336 films. 11 days.
So in case you were in any doubt, I love film festivals. While TIFF is far from perfect, when you’re dealing with something of this scale (HALF A MILLION TICKETS?!), I guess it’s easy enough to fuck up a little. So lets forgive the wacky lottery ticketing system,the number busy buuup buuup I kept getting for 90 minutes on Saturday morning and the inevitable late showings and lineups. Instead, let’s focus on what matters – the films. Because when it comes to putting together a festival program, they do pretty damn well.
This year I didn’t get my act together in time and so missed out on the 10-ticket packs, which meant I was left to fend off thousands of other enthusiastic punters on “Single Ticket Saturday”. Instead of pitching a tent for an overnight stay on King Street, I opted for the phone and email option. Took 90 minutes (should really just have set the alarm for 8am instead of 6.45am) but eventually the website started playing along and I’m delighted with the ten I got.
Picking what you want to see is a combination of a guessing game, logistical planning and plain old blind luck. Last year The King’s Speech won the audience award and didn’t lose any momentum before taking home the Best Picture oscar last February. Before the festival it hadn’t even registered on my radar and I was more excited about seeing eventual duds like The Debt and Bang Bang Club.
The shortlist: INTO THE ABYSS, ELLES, TWIXT, SHAME, MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE, THE KID WITH A BIKE, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, JEFF WHO LIVES AT HOME, THE DEEP BLUE SEA, KILL LIST
~ INTO THE ABYSS ~
Director: Werner Herzog | Country: USA | Year: 2011 | Language: English | Runtime: 106 minutes | Format: HDCAM
– TIFF description/tickets
– Official site
– Variety – Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life
– New York Times – A Bounty of Documentaries at Toronto Festival
“We do not know when and how we will die. Death Row inmates do. Werner Herzog embarks on a dialogue with Death Row inmates, asks questions about life and death and looks deep into these individuals, their stories, their crimes.”
What more can I saw about Werner? One of the most interesting and passionate film-makers working today, equally adept with drama or documentary. If the Bavarian beauty (trademark wheatln2) were to film himself sitting on the toilet narrating his morning bowel movement I would still pay top dollar to see it as soon as possible. I was lucky enough to see Cave of Forgotten Dreams at the festival last year and whether it was the fact it started at something like 11pm or the 3D glasses, it all swept over me like a nice dream.
Herzog’s new documentary Into the Abyss is an insight into one of my favourite things. The American prison and judiciary system. Whether it’s network television’s serialised cesspit Prison Break or Louis Theroux’s Behind Bars, I’m hooked.
~ ELLES ~
Director: Malgoska Szumowska | Country: France/Poland/Germany | Language: French, Polish | Runtime: 96 minutes | Format: DCP (D-Cinema)
Anne (Juliette Binoche), a well-off, Paris-based mother of two and investigative journalist for ELLE, is writing an article about student prostitution. Her meetings with two fiercely independent young women, Alicja (Joanna Kulig) and Charlotte (Anais Demoustier), are profound and unsettling, moving her to question her most intimate convictions about money, family and sex.
World premiere. Unknown (to me) Polish director. Prostitution. Elle magazine. Binoche.
Ah yes Juliette Binoche. Ever since my French teacher, shoutout to Francis Foyle, told me Juliette Binoche was the perfect woman (I was 14), I’ve kept a little corner of my brain for her. She’s now in a strange little partition populated by middle-aged actresses. She’s kept company by Catherine Keener and Julianne Moore. I imagine them spending a lot of time playing Twister.
~ TWIXT ~
Director: Francis Ford Coppola | Country: USA | Language: English | Runtime: 90 minutes | Format: DCP (D-Cinema)
– TIFF description/tickets
– American Zoetrope official site
– The Guardian – Francis Ford Coppola’s Twixt trailer: a mishmash of a mystery
– Pitchfork – Dan Deacon to Score Francis Ford Coppola Film
– The Hollywood Reporter – Comic-Con 2011: Francis Ford Coppola Brings ‘Twixt’ to Hall H (Video)
Inspired by the gothic horror of Edgar Allen Poe, Coppola’s latest tells the tale of a burnt-out mystery writer (Val Kilmer) who gets mixed up in murder and evil in a California town.
It’s from the director of Jack, stars the girl from Super 8, the lead is the fourth best Batman and has music from Dan Deacon. The real reason I’m going to this is because some guy called Tom Waits does the voice over. He’s a musician with a gravelly drawl. Pretty sure it’s some sort of world premiere but whatevs…
~ SHAME ~
Director: Steve McQueen | Country: UK | Language: English | Runtime: 99 minutes | Format: 35mm
– TIFF description/tickets
– Time – Sex and Shame in Venice: Michael Fassbender Is a Real X-Man
– Guardian – Steve McQueen’s film Shame leads UK charge to win Golden Lion in Venice
– IFC – Michael Fassbender reportedly has no shame in “Shame”
Michael Fassbender plays a New York man confronting his sexual compulsions and the self-destructive acts of his sister (Carey Mulligan). From the director of Hunger.
When Steve McQueen came along I instantly thought the dude must have big balls not to change his name to something a little less “iconic”. But after seeing Hunger, I figured you can add a strong stomach to those nads too.
I’d never really noticedMichael Fassbender before Hunger either, so to see his Bobby Sands being physically and mentally destroyed made for some of the most powerful cinema of the last decade.
