Now that we’ve been at this for four days, we’re settling into the routine pretty well. We wake up and have a little something to eat at the hotel (since we have a kitchen in our room), then head out to the first screening. When we have back-to-back screenings (which are generally separated by an hour), we’ll grab something portable for lunch/dinner and eat it in line for the next screening. At some point, we’ll have time to come back to our hotel for a nap (or simply relaxing while still being awake), then head out to the final screening (taking the subway to each location, as we’re right on the line and most of the theatres are as well).
But there’s also a routine to the screenings themselves, which is of more interest to you, the reader. We’re generally seated 20 minutes or so before the film is due to begin (today I’ve been using that time to write this stuff on my laptop… like I’m doing right now, whereas previously the laptop stayed at home while Kim and I played Scrabble on our iPods). The films never start on time, as they want to give enough time to sell tickets to people in the rush line. Then the festival programmer comes out to introduce the film, thank the sponsors, tell us to turn off electronic devices, and introduce the director/producer who is in attendance (every screening thus far besides Passchendaele has had a representative, generally the director, except in the case of the multi-director effort covered below). The director gives a short intro to the film, and if it’s a premiere, will also introduce the cast in attendance. They then sit down (or leave if they’re not sticking around), the lights dim, and the anti-piracy message comes on screen (to which those in the audience in the know reply “Arrrr”). We get a Bell Lightbox ad (that’s the new festival location that they’re building), then a Universal NBC message thanking the festival volunteers (for whom we in the audience applaud), an annoying Motorolla ad I’m more than tired of, and a Cadillac people’s choice award ad I’m also tired of (but less so than the Moto one), and the film begins.
If it’s a premiere, the toadies in the reserved seats will applaud for the studio/distributor banners of whomever they work for. Generally, the audience will applaud for anyone mentioned in the credits who was announced to be in attendance (whereas toadies will also applaud for people like the DP or others mentioned in the credits that we don’t know). When the film is over, there’s more applause (maybe even a standing O, generally induced by the toadies), and a short Q&A. If Kim and I have another screening to get to, or didn’t particularly like the film, we don’t stick around for that (which is why at TIFF, aisle seats are king. We’re sitting at the aisle right now, in two seats separated from the rest of the row. These may be my favourite seats yet). As we leave the screening, we hand off our ballots for the People’s Choice Award, rinse, repeat.
Read on for musings on New York, I Love You, Ashes of Time Redux, and Plastic City…
New York, I Love You
Director: Fatih Akin, Yvan Attal, Randy Balsmeyer, Allen Hughes, Shunji Iwai, Scarlett Johansson, Shekhar Kapur, Joshua Marston, Mira Nair, Natalie Portman, Brett Ratner, Jiang Wen, Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring: Eva Amurri, Kevin Bacon, Jacinda Barrett, Justin Bartha, Rachel Bilson, Orlando Bloom, James Caan, Hayden Christensen, Julie Christie, Bradley Cooper, Chris Cooper, Andy Garcia, Taylor Geare, Carla Gugino, Ethan Hawke, John Hurt, Irrfan Khan, Shia LaBeouf, Cloris Leachman, Blake Lively, Heather Matarazzo, Drea de Matteo, Emilie Ohana, Natalie Portman, Nicholas Purcell, Maggie Q, Shu Qi, Christina Ricci, Olivia Thirlby, Goran Visjnic, Eli Wallach, Saul Williams, Robin Wright Penn, Anton Yelchin, Burt Young, Ugur Yücel
This collection of vignettes is the second in a planned series of feature-length anthologies celebrating different major cities of the world, following in the footsteps of Paris, Je t’Aime. The producers who put the project together came out for this one, and stressed a couple times (including in an onscreen message) that this is a sneak preview of a work in progress, and by no means the finished project, asking that the press in attendance to avoid critiquing it. I’m not press, but I’ll respect their wishes, mostly because I don’t have much to say. Like any collection of shorts, some work, some don’t. I’d say I liked more than I didn’t, but never fell in love with the whole package. My favourite bits were probably the one with Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, and Rachel Bilson, and the one with Maggie Q and Ethan Hawke, while my least favourite was the bit by Brett Ratner with Olivia Thirlby and Anton Yelchin. Also of note: this was probably the first role by Shia LaBeouf that didn’t annoy me.
Verdict: Pass – If you like short film anthologies featuring a lot of familiar faces, you’ll probably like this one (assuming that it resembles what I saw by the time it’s released).
Ashes of Time Redux
Director: Wong Kar Wai
Starring: Leslie Cheung, Brigitte Lin, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Carina Lau, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Jacky Cheung, Charlie Young, Maggie Cheung
Ashes of Time was originally released in 1994 in Hong Kong, becoming an underground favourite in North America through bootleg tapes. Director Wong Kar Wai chose to revisit his work, reworking some of the footage and soundtrack, coming up with the Redux cut (which is a shorter version at 91 minutes). The film is acclaimed for its lyrical interpretation of the wuxia genre, along with Kar Wai’s trademark visual flare, which is heavy on bright colours. But, it turns out that I’m not a big fan of wuxia films (I never really dug Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon all that much either), especially the heavily metaphorical/barely plotted type that Kar Wai presents here. The visuals certainly were distinct, but the rest simply wasn’t my thing.
Verdict: Ambivalence – Good craftsmanship, but not my type of film. And if you’re looking for a kung-fu-type flick, this will probably bore you to sleep.
Director: Yu Lik-wai
Starring: Joe Odagiri, Anthony Wong, Huang Yi, Tainá Müller, Jeff Chen
Another entry in Asian cinema (which I’ll admit, my exposure to is fairly limited), another director known for his visual flare. Yu Lik-wai (in attendance all the way from Hong Kong, with star Anthony Wong in tow, so what was Paul Gross’ excuse for missing our first screening?!?) started out as a cinematographer, so his flare for visuals is to be expected. Plastic City tells the tale of Japanese bootleggers in Brazil, which certainly made it original. Unfortunately, it was unnecessarily obtuse (without being particularly dense), when a more straightforward story would have been enough. It seemed that key information was simply left out of the film, for no real reason other than an attempt at being arty. It’s too bad, as I was into the first part of the film as a new entry into the gangster genre from a new culture in a new setting. I enjoyed this more than Ashes of Time Redux, but it still turned out that dinner at The Keg (inside a mansion!) was the highlight of our day.
Verdict: Meh – I’m not giving up on it, but Asian cinema might not be my thing (not that the whole of Asia makes all the same kind of movies. What with all the different countries and all).
Tomorrow: Our first four-movie day, including Darren Aronofsky’s latest, two documentaries, and our first of two films starring Mark Ruffalo (dude has three movies at TIFF).