Toronto By Stone

<!– D(["mb","G.I. during WWII who had a one night stand with \nJude's mom in England back in the day. So Jude finds him, he's a janitor AT \nPRINCETON ( so, OK), where Jude befriends Max, a Princeton student, whose sister \nLucy (Evan Rachel Wood) becomes Jude's love. Jude becomes an artist, Max gets \ndrafted, Lucy becomes involved in anti-war protest and radical politics. They \nall end up in NYC sharing an apartment with hard rockin;' Janis Joplin type, and \na Jimi Hendrix type guitar type just in from the heartland. Of course it's hard \nto make a movie/musical that contains 33 Beatles songs, vietnam, civil rights, \nprotest, assassination of MLK, psychedelia, and rock and roll in one big \npackage. And sometimes these bits might seem a bit.. forced, a song or two might \nseem randomly inserted… BUT the music is honored and performed with energy and \nimagination, the cast is uniformly excellent, and many of the production numbers \nof the music are amazing….. for example, Joe Cocker as a bum, as a Wolfman \nJack style pimp performing Come Together… or Bono as a Ken Kesey/Tmothy Leary \ntype singing… or Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite, or the remarkable number at the \ninducton center where all the young inductees in their briefs are poked and \nprodded and tested and measured by square jawed Army drill instructors .. \nuntil the inductees become g.i.'s tramping throught the jungles of Vietnam \ncarrying the Statue of Liberty on their shoulders, singing "She's So Heavy"– \n the audince at Toronto gave huge ovations, thunderous applause after each \nof these scenes. Jim Sturgess, who plays Jude, has bits of the Beatle look, the \naccent, real presence and and a terrifce voice. His performance of Revolution is \na showstopper. And Evan Rachel Wood holds her own, singing effectively and \nplaying the suburban ingenue who becomes radicalized and swept up in the world \nof a Weatherman-style Svengali. Overall, a wild ride, amazing eye candy , good \nmusic, and an effective if sometimes thI asked Bruce Stone – a local writer and former teacher of mine who with his wife Mary Jo owns and runs the Chelsea and Varsity Theaters here in Chapel Hill, NC to tell Film Babble about this year’s Toronto Film Fest (Sept. 6th-13th) which they regularly attend. So Stone has the floor :

The 32nd annual Toronto International Film Festival offered up over 350 feature films from around the world with the usual hits and misses and buzz busters, with something for almost every taste. The TIFF has become one of the two or three premiere film fests of the world, certainly the largest in North America, and probably the most comprehensive in that it offers up not only the biggest and juiciest of the Hollywood prestige titles, but also the best of the indie fare, exotica from around the world, documentaries, first time breakout directors, Canadian homegrown films (gurk!), edgy crazy midnight madness slasher fanboy fare and everything in between.

<!– D(["mb","\u003c/font\>\u003c/div\>\n\u003cdiv\>\u003cfont face\u003d\"Arial\" size\u003d\"2\"\>and everyone gets to trade movie gossip, compare \nnotes, eat tofu paninis, or just watch the bushy tailed black squirrels of \nCanada play tag on the grassy lawns and stately trees of the manicured urban \nwild spaces.\u003c/font\>\u003c/div\>\n\u003cdiv\>\u003cfont face\u003d\"Arial\" size\u003d\"2\"\>\u003c/font\> \u003c/div\>\n\u003cdiv\>\u003cfont face\u003d\"Arial\" size\u003d\"2\"\>Toronto is a large, cosmopolitan, welcoming city, \nswarming with… Canadians, of all things, and many others. I t also a favorite \nsite for Hollywood productions seeking out locales with a good urban feel, \nfriendly tax incentives and professional film production types who can get the \njob done. This year it was impossible not to notice the buzz of activity humming \nalong Yonge Street ( Toronto's Broadway??) as miles of power cables twisted up \nand down Yonge and snaked arount the side streets. Then the cherry pickers \nrolled in, transforming a modest storefront tatoo and nail parlor \ninto Harlem's Apollo Theater, hoisting up a huge APOLLO sign against three \nfloors of the building's facade, and then later wrapping the front of the \nbuilding in a marquee that later proclaimed the appearance of the "HARLEM \nGOSPEL CHOIR" . And suddenly a fleet of taxis , 30-40 taxis, parked in a lot \nacross from the Delta Chelsea Hotel, and two city bus "extras", one of them \ntwisted and mangled into a burned shell of a bus skeleton, clearly a before and \nafter slotted for a future role in some cataclysmic crash and burn vignette. And \ntrucks unloading lights, and huge property trunks on wheels, and more cables \nand……. one marveled at the days of preparation, the detail, the staggering \namounts of money all this STUFF must cost. And so one asks…. what the hay is \ngoing on here….. and one is told they are preparing to shoot ( get ready) THE \nHULK…. THE HULK? SON OF HULK? HULK REDUX? MR. HULK GOES TO \nWASHINTON?\u003c/font\>\u003c/div\>\n\u003cdiv\>\u003cfont face\u003d\"Arial\" size\u003d\"2\"\>\u003c/font\> \u003c/div\>\n\u003cdiv\>\u003cfont face\u003d\"Arial\" size\u003d\"2\"\>But enough… let's go to the \nmovies….",1] );

