, Noah populates this world with passive aggressive, hypocritical, selfish characters--but mostly it's Margot. It presents problems without solutions, and perhaps leaves the audience without the emotional release it wants, but it's curiously structured, terrifically written, and a pleasure to watch. One of the best of the fest. Margot at the Wedding

Persepolis was the first film I saw, and certainly one of the very very best. Clever, creative, dignified, broad, mature, adult, funny, very entertaining... and hopefully groundbreaking. This is finally an animated film that deals with the drama and violence of the real world without compromise. It takes great advantage of the medium, and though perhaps it could linger a little longer and trust in its character animation, allowing itself to be more emotionally involving rather than merely illustrative, it's terrifically successful, and extremely accessible. I hope this proves to be a very important film, and gets watched by everyone. Perhaps one of my favourite animated films ever. Persepolis

Well this is just too many great films for one post. Erik Nitzche: the early years, written by the great Danish director Lars Von Trier under his nom de plume, was the most fun film of the festival. It was sharp. funny, and visually rich, but a little muddley story-wise. What was it about beyond what it was about? The story of a corrupted innocent, this autobiographical work carries us emotionally with Erik as he is threatened, judged, panned and discouraged, and yet perseveres. But how is he different from any of the other characters? Are they dishonest in their intentions? Too full of themselves? Is Erik really a better filmmaker? Or is the idea that everyone deserves the chance to try to hold on to the thing they love? My painting looks serious, but if you love Lars, then you'll find this film pretty insightful, and pretty damn entertaining. Erik Nitzche: the early years

Secret Sunshine involves a Korean woman who, after suffering two great tragedies, turns to religion, only to find heavy disappointment. Though it's pretty long and occaisionally tends toward melodrama, there are some very powerful scenes, and strong ideas. There's a great character named Mr. Lee, who is funny, sympathetic, sad, understandably frustrated, and beautifuly loyal. It's not as emotionally involving as I would have hoped, but it did manage a few things very well. Secret Sunshine