Toronto

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Toronto's Much Lauded Documentary Film Festival, Hot Docs Reviewed!

Celebrated author, Dad, Chlotrudis member, and as of this year's tour de force Awards Ceremony - Chlotrudis performer, David Valdes Greenwood,had the opportunity to visit the lovely city of Toronto recently, and fortunately his trip coincided with the wonderful documentary film festival, Hot Docs.  David has written a nice round-up of the films he caught while there.  It's on our film festival review page, so go check it out!

Michael Meets Patricia Clarkson and Chansi Harrow!

One of the best parts about going to national film festivals includes meeting... Chlotrudis members from around the country! We met Marilyn, Maryellen, Alex and Thom (although I already knew Thom) in Toronto, and Tara at High Falls... and this year, a bunch of us were lucky enough to meet and spend time with Chansi, one of our new members from Florida! Chansi was delightful, and I hope we get to see her again soon... maybe even at this year's 16th Annual Chlotrudis Awards Ceremony.

One thing that Chansi did as we were leaving the screening of CAIRO TIME was take a few photos of me while introducing myself to Patricia Clarkson! Did I mention how charming she was? And how accessible? I love these photos, because not only do they capture how beautiful she was, but how personable; especially the last where it looks like she's sassing me.

Anyway, here they are for your enjoyment!

Chris Kriofske's TIFF Reviews

I scheduled less films than usual this year to make time for some of Toronto’s more notable attractions (CN Tower, Casa Loma, and the Bata Shoe Museum, among others), but I did manage to see ten of the former.

AN EDUCATION
In a London suburb in 1962, Jenny, (Carey Mulligan) a teenager preparing to apply to Oxford University meets and falls in love with a worldly, seductive man (Peter Sarsgaard) more than twice her age. With director Lone Scherfig (ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS), an adapted screenplay from novelist Nick Hornby (HIGH FIDELITY) and an excellent cast including Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams and a tart cameo from Emma Thompson, it’s no surprise that this film received a glowing reception at Sundance earlier this year. Although a little clichéd at times (especially when it cues the Serious Music) and verging-on-implausible at others (Jenny’s parents are wildly inconsistent in their behavior), this is still an enjoyable, bittersweet coming of age story and a likely indie hit to boot. Most exciting is how it recreates and examines a particular place and time—Britain just before the Beatles ushered in the swinging Sixties. Expect Mulligan’s whip-smart Jenny to be this year’s buzzed-about breakthrough performance. 4 cats

FACE
The latest from Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-Liang (WHAT TIME IS IT THERE?) plays like a greatest hits album. It’s brimming with all of his favorite obsessions: the prevalence of water (culminating in his most hilarious Buster Keaton homage to date), manipulation of time and space, delightfully absurd musical numbers and preferred actor Lee Kang-sheng in the lead. However, he also includes a few worthy new tracks to the playlist: most of the film is set in France, with such celebrated actors as Jean-Pierre Leaud, Fanny Ardant and Jeanne Moreau playing more or less versions of themselves (and don't miss Mathieu Almaric's cameo); additionally, the plot hinges on the making of a film within this one, encouraging viewers to question what’s real or a façade. Stunningly gorgeous (the mirror-filled forest sequences will take your breath away) but challenging, it may prove too obtuse for some viewers, but it was my favorite film of the festival. After seeing it, you will never look at crushed tomatoes the same way again. 5 cats

CRACKS
The arrival of an aristocratic Spaniard student upsets the delicate hierarchy of an elite, remote, all-female 1930s British boarding school. Eva Green stars as a flamboyant, idealistic, controlling teacher. A slightly overcooked directorial debut from Jordan Scott (daughter of Ridley), all this has to recommend it is lovely cinematography (packed with foreboding, nighttime lake shots) and the continuously shifting alliances among the characters in the film’s first two acts. A genuinely shocking twist then arrives, but it doesn’t prevent CRACKS from lapsing into a lesser version of HEAVENLY CREATURES; nor does it dissuade Green from ravenously chewing up the scenery. At least it was the only truly mediocre film I saw at TIFF this year. 2.5 cats

