This is in part because with soccer over, I foolishly volunteered to be the trainer for Ros' hockey team. Which then turned into me being the trainer *and* the manager of her hockey team. (They can clearly tell new suckers in this league a mile away.) All of which has meant doing an online first aid course and an online Respect in Sport course (a.k.a. the "Don't Be a Jerk" course), and setting up mailing lists and Team Snap accounts and aiiieeee!
It is also in part because in the little spare time I've had left, my brain has now been fully eaten by Captain America Stucky fandom. (So. Much. Fic.)
In between film fest screenings, I not only ducked out to buy the Cap: Civil War disk, I finally broke down and got a Funko Pop Cap bobble head. And ordered a Winter Soldier bobble head to keep him company. And when I told Ros not to tell her dad what I'd done, she promptly stuck this note to our front door*:
My daughter is a grass.
(*Note the BistoCon note paper. *g*)
I have to say, seeing only 11 films, and taking a few days off to do that has resulted in a nicely relaxed festival experience. Usually by the end of the fest I feel like a brain-damaged zombie. This year, I feel almost refreshed. And I ended with two films that, while not spectacular, were engaging in radically different ways.
( Reviews this way... )
That's all she wrote.
For my next adventure, I'm off to see Benedict Cumberbatch do Hamlet in London with a bunch of mates. This time on Wednesday I'll be in a plane over the Atlantic. Yikes!
( Reviews this way. )
In other news, while the Sweetie was out at his own screenings tonight, I managed to talk Ros into watching the first episode of Gilmore Girls. (I was trying to stave off yet another episode of Lego Friends on Netflix.) She quite enjoyed it, but I'd forgotten quite how much Lorelai talks about getting pregnant when she was sixteen.
Unfortunately, I haven't run into any stars yet. I was especially gutted to find out after the fact that one of my faves, the Bean, was in town in support of The Martian. He's one of exactly two actors I would actually stalk on the red carpet. The other, Viggo Mortensen, I did track down a few years back and got his autograph. Ah, well. At least it led to fun photos like this. The Bean and Donald Glover in the same picture is sort of awesome.
I'm only seeing eleven films this year. I was originally supposed to be up to my eyeballs in training at work this week, so I only got eleven tickets. But then the project I was working on imploded, which meant I could take a few days off to see films rather than cramming them all into the evenings, and take it all at a more leisurely pace. Which is nice for a change.
I've seen four films so far, two British, two Chinese. The Chinese ones have been...interesting, but the British ones have both been amazing.
( This way to the reviews... )
( The Very Good )
( The Not-So-Good )
( Here's the poster )
The film start out with a boy's voice narrating the story of Markov and Hamilton, two soldiers in the French Foreign Legion. Markov and Hamilton are the best scouts in their unit.
They're devoted to each, and work together in perfect harmony.
But then Hamilton is caught in an ambush when they're on an unauthorized attempt to hunt a leopard they'd seen, and Markov abandons their weapons to save his friend, breaking the rules of the Legion.
And that's where the story really starts. Markov and Hamilton turn out to be Mourad Massaev, a Chechnyan, and Michaël Hernandez, and they both end up leaving the Legion. Because he broke the rules, Massaev is not given the French citizenship he'd been counting on and chooses to stay in France as an illegal. And because he's been wounded, Hernandez is not allowed to re-enlist as he wants to do. Adding to the complications, Massaev has a young son in Paris he now must look after.
The film follows these two supremely competent soldiers as they struggle to deal with the ordinary details of civilian life, and while that doesn't sound too exciting, it's a really exquisite film. Massaev is very matter-of-fact with his son, grilling him on the protocols of what to do when his father leaves him alone to work a night job. Hernandez is committed to working hard at his recovery. And both men maintain their connection with each other, in spite of the difficulties they're having.
I won't say any more, because there's a second half revelation that's gutting and takes the film into new territory and makes me love it even more. If you have a chance to see the film, definitely grab it.
The second film I saw this day was The Face of an Angel, Michael Winterbottom's take on the Amanda Knox murder case. The Knox case is the sort of sordid tabloid drama I generally avoid reading about, but I thought Winterbottom might be able to make something interesting out of it. The film stars Daniel Brühl, who I'm fond of, as a filmmaker trying to create some sort of story out of the case. Unfortunately, the whole thing is a bit of a mess, and it all gets rather silly as Brühl's character goes out of control on cocaine as he's trying to find an angle that will allow him to film the story. I'd definitely recommend giving this one a miss.
First up was Mr. Turner, Mike Leigh's biopic about the painter. ( Which has a striking poster )
I knew Turner's paintings, but nothing about the man, so it was fascinating. The film shows Turner as a rough character (he was the son of a Covent Garden barber) but as it goes on you get more glimpses of his vulnerabilities. One thing I found stood out was how much death is shown to be a part of everyday life in 19th century England. Every single character is shown to have dead children, spouses and siblings. And as Turner, Timothy Spall does a bang up job, doing much with just a look or a growl. It's not a perfect film, and does perhaps drag a bit, but it worth a watch.