So to see the two of them re-unite with Carey Mulligan also on board in a movie with lots of dirty controversial sex? Sure I could hardly pass this one up…
~ MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE ~
Director: Sean Durkin | Country: USA | Language: English | Runtime: 103 minutes | Format: 35mm
Haunted by painful memories and increasing paranoia, a damaged woman struggles to re-assimilate with her family after fleeing an abusive cult.
So last Januaryeveryone got terribly excited about this little Sundance, eh, hit.
“Oh look! There’s a third Olsen girl! She can actually act and doesn’t have an eating disorder!! Her movie is amaaaazing!”.
Pity it’s taken this long to see the damned movie but anywhoooo.
~ THE KID WITH A BIKE ~
[LE GAMIN AU VELO]
Director: Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne | Country: Belgium/France/Italy | Language: French | Runtime: 87 minutes | Format: 35mm
An 11-year-old kid, placed in a boy’s home, makes a break for freedom after his deadbeat father refuses to his calls.
This did very well at Cannes. But then it was the double (or is it quadruple if there’s two of them?!) Palme D’or winning Dardenne brothers who were never going to get a hard time from their French cousins. It’s probably still great though as it features a kid. On a bike.
~ WUTHERING HEIGHTS ~
Director: Andrea Arnold | Country: UK | Language: English | Runtime: 128 minutes | Format: DCP (D-Cinema)
No starched lace, no panoramic views, no sweeping score — Andrea Arnold takes Emily Brontë’s classic novel and strips it to the root of youthful passion, restoring its stark power for a contemporary audience. Following her bracing portraits of female desire in Red Road and Fish Tank, Arnold pushes even further here, portraying love as a rush of heart-stopping beauty, cruelty and impulsive acts.
Five years back, more or less just on a whim, a group of us went to see a little Scottish movie called Red Road in Dublin’s UGC. And it was great. We got a postcard on the way out of the screening and it hung on my wall for the next 3 years. First-time director Andrea Arnold had put together such a simple picture of life in depressing-as-fuck Glasgow that it was no surprise that such an unambitious film was rewarded with prized by BAFTA and the Cannes jury. The film told the story of Jackie, a Glasgow city council CCTV operator. One day she spots a man who she thought she’d never see again… I have to stop myself revealing the backstory as it’s so much better to just see it blind. Well, not actually blind. Unaware.
Fish Tank followed. It was shot in 4:3 and starred an unknown 15-year-old Katie Jarvis as Mia, a girl living with her mother on a rough east London council estate. Enter Michael Fassbender as her mother’s new boyfriend. Sparks fly.
So after two modern classics, “hopefully not third time unlucky” is what I’m thinking. To adapt a literary classic, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, for a contemporary audience could go very badly in the wrong person’s hands.
It premieres at Venice tomorrow, I don’t think we have anything to worry about.
~ JEFF, WHO LIVES AT HOME ~
Director: Jay & Mark Duplass | Country: USA | Language: English | Runtime: 83 minutes | Format: DCP (D-Cinema)
When he leaves his house on a seemingly banal errand for his disgruntled mother, Jeff discovers that the universe might be sending him signals about the nature of his destiny.
This isn’t out until March of next year, in fact the little I’d heard about it during the summer suggested we wouldn’t hear a peep from the film-makers until next spring. But lo and behold turns out it’s ready for festival season. I loved Cyrus and have never seen anything else the Duplass brothers have done (I like the look of Baghead though, what a poster).
Ed Helms and Jason Segal are both at that great stage of being on TV all the time (The Office and How I Met Your Mother for the TV-o-phobes), while also fitting in plenty of movie roles too. There’s a fine line before you get annoying from over-exposure – *cough* Danny McBride *cough* – but I could do with a whole lot more of these two in my life.
~ THE DEEP BLUE SEA ~
Director: Terence Davies | Country: UK | Language: English | Runtime: 98 minutes | Format: 35mm
The wife of a British Judge is caught in a self-destructive love affair with a Royal Air Force pilot.
I saw Alan Stanford’s adaptation of this Terence Rattigan play in Dublin’s Gate theatre three summers ago and absolutely loved it. When I saw they were making a film out of it I wasn’t sure whether to embrace the news or not.
Of Time and the City director Terence Davies directs with Rachel Weisz, Tom Hiddlestone (recently impressed with him in Thor and Midnight in Paris) and Simon Russell Beale taking on the three lead roles. Seems they’re all taking it very seriously so let’s hope they manage to match the despair, wit and complexity of the play.
~ KILL LIST ~
Director: Ben Wheatley | Country: UK | Language: English | Runtime: 95 minutes | Format: 35mm
A professional killer becomes a pawn in a supernatural mystery when he accepts an assignment from some shadowy clients.
The director, Ben Wheatley, is not my brother or cousin. I wish he were though. Would make family dinners a lot more interesting.
Kill List is already on general release in the UK and Ireland and is getting rave reviews from the media and from friends. It’s screening as part of TIFF’s Midnight Madness program, which is almost a mini festival of it’s own now. Here’s what their Twitter bio says:
Nice, right? If I didn’t have a job that required me to get up at 7.30 every day I’d be tempted by their ten-ticket pack. Seeing movies with an enthusiastic late night crowd can’t be beaten, which I’ve been lucky to experience in Toronto’s Bloor Cinema (re-opening soon!) for the After Dark and Hot Docs festivals.
Anyway, I’m delighted to be seeing Kill List at midnight on a Saturday night as my festival closer.
Should be a riot.