FISH TANK
Director Andrea Arnold’s follow-up to RED ROAD is decidedly less ambitious but no less captivating, suggesting she could prove a female heir to Mike Leigh and his working class, actor-focused domestic dramas. Its tough teenage protagonist, Mia (impressive newcomer Katie Jarvis) uses her love of hip-hop dancing as a means of escape from her rough housing project home and also her young, immature, uninvolved mother and exceptionally foul-mouthed little sister. Tension mounts as Mia and her mother’s charming boyfriend Connor (Michael Fassbender) develop a mutual attraction. Arnold redeems this not entirely original plot with strong performances, a poetic pace and an inspired, dense visual composition (shot in TV-like 1.33 aspect ratio, which gives the film its immediacy). The penultimate scene is exquisite in its simplicity, resonating with movements rather than words. 4.5 cats

YEAR OF THE CARNIVORE
This comedy from Canadian media personality Sook-Yin Lee (best known in the States as the lead actress in SHORTBUS) lays bare its quirkiness from the opening shot of a clucking chicken alarm clock. Sammy (Cristen Milioti), a tomboyish grocery store detective in charge of exposing shoplifters is attracted to Eugene (Mark Rendall), a musician who busks in front of the florist next door. When inexperienced Sammy finds herself sexually incompatible with Eugene, she aims for carnal fluency with a variety of partners. If this all sounds insufferably precious, it’s not. Lee proves herself an adept writer/director, while Milioti is a real find, resembling a more likable, approachable Sarah Silverman. It’s also a treat to see Canadian comedic legends Kevin MacDonald and Sheila McCarthy show up as Sammy’s parents. Although not as novel, soulful or graphic as SHORTBUS, this is a better acted and at times, much funnier film. 4 cats

SHE, A CHINESE
Gau Xiaolu’s film (a Golden Leopard winner at the Locarno International Film Festival) defies categorization. Markedly dissimilar from most contemporary Chinese cinema, it alternates between stylistic allusions to the French New Wave and a naturalistic, documentary like feel, with passages that conjure up states of mind rather than narrative momentum. It charts the journey of Mei (Huang Lu), a young provincial woman who moves to a large Chinese city and eventually ends up in London. She meets a series of men, all of whom add varying sorts of conflict into her life. Presented as a series of titled chapters, the film’s pace fluctuates, often deliberately jumping past a major plot point while occasionally stretching out time to an impressionistic degree. An intellectual and at times inscrutable work, but also an original, lyrical character study with a surging and wonderfully loud rock and roll soundtrack. 4 cats

APPLAUSE
The terrific Danish actress Paprika Steen (THE CELEBRATION) is absolutely harrowing and brilliant as Thea, an alcoholic actress in this intense drama from director Martin Pieter Zandvliet. Although John Cassavetes already covered this territory decades ago in his films which starred his wife, Gena Rowlands (particularly OPENING NIGHT), Steen is so riveting and her character’s persona so all encompassing that whether the story is second hand soon seems irrelevant. As the film follows Thea’s attempts at sobriety, it folds in scenes of her onstage (and backstage as well) as raucous, boozy Martha in a production of WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF. Martha and Thea’s similarities are obvious, but Steen’s grasp on both roles lends depth to the connection. Throughout, Thea emerges as an intriguing (if deeply troubled) blend of personality tics, constantly speaking her mind only to immediately rescind. At one point, she nonchalantly blurts out, “I hate ordinary people,” and then quickly apologizes; it’s to Steen’s credit that you could spend an hour debating whether Thea is sincere or just merely defensive. 4.5 cats

