When people ask me, in the days to come, what my “highlight of TIFF” was, I will answer with absolute certainty. Friday was a day of highlights, but the top one was surely the screening of the piping hot, fresh-out-of-the-TIFF-ovens restoration of Crime Wave, which I got to attend with director John Paizs.
the first five minutes of the best Canadian movie ever
But let’s begin at the beginning. I start Friday with a few errands – delivering some weekend TIFF tickets to friends, and so on. I follow it up with a film, though not the one I’d hoped to see. I race to the Scotiabank to see Phoenix, which everyone had been raving about all week, but the final P&I screening is already too jammed by the time I arrive (admittedly kinda late – only a minute or two before the film is scheduled to start). So, I do the only logical thing I could under the circumstances. I look at the schedule and walked into the next available screening, an Argentinian comedy called Two Shots Fired, which started out promising and then meandered into a directionless series of vignettes with no real story to bind it all together. Good concept, shaky execution.
In the afternoon, I have only one priority: to leave myself enough time to shower, change and feel confidently fabulous enough to attend the pre-screening reception for Crime Wave, which is being held on the small but charming rooftop patio of the brand new Beverly Hotel (it’s not where the old Beverly (the bar, I mean) used to be, it’s actually on Queen between John and Peter).
In my first actual moment of outfit-panic during TIFF, I decide I can’t wear the devastatingly hot purple dress I had planned on because it clashes with the red lipstick I have fallen in love with. First world girl problems, or whatever. Don’t judge me, I’ve been looking forward to this night for months. I opt for a mini-skirt & crepe top, with patterned fishnets and T-strap wedges. All black. The red lipstick is a fine match. Phew. The bitch-goddess success hasn’t claimed me yet, though the outfit is 100% on point.
I get to the reception early and chat with Adam “The Editor” Brooks about Crime Wave for a while. We completely agree on one thing: John Paizs has to write and direct another film and we are willing to do whatever it takes to get him there. By the time John arrives, I’m literally buzzing with excitement.
A backstory-aside: when I found out Crime Wave would be restored and screened at TIFF, I emailed John to ask whether there would be any pre- or post-screening receptions, and whether I could a) tag along to them, and b) sit with him for the screening. He seemed to feel that I wouldn’t have to beat any competition off with a stick, but I’m pretty sure he was dead wrong. I managed to swoop in first, that’s all. It’s obviously no secret that I’m a fan of John’s work, but I actually feel pretty honoured to call him a friend as well. By which I mean “I’m glad he lets me bully my way into sitting next to him at his screening, because I sure loved it.”
The reception is lovely, I have a glass of wine and a tiny amount of (actually pretty delicious) food because I’m too nervousxcited about the screening to eat properly (besides, I don’t want to mess up the red lipstick). At a certain point, John tells me he has to go to the Lightbox for a tech check and I opt to head down with him, for the full VIP experience. The check goes fine, and I continue to float about seven inches above the ground for the entire time that we’re inside TBL Cinema 4 (a small but really lovely space, one of my festival faves, actually). I get to briefly meet Jonathan Ball, the writer whose book on Crime Wave was part of the impetus for this whole event (I have a copy, I got it right before TIFF and haven’t had time to read it yet, but of course it’s at the top of my post-festival list).
The restoration, of course, looks and sounds incredible, and it’s such a joy to be reminded of some of my favourite jokes (and a few I’d forgotten about). And what a pleasure, to hear John laugh along with the crowd. Only regret of TIFF: not being able to buy that charming genius a post-screening drink, because I have to jet off to the Midnight Madness screening.
Though, I do not at all regret attending the Midnight Madness screening, as it is the funniest film of the year, What We Do in the Shadows, and I get to sit next to The Moms (mine and Colin’s) who came out for it. Who would have guessed that one of the most heartwarming and hilarious films of the festival would be a Spinal-Tap-esque mockumentary comedy about vampires? And yet, Taika Waititi & Jemaine Clement’s film is just about the best thing I’ve seen all year. The jokes all land exactly where they’re supposed to, but there’s an unexpected line of real emotion running through the whole thing that really touched me. Brilliant stuff.
The film is both hilarious and heartwarming, and just as I think my day was coming to an end as we all shuffle out of the Ryerson, Colin gets a text from a friend asking us to join him and the team from the French gala The Connection, at a private speakeasy recommended to him earlier in the week. Since it’s right around last call, we text a quick “yes”, ask them to order us a couple of old fashioneds, and hop into a cab.
