Category: independent

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.

Lynh and Trent-Haaga - Deadgirl world premiere

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.
Actress Aimee Lynn Chadwick outside the Pontypool party at the Imperial

We return to Ryerson tomorrow for our third Midnight Madness screening – Not Quite Hollywood.

Tatia Rosenthal\'s \

In the first day alone of the 2008 Toronto Film Festival, there are no less than three non-cutesy-ironic-computer-generated-fairy-tale-spoof feature-length films showing.

Like 2007’s massive fest-buzz film Persepolis, based on a graphic novel concerning an outspoken young Iranian girl during the Islamic Revolution that went on to garner an Oscar nom ( but lost to Ratatouille), we see a new 2D offering titled Waltz with Bashir – a memoir of serving time in the Israeli army as it invades Lebanon in response to a series of attacks. Rotoscoped over source footage originally shot on film.

Two stop-motion films in the vein of Wallace and Grommit or The Corpse Bride show on day one of the fest, within 15 mins of each other: Edison & Leo by UK director Neil Burns (Varsity 8 Cinema, 7:45PM) explores intellectual, spiritual and literal theft in a noirish steampunk setting, while Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99 , voiced by Geoffrey Rush, Anthony LaPaglia, Ben Mendelson and Barry Otto is a soul-searching film, centered around a man who expects to find some answers from a book that claims he can find all sorts of answers for the “low price of $9.99.” (AMC 7 – 7:30PM)

What do I make of it? Puppets are used very successfully as a proxy for a shrink or parent or older sibling as a channel for communicating with young children. Heck even older children. Oscar Wilde said, and I am paraphrasing, that you give a man a mask and he will show you his true self. Animation offers an interesting ambrosia-like buffer that affords us a different way to access the subject matter. Alternatively, animation allows a director to control the performances of his “actors” completely. Every facial tic, eyebrow raise, cloud in the sky, is under his or her direct command.