Sunday continued the trend of bright sunshine and balmy weather. After catching a program of short films in the late morning, Scot and I met Bruce to walk west on Queen St. to the Robert Bulger Gallery to attend the Opening Reception for Don McKellar’s art installation, IMAGINARY LOVERS. As we strolled down Queen Street, we serendipitously ran into Gil and Amanda who had arrived the evening before and invited them to come along. After a lengthy and surprisingly warm walk, we arrived at the Gallery (formerly Atom Egoyan’s Camera) and joined the party. Tracy introduced us to her good friend Caroline Gillis, with whom she has worked on stage (most notably the Off Broadway run of Daniel MacIvor’s play, ‘A Beautiful View’). Caroline would be recognizable to fans of ‘Twitch City,’ ‘Slings & Arrows,’ or MONKEY WARFARE. Don’s installation was comprised of a series of short films shot on cell phone featuring women all over the world sending message telling their boyfriends they missed them. Some Chlotrudis members might remember a pair of Don’t films, PHONE CALL FROM AN IMAGINARY GIRLFRIEND: INSTANBUL and PHONE CALL FROM AN IMAGINARY GIRLFRIEND: ANKARRA bookending one of our short film festivals. After complete the two initial films, Don continued to make these shorts during his travels, including stops in Wellington, New Zealand, Rio de Janeiro, Madrid, Regina and Montreal. The films are strangely touching and haunting, and utilize Don’s trademark humor to good effect. They are visually arresting, despite the limitations of shooting on cell phone. It was great to be able to see them as part of this installation.
The other non-film highlight of the day was my chance to finally meet the delightful Paprika Steen (who as you may recall was scheduled, but unable to attend our Chlotrudis Awards Ceremony earlier this year). I introduced myself after the screening, and she said she’d recognized me in the audience. (She gives a great Q&A!) We spoke for a few moments before she was rushed off, and she invited us to the APPLAUS party (which, if you can believe it, we were too exhausted to attend!) My hope is we are able to bring Paprika to Boston for Chlotrudis sometime in the future. She would be a terrific guest. Congratulations on your outstanding performance Paprika!
And now, on to the reviews!
Short Cuts Canada Programme 2
75 EL CAMINO
director: Sami Khan
director: Sonya Di Rienzo
OUT IN THAT DEEP BLUE SEA
director: Kazik Radwanski (pictured right with Guy Maddin)
director: Guy Maddin
director: Ryan Mullins
director: Richard Kerr
SNOW HIDES THE SHADE OF FIG TREES
director: Samer Najari
Contrary to what you might think, I didn’t elect to see this program of short films because the new Guy Maddin short was featured (although that certainly was an added bonus). I really wanted to see the third film by Kazik Radwanski, Chlotrudis Short Film Festival alum. His debut short film, ASSAULT was a Chlotrudis selection in 2008. I’m always a little wary of the short film programs, because there are usually a couple of gems, and a couple of bombs, with some mediocrity filling out the rest. I am pleased to report that this year’s batch was the best selection of short films that I have seen in Toronto! Sami Khan’s 75 EL CAMINO is a moving film about getting older and the nostalgia of an old car and what it represents. In THE TRANSLATOR, Sonya De Rienzo subtitles the thoughts of various people on a subway ride, including a young couple who find themselves drifting apart. Kazik Radwanski completes his trilogy begun by ASSAULT and followed by PRINCESS MARGARET BLVD. with OUT IN THAT DEEP BLUE SEA, a poignant examination of middle age and the conflict between doing what you need to do and what you want to do. Guy Maddin is wacky and I just love him. In NIGHT MAYOR Guy invents an imaginative history for a real life friend, weaving humor, social commentary and Canadian history into a seamless fantasia. VOLTA by Ryan Mullins, explores the disappearance of the movie theatre, and what that means for a social life in this documentary about a little village in Africa. Richard Kerr’s DE MOUVEMENT is a visual collage of images plucked from historic trailers. The program ended powerfully with Samer Najari’s fantastic portrait of the immigrant experience in the snowy streets of Montreal in the film SNOW HIDES THE SHADE OF FIG TREES.
