Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Penultimate TIFF

Two more films last night, one more on Friday. The two-day break is nice, it will let me nap tonight.

First was the world premiere of Walk All Over Me, my 4th Canadian film of the fest. Starring Tricia Helfer (Number Six/Caprica on BSG) and Leelee Sobieski it's was introduced with, "It has bondage and gangsters, what more could you want?" Well, a direction and believability would be good. I think it was meant to be a comedy.

It starts off with Sobieski's character (Alberta) running from some shady business and her boyfriend getting the crap kicked out of him. She arrives at her sister Celene's (Helfer) place in Vancouver claiming she wants to start over. Turns out her sister is a dominatrix who's life plan is to save enough to afford acting school in LA. Alberta ruins Celene's Nazi outfit and takes on her own client to pay her back. In the middle of her session, some bad guys break in and cause trouble. What follows is her and Celene trying to get some stolen money, vengeance, and their attempts to save Alberta's client (who she of course has a thing for).

Now there's nothing unappealing about seeing Helfer or Sobieski (when the hell did she fill out?) in various BDSM gear, but you need substance to make the audience stay. The lead baddie (Lothaire Bluteau as Rene) was quite good with a nuanced and original performance. His henchmen were also more interesting than your run-of-the-mill tough guys. Seeing Helfer kick ass was also great. The problem is that the script relies on Alberta. Sobieski was fine, but the character was annoying as hell. She was supposed to be comic, but the running gags (Alberta's terrible driving, her constant cry of, "I'll make it up to you." no matter how out-of-control the situation, etc.) got old really fast, and seldom elicited more than a chuckle from the audience. She repeatedly does the most moronic things, is completely uncomfortable, and her big turnaround at the end isn't so much impressive and cheer-worthy as it is expected. The character failed to generate any empathy as a complete fuck up.

Plus, the only time I felt any emotion was the uncomfortable tension during the opening 10-15 minutes. After that the film just... existed.

So the acting was solid, and most of the characters were interesting. Unfortunately the script was severely lacking, the main character was annoying, and the whole thing was shot in Winnipeg, which was obviously not Vancouver, at least to me, and I imagine anybody else who has spent any amount of time wandering the streets of that city. It wasn't a BAD film, it just wasn't a good one, it was a thriller/comedy that was neither thrilling nor all that comic. By the end I was pretty upset I'd been soaked through in a downpour on the way over instead of staying home for this one.

Plus, the over 4 rows of seats reserved for cast, crew, guests, and the jury cut into the available seating for the rest of us. ALL the guest showed up, which delayed the start 15-20 minutes as they tried to find their seats.

However, I then had a midnight showing of Takeshi Miike's Sukiyaki Western Django. I am so glad this finished my night instead of the other. A truly strange and wonderful Samurai Western. Yes... take a plot worthy of Sergio Leone (and inspired by Sergio Corbucci's Django), put it in a small Japanese mountain village, cast an all Japanese cast (with one noteable and great exception in Quentin Tarantino), and have them all speak English with Japanses inflection (which results in subtitles that were largely unnecessary), and you've got a pretty unique experience.

A lone stranger rides into a town besieged by two gangs (Heiki and Genji, who are red and white respectively) in search of treasure. He offers up his services after an impressive display of gunmanship. He then learns how the village came to its current state and does what any gunman does - takes on the gangs and settles some scores with guns ablaze. Of course, this is Miike, so there's blood, humour, popular movie references (the Sheriff does his best Gollum, there's some bargain-basement Matrix-like effects done for humour, etc..), and tons of traditional Western lines. It couldn't Japanese without mythical references, chosen ones, and general weirdness.

The whole thing is one wild ride, and a Midnight Madness audience is perfect for it, and vice-versa. It was a blast, and the perfect tonic for the disappointment of earlier in the night. One friend described it as "weirdly brilliant" and he was right.

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