The TIFF serves many purposes: it is the fall launching pad for all the hopeful awards season Oscar bait titles, it is a market place for many small and independent films that come to town without distribution, but mostly it is a feast for film lovers from Toronto and around the world who converge on Toronto for a week and a half of gorging on films from morning to midnight for 10 straight days. Toronto is a great movie town and all screenings, even for the most marginal of films, are remarkably well attended. Ticketholders wait in one line, those without tickets queue up in a rush line hoping to snag tickets for the few remaining seats, and everyone gets to trade movie gossip, compare notes, eat tofu paninis, or just watch the bushy tailed black squirrels of Canada play tag on the grassy lawns and stately trees of the manicured urban wild spaces.

Toronto is a large, cosmopolitan, welcoming city, swarming with… Canadians, of all things, and many others. It also is a favorite site for Hollywood productions seeking out locales with a good urban feel, friendly tax incentives and professional film production types who can get the job done. This year it was impossible not to notice the buzz of activity humming along Yonge Street (Toronto’s Broadway??) as miles of power cables twisted up and down Yonge and snaked arount the side streets. Then the cherry pickers rolled in, transforming a modest storefront tatoo and nail parlor into Harlem’s Apollo Theater, hoisting up a huge APOLLO sign against three floors of the building’s facade, and then later wrapping the front of the building in a marquee that later proclaimed the appearance of the “HARLEM GOSPEL CHOIR” . And suddenly a fleet of taxis , 30-40 taxis, parked in a lot across from the Delta Chelsea Hotel, and two city bus “extras”, one of them twisted and mangled into a burned shell of a bus skeleton, clearly a before and after slotted for a future role in some cataclysmic crash and burn vignette. And trucks unloading lights, and huge property trunks on wheels, and more cables and…one marveled at the days of preparation, the detail, the staggering amounts of money all this STUFF must cost. And so one asks…. what the hay is going on here….. and one is told they are preparing to shoot (get ready) THE HULK…. THE HULK? SON OF HULK? HULK REDUX? MR. HULK GOES TO WASHINGTON?

But enough… let’s go to the movies….

THE SAVAGES (Dir. Tamara Jenkins, 2007)

Clearly a prestige title from Fox Searchlight for the holidays. Philip Seymour Hoffman and Laura Linney star as brother and sister suddenly burdened with a father slipping into dementia in Sun City, Arizona. Hoffman is a (typically) rumpled single English professor in the academic backwaters of Buffalo, NY, while sister is a writer from NYC. Together they travel to Arizona’s empty sterile sundrenched retirement hell and return their father to cold snowy dreary Buffalo, where they find him a nursing home and bicker about what is good enough and what isn’t. Hoffman’s character is cynical, hardbitten and grimly realistic, believing that any home is good enough for the dad, as he is so far into dementia he doesn’t know the difference, while the sister frets about the nursing homes, fusses about finding the father the best possible care, accusing her brother of indifference.

