Three days, 12 movies, one celebrity sighting, kinda, and way too much Starbucks. And so, though it doesn’t end until next Saturday, the Toronto International Film Fest draws to a close for me. I am so doing that again.
I left work at noon on Thursday, and the excitement of a 3.5 day weekend was tempered by the fact that I wouldn’t be there for Dan’s last day (my boss and an old friend) on the Friday. Oh well, couldn’t really be helped. I got home, took care of the running around I needed to do, and headed out on the 401 a little before 3pm. Got to Helen’s with no problems, parked the car, and hopped the TTC downtown. Where I made it to the Manulife Centre and joined my very first Film Fest line! Full of whiny people! It was all I could do not to laugh in the face of the yuppie bitch who kept repeating her grievances to anyone who she thought would listen, and who actually said, “They are getting the biggest letter!” Uh huh…
Got my tickets eventually, thanked the volunteers, and headed back to the subway. Met Helen at Il Fornello for supper, which consisted of pretentious yet interesting yuppie pizza, quite a nice Shiraz, and a very tasty molten cake (which was well-suited to the equally sinful discussion of Joao Magueijo that it accompanied). Had a quiet evening with a little Def Leppard on the side, and was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for The Perfect Paramount Day the next morning.
So, to begin.
Water. What a fine way to start a film fest. I have not seen any of Deepa Mehta’s other films (the woman beside me was fairly knowledgable fan), but I loved this one. Lush, sensual, textured, and as engaging to see as the story was to experience. It was accessible and understandable without being obvious, and was nicely layered with symbolism (especially the elements), familiar archetypes (Romeo and Juliet), and “human” moments that you instantly related to. I was rather glad to have see this one by myself, for some reason. And I really, really want to celebrate Holi.
Next I met up with Andrew for Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic. Most definitely a departure from Water. Before seeing The Aristocrats, I had never seen her before, though I had been told that she’s hilarious (by people who are fans). I wasn’t overwhelmed. The setup was basically setting a stylized stage for her stand-up. There were plenty of funny moments, but her brand of comedy, to me, kinda takes the easy way out. She uses her pretty, girl-next-door face to good effect, pairing it with over-the-line shock comedy. But… that’s about all she’s got. Her “themes” in this were pretty much what she had going on in The Aristocrats – race, rape, etc. I wouldn’t have bothered with it outside the Festival.
Third was the worst movie I saw at the Festival: Battle in Heaven. I don’t even know why it was called that, and really? I don’t care. The blurb gives a false impression of gritty sex and class struggle. Yeah, sure. And they Photoshopped out the fat, hairy naked guy lying next to the hot chick. Seriously, even if the movie had a point, and even if that point was directly related to that guy’s wang, I still didn’t need to see it that often. Anyway, the movie was boring and meandering and there was peeing and stabbing and driving and raising of flags and glasses being broken. Whatever. Paula, fortunately, was kind enough to explain to us that basically, if we weren’t movie retards, we’d know how to appreciate the film.
Continuing in that theme of Big Fun, we had the documentary Workingman’s Death. It wasn’t quite what I expected, but it wasn’t bad. Basically, there were vignettes from different areas of the world, where there are people who essentially have really shitty and sometimes dangerous jobs. Illegal coal miners in the Ukraine who work in a 40cm high space all day trying to chip out coal. Sulphur miners who work in a volcano in Indonesia and who transport 200lb baskets of sulphur down mountains. Pakistanis who dismantle old ships with blowtorches. Nigerians who run a slaughter market (if you’re looking for a good 15-20 minutes of goats and cattle having their throats cut and bleeding to death, then being dismembered and roasted, this is the segment for you!). Chinese steelworkers. A post-industrial German theme park. It was interesting to see how these people didn’t appear to be unhappy. They were cognizant that their jobs were hardly awesome, but they had the attitude that work needed to be done to survive and support one’s family. Religious faith was a common thread, too. That God would provide, and God knew best, and God would look out for them. God only dies when we have too much leisure, I guess.
The final film of the day was The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, a dreamy, stylized fairy tale with some strong reminiscences of Phantom of the Opera. I suspect I would have enjoyed the movie more had I not been quite so tired. As it was I got a bit bored and occasionally confused. However, it was certainly interesting and very engaging visually. The automatons creeped me out, though. They always have. Even on Antiques Roadshow. And the directors look like a pair of semi-mad composers. Teehee!
And so ended Friday. And Melle cabbed it home from a hoppin’ club district and went to bed.
And then… there was Saturday, which was all Andrew, all the time. Of course, Andrew is like cowbell. You always need more.
The day began with the tail end of a crazy person experience at Timmy’s. I’d share, but I suspect it’s really missing the good part. And so we skip to Takeshis’, starring, times five, Takeshi Kitano, “baddest of the Asian movie bad asses”, as Andrew called him. Actually, from the back, when he’s walking, he totally reminds me of my Dad. 🙂 Finally, we had an actor I’d seen before, in Zatoichi. Anyway, this movie had clowns, tap dancing, yakuza, lots of gunfights, and some really bad haircuts. But I was not blown away. I believe Andrew’s diagnosis of “indulgent” was on the money.