In a tour de force performance, Danish actress, and Chlotrudis honoree Paprika Steen unleashes a powerful and fiery performance as an actress recovering from alcoholism. Thea’s addiction led to her divorce and loss of custody of her two young sons. Now on the road to recovery, Thea takes hesitant steps toward being a part of her children’s lives again. Her ex-husband is trying to help, but Thea’s impatience causes her to lash out in frustration, needing things to move more quickly because as she notes, she doesn’t drink anymore. As she feels her life spinning increasingly more out of control, she relies heavily on her caustic wit and biting intelligence. She lashes out in one moment, and then submits to logic and calm the next. It’s exhausting to watch, giving the viewer an idea of what it must be like to live it. The narrative is intercut with scenes of Thea playing Martha in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ on stage – scenes of Paprika actually performing the role in Denmark. The juxtaposition allows for insight into Thea’s character, and provides us with a nice twist at the film’s end.
While first time solo director Martin Pieter Zandvliet does a good job keeping things tightly focused on Thea, shooting her in unflattering lighting and in tight close-up as an unforgiving witness, he and his collaborator Anders Frithiof August fare less well with the screenplay, which doesn’t allow for much of a dramatic arc. That said, this film is all about Paprika Steen and her unflinching, exhilarating performance. Awarded the best actress award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival, this is a sure contender for a Chlotrudis award if it gets released in the U.S. While I would give Paprika’s performance 5 cats, the film as a whole gets 3 ½ cats.
director: Hirokazu Kore-eda
cast: Du-na Bae; Arata; Itsuji Itao
One day an inflatable air doll, a substitute for sexual pleasure, wakes up to find she has a heart. She is self-animated, self-aware, and filled with wonder as she discovers the world around her. On a meandering sojourn around the neighborhood she wanders into a video rental store and gets herself a job, carefully concealing the fact that she, in fact, made of plastic and filled with air. She returns home each night before her owner arrives from work, but soon grows tired of the sexual acts he performs with her and becomes more fascinated by the parade of humanity that she encounters each day; most particularly the young man with whom she works at the video store. Of course, as we all know, along with wonder and delight, life brings sadness, pain and heartbreak. After she accidentally tears a hole in her arm and her true nature is revealed to her co-worker, he hastily tapes her up and re-inflates her with his own breath. It is at this point that she truly learns what it means to be human, as she falls in love with her benefactor. Her further adventures lead her to an elderly man in the park on a respirator, a woman struggling against aging, a little girl and her harried father, and the man who created her.
Kore-eda is a master filmmaker, weaving elements of loneliness and alienation into this charming story about the creation of a new life. In parallel to the air doll’s inflatable nature, we see a series of humans who are empty inside, desperately seeking something to fill the void in their hearts. Duna Bae is magnificent as the innocent experiencing life for the first time. Her large eyes grow wider with each miraculous sight she sees, and she capably conveys the joy, confusion and pain of living with each move she makes. Despite the wacky and somewhat salacious premise, Kore-eda is such a life-affirming personality that you know you’re in for something special. 5 cats.
The Toronto International Film Festival may have defied tradition by programming a non-Canadian film for opening night (that film is Jon Amiel's CREATION starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly) but that doesn't mean the Canadian powerhouses won't be represented. I'm very happy to see Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar and Sarah Polley all have new films at this year's fest according to the The Toronto Star.
Atom Egoyan's CHLOE is an erotic thriller starring Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, based on a French film called NATHALIE from 2003. Moore stars as a suspicious wife who hires a prostitute to test her husband's fidelity.
Don McKellar plays a diplomat living in India in Dilip Mehta's WHAT'S COOKING, STELLA? And if that name sounds familiar, it's because his sister is Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, director of WATER, EARTH and FIRE, not to mention BOLLYWOOD HOLLYWOOD. Deepa co-produced and co-wrote WHAT'S COOKING, STELLA?
And in perhaps the most intriguing news, Sarah Polley co-stars with Jared Leto in MR. NOBODY, a Belgian science fiction movie that spans centuries. Check out the trailer below.
As we all know, I wasn't able to go to the Toronto International Film Festival this year. It was difficult for me, but I will survive. Thanks to Wiebke, Alberta and Tracy for sharing in my pain. I would loved to have seen them on this trip.
