Thursday 8 September 2011

TIFF 2011 Preview

Things have been a might busy with family matters around the household of late, so my preview for this year's Toronto International Film Festival is cutting it close to the wire. It actually begins in earnest today (I told you I was cutting it close), but it's never too late to talk about one of the premiere public film festivals in the world.

I had already culled a good 35 films from their early announcements, so I was pretty sure it wouldn't be a problem filling up my allotment of 30 (I considered getting the 50 film pack this year, but it's much easier managing my current bunch - it's what I've ordered the last 4 years). Anyway, I had my eye on the 15-hour documentary "The Story Of Film", so squeezing a full fifty in with that block of time would've been challenging (though I have a friend who managed it). Once THE BOOK came out with the full listings (over 300 films), I whittled things down to about 70 that caught my eye. From there, it was actually a remarkably quick process of building the schedule - within about half an hour, I had all thirty picks placed ever so nicely on the calendar and included 2 additional free screenings: the aforementioned "Story Of Film" (split in 2 parts over the last weekend of the festival) and Jafar Panahi's "This Is Not A Film" (which I may not get a chance to see due to having very little room between screenings). The great TIFFR tool is partially responsible for helping the choosing process - you add your short list of films, it maps them across all their screenings over the 11 days and then you pick and choose which ones you want to add to your schedule to see what fits. I'm pretty happy and excited about my final schedule (on the TIFFR site) - here's a few reasons why I chose the films:

Dreileben (Christian Petzold, Dominik Graf, Christoph Hochhäusler) - Similar to the Red Riding trilogy, "Dreileben" is three separate films by three separate directors that fit together to create a larger whole - though this time the time frame is roughly the same, but the individual worlds apparently seem somewhat different...Might as well start the fest off with a 4 and a half hour block.

Pina (Wim Wenders) - Wenders is an up and down director for me, so he didn't really factor into my choice. The single screen shot just about sealed the deal for me though - and then I discovered that it is a documentary on dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. Not that I recognize her name, but dance on film has always interested me and this looks gorgeous. It was only after I chose it did I realize it was also in 3-D. I'm not sure how I feel about that news...

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki) - Kaurismaki's Proletariat Trilogy made me a fan for life and I've heard many good things about his latest.

The Raid (Gareth Evans) - Midnight Madness can be a festival highlight ("The Loved Ones" from 2 years ago) or filled with disappointments (all 4 of the ones I saw last year). I think I've chosen wisely this year - "The Raid" is an Indonesian martial arts/action film about a SWAT team trapped in a building surrounded by armed criminals. As the first night selection, this could go over like gangbusters.

Urbanized (Gary Hustwit) - I expect this to be easy to find several months down the road, but as the final installment in his design trilogy (following Helvetica and Objectified) about urban planning, I simply can't pass this up. The previous films have been filled with great images, sharp and intelligent commentary and terrific music. I fully expect this to top them both.

This Is Not A Film (Jafar Panahi, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb) - Panahi's ban in Iran from writing or directing a film is still in place, so he and his partner have made a documentary about a day in his life - including the steps he takes when planning a film. The film shows his planning a film about the situation he is currently in. I feel I have to go see this simply as a show of support, but I'm also wildly curious to see what they sneak into the film. Unfortunately, I don't expect that Panahi will be in attendance...

Elles (Malgoska Szumowska) - Juliette Binoche plays a journalist investigating students who moonlight as prostitutes. The two girls she finds awaken her own desires and views of sex via their personal and very open stories. This was one of my total crap shoot picks and could be a disaster, but Binoche makes terribly interesting choices and I'll concede that an hour and a half discussion of female sexuality might be one of the reasons for the draw...

Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier) - I didn't even really read the notes on the story within the film - I was very impressed with Trier's first effort "Reprise" from 2006 and I have a strong bias towards anything from Scandinavia. I admit that the story doesn't actually interest me that much, but I'm hopeful Trier will bring it to life.

The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) - I was already intrigued by the concept of a black and white silent film about the days of silent filmmaking when the buzz on this film started rolling out from Cannes. Though I wasn't a big fan of the OSS 117 films, I really liked star Jean Dujardin, so the addition of his presence here has me very eager to see one of the hottest tickets.

Sons Of Norway (Jens Lien) - Did I mention I'm partial to Scandinavian films? It also helps that it's a coming-of-age story of young punks in 1978 who discover The Sex Pistols.

Goodbye First Love (Mia Hansen-Love) - I was greatly impressed with Hansen-Love's previous festival entry "The Father Of My Children". so I'm hoping she can bring that same humanity and deep interesting set of characters to this story of young teenagers in their first romance.

Monsters Club (Toshiaki Toyoda) - I also tend to dive into Japanese films quite easily...The other 3 Japanese entries I'll be seeing this year were no brainers due to their directors, so this is the odd man out. I like some of Toyoda's previous films, but haven't quite fallen for him yet. Hopefully this will do the trick.

Gerhard Richter Painting (Corinna Belz) - Yes, I realize that there's a is a string chance that this film will be about as interesting as watching paint dry. Yes, I thought that through. Combine Richter's stunning works or art with the fact that he appears to be an irascible old fart and I feel that I need to add to this year's set of art documentaries (painting, film, dance, design).

I Wish (Hirokazu Kore-eda) - I adore Kore-eda's work.

