Thursday, August 23, 2007

Most Anticipated: Visions

Midnight Madness may have the more exciting line-up this year, but Visions is probably my favorite programme of the festival. It's like the Midnight programme's intellectual older brother--still weird, but more respectable, and definitely smelling less like bongwater and Cheetos (not that there's anything wrong with that). In the past two years, some of my favorite films of the festival have been in this programme, though this year's line-up seems heavier on the "personal journeys" angle, and lighter on the "what-the-hell-am-I-watching?" angle. Regardless, it's a pretty interesting group of films. Let's get on with it...


M (Lee Myung-Se)

His last film, Duelist, played the festival in '05, and to say it divided the audience is putting it mildly. I remember watching the trailers and thinking it was going to be a generic action flick, only to be taken aback by the sheer, willful strangeness of the actual film. Myung-Se mixes styles, tones and perspectives with an anarchic glee that hovers somewhere between genius and lunacy. His films are high-wire acts and what, on first glance, appears to be a poor sense of narrative, gradually reveals itself to be a love for it in all its myriad forms--a love frustrated by traditional narrative's limitations. If you can't tell, I'm something of a fan and I can't wait to see what he pulls off with the horror melodrama genre.

You, the Living (Roy Andersson)

Songs from the Second Floor is brilliant and this is (allegedly) its less somber mirror image. Should be amazing.

Could Be Interesting:

Dans la Ville de Sylvia (Jose Luis Guerin)

I think the "mostly wordless" description is what excites me most. It's acceptance at both the Venice and New York Film Festivals doesn't hurt.

Dr. Plonk (Rolf de Heer)

A modern silent film that appears to perfectly replicate the look and feel of 1920's silent cinema. Could be a nice palate cleanser in the middle of the festival's heavier offerings.

Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang)

I'm probably the only person who really liked Invisible Waves (the director's last film), but everyone says this is much better and more in line with his much loved Last Life in the Universe.

Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas)

The critics have almost universally praised this one, with most giving raves. Good enough...

Silent Resident (Christian Frosch)

This one's a conundrum. It's in the Visions programme. The description sounds intriguing. And yet...I've seen not one image or non-TIFF synopsis or discussion that excites me in any way. Wait and see, I suppose...

The Tracey Fragments (Bruce McDonald)

Another conundrum. The synopsis screams out "emo," but the visual conceit--the screen divided into fragments, each one filled with visual information--is the kind of gimmick I support, even if it could just be an exercise in frustration.

That's that. If anyone has ideas or info on any of these, feel free to had your thoughts in the comments.

Next: Vanguard

Most Anticipated: Midnight Madness

Now that the festival is finally gearing up, it's time to make decisions. There are around 275 films at the festival, and only 30 slots for me to fill, so some tough choices have to be made. My personal method is fairly simple. I start by choosing no more than ten must-sees. Then, I research the films and highlight as many interesting options as possible. I separate those into two piles, which I arbitrarily call first and second tier (because it makes me sound professional). Then, when the actual schedule comes out, I cry for three straight days and randomly insert films as best I can. Or at least that's how it usually feels.

Seriously, the schedule itself is the main reason I don't just choose thirty films and wash my hands of the whole thing. If I chose thirty films right out, there would be absolutely no way to fit them all in. Inevitably, the full schedule frustratingly puts similar films in direct time competition with one another, resulting in at least one or two agonizing decisions each and every year. To fight this, I've found it's best to keep an open mind and take some chances. Skip the film that'll be in every theater in a month and see the small film that'll be lucky to get a DVD release in its home country.

Anyway, most of the people reading this probably know all this, so I'll move on to the Midnight Madness programme.


George A. Romero's Diary of the Dead (George A. Romero)
The Mother of Tears (Dario Argento)

Really, do I have to say much? Sure, both will get a theatrical release somewhere down the line, but why pass up the chance to see them with one of the most exciting crowds in the world. It also helps that, despite their spotty records of late, they're still two of the greatest horror directors of all time, and I'll always make time for them.

Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike)

Miike is a TIFF tradition, so I can't miss his latest.

Dainipponjin (Hitoshi Matsumoto)

The wild card of my MM picks. This superhero satire is reportedly very dry and very, very odd, which sounds like the perfect prospect to me.

Also interesting:

All apologies to Colin Geddes, but this year's selection definitely outshines last year's (though The Host was admittedly amazing). Indeed, I'd probably catch all of these if I had the time. Best looking of the rest is Stuart Gordon's Stuck, which looks fairly intense; Wilson Yip's Flash Point (since his SPL in 2005 was tremendously entertaining); and Xavier Gens' Frontieres, which has an intriguingly grungy, political premise.

Next up: Visions. And if anyone has any suggestions or insight regarding the Midnight Madness films, leave a comment. They're always welcome.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Allow Me to (Re)Introduce Myself...

Hi! It's been nearly a year since last year's updates, which I never actually finished. Oops. As should be obvious right about now, I'm not very good with blogs (or podcasts--sorry Mamo). Despite that fact, I've decided to give this thing another go. Call me a masochist, but, just call me a masochist and leave it at that.

A little introduction, I suppose: I'm a writer based in Tennessee, attending my third TIFF. I like kittens, Asian food, kittens in Asian food, and, naturally, film. Last year, I tried to make this blog an introduction to the intricacies of TIFF. I was not very successful. Doing a much, much better job than I ever could is Darren, over at 1st Thursday. He's also from Tennessee and has been running a terrific primer to TIFF for several months now. The conversation is lively and he posts frequently. It's a great site and I recommend starting there if you have any questions or concerns about the festival.

Rather than covering old territory, I'll focus on individual films, programmes and any other topic that pops into my head. It should be exciting, which means it probably won't be. Sorry.

Anyhow, enough of my jibber jabber. Let's get this thing started...