My TIFF Not-So-Diary
The Toronto International Film Festival is now in full swing, which means, for me, the annual ritual of kicking myself for not going to see enough (usually this means “any”) movies when one of the world’s biggest film festivals is happening in my hometown. This year I did manage to see JCVD (read my gushing review here), which was my first official TIFF screening – I went to some parties in years past, and saw an unofficial cast-and-crew screening of an excellent movie made by a good buddy of mine called Young People F**king that showed at last year’s TIFF just before the festival opened. But usually I spend a week and a half feeling like a movie-geek poseur because I never seem to be able to make time for any TIFF movies (attending a non-gala screening isn’t really that big of a hassle, but it is more involved than going to see a movie at a regular theatre, and I am notoriously lazy).
While waiting in line to see JCVD, I overheard a couple talking about a friend of theirs who waited in line for six hours to see something. I wish there was anything in the world I wanted so badly I’d be willing to wait in line for six hours for it, but I can’t think of anything that fits that bill right now. And as the smaller, often foreign cult movies that at one time you could ONLY see at a film festival get released on DVD worldwide, I find I can usually see almost anything playing at TIFF (or Cannes or Venice for that matter) within a year, tops, either theatrically or on DVD (my region-free DVD player also helps). I have a whole shelf of DVDs of crazy Japanese movies that, 10 years ago, I would have had to troll “underground” video stores to rent bootleg VHS copies of, but now they’re readily available at most big retailers.
But all that said, every year there’s a handful of movies I almost consider quitting my job to go to see, and given that this year I have a blog, I will tell you about them.
I’m on record as saying I think Darren Aronofsky is one of the most fiercely talented directors out there right now, and I’ve been reading about this drama about a washed-up pro wrestler for months. I used to be a pretty serious wrestling fan back in the day, and I’m fascinated by the real lives these guys live and the toll it takes (an oftentimes genuinely messed-up existence unfortunately highlighted by the Chris Benoit incident), and I also love Mickey Rourke. It’s always nice when it appears that a film I’ve been interested in for a while turns out to be great, and the buzz around The Wrestler is really starting to build, even Oscar talk for Rourke. The film was just picked up by Fox Searchlight, so hopefully we’ll get a trailer and a release date soon – presumably by the end of the year if they want to capitalize on the Oscar speculation.
Steven Soderbergh is probably my favourite director, period (I sometimes get goosebumps just thinking about how brilliant The Limey is), and his four-hour, biopic of revolutionary icon Ernesto "Che" Guevara (screened in two parts, à la Kill Bill) obviously sounds pretty ambitious, but it stars Benicio Del Toro, whose last collaboration with Soderbergh, Traffic, landed them both Oscars, so my hopes are high (I’m also quite tolerant of my favourite filmmakers’ more self-indulgent stuff – I’m a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia) with this one. Che is also the TIFF movie I’m most likely to kick myself for not seeing, as last I heard it still hadn’t been picked up by a distributor, and as a four-hour biopic about a Cuban revolutionary, it’s sort of a tough sell to wider audiences, so it’s still up in the air as to what form this movie will take when it’s eventually released widely. Hopefully one way or another Soderbergh’s full-length version will see the light of day on DVD at least. I know I’ll buy it the day it’s released. UPDATE: Variety is reporting that IFC Films has picked up Che and will release it in its four-hour form (with an intermission) in New York and L.A. for a week before the end of the year to qualify for the Oscars, and then release the film early next year in two parts, The Argentine (Part 1) and The Guerilla (Part 2). Huzzah!
Ashes of Time Redux
Years before Ang Lee blew the doors off the wuxia genre with Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Wong Kar Wai, king of the Hong Kong arthouse scene, took a stab at it with 1994’s Ashes of Time, his only martial arts film. Wong’s fusion of lyrical, cerebral filmmaking and traditional swordplay movies was pretty much ignored critically and commercially, despite its cast of Hong Kong cinema all-stars. I managed to track down a blurry VHS copy in my student days, and I was impressed with it then (it’s virtually impossible to find on DVD except in similarly cruddy quality, and there are apparently several different versions floating around out there), so I was particularly excited when I learned Wong was remastering the film and re-scoring it (with the help of Yo-Yo Ma, no less). I’m not sure when and how this film will eventually be released here in North America, but whenever and however it happens, I’ll be there with bells on. If the new version is half as good as I remember the original being, it’ll be great.
There’s a bunch of bigger movies playing at this year’s festival I’m dying to see that are due for regular theatrical releases in before the year’s out, like the Coen brothers’ Burn After Reading, the Ed Harris-directed Western Appaloosa and Borat director Larry Charles’ documentary on religion with Bill Maher, Religulous, all of which I have high expectations for.
I couldn’t get to all the movies I wanted to see this year, but I did manage to see one of the films I really wanted to see. Which is one more than I’ve seen at TIFF before, really, so that one’s going into the “win” column.
Labels: Random thoughts, Toronto Film Festival