Report from Toronto International Film Festival - Day 4
25th Sep 08
The biggest headache when attending TIFF is plotting a course through the film schedule. With multiple press screenings running simultaneously it becomes an exact science if you want to ensure that you see all the key releases, yet something that calls for frequent revisions as social distractions get in the way, public screenings and press conferences come into play, and invariably plans change. Sunday morning was probably the biggest flashpoint for me with no fewer than six eye-catching films vying for my attention!
Planning my TIFF schedule
Lika Minamoto in Inju, The Beast In The Shadow
In the end I selected Inju, The Beast In The Shadow, a new thriller from Barbet Schroeder (Reversal Of Fortune) based on a short story by Edogawa Rampo, considered to be Japan’s own Edgar Allen Poe. Alex (Benoit Magimel) is a French novelist whose work is heavily influenced by that of the reclusive Japanese author Shundei Oe. On a promotional trip to Japan, Alex is drawn to Tamao (Lika Minamoto), a pretty geisha girl who claims that Oe was a former lover and is now stalking her. Falling for Tamao’s seduction, the two begin an affair, Alex vowing to protect her while attempting to track down the mysterious Oe himself.
Schroeder’s erotic thriller marries East with West in a formal yet sumptuous manner. Yet whilst the film’s aesthetic look more than satisfies, the plot is extremely linear in structure, offering little in the way of surprises and containing a major twist that even the most novice viewer will spot coming a mile off.
Keira Knightley at The Duchess press conference
Following a lively discussion with Todd and Ant I then headed back to the Sutton Place Hotel as I was determined to get up close and personal with Keira Knightley at the press conference for The Duchess. Sat alongside a rather scrawny looking Ms. Knightley were her co-stars Ralph Feinnes and Dominic Cooper plus the film’s director Saul Dibb, but unlike yesterday’s event for It Might Get Loud it was soon evident that none of the actors were feeling enthusiastic about answering questions from the assembled media, so the result by contrast was a very brief, perfunctory Q&A session which revealed very little.
Stephen McHattie in Pontypool
Meeting up with Mitch Davis (Fantasia) and Bruce back at the Varsity, our next screening was Pontypool from local filmmaker Bruce Mconald, a film that began shooting in May and was only just completed two days before the festival. Pontypool is a sleepy little town where Grant Mazzy (Stephen McHattie – perhaps best know for his role in A History Of Violence) works as a local radio host. Along with his producer (Lisa Houle) they soon realise that something strange is occurring outside as news starts flooding in reporting riots and random acts of violence across the region. Talking to various commentators and callers as they continue broadcasting, they try to figure out exactly what is going on while protecting themselves from the chaotic scenes unfolding in the outside world.
Pontypool takes a unique approach to the zombie genre by a) having the infection spread by language, and b) having the bulk of the action happen off screen. It’s a much more intimate character piece, dominated by an exploration of the nature of linguistics, anchored by a terrific performance from McHattie. Should the acting work ever dry up then a new career as a radio talk show host surely beckons!
Elizabeth Banks and Kevin Smith at the Zack And Miri Make A Porno premiere
The public screening that I was most pleased to get a ticket for was Zack And Miri Make A Porno, the new film from Kevin Smith (Clerks). En route I was pleasantly surprised to be spotted by my friend – and Toronto resident – Courtney who’d fled V Festival (before the attack on Noel Gallagher, I hasten to add) in order to join the rush line for the film. Being the world premiere of the movie I was surprised that there weren’t more press folk present to greet the arrival of the director and stars down at the Ryerson, but that was to the advantage of myself and the few others who had made the effort to turn up.
With Seth Rogen tied up shooting his next movie, it was left to Elizabeth Banks to lead the talent and she was quick to acknowledge my guerilla approach to my job, armed as I was merely with a tiny point-and-shoot digital camera. Also backing up Kevin Smith and his wife were Katie Morgan and longtime cohort Jason Mewes, a ball of energy and enthusiasm as he bounded up the red carpet filming everything on his own video camera.
Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks in Zack And Miri Make A Porno
Zack (Rogen) and Miri (Banks) are two debt-ridden friends who are inspired to make their own dirty movie after running into a gay porn star at their class reunion. Enlisting Zack’s work colleague (Craig Robinson) as producer, Jeff Anderson as their cameraman, and after holding auditions for their co-stars (including Mewes and ex-porn star Traci Lords), filming eventually commences after hours at the coffee shop where Zack works after their original set – for a hilarious Star Wars parody, Star Whores – is demolished. The combination of Smith and Rogen fits like hand in glove, and the dialogue is every bit as lewd and vulgar as that combination suggests, with Banks more than holding her own against her more established co-star.
Of course there’s more to the film than just smut, and as Zack and Miri’s friendship becomes threatened by sex entering into the equation, the film reveals its soft centre, a surprisingly sweet love story between the two pornographers. Smith’s direction feels a little flat and has matured little since his early work, but it matters little when the appeal of the film relies most on the characters and the dialogue. The post film Q&A focused heavily on Smith’s battle to secure an R rating in the US, despite some full frontal nudity and one particular jaw-dropping gag which had the whole audience caught between horror and hysterics.
Brian Trenchard-Smith, Mark Hartley and Antony I. Ginnane at the Not Quite Hollywood premiere
Seeing as I was already at the Ryerson I didn’t have to rush off anywhere for the Midnight Madness presentation of Not Quite Hollywood. Joining my fellow bloggers outside, Colin proudly showed off his accompanying book of poster art for the film while we waited for the director Mark Hartley to arrive. Also in attendance this evening were producer Antony I. Ginnane and director Brian Trenchard-Smith who both feature heavily in the film, the latter who I discovered was familiar with Eat My Brains work having exchanged emails with Jim on a semi-regular basis!
Not Quite Hollywood
Joining Mitch and Bruce inside we settled back for a riotous ride through ‘Ozploitation’ cinema. With uber-fan Quentin Tarantino leading the tributes to these cheap commercial exploitation films of the seventies and eighties, Not Quite Hollywood is a fast and furious celebration of movies that time forgot – or that we never saw in the first place. Covering such topics as nudity, gore, stunts and vehicular action, the film is peppered with so many exciting clips that I wished I could pause the action and rewind, or at least note down some of the titles! With contributions from those involved as diverse as Jamie Lee Curtis and Barry Humphries, Not Quite Hollywood is essential viewing for every self-respecting fan of cult cinema. Now, who has a copy of Turkey Shoot that I can borrow?
Not Quite Hollywood screens at the London Film Festival on 25th & 28th October.
For more information on TIFF including the Midnight Madness blogs please visit www.tiff08.ca.