Sunday September 7, 2014
I almost didn’t write about Sunday, because it was somewhat of a “day off” from movies (and when I say “somewhat” I mean “entirely” – I saw nothing on Sunday).
Still, no-movie days are a more-frequent-than-I’d-like reality of my festival life these days, and it was nonetheless a chock-full day of adventures and activities, so I won’t skip over it just because I am too ashamed to admit that I’ve already miserably failed to achieve my “minimum three, maximum five” goal and it’s not even the end of the opening weekend.
I started the day with a fantastic appointment – interviewing Peter Strickland, whose film, The Duke of Burgundy, is shaping up to be one of my absolute faves of the festival. It’s always a pleasure to speak to a smart, articulate, eloquent person about interesting things like relationship dynamics, sado-masochism, and gender politics. But it’s especially pleasant when that person has just made a film that wraps all of those subjects up in a pair of silk stockings and hands it all to you like a sumptuous gift. What a film! And what a charming and intelligent director. I’ll be writing it up for Toronto Film Scene and posting soon.
Meanwhile, the Hal Hartley interview I conducted last week has been posted, and I spent a goodly amount of time on Sunday trying to finish writing it up. The transcription was the easy part. Mr. Hartley speaks clearly and slowly enough that I typed up the 30 minute interview pretty much in real time. But choosing what to keep and how to wrap it up in my own prose was the tough part, since I hadn’t yet, at that point, seen his film. Spoiler alert: I saw it on Monday and loved it beyond measure, but that’s for a blog-post-to-come.
After the interview with Mr. Strickland, at which he gave me a vinyl recording of some cricket sounds (swoon)(except, the gift was actually for Colin!)(he gets all the coolest gifts during this festival), I went to CBC’s Canada House at the corner of Peter and King to watch the REEL CANADA team talk about the importance of Canadian film, and of getting it out there into the world, for the Canadian public to enjoy. It’s always a pleasure to watch people talk about how great we are, but hearing the genuine appreciation from Charles Officer (who took his doc, Mighty Jerome, to five cities across the country with REEL CANADA’s help last Feb as part of a Black History Month) was really touching.
I had lunch at Paese (my favourite of the “across from Lightbox” lunch options, in case you’re asking) with the RC team and then jetted off to meet with a sales agent who’s interested in Rite of the Witch Goddess. After the quickie meeting, I managed to zip back to the hotel for a change of clothes before the Midnight Madness cocktail, where I caught up with an infinite number of people and drank many gin & tonics. People occasionally disbelieve this fact about me, but I’m not naturally great at parties. It can sometimes take me a while to build up to full-schmooze mode, and I find it incredibly draining. I am certainly not one of those lucky extroverts who actually feels energized by interacting with lots of people.
Post-party I had intended to have dinner with the lovely Norbert (director of Replace) and his equally lovely wife Nadine, but after a quick meeting I went to the hotel, crashed, and woke up hours later completely confused and with a phone full of missed calls and texts. C’est la festival vie, eh?
I ordered spicy Thai soup to the hotel room and stayed the hell in for the rest of the night. I’d seen It Follows in Cannes, and while it would have been fantastic to see it on a much bigger screen with a much wilder crowd … going to bed early(ish, my body clock is all screwed up so I didn’t really get to sleep before 2am) was better.
Saturday September 6, 2014
As I sit in my TIFF hotel room writing this, it is Monday morning, and I’m already having trouble remembering what I did on Saturday. Colin gets a hotel room, as part of his job, which is why I am in one. His “workday” ends at 3am every night, and the ability to stroll to and from the Lightbox over the course of a day to change clothes, take a quick nap, and so on, really makes a big difference.
So, Saturday? I started the day with The Duke of Burgundy, which may well end up being one of my TIFF faves. I’m interviewing the director, Peter Strickland (who you may remember from last year’s Berberian Sound Studio) for Toronto Film Scene, and had to make sure I saw the film beforehand. I’m doing two interviews this year, because my editor at TFS is a lovely woman, with two filmmakers I’m so excited about – Strickland, and all-time-lifelong-fave Hal Hartley. That interview’s already in the can. I did it over the phone a few days ago, and was all nerves, but he was charming and eloquent and smart and all the things I wanted and needed him to be. Writing up the interview (and whittling it down to a manageable thousand words or so) will be its own challenge, but I’m ready for it.
I had to tell Hal Hartley, in the interest of honesty, full disclosure, and a smooth interview, that I hadn’t actually seen his film yet – not because the publicist didn’t send me a link, but because I was so looking forward to it that I had to leave myself at least half a film’s worth of surprises for the big screen experience. He seemed okay with this. I’ve written before about how Hartley influenced me, so you might understand just how excited I am about Ned Rifle, a film that stars every member of the ’90s Hartley stable and concludes a trilogy that practically marked the beginning of my own love affair with TIFF in 1997. It’s a big deal, is what I’m saying.
But back to Saturday. The Duke of Burgundy is the kind of movie that I don’t like to spend much time explaining, because it’s better experienced than heard about, the visual and aural beauty of it impossible to describe anyway, and the subtle story difficult to explain without giving too much away.
After the film, I joined Colin for a meeting with a company that might like to hire us to do some consulting. I can’t talk about it yet, but all my fingers are crossed that something works out, because the past year of “producing” has been a lean one for me, and the cost of business development, international travel and so on has all taken its toll. I’m tired. And kind of broke. And looking forward to an autumn spent in Toronto, and not anywhere else.
In the evening I went to see Dave McKean’s Luna, which I was so happy to have made time for on the big screen, because it’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve seen in a long time. I went with my parents, and with Carl, a friend I don’t see enough of and miss all the time and was happy to catch up with for five minutes, though post-TIFF catching up with all my Toronto friends is a big goal.
I joined Colin at the reception for Tusk, the new Kevin Smith film that was playing Midnight on Saturday, where I drank several actually very good cocktails and ate a supremely odd “jalapeño popsicle” before jetting off to the Canadian party while everyone else went off to watch Tusk. I vote #walrusyes, for the record.
The Canadian party was at the Arcadian Court, on the eighth floor of the building at Queen and Yonge that houses The Bay, and it happens to be where my high school held its prom, at least on the year that I graduated. I’m not sure if I’ve been there since, but I can certainly confirm that there wasn’t a gigantic ice sculpture stuffed with mini-champagne bottles at my prom.
I stole a very soft Canada Goose toque from the party. It was on this weird life-sized husky-&-sled diorama that I couldn’t stop myself from hopping onto. I’m sorry, Canada.
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?