My second film was Don't Go Breaking My Heart 2, a Hong Kong rom com directed by Johnnie To. To is prolific and works in all sorts of genres, and he's produced a number of masterpieces. (If you want to see a brilliant Chinese action film, check out his Drug War.) This is not a masterpiece. It's not even very good. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it's bad. The film is full of wacky misunderstandings that make even less sense than usual in this genre, and at the end, when the main female character dumps her fiance at the altar for the bloke who's been pursuing her throughout the film, it comes off as creepy and dumb rather than at all charming. If you're looking to check out a HK rom com, this would not be the one to start with.
Next up was Far from Home, the first film with Viggo. It's set at the start of the Algerian war for independence. Viggo plays a teacher, Daru, in an isolated area who's given the job of transporting a young Arab man accused of murdering his cousin to the nearest town. Knowing he'll be taking the young man to a guaranteed death sentence, Daru is reluctant to carry out his assignment, but his hand is forced when the man's relatives arrive to try and kill him. He and the young man make a run for the town, and are caught between the rebels and the French forces fighting them.
( Here's a couple of still from the film )
In spite of the fact that both the above stills show Viggo with a gun, what's so refreshing about the film is that the character keeps trying to avoid bloodshed, and what's truly important to him is teaching his students. (The final scene, with Daru back in his school, had me in tears.) And Viggo has wonderful chemistry with the actor playing the young man, Reda Kateb. All, in all, I'd highly recommend it.
My last film for the day was In the Crosswind, an Estonian film about Stalin's deportation of people from the Baltic states to Siberia during World War II. I picked this one for its connection to my family. My dad was Latvian, and two of his cousins were deported to Siberia during this time. (Astoundingly, they survived. When I went to Latvia with my dad ten years ago, they were still alive, and were two very sweet, very tough old ladies.)
The way In the Crosswind is filmed is extraordinary. The director set up a tableau for each scene, with the camera tracking through the actors and the scenery, gradually revealing what's going on as on the soundtrack an actress reads the letters of a woman who was deported and also survived. At the Q & A afterwards, the director said he decided on the technique when he was reading letters from deportees at the national archive and found one where the writer said he felt that time had stopped for them in Siberia. The director also said that it took between two and six months to film each separate scene, and four years to complete the film.
( Here are a couple of shots of tableaux )
This technique could have fallen completely flat, but it works incredibly effectively. In each scene, the camera travels through the set and actors to only gradually reveal the horror of the scene. The whole thing was very tense, and very affecting, and if you get a chance to see it, I'd highly recommend it.
There have been no Cumberbatch encounters at the fest (though I passed the theatre where The Imitation Game was playing just as he was leaving and saw a huge crowd of people waiting to see him outside) but there have been not one but two Viggo sightings!
He was at the screenings of both of his films I saw (Jauja was very good, and Far from Men was very definitely great) and was his usual thoughtful and funny and generous self during the Q & As. He was passionate speaking about the films, but always pushed forward his directors and co-stars to speak first.
The screening of Jauja today was in the smallish screening room at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and the Sweetie and I ended up going out through the same door as Viggo and were right behind him. I could have talked to him--he was also generous about taking time to everyone who approached him, but I chickened out. (I did my gush over Viggo thing at his Alatriste screening, crikey, eight years ago.) He was taking pictures with people after outside, and I was tempted, but he finally left just as I was getting my courage up.
But I did get a blurry UFO picture of him, his director and co-star at the Far from Men screening. (I think I've just about made peace with the fact that the iPhone really isn't up to low light pictures in theatres.)
And here's a much better pro shot taken the same day. You can see the Montreal Canadiens pin he was wearing on his lapel, the stinker. *g* (Almost every time I've seen him here, whether at the fest or doing an event at Lightbox, he wears a Canadiens pin or jersey or waves a Habs flag, just to annoy the Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Which, since I am no Leafs fan, amuses me greatly.
Skipping back to the first day of TIFF.
My fest had a rather inauspicious start with The Valley, an international co-production from a Senegalese director working in Lebanon. It sounded potentially promising. It starts with a heard but not seen car crash in the desert, from which emerges a man with a head injury and no memory. He goes in search of help and finds four people whose car has broken down. When he fixes their car, they feel they have to take him in. But as is gradually revealed, they're not innocent travellers. They run a drug lab in a desolate area of Lebanon. And a war is gradually closing in around them.
You could make an interesting film with that premise. The Valley is not that film. It's full of people staring into the middle distance while not much happens, or sitting tensely together while not much happens, and one character is occasionally seen creating ominous charcoal drawings that I'm sure are meant to be highly significant but don't really do much. But ultimately, it doesn't amount to much more than a line voiced by one character after war finally breaks out: "The Middle East is fucked."
On the positive side, the director knows how to compose an image, and he does incredible things with sound. (He manages to create a complete invasion with only sound and a few distant CGI effects.)
Fortunately, my second film of the day was a huge improvement.
The Dead Lands is an epic set in pre-colonial New Zealand, with dialogue entirely in Maori. It starts off with two rival tribes meeting years after a war between them to honour the bones of their dead ancestors. But the visiting tribe desecrates the bones and accuses the son of the other tribe, and uses this as an excuse to come back and massacre all the men of the tribe. The only male survivor is the teenage son, who feels he then has to track down the killers of his tribe.
