1. Dungeon Masters
An attempt at eye-level documentary of three still-operating Dungeon Masters. One is an active American Reservist who has a wife one would assume to sway the army from examining his obvious need to come out. Another is a part-time apartment manager living in Torrance with a wife and kid who just can’t find a way to make a living doing what he does best – running a D&D campaign. The other is a lonely intelligent girl from Mississippi who paints herself black from head to toe to become a Drow Elf and frequently participates in LARP (live-action role-play). The score is by Blonde Redhead. The film is great, one of my festival favorites, but there is so much more to mine, that I left feeling a bit cheated and curious if it was really as neutral an eye as the introduction claimed. I felt a like the director was mesmerized by the nerdiness of it all. I think there is more to the culture than nerddom. But that’s just me.
2. Who Do You Love
Bleh. What is it with German directors who can’t grasp what it is that makes American music as cool as it is? An outside-in fanboy look at the Chess Record label, it misses every opporunity for nuance, subtext and so on and defaults to the same shitty Lifetime Network Movie of the Week about [Insert Blues/Rock Icon Here] growing-up-in-a-small-time, having-affair-on-his-small-town wife,-seeing-the-error-in-his-ways, trying to -to-get-her-back,-left-onstage-at-the-end-with-the-fans, but-was-it-really-worth-it? formula that we saw in Ray, Walk The Line, etc etc ad nauseum except to the point of caricature.
Stop-motion. Using almost Bunuelesque surrealism, a freaky fallen angel character who I am still contemplating, great voice work from Geoffrey Rush and company, eerie winsome soundtrack, a refreshing and candid fiction about the meaning of life.
Recommend if you can ever find it in distribution.
4. American Swing
Some documentaries are just plain archaeological digs that endeavor to retroactively reassemble a story from the few bone fragments discovered. This one feels like that and does a remarkably good job considering the short order of barely viewable beta 3/4″ footage they have to intercut between the HD interviews they shot with the old-folks who once moshed around in a couple of club basements in New York in the ’70’s fucking everything that moved. Then AIDS and coke came into the picture and the scene crashed and roll credits. Cool enough I suppose, if I cared a little more.
For a slow night, or if you need more insight into why people dig the Lifestyle.
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.