Report from Toronto International Film Festival - Day 2
21st Sep 08
In addition to admittance to any of the Press & Industry screenings my pass also entitled me to five tickets for any of the public screenings, subject to availability, bookable two days in advance.
To take advantage of this - and to maximise the chance of getting tickets - meant rolling up at the Industry Ticket Office at 8am in the morning down at the Sutton Place Hotel where all the P&I offices are located. Not ideal after just four hours sleep but at least these early starts ensured that I was up and ready for a 9am film.
John Malkovich at the Burn After Reading premiere
Friday picked up where Thursday left off - another comedy crime caper in the company of my new friend Lori. Burn After Reading sees the Coen Brothers moving away from the darker side of their oeuvre after No Country For Old Men (which debuted at TIFF last year) and back to their lighter comic side best exemplified by the likes of Intolerable Cruelty. Osborne (John Malkovich) is an ex-CIA agent who mislays a disc containing his memoirs. Believing it to be full of Government secrets, two hapless gym workers (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) attempt to blackmail him and threaten to take it to the Russians. Throw in George Clooney as a serial womanizer who’s having an affair with Osborne’s wife and the stage is set for a farcical adventure.
Full of disparate characters, Burn After Reading is frequently funny but feels like a series of sketches rather than a coherent whole, even though everything just about manages to link together in the end. The best lines go to JK Simmons and David Rasche as a pair of CIA chiefs whose clueless interpretation of events proves to be the highlight of the movie. Not classic Coen Brothers then, but even below par they’re better than most.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird
Bumping into Ant and Bruce outside, and with Fabrice du Welz just behind us in the queue, the three of us headed into the neighbouring screen for the new film from Kim Jee-woon (A Tale Of Two Sisters) and the most expensive Korean film ever made. More than two hours long but passing in the blink of an eye, The Good, The Bad, The Weird is everything that Miike’s Sukiyaki Western Django should have been.
Opening with an audacious shoot out upon an old steam train, the film immediately demands your attention and never lets go. The Good (Jung Woo-sung), a notorious bounty hunter, The Bad (Lee Byung-hun), a ruthless gang leader, and The Weird (Song Kang-ho), an impulsive bandit, are the three men scrapping over a treasure map that leads them on a fantastic journey across the Manchurian desert. Jee-woon expertly balances characterization with some breathtaking action set pieces including a magnificent chase involving tanks, horses and tons of explosions. It’s a vibrant visual feast and one that would not have felt out of place in the Midnight Madness section of the festival.
Richard Linklater at the Me And Orson Welles premiere
While Ant and Ian headed off to see Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme’s latest starring Anne Hathaway – apparently very good) I took a break and then walked down to the Ryerson (home of the MM screenings) for the world premiere of Me And Orson Welles, my first public screening of the festival. On my way down Yonge Street I spotted a familiar looking chap with mad scientist hair walking towards me – it was only after we’d passed that I realised that it was Geoffrey Rush, here in Toronto promoting the film $9.99!
One thing I didn’t take advantage of last year was the press access to the red carpet arrivals, so since I was already there for the film I thought I might as well make the most of it this time around. A small crowd had assembled outside, mainly to scream at Zac Efron (High School Musical) so it was fun hanging out taking a few snaps of the rising star along with co-stars Claire Danes, Christian McKay and the film’s director Richard Linklater as they arrived for the screening.
Christian McKay in Me And Orson Welles
The film takes place over the course of one week in 1937 as Welles (McKay) prepares to launch his production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the famous Mercury Theatre. Events are seen through the eyes of Richard (Efron), an aspiring actor who’s taken on by Welles after an impromptu audition and soon falls for his assistant Sonja (Danes), which naturally causes friction amongst the company. It’s another departure for Linklater after A Scanner Darkly and Fast Food Nation but the versatile director is up to the task and delivers another richly rewarding picture. There’s a fine supporting roster of British thesps (Eddie Marsan, Ben Chaplin and Leo Bill – The Living And The Dead) but it’s Christian McKay who takes the plaudits – having previously played Welles on stage, he’s the perfect embodiment of the legendary director and gives a truly outstanding performance here.
Brad Pitt at the Burn After Reading premiere
With plenty of time to kill until the midnight movie I decided to wander down to the Roy Thompson Hall to check out the arrivals at the Burn After Reading premiere where some of Hollywood’s A-list were expected to attend. It was a totally different scale from the relatively low key Linklater premiere, with the road closed and huge barriers erected to keep the crowds back – and there were hundreds of fans out in force hoping to snatch a glance of Brad Pitt and his co-stars. I arrived far too late to get anywhere near the red carpet but still managed to get a couple of shots of Pitt, John Malkovich and Tilda Swinton from the fringes as they entered the venue.
Kenichi Matsuyama and Toshio Lee at the Detroit Metal City premiere
After a few jars in The Imperial, our other regular pre-Midnight Madness watering hole, it was time to take a trip to Detroit Metal City! I met up with MM bloggers Darryl, Sanjay and Robert who I’d got to know last year, and – in what was to become our nightly ritual – Colin Geddes (Midnight Madness programmer) invited us to stand on the red carpet to greet the incoming filmmakers. A number of Japanese fans joined us to welcome director Toshio Lee and lead actor Kenichi Matsuyama (Death Note), a massive star in his home land.
Kenichi Matsuyama in Detroit Metal City
Adapted from a hugely successful Manga comic, Matsuyama plays Souichi, an innocent young country boy who moves to the big city to pursue his dream of becoming a popular musician. However rather than finding success as a ‘trendy’ singer of love songs, Souichi ends up becoming Johannes Krauser II, front man with death metal band Detroit Metal City, complete with face paint and costume. He’s so ashamed that he keeps his alter ego secret from his friends, including his student sweetheart Aikawa (Rosa Kato). Trying to juggle his conflicting personalities leads to much soul searching for Souichi, and much laughter for us, as a showdown with guitar hero Jack Il Dark (Gene Simmons from KISS) looms heavy. Detroit Metal City is a quintessentially Japanese film and likely to alienate some viewers with its childlike mannerisms from Souichi, but I personally lapped up all of its kinks and quirks. Energetic, touching and downright hilarious, Detroit Metal City comes highly recommended and is definitely worth visiting.
Burn After Reading opens in the UK on 17th October.
The Good, The Bad, The Weird screens at the London Film Festival on 30th October.
For more information on TIFF including the Midnight Madness blogs please visit www.tiff08.ca.