It’s so nice to have a low-pressure drink with a good friend and some assorted French charmers (but no, Jean Dujardin wasn’t there). The staff close the place shortly after the other patrons leave, and then let us drink (and smoke!) in the bar until past 4am. The French are especially thankful for the opportunity to smoke indoors. I am thankful for the potato chips (I skipped dinner due to Crime Wave butterflies) and the personal bourbon tasting menu I’m treated to by the delightful bartendrix.
Another late night, but a wonderful one. Can anything at TIFF 2014 top that Crime Wave screening, though? Probs not.
p.s. Crime Wave bonus: this is my new ringtone.
Too few days till TIFF, that’s the answer. Too few days and too many movies to wade through!
I have barely looked at the announcements this year. I’ve been busy with things like prepping for and attending Frontières @ Fantasia, and moving my office, and trying to keep up with Royal-related tasks, and submitting 100 funding applications for Birdland, and tackling the post-Fantasia rewrite of the script for Rite of the Witch Goddess, and trying to spend a bit of time with family at the cottage.
The cottage is a wonderful joy in my life and the pictures I post on Facebook make it seem like it’s nothing but barbecues and lake swims, and while that is mostly true, this year I was so exhausted by the time we got here that all I could do was sleep and stare off into space, at least for a few days.
It’s been a great chance to recharge, and spend time with both sets of parents, and my sister-in-law and niece (the cutest cutie in cutesville), and try to step away from social media (not entirely, but I check my phone approximately 200 times less per day up here than I do in Toronto and I feel like it’s helping me regrow brain cells).
And now I’m finally doing something that usually takes up a huge and pleasurable chunk of my summer, and that is: checking the TIFF lists and making some dream-lists. I know there are announcements yet to come, but I gotta get started.
Here’s my initial list, based on a quick glance at the TIFF website. I’ll delve more deeply when the book comes out. Here they are in order of programmes:
I’ll probably just wait for most of these to come out in theatres, because they surely will. But there is one I might try to catch at TIFF: The Connection. It stars Jean Dujardin, the sexiest actor alive, so it’s worth it, right? Plus, I saw the promo in Cannes and it looked really fun.
The other two Galas I’d like to catch are Maps to the Stars and Foxcatcher, both of which I missed in Cannes but really wanted to see. And I’m curious about The Judge, because Robert Downey Jr is second only to Jean Dujardin in my heart. Realistically though, I won’t bother with most of these at the Festival.
One highly anticipated film and one that I’ll see for the experience. First, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence. Guys! A new Roy Andersson film! If you haven’t seen Songs from the Second Floor, do yourself a favour and seek it out immediately. This one’s my most anticipated Swedish joint of the year! Exclamation marks!
And yes, I am curious to see the Godard, Goodbye to Language 3D, in actual 3D.
Usually the least-frequented-by-me TIFF section this year it features several titles I’m excited about. A few Canadians, like Denys Arcand’s An Eye for Beauty and Xavier Dolan’s Mommy (I’m not a huge fan, but lots of trusted pals loved this one at Cannes so I’m willing to give him another chance).
There’s also a few by filmmakers who are on my “usually worth it” list, like Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young, Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden and Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini (it’s not about Ferrara, it’s that I’m actually too big a Pasolini fan not to see this one).
And of course, my absolute most anticipated film of the festival, Hal Hartley’s Ned Rifle. I want to re-watch Henry Fool and Fay Grim before TIFF just to get in the mood but I doubt I’ll have the time. I’ve written before about the profound impact of Hartley’s work on my life (and the way he is eternally connected to TIFF, for me). I remember the powerful, visceral reaction I had to Trust when I first saw it, accidentally, on TV, nearly 25 years ago. I was thrilled to be able to support both his most recent films on Kickstarter and I am totally elated that this one is playing at TIFF. Feels like a weirdly personal homecoming (maybe more for me than for Hartley, but let’s not quibble).
Perhaps because other titles haven’t been announced yet or perhaps because Discovery has become the de facto replacement for the Canada First programme, everything in this section that I’m excited about is Canadian.
There’s the delightfully weird-sounding Bang Bang Baby, by Jeffrey St Jules (whose short, The Tragic Story of Nling, charmed me ages ago). This one’s also produced by a friend so I’m excited to support his success as well. There’s Corbo, about a Quebec teen and the founding of the FLQ. There’s Songs she Wrote about People she Knows, by the director of Doppelgänger Paul, a film I really enjoyed a few TIFFs ago. There’s Wet Bum, winner of the best title award and also produced by a couple of rad women I know who I would like to cheer on.
