Saturday, September 08, 2007

Tiff Part 1

Here begins the fairly real-time blogging of my sojourn into the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.

For those that don't know, I live in Toronto, and for the past... oh... 5 years now I've gone to a variety of films at what is generally considered the second most important (behind Cannes) film festival in the world. It's a launching point for Oscar season, and a fantastic mix of mainstream, indie, world, and Canadian cinema. As usual, I have 10 films on the docket for this year.

Last night was Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. Maddin is one of the most unique filmmakers out there today. Obviously inspired by silent films, his movies are generally hilarious, disjointed journeys into his mind. He's been compared to David Lynch, except without all that darkness and creep factor. He shoots largely in black and white, has recently experimented with classic silent film techniques (Brand Upon The Brain! uses a narrator, live orchestra, and live foley artists), and has amassed quite a following.

My Winnipeg is his unique look at his home town and yet another distorted view of his family life. Black and White, with minimal dialogue, and Maddin himself doing live in-theatre narration. The entire audience was in stitches from his twisted humour. His mother divining that his sister had backseat sex when she comes home crying about hitting a deer; the defense of a girls' school during the Winnipeg General Strike; his homo-erotic thievery of a Russian hockey player's jersey which he then tosses in the river to avoid the KGB. Just a few examples of what life was and is like in the "coldest city in the world"... as seen by one of its favourite sons. It was a great film, and a fantastic way to start the fest for me.

This morning was Chacun Son Cinema. For the 60th anniversary of Cannes, Gilles Jacob asked 35 of the world's most talented filmmakers to create 3-minute shorts that discussed what cinema meant to them, set in a theatre. It is a rare feat to captured and entertain an audience in 3 minutes, yet these directors achieved it in spades. To top it off, David Lynch's portion was not ready for the Cannes screening, but it opened the film today.

Some of the more recognizable names: David Lynch, David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, Joel and Ethan Coen, Wong Kar Wai, Lars Von Trier, Roman Polanski, Gus Van Sant, Wim Wenders, Ken Loach, Takeshi Kitano, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, and Jane Campion.

It was fantastic. Not a dud in the lot. One of the most fun parts was that the director's name generally didn't appear until after their short, so you were consistently trying to figure out which film was who's based on their style, the actors involved, etc.. There were some interesting shared themes - 2 involved someone stealing from people; there were 3 shorts that had blind movie lovers; and of course there were few that involved young love in the theatre. But they all ran the gamut - beautifully photographed musings on love, memories of movies themselves, connections between films and reality, modern technology's incursion on the medium, peace in war-torn places, movies in the smallest of towns, people being exposed to world cinema for the first time, horror, subtle sci-fi, and many, many more.

The most remembered for me include Lynch's twisted dance, Cronenberg's suicide of the last Jew in the world in the last movie theatre in the world, the Coen's having Josh Brolin discover Turkish cinema, Wong Kai War's gorgeous memories, Takeshi Kitano's farmer trying to watch a movie, Lars Von Trier's black comedy, Ken Loach's father-son tribute, Abbas Kiarostami's ode to Romeo and Juliet and perhaps his teacher, and so many, many more. A fantastic example of masters of the medium portraying something they truly love.

Tonight is Erik Nietzsche The Early Years, and American Venus. Both films I'm looking forward to. It's shaping up to be a great selection of films.

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