AIR DOLL
For Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda, this is certainly not an obvious follow-up to masterful familial drama STILL WALKING. After all, the main character here is an inflatable sex toy that one morning magically comes to life. It sounds incredibly silly on paper (and I dread any potential American remake), but Kore-eda is a serious filmmaker, and this foray into pure fantasy is affectionate and rather poignant. A lot of the credit goes to Korean actress Doona Bae (THE HOST), who is perfectly cast as the titular character. Cute as a button in her tentative movements and little maid’s uniform, she plays the role as an innocent discovering a strange new world, learning by mimicking everything around her. Kore-eda stretches the premise by introducing additional characters to symbolize the philosophical implications of what it’s like to be an air doll: isolated and expected to serve a function. As a result, for me, the film loses some of its mojo along the way; I would have almost preferred two hours of Bae just bouncing around Tokyo—in those moments, AIR DOLL is as light and graceful as a feather but compelling enough to hold your attention. 4 cats

CAIRO TIME
Sometimes, an actor’s presence alone convinces me to check out a film and Patricia Clarkson is the main reason to see this one. She plays Juliette, an American magazine editor who arrives in Egypt hoping to meet up with her husband, a Canadian diplomat. Unfortunately, he’s held up in the Gaza Strip due to an escalating conflict, leaving her to wonder the streets by herself, where she’s seen as an oddity by the country’s Muslim men (and women). Tareq, a local man and an old friend of her husband reaches out to her, and they find themselves attracted to each other. Although not a towering performance by any means, Clarkson is charming and provides a good surrogate for the audience. To her credit, director Ruba Nedda is not afraid to build momentum with subtlety and silence, and the growing affection between Juliette and Tareq exudes class and restraint—perhaps almost too much, as CAIRO TIME is a perfectly affable film that could benefit from a bit more tension. 3.5 cats

LESLIE, MY NAME IS EVIL The Manson Family trial re-imagined as a farce? That’s the gist of Reg Harkema’s follow-up to his anarchic comedy MONKEY WARFARE. Here, he gives us the twin tales of Leslie, a runaway who falls under the wild influence of Charles Manson, and Perry, a young, sheltered chemist who becomes obsessed with her while serving on the jury for her trial. At the premiere, Harkema introduced the film as “anti-realist” and he wasn’t kidding: LESLIE plays like the love child of late John Waters and Charles Busch (minus the drag), gleefully sending up late-1960s America. While often crude and always over the top (don’t miss the ultra-groovy virgin sacrifice sequence!), the film is also a hoot in how it comically inverts a tragedy without managing to entirely trivialize it. Mostly avoiding garishness and almost approaching wit, Harkema’s palette is nonetheless an acquired taste, and this one could use more of the previous film’s discipline. Still, it’s hard for me to hate on a farce that’s actually quite sincere in how it secretly holds up a funhouse mirror to the real, modern day world. 4.5 cats

Almodóvar, Scherfig and Steen, Oh My!


Another batch of films playing TIFF were announced last week, and there are some pretty exciting choices on the list. New films by Pedro Almodóvar, Lone Scherfig, Todd Solondz and Koji Yakusho are represented. In addition, there's a chance we'll finally get to meet Paprika Steen after her aborted trip to Chlotrudis last spring. The Danish actress' latest film, APPLAUSE, for which she won the Best Actress Award at Karolvy Vary, is screening as part of the Discovery series!

Check out the latest list below:

TIFF ADDS EIGHT NEW FILMS TO ITS SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS LINEUP

Toronto – The Toronto International Film Festival announces the addition of eight titles to its Special Presentations programming lineup for TIFF09, which runs September 10 to 19, 2009. These include works from Argentina, France, Italy, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States. These new films join the nineteen previously announced Special Presentations. For more details, please refer to tiff.net/press.

Ticket packages for the Festival are now available for purchase by cash, debit or Visa†. Purchase online at tiff.net/thefestival, by phone at 416-968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM (Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed weekends and holidays) or in person at the Festival Box Office at Nathan Phillips Square (Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week), located at 100 Queen Street West, in the white tent, west of the square.

SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS

Broken Embraces Pedro Almodóvar, Spain
North American Premiere
Harry Caine, a blind writer, reaches a point when he has to heal his wounds from 14 years ago, when he was still known by his real name, Mateo Blanco, and directing his last movie. As the past is revisited, a story of “amour fou” unfolds, dominated by fatality, jealousy, the abuse of power, treachery and a guilt complex.