I love documentaries. I might love them more than I even love features, but I don’t make as much time for them in my life. Lots of great ones coming to TIFF, as usual. Of course, Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to The Act of Killing, The Look of Silence, is on my list and everyone else’s. I’m also curious to catch Sturla Gunnarsson’s Monsoon, and Nick Broomfield’s The Grim Sleeper.
Contemporary World Cinema
This catch-all hodgepodge category is always a chore to wade through. At least with Wavelengths or Vanguard or even Special Presentations you have some basic sense of the curatorial voice of the section. CWC is “everything from everywhere”, and it’s usually full of amazing films, so it’s not like you can just skip over it.
Here’s a few that sound intriguing. Behavior, from Cuba. Bird People, from France. Cut Snake, from Australia. The Grump, from Finland. I’ll watch anything from Finland, just about. Canadian Stéphane Lafleur’s Tu Dors Nicole, which I wanted to catch in Cannes. Partners in Crime, from Taiwan. The Reaper, from Croatia. Two Shots Fired, from Argentina.
And then there’s Li’l Quinquin, from Bruno Dumont. I thought La vie de Jesus was one of the best films of the decade. I was lukewarm on L’humanité and hated Twentynine Palms with a fiery passion I usually reserve for … I dunno, Julie Taymor.
I’ll go on the “why that movie is sexist and dumb and hateful and pretentious” rant some other time. The point is, I’ve been on a Dumont hiatus and this new oddity seems like it might be worth returning for.
After Ned Rifle, my most anticipated TIFF screening will be the restored version of John Paizs’ Crime Wave. I’ve written elsewhere about my love of the film, so I don’t need to repeat myself, but I will say this. I’m going to go to this screening, and I’m going to sit next to John Paizs, and maybe squeeze his arm out of un-containable excitement, and I’m going to have the best 90 minutes of my festival.
I might also try to catch Atom Egoyan’s Speaking Parts, because it’s a good film and because I know one of the actors who starred in it and I always enjoy the rare chance to see a pal on the big screen. Especially a pal as the fresh-faced youngster he was a whopping 25 years ago, a long-ass time before I met him!
I’ve seen a few of these already (because I live with the programmer) but I still heartily recommend them: Alleluia (a fave of mine from Cannes), Goodnight Mommy, Luna (Dave McKean! All those Sandman covers! Arkham Asylum!) and Spring.
And there are several others that are very high on my list. Peter “Berberian Sound Studio” Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy, for example. Or Takashi Miike’s Over Your Dead Body. Or Tetsuya Nakashima’s The World of Kanako.
Let’s face it. Vanguard looks like pretty much all hits and no misses this year.
What’s the point of even writing about this section? I’m married to it. I’m biased in its favour. And I’m excited about them all, obviously. Especially the ones I haven’t seen yet, but also the ones I have.
Tell me pals, what must-sees have I missed so far?
I’ve talked and written a lot about my love of this far-too-little-known but gob-smackingly smart, funny and unique film by brilliant Winnipegger John Paizs. Crime Wave is really terrific and hard to find because it’s never been out on DVD, so you have to either look for it on VHS, on torrent sites, or at your local rep theatre where it occasionally pops up for screenings, usually using the director’s own print.
My most succinct article about the film is probably this one, which I wrote for Toronto Film Scene. It really encapsulates how I feel about the film. And (I hope at least), some of what makes it important. So, y’know, go read that first, then continue on to the next paragraph. And watch the film. For god’s sake, find a way to watch the film.
The reason I’m writing about Crime Wave again is just that I wanted to let you (the world) know that a book has just been released about the film (using a few more words than I can in a tweet or FB status update). University of Toronto Press has released this awesomeness by Jonathan Bell, which can be bought from them or even on Amazon. Google that shit and get it. A paperback will cost you under $15, which is really a worthwhile investment in discovering a little piece of cinematic history that will quickly win your heart.
This piece of lost Canadiana deserves all the attention this book gives it and more, and I sincerely hope someone takes on the worthy task of restoring the film and putting it out in some kind of more easily accessible digital format, like DVD or BluRay. I’m gonna say TIFF should get that ball rolling on that task, because when they send out press releases like this one, I gotta ask “where on your ‘To Do’ list is Crime Wave and why haven’t you gotten to it yet?”
All I can say about this book, having not read it yet, is that I can’t wait to read it. And that I’m a little bit sorry I didn’t write it first.