Sunday night was all about celebrating blood, boobs and bombs as the Midnight Madness pirates stormed the bastilles, er, whatevs, and we were introduced to Mark Hartley’s self-proclaimed “rockumentary” Not Quite Hollywood – about Ozploitation cinema – that is to say – the non-existent Australian film industry doing whatever it could, back in the late 1960’s and 70’s to get even a modicum piece of the Hollywood pie.
Thinking they were at the edge of a wave of a global revolution that was really only happening on a farm field in Woodstock, the Aussies took to disrobing like it was the job. Then, when a little horror and post-acid-trip surrealism was the where the registers were clinking, the blood was introduced, in bucketloads. Add some semi-retired bona fide Hollywood star power to the mix and you had to have a recipe for cinematic world domination, rendering such masterpieces as Turkey Shoot (aka Escape 2000 in the US), Dark Age (really bad alligator horror flick), The Man From Hong Kong, and ultimately Long Weekend and Mad Max.
The beauty of it all of course was that there really were no scruples. It was – whatever it takes to get the shot, even if it meant firing live ammo at the actors (I guess squib explosives attached to rock-faces were out of the budget range?) or hoisting a guy 70 feet in the air on a cherry-picker without anything to fall back on (um, no pun intended?) since helicopters were definitely out of the question.
But as Quentin Tarantino, who claims the lion’s share of the commentary in this doc states – Aussies can shoot car chases without equal. Their cars look nicer than American cars, their chase scenes are way more fucking crazy, and the shots are without equal.
Anyway, it was a good romp, director Brian Trenchard-Smith was in attendance and the audience applauded at the suggestion that a revival festival should be erected at Cinematheque (as opposed to grindhouses) for this pioneering ouevre.
The Rock-U’s visual effects were terrific, the pace was good, we laughed, we cried, we missed Russ Meyers.
My only question is – 8am screenings – what?
Friday September 12 | 06:15PM | VARSITY 2
Monday night – the Ecstasy Films Inc. party at Empire in Yorkville was bloody crowded. That’s about all I can say about it, except for the free drink ticket and Bedouin Soundclash who sounded amazing despite the fact that we ultimately had to enjoy their set from outside in the rain because literally, not a deflated blow-up doll could fit in that room.
As I mentioned previously, Ecstasy, adapted from the book by Irvine Welsh (who wrote Trainspotting, in case you are just on a short stay to planet Earth) is a film about to go into production directed by Rob Heydon and set to star Richard E. Grant (yes he of Withnail and I), Billy Boyd (of hobbit fame) and Erica Durance (of Maxim cover fame).
In non-TIFF film news – the very long awaited sequel to Boondock Saints that will star the original cast and be directed by Troy Duffy himself is gearing up for production. Holy f$%in s%$^!!!
We headed through the heavy Queen St. traffic for Film Lounge to jump in and see our friends at the pre-party for Deadgirl. Turns out they meant the other Film Lounge on Dupont, and not the one across from the AGO.
Maneuvering past the R.I.D.E. cops (Saturday night spot-checks) towards the Scotiabank theater (wtf happened? – every goddamned building in the City of Toronto is a corporate advertisement. No I am not old fashioned but its fucking ridiculous. The O’Keefe Center is now the SONY center? The Skydome is Rogers Center! I know William Gibson predicted this, writing on his typewriter from Vancouver, but does anyone care? Is there any opposition whatsoever to this awful pattern?) to see Steve McQueen’s (at last someone who will never change their name to McDonald’s Man or Old Milwaukee “Microsoft” McQueen) unbelievable first feature “Hunger”. Festival vice prez of picking movies Cameron Bailey introduced the film, trying desperately to put the brakes on his gushing over its merits, but failing, before bringing Mr. McQueen himself to the stage.
Pic is amazing. Intense, measured, perfect. A little too much to take. It was so quiet in the theater that the mouth-breather beside me almost stole the show. The actors are all selfless and utterly engaged, the dialogue, the music, the framing. See it if you have the nervous system to handle it. On a small screen at home, I doubt it will be as challenging (in a good way) to watch. The Dolby systems in the TIFF screenings seriously intensify these films. Films that my never again be seen at forums this size.
And that really is a big part of TIFF isn’t it? Large, full surround Michael Bay-ready venues playing hard-core independent films that pull no punches, prepared for today’s high-def standards that may never again be scene the way they were meant to.
Anyway, we left just before the credits, I, fighting near anxiety resulting from the combination over over-stimulation from Scotiabank cinema’s epileptic seizure inducing bing bing playground of Buy Me lightshows, the mayhem of T-dot club district, and trying to make our next screening at Ryerson in 15 minutes.
Despite this time-challenge, we did jog past the Imperial pub – enjoying a renaissance now that TIFF has triangulated the Yonge/Dundas quadrant – where Pontypool was throwing its festival bash. Only had time to give music writer Karen Pace a hug and the producers of the film a brief congratulations before booking it up the street to the world premier of Deadgirl. Lynh Haaga, wife of Trent, the writer of the film, and also the film’s wardrobe designer, confided that the screener’s hard drive didn’t even arrive in Toronto until earlier in the day, leaving the fest’s programmers absolutely twitching. The film was shot entirely in Los Angeles (wait, they still shoot movies in Los Angeles?) on a Thomson Vipre – a D-Cinema – so there was never actually any film or tape – the whole movie, which looked pretty close to 35mm celluloid (except for the occasional outdoor shot or underexposed early evening shot that introduced some digi-noise when they had to bring up the levels) was shot directly to hard drive and projected at the festival via Christie digital projection.
For the most part the movie works. Despite its insane subject matter – that is, raping a dead girl who isn’t quite dead in the basement of an insane asylum – somehow, and you’d have to see it to understand – doesn’t ever fall to exploitation or even chastisement of the “protagonists,” but rather affords the viewer an intriguing examination of character, virtue, karma, and some really cool plot twists along the way. Some actors fare better than others, but to be fair, I won’t name names since I had just walked out of one of the most harrowing and powerful performances (Michael Fassbender in Hunger) since David Thewlis in Mike Leigh’s Naked.
Deadgirl keeps you on the edge of your seat and does alright for itself.
By the time we walked back to the Pontypool party, the bar had been cleared out.
We return to Ryerson tomorrow for our third Midnight Madness screening – Not Quite Hollywood.