Friday, September 17, 2004

Days Four, Five, Six

* sorry for not posting. Computer problems.

As the festival wears on my mood changes. Instead of ‘oh, god how will my eyes bear it?’... I’m like ‘more please!’ Although the eye strain is still a factor. Next time (if there be a next) I will be sure to pack eyedrops and one of those girlie facepak things to cool my eyes at night. Or a lot of cucumbers. I'd also be more careful scheduling to maximize both film viewing (by cutting down on travel) and those annoying evils: sleep and eating.

I’m so old.

day four
SUMMER STORM (Marco Kreuzpaintner)
This is basically a gay twist on the age-old genre of the teen coming-of-age summer camp film. As two boyhood friends go to a rowing competition, one of them begins to accept that his feelings for the other are both more than friendly and unrequited. The film gets bogged down in the actual rowing championship, about which we care little given the romantic entanglement drama/comedy going on amongst the entire cast. It’s title meteorological event is also over-the-top but given that this is in the teen romantic dramedy first loves genre, you can forgive it it’s emotional hysteria in the form of meteorological freak happenings. All in all it’s quite entertaining and I’ll be surprised if it doesn’t get picked up for distribution since it’s sure to be successful in a limited arthouse run in the States.

Next time I attend the festival, I don’t think I’ll schedule two shorts programs. Not that these weren’t good. They were mostly. It’s just that they prevented feature viewing. However, if I ever build up the eyestrain stamina to do the five to six a day film thing that many cineastes seem capable of... I’ll keep on seeing them. I like the idea of seeing filmmakers work before they’re at feature level. Maybe it’s a fantasy that someday I can say: I saw their short debut at TIFF! I don’t know. The best in this program was Milo 55160 by David Ostry who told us in the Q & A that he’s working on expanding it into a feature. It’s quite a strong short, about a man who works in the afterlife. The production values were really well done (particularly set and costume design) and on a script level it’s just smart, funny, interesting, and even a little moving. Not sure how it would expand to feature length since it felt complete as a 20 minute film. Another reasonably fine one was Greg Atkins Build about a two male hustlers living with one drunk mother. It has a finely fleshed out mournful quality about lives growing smaller ( or at least not growing ) despite the expansion of the environment around them. It’s set in the contemporary Toronto which is--and forgive me for not knowing this already -- growing larger and more populace year by year. The one director who seems most likely to succeed however is Anthony Green whose short film Pigeon wasn’t the best in the program. But let me explain... When your student film (!)features an Oscar nominee (Michael Lerner) and production level of a studio production (a Nazi occupied France in the 40s within a student film !?!?!) well, it's safe to say that he's well connected and connections are everything.

NICELAND (Fridrik Thor Fridrickson)
I’m too tired to write much about this other than to say that it was highly charming and fable like (without being too precious or annoying) movie about a young couple in love who need to find out the purpose in life before it’s too late. Very strange but uniquely compelling with terrific set design work. I was a little disappointed that it was entirely in English however because I schedule foreign films because i like them. Although, oddly, this one has subtitles. Perhaps they were worried about the accents. The film stars Gary Lewis and Martin Compston (who you may remember made a major debut in Sweet Sixteenlast year).

day five
Araki that enfant terrible of gay cinema seems to have mellowed since the Living End and Doom Generation days. This is still not a film you can take your mother to, exactly but... despite the raunchy material (this time it’s child molestations and hustling) he seems to have developed a sense of optimism somewhere along his queer way. Where once his films were proudly nihilistic, they’re now implying that healing may take place. Hopefully he will one day meld these two and make a great film, one that’s not too cool for emotion with its punk nihilism, but doesn’t abandon it’s rebel aesthetic to do so.

P.S. (Dylan Kidd)
”Hard to categorize” usually means “very good” in my vocabulary. But this film, which is some sort of midlife crisis/coming of age/romantic comedy/divorce drama/character study didn't do it for me. I was a big fan of Roger Dodger which is why I was so looking forward to this. But for this viewer p.s. felt unfocused and strangely withholding --the reveal probably should have come a bit earlier given how odd everyone is acting. Nice performances though. It lacks the high speed bite of Kidd's previous film but the wit is still in ample evidence and the actors clearly enjoy munching on their gourmet dialogue. Topher Grace proves again (that’s twice in 2004) that America’s next romantic comedy sweetheart ought to be a man. People keep asking where the next Julia, Sandra, and Meg. That person has already arrived --the media just hasn’t noticed because he came with testicles and penis.

5 X 2 (Francois Ozon)
I nearly always dig Ozon’s structural playfulness/rigidity. In his latest feature he’s playing with time and though it’s not as rigid in setting or structure (like, say, 8 Women or Water Drops...) The confines this time are not limited to one set or a procession of musical numbers one per character. They're only as limited as five lengthy moments in time within a romantic relationship. I found the lead performance by Valerie Bruno Tedeschi to be super. In the end 5 x 2 is finely contemplative but ultimately I'm not sure it's a lot more that.

MAR ADENTRO / THE SEA INSIDE (Alejandro Amenabar)
This one is sure to be an international crowd pleaser. First and foremost it features a highly enjoyable star turn from Javier Bardem that will be mistaken as a world great performance. This is not to say that his performance isn’t notable. Bardem is tremendous as per usual. I’m merely pointing out that the the role itself of a famous paraplegic in Spain with a death wish is a showy wonder. And it requires logistically that whoever is in the bed is the sun to the film’s galaxy. Everything is about watching the lead actor shine. The film also stars a quartet of fine Spanish actresses in Bardem’s orbit --or his ‘harem’ as one of them remarks--and all of them are terrific...but it’s still Bardem’s picture all the way. And he makes the most of a plum opportunity.

Perhaps what’s most surprising about this feature is that despite the glum overall thrust of the picture, it has a sly and occassionally laugh-out-loud sense of humor. The seriously charming beating heart of Mar Adentro will win it a lot of fans, but your reaction to it may depend on your feelings about assisted suicide. It’s not one of those pictures that is terribly balanced in its treatment of a controversial subject matter. Like its fellow Oscar buzz hopeful, Kinsey, its mind is already made up from the get go. Thankfully the journey is pleasing to the eye and heart since it doesn’t particularly challenge the mind and the outcome is never in doubt. Elegantly filmed, acted, and edited, it’s a prestige picture that will garner many awards (it’s the only film I’ve attended at the festival that received what seemed to be a practically unanimous standing ovation)

day six (more later)
BAD EDUCATION (Pedro Almodovar)
NINE SONGS (Michael Winterbottom)
which part? The new part is awesome: A-
HOTEL (Jessica Hausner)


Gustavo H.R. said...

Interesting. This is one of the few places where we can read reviews of such excpected movies.
KINSEY and THE SEA WITHIN will definetely garner some Oscar attention.

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