TIFF 2006 – First few days

Wow, what a lineup this year. We thought Toronto Film Fest was outstanding in 2005 (Everything’s Illuminated, Mrs. Henderson Presents, A History of Violence, and dozens of other films), but so far this year we haven’t seen (or heard of) anything bad. Every screening we go to, every review we hear is just great. Stay tuned for in-depth reviews coming to the site, meanwhile a little tease. Babel is a multilingual drama, a tearjerker in today’s ever-shrinking world; Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairytale, told in a background of 1944 fascist Spain, a fascinating parable of today’s evils…

For Your Consideration – Christopher Guest does it again. His ensemble of stars keeps growing, and the jokes are so frequent they’re almost in every line. A satire of Hollywood, of film spin, a great send-up of marketing agencies, talent agents, and TV gossip shows. Every scene steals the show, especially Harry Shearer, Catherine O’Hara and Eugene Levy.

Shortbus – yes, it’s as raunchy as you heard, and there is no way this film will ever get released the way it was screened. Only if the director/studio agrees to a XXX rating. Regardless, the scenes are only a background of this warm, touching story of strangers looking for companionship and compassion on the streets of NYC after 9/11.

Brand Upon the Brain – Guy Maddin has gone and made a classic silent movie. You absolutely have to see it the way it was presented at the Festival – with a live orchestra, a conductor, a narrator (beside the stage), sound effects crew (blowing wind, rumbling waves, seagulls crying, etc.) Maddin shows just how much can transcend time, how many devices (and plot twists) are entertaining today as they were in the 20s and 30s. A fantastic homage to silent cinema.

Hollywoodland – Even though Adrien Brody steals the show, and Diane Lane is outstanding as a fading star (a brave move), it’s Ben Affleck who reminds us why we used to like him 10 years ago. He was a smart, handsome, shy kid in Kevin Smith’s small budget films. That’s his charm, and that’s what he shows – a guy who’s uncomfortable in his “superman” shoes. And, perhaps uncomfortable with all this publicity.

Borat – despite the opening night fiasco (the projector broke, and although Michael Moore tried to fix it, the show did not resume), Sasha Baron Cohen (Ali G Show on HBO) delivered tons of offensive, in-your-face comments and sequences in the movie. All the while, it’s a satirical look at how Americans might be seeing the outside world, having never been there, and having read NO history books. Borat lives!

The Journals of Knud Rasmussen – Slow, but satisfying tale of Inuit contact with the White man in the beginning of last century. A clash of cultures, a clash of beliefs, and endless, flat white desert of snow outside. A marvel to look at, and a desperate plea for understanding. What do we really know about our neighbors from the north?

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