Day 1 report from TIFF (inc Dario Argento's Mother of Tears)
8th Sep 07
TIFF Day 1 (Thursday)
Let the films commence! I start as I mean to go on by setting my alarm for 7am to ensure that I've plenty of time to get some breakfast inside me before the screenings kick off at 9am.
Unfortunately my day doesn't begin well for me; I've picked up a cold on the flight over and am now battling the sniffs and sneezes as well as the jetlag.
Undaunted I find my way to the Royal Ontario Museum in good time for my first pick of the day, a French Canadian horror called They Wait. Alas the screening has been cancelled! This isn't going terribly well so far, is it?
With time to kill until the next batch of screenings I head to the Manulife Centre, home of the central TIFF Box Office and the Varsity cinema where the majority of the Press & Industry (P&I) screenings are taking place. My Press pass allows me five free tickets for public screenings, so I make sure I have tickets for the key Midnight Madness films.
Job done I make the five minute walk along to the Sutton Hotel to locate the Press internet room - populated by brand new Macs with swanky aluminium keyboards, very swish! It's free access there so makes sense to use their facilities - although I can't upload any pics from there.
After bumping into Ant Timpson (The Devil Dared Me To producer) in the foyer I get in line for my first film of the day - Neil Jordan's The Brave One. The P&I screenings are all done on a first come first served basis, so you generally need to get there 30 mins prior to the screening to ensure a seat. The foyer is awash with TIFF volunteers directing people to queues here and there - it's well organised chaos. I also notice each screening has a member of staff stood at the front with an infra-red camera, on the look out for covert filming.
Anyway, back to the film - The Brave One is a superior thriller with assured direction from Neil Jordan. When Erica's (Jodie Foster) husband is killed in a random attack she purchases a gun to protect herself. She unwittingly seems to attract trouble wherever she goes and gradually becomes a vigilante, taking out the bad guys - while her cop friend (Terence Howard) tries to unmask the killer's identity. This is quality filmmaking with Jodie Foster as the central focus delivering one of her best performances in years. Nicky Katt, as Howard's deadpan sidekick is also hilarious in an otherwise sombre piece.
The screenings come thick and fast, so it was straight into the queue for Ang Lee's Lust, Caution where I spied the hulking figure of Michael Moore arriving for a screening of his new film Captain Mike Across America.
My overriding reaction to Lust, Caution is that it's long. 157 minutes long, and believe me, I felt every single one of those minutes. Reminding me a little thematically of Verhoeven's Black Book, it's the tale of a young theatre company who go undercover for the Resistance with the aim to entrap and kill traitor Mr Yee (Tony Leung).
Tang Wei as Mrs Mak, the seductress, is exceptional and deserves to figure in next year's Award nominations, and there are one or two beautifully shot scenes; the matter-of-fact knife attack on one of Yee's associates is shocking and emotional. There's also a lot of rough sex in the film which has earned the film the dreaded NC-17 certificate in the US. History may prove this to be Ang Lee's masterpiece, but on first look - and amidst a hectic festival schedule - it's just too flabby.
A quick break - just enough time to rifle through a few of the free papers that keep getting thrust my way - and then it was back inside for Control, Anton Corbijn's biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis.
Corbijn of course has made his name with his unique black & white photography and music videos, and here he translates that work effortlessly to the big screen. Filming in black & white somehow suits this tragic tale of Curtis's descent into depression and eventual suicide perfectly. The film flags a little in the second half as it builds to its inevitable conclusion, but it's a rewarding, respectful portrait with a fine performance from Sam Riley in the lead role. The music of Joy Division has never sounded better.
My tentative plan for TIFF is to keep the screenings to the daytime, thereby keeping me free for any social events that might come up in the evenings prior to the Midnight Madness screenings. Paul, Ian & Johanna had been invited to the Dario Argento reception so I went off in search of the Imperial Pub on Dundas Street, where I'd arranged to hook up with Ant. The FrightFest team met us later with exciting news of having been invited over to George A. Romero's place next week - I don't think I'm invited but that won't stop me repeatedly pestering Paul over the next few days to see if I can tag along!
Me, Ian, Ant, Johanna & Paul at Midnight Madness
Mother Of Tears - Asia Argento
Mother Of Tears - Dario Argento
And so to the opening film of Midnight Madness, the highly anticipated new movie from Dario Argento - Mother Of Tears. Dario and daughter Asia said a few words of introduction and then sat down directly behind Ian and myself. So is it the long awaited return to form of the Italian master? Well, not quite.
Gone are the elaborate set pieces and the swooping camera work, and still present are the questionable English accents and the variable acting (Udo Kier - hamming it up for all he's worth as a priest). Yet it's his most accessible and enjoyable film since Opera; Sarah (Asia Argento) opens a box which unleashes the Mother Of Tears, summoning witches galore as anarchy hits the streets of Rome. They've all got it in for Sarah since her mother was a witch slayer in her time, and - as luck would have it - some of that old power has rubbed off on her daughter.
Mother Of Tears is a really nothing more than a trashy B movie but I have to admit that for all its flaws I really enjoyed it, and the graphic gore on display certainly provoked enthusiastic cheers from the packed audience. Even the fire alarm going off in the venue halfway through didn't distract from the action taking place on screen!
After the enthusiastic reception, Dario and Asia reluctantly returned to the stage for a quick Q&A - highlights of which I hope to be able to post on YouTube shortly. On the way out we ran into Edgar Wright, and then I walked back with Ant, to get some rest before it all starts again tomorrow!