Saturday, September 08, 2007

TIFF07, Day 2

Friday, September 7.It’s 6:30am, and the barrista at Starbucks, a nice Torontonian in her 50s, sees my TIFF press pass and wants to know what I thought of The Brave One. She was at the opening night gala premiere, and says Jodie Foster’s a sure thing for another Oscar. Later, on line for the public screening of Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge, two women chat about their plans for the weekend, pull out a stack of tickets for the coming week’s selections and exchange views on the work of Im Kwon-tack, the Korean director. Then they’re on to Edward Norton, who’s shooting The Hulk around Dundas, nearby. Torontonians know movies the way Philadelphians know sports – no wonder actors and filmmakers love coming here.

First up is Caramel, which had some people wowed at Cannes and which is a very pretty, light-infused study of female longing and friendship -- written, directed by and starring the light-infused Lebanese beauty Nadine Labaki. It’s set in a hair salon, where the owner and her coworkers fluff and curl and shampoo, sharing secrets about their love lives and supporting each other when things get rough. An old, solitary woman in the neighborhood has a nutty obsession with paper, picking up scraps and documents everywhere she goes. Is this the future that awaits them?

Then it’s the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men. Phew! Set in 1980 Texas (and a key bit in a Mexican border town), this tale of drugs, money and killing with Tommy Lee Jones as a third generation Lone Star state sheriff and Javier Bardem as a creepily twisted, lethal sociopath, is gorgeous, spare, haunting. Best thing I’ve seen so far, far-and-away. Josh Brolin is taciturn and terrific as a kind of modern-day western loner, out for himself (but also looking out for his wife, played by Kelly Macdonald), who stumbles on a suitcase full of $100 bills – and tumbles into a mess o’ trouble. The jolting, graphic, wide-eyed violence is hard to take, but it means something – it’s not the Looney Tunes bloodshed of Shoot ‘Em Up. A return to form and then some for siblings Joel and Ethan.

No time for lunch, just a quick ride down Bay Street to the Ryerson Theater, on the city campus of Ryerson College, where the queue winds around the block for the aforementioned Ballon Rouge. Luckily, promo-people with bags full of free O Henry Pro’s walk by handing out the chocolate nut bars. (Now if somebody would just come along with free BLTs, chips and soda!) This is my last chance to see the film before talking to Juliette Binoche tomorrow. It’s Hou Hsiao-hsien’s homage to the French children’s classic about a boy and his balloon, and likewise it’s set in Paris. Binoche plays a harried actress who lends her vocal talents to a master Chinese puppeteer while her son walks around with his new nanny (a young Chinese woman studying moviemaking), and now and then a big red balloon hovers nearby. Long, improvisatory and full of sweet humor and mystery. Binoche trots out before the screening to take a bow and tell the audience how making Ballon Rouge was a "life changing" experience. It’s midafternoon and she’s wearing a ghastly black and white gown (there, my couture criticism), but manages to be charming and funny and Binoche-y nonetheless.

Pick up a ticket for the 6pm public showing of Disengagement, this one back at the Varsity – the indoor multi-level shopping/screenplex where most of the press and industry screenings take place. Juliette Binoche is in this one too (last year she had three films at the festival), playing a messed-up French gal whose father has passed away, an event which brings her Israeli French half-brother (Liron Levo) back to town, and sets off a trip to Gaza, in search of Binoche’s long-abandoned daughter, now a teacher on a kibbutz. This is an Amos Gatai movie, and it’s full of musings about borders, national identity and the confusion and dangers of religious and ethnic branding. It’s overstuffed, digress-y, art-y, but full of powerful moments, and a brutal, chaotic final-act sequence involving the forced removal of Israeli settlers from a Gaza homestead.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Starbucks?! What, they don't have La Colombe in Toronto?

7:18 AM  
Anonymous Margaret said...

What did you think of the previous Cormac McCarthy adaptation All the Pretty Horses with Matthew Damon?
I keep thinking Tommy Lee Jones would make a pretty cool villian but he seems to prefer the white-hat side. Your thoughts?

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Sgt. Rock said...

I would so be willing to bet Ed Norton went to the Bjork concert too. Would you care to wager, major?

11:08 AM  

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