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.
In festival speak a “party” means a select number of people and their significant others, agents, producers, assistants, best friend from high school and the dude they just met taking a piss in the alley outside the Gala screening are the only ones who get into a room.
Sometimes the room is beautifully decorated, at great expense, one-night-only, with Dionysian opulence, twenty foot ice sculptures pissing Stoli into crystal tumblers. Sometimes, a room is just that: a room.
But at TIFF, a room is never just, a room.
Three years ago I traveled with Heather Graham in an SUV down Bloor St. to Holt Renfrew where my friend who worked there had invited us to stop by for the Vinyl party. We wore jeans and took it really casual. Until we got there to find the street closed off with (literally) red velvet rope, a red carpet running the length of Toronto’s busiest intersection, and white gloved doormen opening the car doors for us. Over the course of the next half hour, we managed to go from the main fiesta to the VIP room to the VVIP lounge, to finally, the VVVIP room, which was essentially a small stocking room for fur coats where Heather, Paul Haggis, the person claiming to be JT Leroy and Michelle Trachtenberg stood around wondering what the hell was going on.
OK, so in that case the room was just, a room.
But a few days later I went to party on Cumberland and ran into an old friend of mine – music video director Rob Heydon. We were just two dudes wandering in and out of whatever we could get into and he mentioned a new project he was working on and would I be interested in reading it. Few years later, and he is inviting me to his own TIFF party at Empire on Cumberland for the very same film – Ecstasy – an adaptation of the novel by Irvine Welsh (who also wrote Trainspotting) starring Richard E. Grant, Billy Boyd and Erica Durance that is about to go into production (Canada/UK) and with any luck will be a TIFF ’09 screening. In fact, Mr. Heydon even mentioned there might be a sweet little role in it for me. Per the press release: “500 VIPs and film celebrities will be invited for a night with DJs and Juno award winning band Bedouin Soundclash.”
You don’t know these things going in. All you can do, is just turn up and see what comes of it. A lot of the time its just a bunch of bullshit, overzealous door-people and paparazzi. But weird little things happen. No, its not networking or shmoozing so much as it is just watching things grow, or die on the vine. Its an amazing experience and one that makes the festival just that – a festival and not just a bunch of screenings.
Festival parties are not easy to crash. Or at least not fun to crash unless you are with someone who the parties will want to be seen with. ie. famous people. So don’t even try unless you have that key with you. Or an invite of course. But don’t despair!
Clubs will host parties in tandem with the fest, to capitalize on the high profile company wandering the streets; you can see some pretty cool stuff in more intimate venues than usual as they endeavor to draw some of the fest’s glitterati into their midst.
For example here are the details on TIFF-related parties open to the public:
Thursday, September 4th, 2008
Molson Rocks presents EDWIN
Location: 567 Queen Street West
Jackfish River: 10:00pm (opening act)
SD+R Fashion Show: 11:00pm
Tickets: $10 at door
Monday, September 8, 2008
Event Name: TIFF 08 ABSOLUT MOVIE LOUNGE @ ROCKWOOD
Promotion Company: Kleen Media
Music: House, Hip-Hop, R&B, Rock,
Dress Code: FASHIONABLE ATTIRE
Notes: ARRIVE BEFORE 11:00PM
In the event, however you feel like attempting to crash a party, or have said golden key person with you here are a couple of bona fide TIFF industry parties. Pick your celeb of choice and then go see if you can catch a glimpse:
Sunday September 7th
Canadian Film Centre Annual BBQ
Venue: Canadian Film Centre
Hosted by: Norman Jewison