Questions unanswered… they haven’t seen or contacted their father in 10 or 11 years… why not? There seems to be some unsettled score.. but what is it? How can such a schlumpy father sire two such semi-accomplished literary children? And why do these indie movies always have artsy literati types without questioning anyone’s credentials? And notwithstanding all these questions – this is a very affecting film, warm, funny, bittersweet film, beautifully acted by the three principals with a wonderful script. And we got to see the director, Tamara Jenkins, and Laura Linney, for Q and A.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE (Dir. Julie Taymor, 2007)

Eager to see this one, but approached with a certain trepidation, knowing the downside could be considerable, hokey, cheesy, a defilement of the Beatles and so on. Julie Taymor, the director was there to introduce the film, very open and informative and forthright about the film.. gracious and proud, and for good reason. A huge eager audience. And the movie…. a simple boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl again love story strung togther with 33 Beatles songs against the backdrop of the 60’s with all the attendant Sturm and Drang of the era, at least invoked through music and action. Jude is the boy, a Liverpudlian dockworker who comes to America to seek out his American father, a G.I. during WWII who had a one night stand with Jude’s mom in England back in the day. So Jude finds him, he’s a janitor at Princeton ( so, OK), where Jude befriends Max, a Princeton student, whose sister Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) becomes Jude’s love. Jude becomes an artist, Max gets drafted, Lucy becomes involved in anti-war protest and radical politics. They all end up in NYC sharing an apartment with hard rockin’ Janis Joplin type, and a Jimi Hendrix type guitar type just in from the heartland.

Of course it’s hard to make a movie/musical that contains 33 Beatles songs, Vietnam, civil rights, protest, assassination of MLK, psychedelia, and rock and roll in one big package. And sometimes these bits might seem a bit.. forced, a song or two might seem randomly inserted… BUT the music is honored and performed with energy and imagination, the cast is uniformly excellent, and many of the production numbers of the music are amazing….. for example, Joe Cocker as a bum, as a Wolfman Jack style pimp performing “Come Together”… or Bono as a Ken Kesey/Timothy Leary type singing… or Eddie Izzard as Mr. Kite, or the remarkable number at the inducton center where all the young inductees in their briefs are poked and prodded and tested and measured by square jawed Army drill instructors .. until the inductees become GIs tramping throught the jungles of Vietnam carrying the Statue of Liberty on their shoulders, singing “She’s So Heavy”- the audience at Toronto gave huge ovations, thunderous applause after each of these scenes. Jim Sturgess, who plays Jude, has bits of the Beatle look – the accent, real presence and and a terrific voice. His performance of “Revolution” is a showstopper. Evan Rachel Wood holds her own, singing effectively and playing the suburban ingenue who becomes radicalized and swept up in the world of a Weatherman-style Svengali. Overall, a wild ride – amazing eye candy, good music, and an effective if sometimes thin love story. Check it out.

ATONEMENT (Dir. Joe Wright, 2007)


More bigtime Oscar bait, this is director Joe Wright’s ( Pride and Prejudice) adaptation of the Ian McEwan novel about a doomed love.Keira Knightly is Cecelia Tallis the daughter of a genteel British family, who falls in love with a son one of the family’s servants. As played by James McAvoy, Robbie had been sent to Oxford through the generosity of the Tallis family’s scion, with plans to go on to medical school in a year. One summer some years before WWII the couple fall in love, but a younger sister Briony sees the couple in moments of intimacy, moments of awkwardness, and sets on a campaign to destroy this relationship out of jealousy and young girl’s caprice. This younger sister Briony is precocious, literary, willful, and destructive. Her childish petulance sets of a sequence of hurtful events that changes lives and loves … and only as an adult, seeking atonement for her youthful actions, does she fully understand the consequences of her actions. A beautiful, lyrical, almost painterly film with real emotion and deeply fely performances across the board.

LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (Dir. Craig Gillespie, 2007)

One of the breakout hits of the festival, LARS AND THE REAL GIRL is a wry, droll human comedy about a small town Minnesota misfit , so withdrawn that his first real girl is a life sized love doll ordered over the internet. Yet Lars (played by Ryan Gosling) is a gentle courtier, escorting the wheelchair bound Bianca around town, introducing her to friends and relatives until she becomes….. accepted as, well, one of the community and Lars’ special friend. But when Bianca takes ill, Lars has to confront the realities of mortality and love and loneliness…. a sweet sad hopeful ending that takes a quirky conceit and builds to layers of meaning. Bound to be one the most-discussed films of the fall.

NAISSANCE DES PIEVRES ( or… WATER LILIES) (Dir. Celine Sciamma, 2007)


A little French film about 3 teenaged girls involved with synchronized swimming…. but a powerful artfully made film about the yearning of youth and a entree deep into the secret pains of being on girl on the cusp of adulthood, sexuality and all the rest. Floriane is the star, the blonde diva of the team, yet friendless because resented by her teammates for her beauty and her precocious sexuality. She takes as her “protege” the lanky, younger, tomboyish Marie, awestruck to be allowed into Floriane’s world.. unitl she learns part of her role is to serve as a “cover” for Floriane’s nightly assignations with a young stud form the men’s swimming team. Their relationship becomes a tortured dance of dependency, attachment and sexual attraction as an escape form the world of men. Anne is the other girl, Marie’s everyday friend, tall, heavy, doughy faced but edgy and perceptive, and filled herself with yearning for the boy of Floriane’s secret nights. The dynamics of jealousy, envy, desire, friendship and the pain of youthful longing fill every scene.. the three girls are a revelation, the dialogue is minimal, but the aching and emotion are real. A small special film, but one worth watching for if it ever sees the light of day.

NIGHTWATCHING (Dir. Peter Greenaway, 2007)

A Peter Greenaway film about Rembrandt’s creation of his masterpiece Nightwatch. Shoot on a soundstage, but with detailed costumes and props, but stagy, talky, full of clever but arch and brittle dialogue, more an intellectual exercise than a movie…. At over two hours, we ankled after 40 minutes. Love Rembrandt, hated the movie.

THE WALKER (Dir. Paul Scrader, 2007)

Another stinker form Paul Schrader, of all people. Woody Harrellson plays a gay, aristocratic Washington, D.C. “Walker”, that is, one who escort women of a certain age to society functions when their politician bigwig husbands are otherwise engaged. Harrelson affects a syrup thin Southern accent to suggest his patrician Virginia lineage, but it’s all too bogus and fey. Lauren Bacall, Krisitin Scott Thomas and Lily Tomlin (!) portray the society dames and politician wives with whom he consorts. But about a third of the way in Krisitin Scott Thomas’ secret lover is killed, Woody is suspected, and the whole movie turns into a dreary, slowpaced and talky murder mystery that makes sense, especially if you are falling asleep half the time. Something about the Vice President being blackmailed… or maybe not, who knows?

LA FILLE COUPEE EN DEUX
(AKA – A GIRL CUT IN TWO) (Dir. Claude Chabrol, 2007)

French master Claude Chabrol brings us this overheated love triangle. A hot young TV weather girl becomes smitten by a lecherous writer, married and much praised for his art… and he “educates” the young girl in the ways of love… sort of. And professes his love, but walks away when she gets too clingy. At the same time, a petulant wealthy young horndog pursues the girl, out of attraction, and partly because he resents the older writer who has settled in the same provincial town. He cadges abnd cajoles, and pleads and whines until the girl marries him… and then rails at the older horndog writer for having corrupted her (when he wanted to corrupt her exclusively for himself!). So anyhow, the writer shows up in town to receive an award and do a public reading. And the younger guy shoots him at the lectern.. and of course, kills… for corrupting his young bride. Ans is sent to jail. And refuses to see his bride ever after. Coulda been a juicy farce, but sadly wasn’t… enough.
Bruce Stone (9/2007)

Thanks for the Toronto report Stone! Don’t be a stranger.

More later…

–>

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: