Monday, September 10, 2007

TIFF07, Day 4

Sunday, Sepember 9. Have to see Elizabeth: The Golden Age for a scheduled interview with Geoffrey Rush (Sir Francis Walsingham), and after waiting on a long, winding, wholly unnecessary line (the new TIFF “Priority Press” system blows – especially if you’re NOT priority press), get in and get to see this grand-looking sequel to the Cate Blanchett Oscar hit. Grand-looking, but full of kerplunkingly lame speeches and dopey lovemaking montages. The love is being made by Clive Owen (Sir Walter Raleigh) and Abbie Cornish (the Queen’s first lady in waiting), as Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen, aches inside, longing to love the dashing plunderer of the New World but not being able to do so. Something about a war with Spain and having to decapitate Mary, Queen of Scots. (That’s Samantha Morton, not looking anything like Ian Curtis’ wife in the Joy Division movie, Control.)

Catch the first 15 minutes of an Austrian-German futuristic existential thing that I’ll never have to review because it will never get U.S. distribution so I don’t feel guilty about cutting out on it. Silent Resident it’s called, and it’s set in a self-contained, Big Brother-maintained housing complex where the drone-like residents are prone to jumping off their balconies in fits of umlauts and angst.

Down Bay Street to the Sutton Place, where TIFF has a splendid Internet room for press and industry, with about 40 flat-screen Macs and folks taking a break from deal-making and film watching to check their respective German, French, Japanese and Swedish G-mail accounts. I go up the stairs 5 flights (forget the elevators here) and talk to Amir Bar-Lev, the director of My Kid Could Paint That, about (then-) 4-year-old Marla Olmstead, a preschooler whose abstract canvases started selling in the five-figure price range. The subject of a brief media hoopla, and a 60 Minutes debunking, Marla and her folks remain something of a mystery – intentionally, and intelligently so -- in Bar-Lev’s fascinating doc. The Sony Pictures Classics’ release isn’t simply an investigation into the authenticity of Marla’s work (did her dad actually do them, or coach her?), but a thought-provoking look at the world of abstract art, the relationship between a reporter and his/her subject, and, just for the heck of it, the nature of truth.

Really good film from Man Push Cart’s Ramin Bahrani. This one’s called Chop Shop and is likewise set in New York: in Queens, in the shadow of Shea Stadium, in a squalid block or two of dubious auto body repair businesses. It’s about an enterprising 12-year-old kid (Alejandro Polanco), parentless and homeless, and his 16-year-old sister (Isamar Gonzales) and how they get by, working, thieving, dreaming of owning their own food truck. The press and industry crowd stays throughout, and offers much-deserved applause as the credits roll.

Then it’s Julie Taymor’s Across the Universe, a psychedelicized musical with a Beatles songbook and a colorful, choreographed cartwheel flashback to the tumultuous late 1960s, when Vietnam and the Martin Luther King killing and hippie kids dropping acid and cops beating on protestors – when all that happened. And when Lennon, McCartney, Harrison and Starr gave us Sergeant Pepper. I have to write the review pretty much as soon as I get back to Philly on Wednesday. Won’t be easy. I am not the walrus.

Then it’s dinner with some NY and Philadelphia folks. And then it’s decision time: Lars and the Real Girl, or Atonement?


Anonymous Ian McEwan said...

How was Atonement? I really liked the book.

8:13 AM  
Anonymous Gange said...

I would be far more likely to see Silent Resident that I would a sequel to Elizabeth. Costume epics bore me silly.
Why would the sci fi film not get shown here?

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Saul said...

So who excatly constitutes "the priority press" if not you?
I'm just curious.

10:41 AM  
Anonymous Cecilia said...

Isn't Julie Taymor the Lion King lady? Has she directed films before?
And what is the plot of Across the Universe (assuming it has one)?
Finally when you say it's set to a Beatles' songbook, does that mean these are the original Fab Four versions or covers of Beatles songs (in which case I am not interested in the least)?

11:03 AM  
Blogger Steven Rea said...

Gange: The German/Austrian sci-fi film is unlikely to get an American distibutor because 1) it's in German, and 2) it's really bad.

Saul: You know, the Big Cheeses.

Cecilia: Yes, the one and same Julie Taymor. This is his third feature: She did Frida, with Salma Hayek, and Titus, with Anthony Hopkins.

8:36 AM  

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