I did something really fun on Monday. I saw three public screenings in a row. The public audience at TIFF is great for a lot of reasons. They tend to be quite respectful of the films (sure, sometimes someone talks or pulls a cell phone out but it’s about 95% less likely to happen than it would on an average Friday night at the Cineplex). They’re genuinely interested in the films, so they’re attentive, and they’re fun to chat with in the lineup before the movie or as you shuffle out afterwards. People gasp, cheer, cry, laugh and express their enjoyment (something I often miss with P&I crowds, especially when it comes to funny movies). Sure, Q&As always have the potential to be cringe-worthy when pompous cinephiles insist on sharing their comments-not-questions or when people ask dumb or inappropriate things, but for the most part public audiences are a lot more fun and invigorating.
Aside / note to Q&A question askers: I know I’ve said this before, but I will say it again. Don’t ask filmmakers what their budget was. It might seem like a pretty innocuous question to you and it’s only natural to be genuinely interested in what level of resources were required to make something you’re really impressed by, but there are lots of reasons why filmmakers will never actually give you a straight answer to this question. If their film is looking for distribution, they don’t want to reveal what it cost to make to potential buyers because it could affect the price that they’re offered. They could be devaluing their film by admitting it was cheaper than it looks, for example. Don’t put people in the awkward position of having to politely sidestep this question. Just don’t ask. You might be able to get filmmakers to reveal this info in private but a public Q&A just isn’t the place.
Anyway. First up was Chevalier, by Attenberg director Athina Rachel Tsangari. It’s a funny and slightly absurd but enormously enjoyable dismantling of the male ego. The story centres around a group of friends on a diving vacation who invent a game intended to determine who among them is “the best” (at everything). Which is the kind of game that will inevitably chip away at their confidence, their friendships, and their sense of self. Great stuff from Greece!
Next up I saw what is probably my favourite crime drama of the year (or longer), The Ardennes. In the setup, a takes the fall for a crime that was committed by him, his girlfriend and his brother. Cut to four years later, he’s getting out of jail and his brother and (sort-of-ex) girlfriend have to contend with his return. A simple and not wildly original setup that unfurls into a really smart, unexpected and very dark story. I can’t recommend this one highly enough. It’s “top ten of 2015” material, easily.
Last but certainly not least, I saw Schneider vs. Bax, the latest by Borgman director Alex van Warmerdam. The story (about two hitmen who have been hired to kill each other) is less strange than Borgman, but is definitely darkly comic and mildly absurd, which I think is the director’s steez.
It was an overwhelmingly successful movie-watching day, made even better by the fact that I could then trudge off to the hotel and be in bed long before the midnight show let out. A sane and healthy TIFF continues, at least in my neck of the woods.