An Education Lone Scherfig, United Kingdom
Canadian Premiere
A coming-of-age story about a teenaged girl in 1960s suburban London and how her life changes with the arrival of a playboy nearly twice her age. Torn between her parents’ dream of going to Oxford University and a more tempting kind of life, she must decide if the new path is one that will trap her or set her free.

The Front Line Renato De Maria, Italy
World Premiere
Set during a turbulent period in 1970-80s Italy, the plot centres on passionate couple Sergio and Susanna, who have been living as fugitives. Pursuing an uncompromising cause as members of the notorious Prima Linea, they have become increasingly alienated from the real world. Their luck finally runs out when Susanna is captured and thrown in jail. Putting his life on the line, Sergio embarks on a radical plan.

Glorious 39 Stephen Poliakoff, United Kingdom
World Premiere
This tense conspiracy thriller set on the eve of World War II and based on disturbing real events, focuses on a young woman who stumbles across evidence of a sinister Nazi appeasement plot. As her close friends begin to die in suspicious circumstances, she finds her own life in danger from an increasingly menacing and powerful enemy.

Kamui Yoichi Sai, Japan
World Premiere
A crowd pleasing, sweeping epic brilliantly directed by one of Japan’s finest auteurs, Kamui is the adventurous story of a fugitive ninja played by superstar Kenichi Matsuyama.

Life During Wartime Todd Solondz, USA
North American Premiere
Happiness director Todd Solondz returns with another unsettling dark comedy about sexual obsession between friends, family and lovers struggling to find love, forgiveness and meaning in a war-torn world. Allison Janney and Ciarán Hinds star.

A Prophet Jacques Audiard, France
North American Premiere
A young Arab man, Malik, is sent to a French prison where he is cornered by the leader of the ruling Corsican gang. He is given a number of “missions” to carry out, toughening him up and gaining the gang leader’s confidence in the process. But Malik is brave and a fast learner, daring to secretly develop his own plans.

The Secret of Their Eyes Juan José Campanella, Argentina/Spain
International Premiere
Benjamín Chaparro, a secretary of a court in Buenos Aires, is about to retire and decides to write a novel based on a case that deeply affected him thirty years ago. Chaparro’s tale crosses Argentina’s turbulent years during the 1970s, when nothing was necessarily what it seemed to be.

EXCITING WORKS FROM NEW FILMMAKERS ANNOUNCED FOR DISCOVERY
Toronto – The 34th Toronto International Film Festival announces twenty-one feature films for the Discovery programme, showcasing provocative feature films by new and emerging directors. This is where audiences can find the year’s most exciting debuts as the Festival shines a light on the works of up-and-coming filmmakers.

Ticket packages for the Festival are now available for purchase by cash, debit or Visa†. Purchase online at tiff.net/thefestival, by phone at 416-968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM (Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed weekends and holidays) or in person at the Festival Box Office at Nathan Phillips Square (Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week), located at 100 Queen Street West, in the white tent, west of the square. The Festival runs from September 10 to 19, 2009.

DISCOVERY

The Angel Margreth Olin, Norway/Sweden/Finland
World Premiere
A young mother (played brilliantly by Maria Bonnevie) struggles with a history of drug abuse in this exquisitely rendered and deeply compassionate piece, the first fiction film from one of Norway’s most respected documentary filmmakers.

Applause Martin Pieter Zandvliet, Denmark
North American Premiere
Paprika Steen delivers a tour-de-force performance in this devastating drama about an alcoholic actress trying to put her life back together.

Bare Essence of Life Satoko Yokohama, Japan
International Premiere
In this original fusion of black comedy, surreal fantasy and feel-good drama about a mentally challenged hero, Japanese heartthrob Kenichi Matsuyama plays a strange farmer who finds an unexpected path to the miracle of love.

Beautiful Kate Rachel Ward, Australia
International Premiere
In order to make peace with his combative, dying father, a writer must return to his childhood home and confront long-suppressed memories of the mysterious deaths of his brother and twin sister.

A Brand New Life Ounie Lecomte, South Korea/France
North American Premiere
An impressive debut by French-Korean filmmaker Ounie Lecomte who, inspired by her childhood, recounts the emotional journey of a little girl abandoned by her father in an orphanage.

The Disappearance of Alice Creed J. Blakeson, United Kingdom
World Premiere
Two ex-cons kidnap a woman, but the tables turn and turn again in this tight, smart tale. This film is a terrific little thriller starring Eddie Marsan, Martin Compston and Gemma Arterton.

Eamon Margaret Corkery, Ireland
North American Premiere
A family holiday brings to a head the destructive love triangle between Eamon, a little boy with behavioural problems, his selfish mother Grace and his sexually frustrated father Daniel.

Every Day Is a Holiday Dima El-Horr, France/Germany/Lebanon
North American Premiere
From Lebanon, this is a striking debut about three women on the road to visit their imprisoned men. Mixing real politics and stark absurdity, El-Horr announces herself as a major new voice in Middle Eastern cinema.

Five Hours from Paris Leon Prudovsky, Israel
World Premiere
In a suburb of Tel Aviv, an Israeli cab driver who longs to fly and a Russian music teacher who is soon to board a plane find out that romance is only a cab ride away.

Heliopolis Ahmad Abdalla, Egypt
World Premiere
An Egyptian art film with some major stars, Heliopolis weaves together portraits from one of Cairo’s most storied neighbourhoods.

The Day Will Come Susanne Schneider, Germany/France
International Premiere
Thirty years after giving her daughter up for adoption to join the terrorist underground in Germany, Judith is tracked down by her now-adult daughter Alice to a vineyard in the Alsace where she is living with a new family and a new identity.

Le Jour où Dieu est parti en voyage Philippe van Leeuw, Belgium
World Premiere
Offering a new take on the Rwandan genocide, acclaimed cinematographer van Leeuw’s directorial debut recreates the first-person experience of one woman as the horror descends.

Last Ride Glendyn Ivin, Australia
International Premiere
A desperate father and his 10-year-old son flee into the wilderness of the desert and the human heart, battling the elements, the past and each other.

My Dog Tulip Paul Fierlinger and Sandra Fierlinger, USA
North American Premiere
Christopher Plummer and Isabella Rossellini voice this vividly animated, touching tale of friendship between an elderly bachelor and his German Shepherd.

My Tehran for Sale Granaz Moussavi, Australia/Iran
International Premiere
Shot underground on location in Tehran, the film tells the story of modern-day Iranian youth struggling for cultural freedom.

Northless Rigoberto Perezcano, Mexico/Spain
World Premiere
Andrés reaches the Mexican border to cross into the United States. As he waits between crossing attempts, he discovers the complicated border world of Tijuana.

La Soga Josh Crook, Dominican Republic/USA
World Premiere
This gritty and gripping drama explores political intrigue, love, death and the power of memory, set in the Dominican Republic.

Shirley Adams Oliver Hermanus, South Africa/USA
North American Premiere
This intimate, precise portrait focuses on a mother in Cape Town, South Africa, whose son is disabled in a neighbourhood shooting.

Toad’s Oil Koji Yakusho, Japan
International Premiere
The story of Takuro Yazawa, a day-trader who claims he can earn hundreds of millions of yen in one day, and those around him as they attempt to cope with the death of his son and somehow find a way to benefit spiritually from the experience.

Together Matias Armand Jordal, Norway
International Premiere
The tragic death of a mother causes her family to shatter when they struggle to cope with the loss.

The Unloved Samantha Morton, United Kingdom
International Premiere
Morton shifts from actor to director in this stark portrait of a young British girl plucked from an abusive family and thrown into the hands of government care.

NEWS RELEASE #11
NEW VANGUARD FILMS ANNOUNCED FOR 2009 FESTIVAL
Toronto – The 34th Toronto International Film Festival adds nine titles to its Vanguard programme.

Works presented under the Vanguard banner are bold films that challenge our social and cultural assumptions. This is where innovative filmmakers tend to blur the distinction between different genres, styles and narrative conventions – and where savvy film-goers can expect a satisfying challenge.

Ticket packages for the Festival are now available for purchase by cash, debit or Visa†. Purchase online at tiff.net/thefestival, by phone at 416-968-FILM or 1-877-968-FILM (Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed weekends and holidays) or in person at the Festival Box Office at Nathan Phillips Square (Box Office hours are 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., seven days a week), located at 100 Queen Street West, in the white tent, west of the square. The Festival runs from September 10 to 19, 2009.

VANGUARD

Accident Soi Cheang, Hong Kong, China
North American Premiere
Gripping and smartly constructed, this unconventional crime thriller/psychological drama, revolves around assassins who commit murder by making perfectly staged crimes look like unfortunate accidents. Produced by Johnnie To.

The Ape Jesper Ganslandt, Sweden
World Premiere
A descent into hell, Jesper Ganslandt’s disturbing and suspenseful second feature begins with a man waking up in unfamiliar surroundings, only to find the life he knew the day before is gone.

Bunny and the Bull Paul King, United Kingdom
World Premiere
Shy Stephen and his totally disordered boozehound of a best friend, Bunny, show us how to embark on an adventure-filled road trip without leaving the room.

The Dirty Saints Luis Ortega, Argentina
World Premiere
Luis Ortega’s apocalyptic third feature follows a group of five survivors as they embark on a journey that will force them to face their fears, dreams and longings in their quest for salvation across the Fijman River.

Enter the Void Gaspar Noé, France/Germany/Italy
North American Premiere
Controversial filmmaker Gaspar Noé (Irreversible) is back with a mind-bending journey that transcends life and death as he follows the exploits of a young American drug dealer living in Japan.

Hipsters Valery Todorovsky, Russia
North American Premiere
In a fantastical 1950s Moscow, straight-laced Mels swaps his drab Communist uniform for a saxophone, pompadour and zoot suit in this vibrant musical that is bursting with razzle and dazzle and of course, rhythm.

The Misfortunates Felix Van Groeningen, Belgium/Holland
North American Premiere
From Belgium comes this rambunctious, vulgar story of a 13-year-old boy growing up in a small village with his father and three uncles, all drunken, incorrigible louts. Yet they are hilarious and they love Roy Orbison.

My Queen Karo Dorothée van den Berghe, Belgium
World Premiere
A young girl witnesses the moral dilemmas of free love when her parents join a squatter community in 1970s Amsterdam.

Spring Fever Lou Ye, China
North American Premiere
A lyrical and audacious portrait of a doomed gay love triangle that spins out of control, Spring Fever is inspired by prohibited Chinese novels from the 1920s and directed by controversial filmmaker Lou Ye.

Bruce's First Report from Toronto!

Just spent my first full day in Toronto after arriving in time to see only one film last night. Tickets seem harder to get this year and we REALLY miss Michael and Scot's morning trek to the box office which made things ever so easy for the rest of us. A computer glitch caused many people to get tickets for overlapping times and I talked to many who were frantically trying to reschedule their films in wholesale fashion. Sadly the Cumberland is gone. Work was supposed to have begun turning the wonderful art house into luxury condos but I hear some glitch has stopped all that, alas too late to save the cinema. The Varsity is almost exclusively used now for press/industry screenings. This year there is a new venue - AMC - at Dundas and Yonge, diagonally across from the northern most part of the Eaton Centre. The College Park Box Office has been moved there. All lines for the Festival Box Office and films are formed outside which is messy and uncomfortable considering AMC is on the third floor and the Box Office is on the second.

Thursday night I began with a less than so-so Italian film THE REST OF THE NIGHT (2.5 cats) which belongs on TV, not in a major film festival. The acting was decent but the film was decidedly uncinematic. Furthermore it was filmed in winter giving it a bleak feeling that I suspect was unintentional. Friday started off with a bang. Brent Hamer's O'HORTEN (5 cats) was over-the-top fabulous. It is a bittersweet tale of a man coming to grips with his retirement and his past concurrently. O'HORTEN is a wonderful companion piece to his earlier KITCHEN STORIES. Hamer is definitely maturing as an artist. Later today I saw PANDORA'S BOX (4 cats) a Turkish film about three adult children who are forced to face their personal demons when their aged mother disappears, a victim of Alzheimer's. The mother is played beautifully by French actress Tsilla Chelton who some may remember in the delicious title role of TATIE DANIELLE. Finally I saw FEAR ME NOT a film from Danish director Kristian Levring. FEAR ME NOT (3.5 cats) is a pharmaceutical horror story inspired by none other than the venerable Jean Renoir's version of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." Ulrich Thomsen (FESTEN, ADAM'S APPLES) is a knock-out as the average man who innocently signs up for testing a new drug. The strong supporting cast includes the wonderful duo of Paprika Steen and Lars Brygmann. So far on Saturday I have seen SERBIS (4.5 cats) from the Philippine director Brillante Mendoza and a documentary on Senegalese Grammy-winning musician Youssou Ndour, YOUSSOU NDOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE (4.5 Cats).

Bruce Kingsley (posted by M Colford)

Most Anticipated from TIFF #1

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.

indieWIRE Examines the State of the Indie Distribution Business

There's a great article on indieWIRE that takes a look at the state of the the indie film business on the eve of Toronto. What do you think? How will we be seeing new independent and international movies in the coming years?

TIFF Opening Night Film Announced

Beth, you picked the right movie, but not the right night! Paul Gross' PASSCHENDAELE will open this year's Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday, September 4. Gross, well-known to American audiences for his roles on television's "Slings & Arrows" and "Due South," and to Chlotrudis members for his roles in the films WILBY WONDERFUL and MEN WITH BROOMS, directed, produced, and stars in this historical romantic drama set during World War I. Gross plays Michael Dunne -- a man injured in France who comes home to Calgary. However, a romance with a nurse inspires him to go back to France to protect her younger brother, who is embroiled in the third battle of Ypres, otherwise known as Passchendaele.

TIFF traditionally opens with a high-profile Canadian film. Last year Jeremy Podeswa took the coveted spot with his FUGITIVE PIECES. Gross' PASSCHENDAELE will make it two historical drama in a row. Beth had pegged this film as the festival closer, with Egoyan's ADORATION as a possible opener. This is the first announcement for this year's festival which runs September 4 - 13. The official website for this year's festival will go live on June 27th. Thanks to Cinematical for the tip!

Toronto Ratings

Now that I've got all my day-to-day reports up, I thought I'd borrow Bruce's idea and list my films by rating. Only one 5 cat film, but plenty of 4 1/2 and 4 cat films making the overall experience a highly positive one.

5 cats

THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS

4 1/2 cats

I'M NOT THERE
JELLYFISH
JUNO
MY WINNIPEG
THE VISITOR

4 cats

BREAKFAST WITH SCOT
BRICK LANE
A GENTLE BREEZE IN THE VILLAGE
HELP ME EROS
PING PONG PLAYA'
PLOY
STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING

3 1/2 cats

CHACUN SON CINÉMA
JUST LIKE HOME
THE LAST MISTRESS

3 cats

HOLLYWOOD CHINESE
SAD VACATION

2 1/2 cats

A JIHAD FOR LOVE
NORMAL
SILK
PHILIPPINE SCIENCE

1 1/2 cats

AMERICAN VENUS
RECLAIM YOUR BRAIN

Toronto Day 8 - Farewell Film Festival

Eight days is a long time to be spending watching movies, and I saw a respectable 24 films in that time frame. A little lighter than previous years, but I am getting older, and there were people to see and hang out with (far more important to me). Even though we were leaving Friday evening, we did manage to squeeze in two more films, and while we started the day with something of a dud, we did end the festival on a high note.

