Tag: independent films

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.


Detroit Metal City was a devoutly-cherished and hard-to-get Manga that built a legion of devout followers in Japan.  The story of a farm-boy who moves to the big city (Tokyo) to live out his dream of being a “trendy” musician – he inadvertently ends up as the lead singer of the most ferocious, bile-spewing death metal band Japan has ever seen – known affectionately as – you guessed it – Detroit Metal City.  Thing is, the kid doesn’t want the job.  He mourns his fate and wishes from the bottom of his heart, he could make it on his own terms – that is, as a sappy J-Pop singer.

The film version endeavors to stay as close as possible to the aesthetic and conventions of Manga in that all the actors (with the exception of a couple of animated segues, it is strictly a live-action film) make huge over-exaggerated expressions and respond to things in a way that a viewer who has somehow not yet been exposed to the uber-dramatic Japanese cartoon style, will be completely baffled, perhaps even turned off.

But not this reviewer.  I applaud them for lifting the energy of the manga directly off the page and onto the screen without defaulting to computer generated effects or otherwise.  In itself this component is fascinating.  That the characters and the story are both comedic, intense and hard-core while delivering a rather profound message about the significance of having a dream, what we exchange for it, and doing so with a big warm heart, is exemplary.

The comedy comes not from being wry or ironic but rather from such an overblown sincerity that we instantly align ourselves with the people onscreen.  You are almost powerless in resisting. Kenichi Matsuyama sparkles as the insanely melodramatic protagonist – switching effortlessly between the shaky-kneed pop geek to the demonic lead singer from the gates of Hell.

Gene Simmons makes a cameo on steroids in this film.  It works, because no one could play the old guard Devil of Rock better than the man who created it.

The music is all very well produced, loud as hell, and the live band scenes are convincing and visceral – all typically hard to accomplish.

Detroit Metal City - The North American Premiere

I don’t know if this will translate to a big enough audience in the US to see anything short of Cinematheque distribution in North America, but it is already the second highest grosser in Japan as of the TIFF premiere.  A small legion of Japanese school girls (not wannabes, but actually visiting from Japan) lined the barricades outside the theater waiting to snap a photo of their idoru.  I mistakenly believed them to be waiting for Jack White, The Edge and Jimmy Page to exit the screening that happened prior for “It Might Get Loud”.  They could have cared less.  Sir Krauser, the fictional white-face painted Death Metal god who sings “Kill them all, kill everyone” was the man they were after.