Fortunately, as you've seen, Beth is doing a great job providing coverage for Chlotrudis, and there are a lot of online film outfits covering the festival from top to bottom, so I almost feel like I'm there. Today I read the first piece that made me really excited.
Obviously I'm excited about the upcoming releases, BLINDNESS, written by Don McKellar, and ADORATION, the latest film from Atom Egoyan, but I have no doubt I will be seeing both of these films soon after the festival when they are released Stateside. I think I am most excited, however about the new film by French director Claire Denis called 35 RHUMS. I'm hoping someone from Chlotrudis caught it (I'm sure I can count on Ivy) but indieWIRE's Eugene Hernandez reports on it in his blog. Here's an excerpt:
...its a wonderful movie that I've had a hard time shaking. 35 RHUMS offers quiet moments with its characters -- each striving for someone, or something, else. Agnes Godard's photography and Tindersticks' music, in particular, are striking and beautiful.
Eugene refers to a review in indieWIRE by Shane Danielsen who also had a great quote:
I was looking forward to a number of films here, but none more than the latest from Claire Denis. Such anticipation usually ends in disappointment, but 35 RHUMS only confirmed her mastery. Her finest piece of work since 1999's superb BEAU TRAVAIL, it seemed like nothing so much as her version of a late Ozu, a latter-day response to EQUINOX FLOWER and LATE SPRING -- and like those films, it's about the bonds of family, and people being kind and desiring the best, for themselves and for each other. Yet it's no mere homage; rather, it's imbued with Denis' own, unmistakeable sensibility, the patient and watchful eye that disinguished earlier Paris-set masterpieces like I CAN'T SLEEP and FRIDAY NIGHT.
Now I just have to hope that I won't be waiting too long before we get to see it in the States.
After posting the announcement about the Cannes Film Festival line-up the other day, there has been some speculation among Chlotrudis members about the absence of Fernando Meirelles' BLINDNESS. There's been a lot of talk about BLINDNESS on Mewsings (here, here and here), largely because of Chlotrudis Advisory Board member Don McKellar adapting the screenplay from Jose Saramago's novel, and the general thought was that it would premiere at Cannes. Then the line-up was announced, and no BLINDNESS! While we would love to see the film premiere at Toronto in September (mainly because many of us would be there) we were left wondering why it wasn't at Cannes.
Well apparently others were wondering the same thing, and the Hollywood Reporter has a piece about that very subject. Basically, they suggest that there are still announcements to be made about the Cannes line-up, and any speculation on there absence of BLINDNESS are still premature. So while it would be great for us to see the premiere of BLINDNESS at TIFF, it would be pretty cool for both McKellar and Egoyan to strut the red carpet at Cannes.
So a lot has already been said here and here about BLINDNESS, the new film due out this year by Fernando Meirelles, adapted from a Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Jose Saramago. Lots of people are looking forward to Meirelles' follow-up to CITY OF GOD. Others are excited about Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, or Gael Garcia Bernal, three of the more well-known cast members. Of course, Chlotrudis is all over BLINDNESS because it was adapted for the screen by our pal, and Chlotrudis Advisory Board member, Don McKellar, who also appears in the film, as does our other Canadian pal, Tracy Wright!(And to sweeten the Chlotrudis punch just that much more, it also features appearances by Sandra Oh, Maury Chaykin, Martha Burns (form "Slings & Arrows"), AFTER LIFE's Yusuke Iseya, Susan Coyne (also from "Slings & Arrows"), and Chlotrudis Award winner Nadia Litz! What more could you possibly ask for?
How about a creepy trailer? While you're vibrating with anticipation about everything I just told you, take a peek at the trailer for this film which is due to open this fall in the U.S. Originally we had thought the film would premiere at Cannes (and it still might) but it sure looks like they're setting it up for Toronto as well. Whooee! Wouldn't that be fun?
Mewsings reported earlier about BLINDNESS, the currently-in-production feature directed by Fernando Meirelles (CITY OF GOD), and adapted from José Saramago's award-winning novel by our Chlotrudis-buddy Don McKellar. I'm currently reading the novel, and it's going to be pretty intense when they bring this to the big screen. Blindness tells the story of an unnamed city whose inhabitants start to go inexplicably blind. Julianne Moore has the leading role, and as reported before, Mark Ruffalo has stepped in to replace Daniel Craig in the male lead.