PHILIPPINE SCIENCE (The Philippines; 118)

director: Auraeus Solito

cast: Elijah Castillo, Gammy Lopez, Eugene Domingo, EJ Jalorrina, Shayne Fajutagana

Drawing on his own experiences as a science geek in high school, director Auraeus Solito draws a sweet film about an accelerated science and math high school in the Philippines. Solito caught my eye at 2006's Provincetown International Film Festival with his film about nascent gay desire, THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS which maintained a facade of innocent even when exploring the gritty streets of Manilla. In PHILIPPINE SCIENCE, Solito jettisons the grit (despite the inclusion of the atmosphere of martial law of the time) and the result is very similar to an after school special.

Like FAME, PHILIPPINE SCIENCE is broken up into four parts, freshman, sophomore, junior and senior. There's a core group of students, and each year focuses on a different set. The issues that arise vary: Freshmen, don't waste your time on a girlfriend if you want to be in the Top 5; Sophomores, just because you can't cut it at Philippine Science, doesn't mean you're still not a winner... etc. Unfortunately, while the screenplay is a little clumsy, much of the acting is incapable of lifting the film higher. There are a few good performances, especially the woman who plays the freshman year science teacher, but many of the actors playing the students seem fairly amateurish. Still, I always enjoy seeing films from The Philippines, the country where my mother was born and raised.

I'M NOT THERE (USA; 135 min.)

director: Todd Haynes

cast: Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger, Ben Whishaw, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Julianne Moore, David Cross

There's been a lot of buzz about Todd Hayne's Bob Dylan biopic, especially after it's debut in Venice. Those who know me know that I am not a fan of the biopic, but ever the experimenter, Haynes turns the life of Dylan into something magical, complex, and mind-boggling. In I'm not there, seven stages of Dylan's is portrayed by six different actors, including a woman (Cate Blanchett) and a young, African-American boy (Marcus Carl Franklin). The different Dylans aren't literal representations of the legendary singer/songwriter, but representative of his persona at the time. Haynes offers scenarios that attempt to give some possible insight into a celebrity whose evolution challenged everyone, especially his truest fans.

I'm not sure if being a fan of Dylan, or knowing next to nothing about him will serve you better at this film. I knew next to nothing and I loved the film. I don't feel I know all that much more about Dylan after seeing the film, but that's not why I went to see the film. As a film, Haynes challenges the viewer visually, aurally, and through the intricate screenplay he co-wrote with Owen Moverman. There are touches of his earlier films peeking through in I'M NOT THERE, in fact, with this film it seems that Haynes wanted to correct the missteps he took with VELVET GOLDMINE.

A word about the acting. The hype is true. Cate Blanchett is simply phenomenal. As Haynes said in his introduction, Blanchett took a bit of stunt casting and elevated it to such heights that you can't imagine anyone else playing the part. She's that good. Franklin is also terrific as the young, rail-traveling Dylan, and Christian Bale gives an astonishingly strong performance as the man-of-the-people Dylan of the early 60's. British actor Ben Whishaw captures his part well, and Heath Ledger does a pretty good job with one of the lest interesting incarnations of Dylan. The weak link, both performance-wise and screenplay-wise is Dylan the legend as played by Richard Gere. Gere just doesn't have the complexity or range to pull off the role. Other actors put in great turns in supporting roles. These include the divine Charlotte Gainsbourg as Dylan's wife, Julianne Moore as the folksinger (re: Joan Baex) who discovered him), Bruce Greenwood as a British journalist, and Michelle Williams as Coco (Warhol muse Edie Sedgwick.

Technically and artuflly, Haynes wins all the way through. His use of music, both Dylan's and others complements the film marvelously. After such stellar films as POISON, SAFE, VELVET GOLDMINE, and FAR FROM HEAVEN, I'M NOT THERE is a natural and accomplished progression comining an ambitious stretch and a prodigious talent. While I don't think I'M NOT THERE is going to be a universal crowd-pleaser, it's a strong piece of cinematic art that shouldn't be missed.

After the movies wrapped, Scot, Beth and I met Tracy Wright for one last farewell dinner. We spent a lovely late afternoon chatting and reminiscing about the festival. This year's festival was certainly the most stress-free and relaxed festival for me, and I enjoyed every minute of it. I will post pictures from the Q&A's that I attended soon.