He's outnumbered and outclassed, but then the rival tribe decides to take a short cut home through the dead lands, a place where another tribe was killed, and now said to be the home of a flesh-eating demon. The son seeks the help of the demon, who turns out to be the last member of the missing tribe, and a great warrior.
The film is gorgeously shot, and has a number of well-choreographed fight scenes. And the demon warrior is played by Lawrence Makoare, who amongst other roles played Lurtz, a.k.a. the Orc that killed Boromir in the first LotR movie.
As an added bonus, the entire cast came out and did a Maori haka during the credits. And someone filmed it!
Now I really want to go back to New Zealand...
I've got a few spare minutes before I've got to dash off and pick up Ros, so I thought I'd put up at least one quick film fest review. And I thought I'd pick the one that might be most relevant to the interests of people on my flist: Pride.
This is a fictional account of the true story of LGSM, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners, a group of London activists who decided to support a small Welsh mining village during the miner's strike in '80s Britain.
Here's a shot of the activists in question:
With the exception of Dominic West in the middle of the back row, (ETA: And Andrew Scott! I forgot Andrew Scott!) they're mostly young, unknown actors, but they're all wonderful. The people in the mining village are more recognizable faces (Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Paddy Considine), and are also wonderful. The movie is smartly written, funny and heartwarming, but also has some bite, given the politics involved. I loved it, and I wasn't alone. The entire audience rose to its feet during the credits to give the filmmakers an extended standing ovation. And while Toronto's film fest audience has the rep of being enthusiastic, we're not always that enthusiastic. The film really is quite special.
Making the screening even more special was the fact that three of the real people involved (two of the gay activists, and a miner's wife who ended up getting a degree after the strike and becoming a Labour MP) joined the filmmakers for a Q&A at the end.
Consider this an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
Although, I'm not sure he'd look like an Alison, even as a girl. *g*
In other news, the film fest continues apace. Ten films down, eight to go, and no time at all to do reviews yet. But the score so far is:
And that ain't a bad average, really.
It didn't hurt that I ended up this close to Tom Hiddleston when I got out of my first screening at the same time he was getting out of his limo and hitting the red carpet. I'd show you my pic of him, but he's more of a fuzzy, Tom Hiddleston-shaped object in it. (I was running to get in line for his film and just got a quick snap with the iPhone.) But here's a good pic of him at the press conference for the film:
I have to say, in person he's even taller and skinnier that I'd expected. And he was even smarter and more articulate than I'd hoped during the Q&A.
( This way to my thoughts on the night's films )
The very first day I see Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tom Hiddleston as a centuries-old rock star vampire and Tilda Swinton as his lover. Since I'm seeing the first screening, I've got my fingers crossed that they both turn up.
In spite of the fact that he's in three films at the fest, I'm not seeing Benedict Cumberbatch in anything. But the very last film I'm seeing, an Irish comedy called The Stag, stars Andrew Scott, Sherlock's Moriarty.
My whole schedule is here. I'm hoping I'll actually keep up with the reviews this year.
But in spite of the fatigue, I had a good year. Not a brilliant one, but a good one, with only one dodgy film and a bunch of really interesting ones.
There's no way I'm going to get reviews written of everything this year (not with the Pros BB story due Sunday, aiieeee!) so I thought I'd link to trailers of some of the best stuff I saw.
( First up, the documentaries )
And now I'm going to crash, in the hopes that I'll be recovered enough to finally do a Tae Kwan Do class tomorrow morning.
But I did want to mention one film for now. I saw Julien Temple's London - The Modern Babylon last night, and it is brilliant and exhilarating. Temple has taken archival footage of London from the late Victorian period to the present and turned it into a fascinating people's history of the city. It's a love letter, but one that doesn't overlook the bad sections, like riots and bigotry and the 7/7 bombings. There's a fascinating section on the Blitz, and an equally fascinating bit about the Battle of Cable Street where Jewish residents took on British fascists trying to march through their neighbourhood. And even such pop ephemera as a 17 year-old David Jones/Bowie being interviewed over the creation of a defence league for long-haired boys. And the music is to die for, everything from London Calling to Waterloo Sunset, and a hundred years of popular music.
So until I can get the reviews done, I thought I'd post the trailers of three of my favourite films of the fest.
First up, Ralph Fiennes' Coriolanus, which manages to both be an ingenious modern day version and just a cracking fine film:
Watch it here if the embed fails
Second is Wim Wenders' Pina, a 3D film of the modern dance of the late choreographer Pina Bausch. It's stunning and beautiful and the best use of 3D I've seen since Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.
Direct link to the trailer
Finally, there's Headhunters, a far too fun Norwegian thriller:
And the direct link
Of the two remaining films, one was a hoot, and one interesting but not quite as good as I'd hoped.
( Spanish E.T. rom-com, and Hong Kong bankers and gangsters )
( Comic-Con doc, a Norwegian thriller, sex addiction and a Quebecois school drama )