Soulmining at TIFF '09, Day Two - The Informant! and Enter The Void
3rd Oct 09
Still buzzing from my close encounter with Megan Fox the night before, Iím up early on Friday so that I can hit the Industry Box Office at 8am before the screenings start. Having witnessed the pandemonium at Midnight Madness last night I feel its wise to pre-book a public ticket for George A. Romeroís Survival Of The Dead the following day as thatís one film I definitely want to make sure that I see with a rabid audience.
Choices, choices. What do I see first? After much deliberation I opt for Soderberghís The Informant! over the Coenís A Serious Man and so I make my way to the Cumberland where I notice a crowd of delegates are assembling for a long-since cancelled Daybreakers screening, despite Bruce and I informing the P&I office that their screening boards had not been updated. Oh well folks, we triedÖ
Matt Damon plays Mark Whitacre in The Informant!, a story about the highest-ranking corporate whistleblower in American history. Whitacre exposes his companyís multi-national price fixing conspiracy to the FBI and is happy to wear a wire in order to gather evidence for his handlers (led by Scott Bakula), naively picturing himself as a spy whoíll get a promotion at the end of it all. So far, so straightforward. However itís in the second half of the film that things really gain momentum and spiral crazily out of control as the FBI come to realise that Whitacre has secrets of his own that could compromise their little operation.
Damon is in fine form here, bulked up and donning a bushy Ďtache and glasses for the role. Dominating every scene Ė heís rarely off screen Ė The Informant! is a showcase for his talent and he duly gives one of his career best performances. Soderbergh, who tends to alternate between directing mainstream and lower-budget indie films is caught somewhere in the middle ground with this one Ė what appears at first as a multiplex crowd-pleaser is actually a little more refined and offbeat than youíd expect. Intelligent, and with a keen sense of comic timing, the combination seems effortless and the result is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.
Jason Reitman, Diablo Cody, Adam Brody, Megan Fox, Johnny Simmons, Amanda Seyfried and Karyn Kusama
I always try and attend one or two press conferences at TIFF, so the lure of one with the Jenniferís Body talent chaired by Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes is a sure thing for me. Meeting up with fellow Brightonian and freelance journo James Evans we settle down for what turns out to be a rather lacklustre affair. After an awkward start in which Jason Reitman rudely chastises our host thereís a short discussion about the film before itís thrown open to the assembled press to ask any questions. Diablo Cody and Karyn Kasuma prove the most vocal with the actors seeming quite withdrawn, especially the shy Amanda Seyfried and Johnny Simmons who I donít think says one word throughout the whole thing. Nevertheless your intrepid reporter takes it upon himself to direct a question to Seyfried and Megan Fox:
Phil: Your characters have this very close relationship in the film, was it difficult to convey that level of intimacy so convincingly or did that just come naturally to you both?
Amanda Seyfried: Well, it was a bit uncomfortable obviously because youíre making a movie and being intimate in front of I donít know how many people itís horrid, but at the same time itís good that it was convincing to you. I think it was needed to show that side of her in the relationship.
Megan Fox: I think we got better at it, being friends on screen and the longer we worked together. I think the first scene we filmed we were both really unhappy with it and it was really awkward and we didnít feel like it played as though we had known each other our whole lives. You know, the characters would have been friends since they were little kids and we wanted that to be believable and just the more you get to know someone clearly the better the illusion will translate on screen, so I think by the end we were much much more believable.
Oh yeah, thatís insightful stuff right there.
Enter The Void
Time for another film so making good use of my transit pass (free public transport all festival!) I head down to the AMC at Yonge/Dundas Ė a new location for some of the P&I screenings this year Ė meet up with Bruce and get ready to Enter The Void. Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is eking out a living in Tokyo as a small time drug dealer. He saves enough to reconnect with his sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) who flies out to join him, but Oscar continues to trade and Linda soon finds herself stripping in a nightclub. When Oscar is shot dead by police the story really begins as we relive moments of his life, and then as his soul leaves his body, we see what happens to the characters heís left behind. Copious drug-taking and hardcore sex is on the menu and thereís a couple of jolting moments that will have you leaping from your seat. At 155mins itís half an hour too long as scenes begin to repeat themselves as if Gaspar Noť wasnít sure when to call time on the film, but that really is the sole criticism of this epic voyage into the mind.
Regardless of what you think of the subject matter of Noťís previous feature Irreversible, thereís no denying the man is an arresting filmmaker, using swirling camera movements and distressing sound design to dizzying effect. In this tale of life, death and the afterlife he really lets fly. At first itís all first-person like an extended version of Prodigyís ďSmack My Bitch UpĒ video mixed with trippy fractals, before it switches to a third person viewpoint where the camera follows Oscarís every moment. Then in the final section the camera is let loose swooping around the locations at will like the free spirit that itís meant to represent. Frankly itís an amazing piece of work, and again coupled with its rather grubby subject matter and that ever-present unsettling throbbing (courtesy of Daft Punk) itís clearly destined for cult status. One of the highlights of TIFF 09 for me, no question.
With Danny Boyle
Thereís a familiar looking fella sat in the row in front of us at Enter The Void and Iím pretty sure itís Danny Boyle. One of my favourite directors, I was gutted that I missed him at the public screenings of Slumdog Millionaire last year which of course won the Cadillac Peopleís Choice Award and then went on to conquer the rest of the world. Iím not going to pass up this opportunity to say hello so I catch up with him outside and we take a stroll down Yonge Street together. Heís in town for a couple of days as heís been invited to take part in TIFFís Talent Lab programme before he flies onto New York for meetings about his top secret new project. We also talk Sunshine, British sci-fi, and he reveals just how much he liked Duncan Jonesí Moon. Gracious and totally down-to-earth we part ways a couple of blocks later and then I immediately run into Brian Cox (in town for The Good Heart) coming out of Starbucks!
Food etc. taken care of itís time for a party or two. Twitch Ė the international film website Ė are celebrating their fifth birthday with a ĎFreaks & Felinesí gathering at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, so I grab myself a cab and head over there to hook up with Todd and the gang. Paul and Ian are already getting stuck in along with director Jonathan King (Under The Mountain) by the time I arrive, and weíre soon joined by Bruce, James and Stephanie Trepanier (Evokative Films). A few drinks later, host The Great Orbax is busy sticking sharp objects up his nose and Ian is getting squeamish so itís time to split.
With Ian Rattray and James Evans
Iíve already secured a ticket for the second public screening of Daybreakers so Iím not worried about skipping tonightís Midnight Madness screening, even if it does mean missing Willem Dafoe and Sam Neill who are set to attend. Instead Ian, James and I find ourselves another party to go to being held at the Duke Of Gloucester pub, just round the corner from where weíre staying. This bash is being thrown by Jeffrey Coghlan and Ambrose Roche, producers of Pontypool, and we have free beer tokens! Suffice to say itís a late one with Ian and myself finally stumbling back home around 3am. Iím sure Iíll be regretting that in the morning when I have to be up bright and early for another 9am start!
For further information on TIFF 09 visit the festival website: www.tiff.net/.
The Informant! and Enter The Void will screen at the BFI 53rd London Film Festival in October.
The Informant! is released in UK cinemas on 20th November 2009.