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.
This year’s Midnight Madness features its perennial lineup of unpredictable edgy screenings, and Deadgirl is no exception. Already earmarked as a critics’ must-see, TheCulturepin.com had an opportunity to pry into the mind of the screenwriter whence this sordid tale was birthed.
The Culturepin: So…one bright Sunday morning you woke up and thought “I should write a film about using a dead girl from an abandoned mental hospital as a sex toy!”
Trent Hagaa: I actually wrote the script right after finishing up production on THE TOXIC AVENGER PART 4 (which I wrote and Produced). We had shot in both a high school and an abandoned mental health facility … I was tired of working on an over-the-top gore comedy and thought I could write something that we could shoot in the same locations for very little money. I also wanted to write something different, something that spoke more to me personally … DEADGIRL was the result!
TH: The movie turned out as great as I imagined it would be, if not better. In lesser hands, it could have tread dangerously close to something that was TOO grotesque and disturbing. I had always envisioned it as a “coming-of-age” movie or a teen juvenile delinquent film with a slight horror edge to it. And that’s exactly what we ended up with.
TH: Absolutely not. I’m surprised that the film got made at all, much less got its world premiere at a venue as important as the TIFF. When I first showed the script to people, almost ten years ago, everyone thought that I was insane … that I had written something that NO ONE would dare to touch. I was trying to write something that might get attention, certainly, but could never had predicted the positive reaction its gotten … especially considering everyone’s initial reaction to the script. It’s a testament to the directors – Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel – that they not only took the risk, but were able to see something promising in the script.
TCP: How do you think Deadgirl will fit into the marketplace after it has done the festival circuit?
TH: I’d love to see it become a kind of classic. of course. In the current marketplace, I’d just be happy to see it get bought and released, period. But a movie is a massive undertaking and this one was a labor of true love, so I’d really be excited for a limited theatrical push and subsequent successful DVD release. Like I said, I’m a bit surprised by the public’s reaction to the film so far, so I’d love to keep up that momentum and see the film succeed far beyond my wildest expectations … Only time will tell, I suppose. No matter what happens, though, I’m really happy with the final result and wouldn’t change a thing about the movie itself.
Deadgirl screening times:
Saturday September 06 | 11:59PM | RYERSON
Monday September 08 | 05:00PM | AMC 2
Friday September 12 | 09:00PM | AMC 6