Monday, September 10, 2007

TIFF 2007: Days 3 & 4

A few reviews in between vain attempts to get away from the Pitt/Jolie juggernaut. I mean, seriously, there were people lining up outside the Elgin theatre for nearly twelve freaking hours! They closed the street and put up barricades so people would be held back. Did I mention twelve hours!

The confusion actually gave us our favorite moment of the fest so far--watching TIFF head Piers Handling attempt to get through the Brad Pitt barricade, as a recalcitrant volunteer held him up. Runner-up: the anti-smoking rally by earnest college students, right outside the Scotiabank. With all the fucking problems in the world these days, smoking is what gets these kids angry?

Anyway, here's some reviews:

Saturday, Day 3

Les Amours d'Astree et de Celadon (Eric Rohmer) 7/10

A 21st century take on a 17th century audience's understanding of a 5th century story. At first coming off like a high school production, it eventually reveals its slyness and wit, using the sheer distance from the source material's inception to comment wryly on the whole genre. Sounds like a bore, but it becomes more interesting as it goes along, leading to an absolutely sublime final scene, on par with the ending of Before Sunset for swoony, well-deserved happiness.

The Man from London (Bela Tarr) (walk-out...but it's not what you think)

The first hour, filled wall-to-wall with Tarr's standard long, long, looooooong takes, was mesmerizing, the deep-focus black & white photography never boring to watch (many did not agree--Tarr currently holds my 2007 record for most walk-outs). But then it goes downhill after the hero steals a bus and tries to ram the villain's taxi off the road, or whatever it was that happened after I left the theater afraid I was going to vomit. Seems I've picked up a bug of some sort, and it's winding through my system left and right. The good news: it seems to have passed. The bad news: I missed the rest of the Bela Tarr, which I was enjoying a great deal. Oh well.

No Country for Old Men (Ethan Coen) - 9/10

Terrific neo-western from the Coens, who appear to be done with crappy, work-for-hire comedies. I don't think I can add anything to the largely glowing reviews it's gotten since Cannes. A must-see.

Diary of the Dead (George Romero) - 5/10

Intriguing premise, nearly wrecked by insistent voice-over which wildly over-states the film's themes. Look: I know it's supposed to be a college student's fake documentary. But was it so hard to just show us the footage and not spruce it up with Philosophy 101 bullshit about the camera as the window of our world, or something like that. Everything said in the voice-over is conveyed quite well in the rest of the film, leading me to wonder if the whole thing didn't start out as a Masters of Horror project, artificially expanded to full-length. Still, better than the Argento, though more disappointing.

Sunday, Day 4

The Orphanage (J. A. Bayona) - 7/10

Though slow to get started, this is ultimately a rewarding ghost story, though not without flaws. There's very little subtext at work, at first glance--just good solid chills, especially a handful of scenes near the film's ending. Not a classic, but it'll do.

Nightwatching (Peter Greenaway) - 8/10

Greenaway tackles Rembrandt, art history, the nature of art, naked people, etc. Lots of walk-outs, grumbles, shrugs, and the like, but I found it fascinating, even with my limited knowledge of art and art history. And Martin Freeman, as Rembrandt, is fantastic, carrying the film through its occasional dull patches.

With Your Permission (Paprika Steen) - 6/10

Review coming soon.

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