We had a chunk of time to kill after that, and so we drank coffee, had lunch at the Korean Grill House, which was awesome, bought candy, and observed screaming pubescent girls on a street corner (Orlando Bloom was due at MuchMusic).
And then we saw The Giant Buddhas which was ostensibly about the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas by the Taliban regime in Afghanistan (officially because an edict was passed against non-Islamic imagery, but really it was a big “fuck you” to the world after sanctions and such were imposed on Afghanistan). Andrew and I both experienced some wicked head bobs in this one. It wasn’t that it was bad, but the director got a little ambitious and tried to tell a few too many stories. The Buddhas, the people who lived in the caves in the area for the better part of a century, and their later displacement to a wind-swept plateau, a Canadian-Afghan woman, Nelofer Pazira, whose father had taken photos of himself as a young man with his friends in front of the Buddhas, UNESCO, the search for a replica of the Buddhas in China, and how 2000-year-old graves were destroyed to make what was basically a theme park attraction, etc. In general, I couldn’t recommend it.
We followed that up with another documentary: We Feed the World, not surprisingly, about food production, the industrialization of agriculture, and the future of food production, mainly in Europe and Brazil. I thought the film struck a nice balance between making a political statement and just laying out how things work. Most of what they showed I did know already, but it’s always a stronger message accompanied by images and stats and whatnot. 25000 hectares of greenhouses in southern Spain. Decimating the rainforest to grow soya for export in soil that doesn’t want to support it. Factory chicken lifecycles, from fertilization to cellophane wrapping. Remaining pockets of true agrarian society. Waste. The madness of big business, where the view that water is a basic human right is “extreme”. (Thank you, Mr. Brabeck, CEO of Nestle…) Without bashing us over the head, the director neatly handed over the message: this is what we’ve created to overfeed some of the world, and starve the rest. If you don’t like it, choose better. Well said.
And with that, my sojourn at the Paramount was over, and we headed up town to stylish Yorkville (the only part of town that looked really familiar, thanks to Descartes and the Four Seasons). After spending lots of time as probably the least stylish people in line, we saw The French Guy, a Canadian film, which was funny and twisted and sick and not quite what I was expecting. Fun, though, and the perfect lead-in to Midnight Madness. And an interesting comment on the state of the healthcare system…
The then we headed over to the Ryerson, where I met the mythical Johnny, Andrew’s hero and boy crush. Honestly? I thought he’d be taller. And I will henceforth refer to him as Grandpa Fidel. Met his girlfriend Katie, too. She totally makes sense now. Heh. And we found out from her that they’d been close enough to Johnny Depp at the Corpse Bride premiere to have cut off his ear. I’m sure Mr. Depp would be comforted to know that. And so I saw my first Midnight Madness film: Evil Aliens, a British splatter flick featuring men in rubber suits, brain-steered spacecraft, stoners, megalithic stone circles, quasi-porn stars, Welsh farmers straight out of Deliverance, and vast vats of fake blood. Oh, and the best combining scene ever filmed. It was awesome. Made me very sad to only have one Midnight Madness movie. However, I have tasted its tender, giddy flesh, and I am hooked. Made it a bugger to try and wind down to get to sleep, too. (Finally happened around 3am.)
And so the next morning I awoke, and Helen and I began our day in a leisurely fashion. We went for a long walk and procured coffee. We listened to AC/DC and read the paper. We dressed and applied lipstick and headed to the TTC. I left Helen at College station to return, for the last time, to Ryerson. Where I learned what a REAL Film Fest line looks like. It looks like a big ring of people, because we went around three sides of a block. Whee! And there, for the last time, just as the line was started to move, I met up with Andrew for the final time.
For Seven Swords. Boo. Yah. I freely admit I am a total whore for epic, kung fu, sword-fighting, love story, underdog Asian movies. And this did not disappoint. Over the top villains, stunning wirework, surprise splashes of great humour, gorgeous cinematography, and plenty of violence! And the weapons… Oh, the weapons. Pure porn for a girl with a knife fetish. 🙂 Only negative was that we were fairly high up in the balcony, and reading the subtitles typically required a fair bit of ducking and weaving.
And so after that Andrew and I bid each other a final adieu. He rushed off to the Paramount, and I went back where I came from: the line. Though this time I was only in the second section of the block, not the third. w00t. And so my final film neatly mirrored my first: a lush, wonderful Indian film that I saw alone. Mistress of Spices. Not technically an Indian film, seeing as the director was Caucasian and some of the cast was (including Dylan McDermott, the male lead, who was present at the screening). And it was set in San Francisco. But the woman who wrote the book it was based on is Indian. Anyway. Yes, I would classify it as a chick flick. It was sensual and sexy and fun and engaging and made interesting comments about culture and tradition. And Aishwarya Rai is so beautiful it’s ridiculous. Like, I can’t even have a crush on the woman. She’s just too much. The red outfit scene towards the end, though? Sweet merciful Jesus… Anyway, good date movie, good flick for chicks. Andrew probably wouldn’t like it, lacking, as it does, boobs and zombies.
And so, as the credits rolled, I took my leave of the Film Fest, heading north to Helen’s, then northwest out of the city and home. I was pretty antisocial by then, and had had quite enough of people. I was sad to leave, though, and wanted more movies. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, and I will DEFINITELY be attending again next year.