BLINDNESS is currently shooting in Guelph, Ontario, and a quick check of the Internet Movie Database reveals a pretty compelling, international, supporting cast. In addition to Moore and Ruffalo, there are a couple more names from the movie biz including Danny Glover, and Gael Garcia Bernal, who was last seen in the Chlotrudis-nominated leading role in THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP. I was also pleased to see another past-Chlotrudis honoree getting a role; Canadian mainstay Maury Chaykin. Don McKellar gets a brief but pivotal role as "The Thief." Fans of Hirozaku Koreeda will be pleased to see Yusuke Iseya, one of the leads from his beloved AFTER LIFE in the role of the "first blind man." Finally, for fans of the Canadian television dramedy "Slings & Arrows" (and there are a handful of you out there) two delightfully talented actresses from that show, Martha Burns and Susan Coyne also have roles.
The one name I didn't see in the credits who we were hoping would be involved is Chlotrudis honoree Tracy Wright. Hopefully there is something bigger and better in her future.
A few weeks ago, new James Bond Daniel Craig pulled out of BLINDNESS, Don McKellar's adaptation of the award-winning novel by Jose Saramago. The film, directed by Fernando Meirelles (CITY OF GOD), about a doctor's wife, played by Julianne Moore, who becomes the only person with the ability to see in a town where everyone is struck with a mysterious case of sudden blindness. Now it has been announced that Mark Ruffalo will step in to replace Craig, and despite the fact that he seems a little young for the role, it's an interesting choice for a film of this caliber. In addition to adapting the screenplay, Chlotrudis-pal McKellar also has a role in the film, as does our other pal Tracy Wright. This one's sure to be a Chlotrudis crowd-pleaser when it is released in 2008.
I'd also like to point out that Chlotrudis members are not the only people who appreciate the talented Mr. Don McKellar. After originally writing this post, I found this post at The Reeler. It's entitled "Six Degrees of Don McKellar," although author Michelle Orange does lose points with me for calling Don "unfriendly."
Some Chlotrudis members know Peter Keough, film critic at the Boston Phoenix, as the good-looking, grumpy guy who claims to be working on a cure for cancer. The lucky members know that he's an opinionated, skilled film critic who has supported Chlotrudis for many years, and always livens things up when he presents an award for us. If you haven't taken a look at his blog, Outside the Frame, do so now. He has posted a wrap-up on our Awards Ceremony. Thanks, Peter!
With the kick-off just over a month away, the Independent Film Festival of Boston has announced the impressive line-up for its 5th Annual Festival. I'm truly looking forward to MONKEY WARFARE, Reg Harkema's look at aging hipsters in Toronto that stars recent Chlotrudis guests Don McKellar and Tracy Wright. In a similar Canadian vein, I can't wait to check out Sarah Polley's feature narrative directorial debut, AWAY FROM HER. Hal Hartley is back with FAY GRIM, a sequel of sorts to HENRY FOOL. As has been the case in the past, the IFFB offers an outstanding batch of documentaries as well, with PROTAGONIST leading the pack for me... that's Jessica Yu's follow up to Chlotrudis nominee IN THE REALM OF THE UNREAL. Go check out the list!
Over at GreenCine Daily, there's a report on Opening Night at SXSW which features Reg Harkema's MONKEY WARFARE, starring this year's Chlotrudis guests Don McKellar and Tracy Wright. Chlotrudis Board members Beth Curran and Nancy Campbell caught MONKEY WARFARE in Toronto, and through Nancy and Chlotrudis member Brian Tamm's efforts, we will be lucky enough to catch this film in April at the Indepedent Film Festival of Boston. With 2006 being a slight year for Canadian films, here's hoping that 2007 yields a better batch. MONKEY WARFARE also stars Nadia Litz, who won a Chlotrudis Award for Best Supporting Actress way back in 2001 for her work in THE FIVE SENSES.
Speaking of SXSW, Chlotrudis members Ned Hinkle, Gil Cordova, and Amanda Doran are all enjoying the festival this week. Let's hope they see some terrific new films to bring to Boston!