Friday, September 07, 2007

TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL, '07. Day 1.

Thursday, September 6.

Arrive midafternoon. They’ve moved the Film Festival headquarters a few blocks down busy Bay Street from where it’s been located the last 3 or 4 years, so a lot foot traffic in a new direction. The city has always embraced the fest wholeheartedly, and this year’s no exception: Shops sport banners and window displays with TIFF tie-ins, restaurants and cafes have special signs; my favorite, though, is the table of books at the front entrance of Indigo (a Canadian Borders-like chain). The sign says “Option Me,” inviting producers and directors (and independently wealthy spec script-writers?) to nab such presumably unaquired literary properties as William Boyd’s Restless (the WW2 spy thriller/mother-daughter portrait could actually be a great film), Dinaw Mengetsu’s The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bars, Louis Riel: A Comic Strip Biography, by the great graphic novelist Chester Brown and Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford, among about 30 titles.

First film: Slingshot, or Tirador, part of the Contemporary World Cinema program. And jeez, this is part of the contemporary world I don’t really want to see (why didn’t I go to that French guilt-trip pic about the war in Algiers?), but I stick it out: Shot with a jumpy, hand-held digital camera and set in the grim squalor of a Manila shantytown (open sewers, open sex, open shooting-up, open thievery, babies lying unattended on the ground), the film offers a verite ramble among the squatter set: a young woman scamming money for new false teeth; a trio of robbers; a bicycle cabbie in arrears on paying for his machine, and, of course, slimeball local politicians. Philippines filmmaker Brillante Mendoza knows how to move through the crowds (he should try his mini-cam at the corner of Bay and Bloor), but Slingshot suffers from a lack of narrative tension, basic storytelling, and acting (the cast is pretty much all off the street). It’s hard stuff.

The short that preceded Slingshot, called “The Shock Doctrine,” is hard stuff, too: Naomi Klein and brothers Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron equate 1950s emergence of electroshock therapy for patients with schizophrenia to global mega-crises like war, natural disasters and 9/11. The seismic economic and political changes that emerge after such events are never an accident, posit the filmmakers.

Next up: Control, a biopic of Ian Curtis, the young, brilliant, Bowie-influenced singer/songwriter/frontman of the short-lived late 70s Manchester band, Joy Division. A beautiful first feature by the Dutch photographer Anton Corbijn (he photographed Curtis and his mates back in the 70s), it’s a sad tale (Curtis hung himself at 23), but smart, funny and powerful, too. Sam Riley, who plays Curtis, is dead-on and scary, and he and the three actors who make up the band are musicians: they perform for all the movie’s club, concert and recording session scenes. Add Bowie, Iggy Pop, real Joy Division and the Killers to the soundtrack, and, well – where do I get me a CD? There’s also a Joy Division doc at the fest, and a Lou Reed concert film – a picture of Reed is on the wall of the bedroom where the teenage Curtis writes his poetry and song lyrics, smoking cigarettes and miming Ziggy Stardust in the mirror. Samantha Morton, looking like Carol White in Ken Loach’s Poor Cow, plays Debbie Curtis, Ian’s widow, and author of the memoir on which Corbijn’s film is based.

That’s it for (half-) Day 1.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

when is the lou reed concert film from?

7:29 AM  
Blogger Steven Rea said...

It's called "Lou Reed's Berlin," it was filmed during Reed's 5-night 2006 stand in Brooklyn performing songs from his old Berlin album. Julian Schnabel directed. I'm hoping to catch it tomorrow or Tuesday.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous Dustin said...

Sorry for my denseness, but is Slingshot a documentary?
And will it play here in Philadelphia?
It sounds like a Phillipine City of God to me and that was a really cool film. Or am I being really dense?

10:59 AM  

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