Wetlands (Guy Edoin) - I'm also a sucker for Quebecois film and Edoin's latest is filmed in Quebec's Eastern Townships very near to where I grew up. I've had tremendous luck seeing Quebec films at the festival, so here's to that streak continuing.

Samsara (Ron Fricke) - A follow-up of sorts to Fricke's stunning visual feats "Baraka" (Fricke was also a cinematographer/editor for "Koyaanisqatsi"). How could I possibly pass up a chance to see this on a big screen?

Extraterrestrial (Nacho Vigalondo) - I loved Nacho's previous film "Timecrimes" - not as mind-bending a time travel movie as say "Primer", but in some ways even more satisfying. This is his take on the alien invasion movie sprinkled with romantic and black comedy elements.

Monsieur Lazhar (Philippe Falardeau) - I still have no idea what this films is about. All I know is Quebec's Falardeau (who made both "C'Est Pas Moi Je Le Jure" and "Congorama") is at the helm. Sold.

The Sword Identity (Xu Haofeng) - Another risky choice...Driven partially by my desire to schedule a single film on Monday just before the big Toronto film blogger meet-up at a pub, this is not a typical martial arts film. It leans more towards the philosophical and historical angles of the standard fight filled tales. That could be fascinating or it could be deadly dull.

Roman's Circuit (Sebastian Brahm) - This pick is based solely on the concept of a university researcher who deals with the effects of past memories on current thoughts and how he becomes (through experiements with one of his assistants) stuck in old images of years past. This is where I put a lot of trust in the writers of the catalog blurbs...

ALPS (Giorgos Lanthimos) - The director of "Dogtooth" returns with another high-concept film about people who replace recently departed loved ones and become stand-ins for them. Count me among those who quite enjoted "Dogtooth" and this one is getting even bigger raves so far.

Himizu (Sion Sono) - I plotzed for his two previous films "Cold Fish" and "Love Exposure", so you expect me to miss this?

Cafe Flore (Jean-Marc Vallee) - I haven't seen "Young Victoria" (which didn't receive the highest praise), but Vallee has won a lifetime pass for his terrific "C.R.A.Z.Y.". Early reports are this is fantastic. And again, I have absolutely no idea what it's about (I stop reading the blurbs when I can make a decision based on director alone).

Americano (Mathieu Demy) - As a long time fan of both Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda, I'm very curious to see what their offspring can do behind the camera. I've seen him in front of the camera before in several of Varda's films, so now he gets a chance to keep that family winning streak alive.

A Funny Man (Martin Zandvliet) - Should I remind you here that I tend towards picking Scandinavian films? The story of a stand up comedian's attempts to move into different creative areas with audience resistance is also intriguing.

You're Next (Adam Wingard) - A home invasion film (my only Midnight Madness that I'm not actually seeing at midnight) that I chose almost solely based on other friend's comments about Wingard's previous festival entry "A Horrible Way To Die"). I will shake my fist at them if they prove wrong...

Chicken With Plums (Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud) - I adored "Persepolis" and it sounds like the filmmakers are continuing the trend of bringing their life experiences to the screen through visually interesting and fantastical ways.

Intruders (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo) - I guess this is my one concession to being drawn to big name actors - Clive Owen and Carice van Houten star in Fresnadillo's psychological horror tale of a father who can't protect his own daughter from, you guessed it, intruders. My only fear is I've heard almost nothing about the film - no buzz either way.

Smuggler (Katsuhito Ishii) - OK, I guess I do rely on the auteur theory a bit much sometimes...But Ishii was behind "The Taste Of Tea" and was one of the creators of "Funky Forest". For me, that's incredible pedigree.

Avalon (Axel Petersen) - It's Scandinavian. You figure it out.

Kill List (Ben Wheatley) - There's some mad buzz about Wheatley's second film (and Midnight Madness closer). This could be a high old time with a ravenous crowd.

The Story Of Film (Mark Cousins) - 15 hours of clips, discussion and interviews all around the entire history of film across the entire world and put together as a visual essay. Many people shook their heads at the thought of a 15-hour documentary. I jumped at the chance and this was the first thing I put into my schedule - I planned around this. And I cannot wait.


Unknown said...

The Story of Film would've been the first thing on my schedule, too! :)

I didn't realize Sion Sono did Love Exposure. That played for a week's run at Cinefamily out here (where I volunteer), but with the length of it, I couldn't stay to watch it.


Tom Clift said...

Wow...the Story of Film sounds amazing! Of your selections the only one I've seen is LE HAVRE, which I enjoyed.

I must say I've very curious to see more of Sion Sono after experiencing his work for the first time at MIFF this year with GUILTY OF ROMANCE (which I didn't like all that much, but certainly made Sono a person of interest.

I missed KILL LIST and MIFF, but the buzz was excellent. And like Jandy, I am really excited to see THE ARTIST (although I really hope it's a legitimately great film, rather than just one that's getting praised because critics are nostalgic for silent movies :P)

Bob Turnbull said...

Can't wait for Story Of Film - I expect all my notes will simply be titles of films I need to see.

I just came back from Sono's Himizu - it's very definitely his film.

I liked Le Havre too, but not as much as I wanted to.

Tom Clift said...

Yeah, LE HAVRE wasn't quite as amazing as I'd heard people say. Entertaining fluff