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TIFF 2007 Report

I need a vacation from my vacation: 25 films (out of 349) viewed in 9 days (out of 10)

Celebrity sightings: Juliette Binoche, Ang Lee, Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Neil Jordan, Ben Affleck, Sigourney Weaver, Kate Bosworth, Marisa Tomei, Ethan Hawke, Sidney Lumet, Brian Cox, Justin Long

Film shoots: stumbled across shoots for Flash of Genius and Incredible Hulk while wandering the streets of Toronto


The Brave One 8/10 – Derivative vigilante story, but not just another Death Wish or Panic Room, Jodie Foster and director Neil Jordan give this film some real depth. This is a transformation movie, but rather than an imperfect character overcoming their flaws, this is proceeds as a perfect character that becomes more and more flawed. Foster’s soliloquies are mesmerizing.

Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge 1/10 – Based on the 1956 French film “Le Ballon Rouge”, this is a slice of life film. I kept on waiting for something to happen, but nothing ever did. I was struggling for consciousness through the entire duration.

Lust, Caution (Se, Jie) 8/10. Students find a way to resist the collaborationist government in occupied Shanghai. Visually rich, complex characters and engaging plot. Very hot sex scenes.

Terra 8/10 – Children’s film about a peaceful planet attacked by war mongering aliens. Mediocre computer graphics, simple characters, but terrific layered plot, highly imaginative, and great animation. This is worth a watch by both kids and adults.

Silent Resident (Weisse Lilien) 2/10 – Futuristic tale of a self contained mega apartment building and the residents are mysteriously disappearing. Gradually loses coherency until it becomes an art film by the time we get to the end. Slow pacing, didn’t understand it and don’t want to.

The Girl in the Park 8/10 – Original story of a child’s disappearance, and the mother who struggles to deal with it 16 years later. This is about the lengths the mind will go to to emotionally disconnect from a traumatic experience and attempt to fill the void. Strong performances by Sigourney Weaver and Kate Bosworth make this worth a watch.

Shadows (Senki) 4/10 – Macedonian film of a man who sees recurring people getting killed over and over again, after recovering from an accident. Reasonable direction and acting, but the world doesn’t need another “I see dead people” movie. I’ve seen this movie many times over before.

Chrysalis 7/10 – French action film about people who show up with strange marks on their eyes, either dead or with amnesia. Good pacing, good plot, and good budget action. Lead action star Albert Dupontel is worth a special mention for his great screen presence

Short Cuts 4 3/10 – Nothing much memorable. “I can see the future”, “Reorder”, and “Cursing Hanley” were ok, the rest sucked

The Exodus (Cheut ai kup gei) 7/10 – Very quirky Hong Kong film about a police officer who interrogates a man who later changes his story. His investigations lead to a conspiracy of staggering scope. Brilliant, layered, and surreal opening scene, but had some slow bits towards the end. Spoiler: this movie will explain why women congregate in the bathroom together.

Vexille 8/10 – Terrific sci-fi anime film with great action choreography and good pacing. Seamless blend of styles of regular 3D for the robots and cell shading for the people. Straight sci fi story with no trace of spirits or ghosts as is usual for Japanese films. I am normally not a fan of anime, but I really enjoyed this one.

Sleuth 7/10 – Based on the play, Jude Law and Michael Caine deliver strong performances and witty repartee. Watching these two actors verbally spar with each other is tremendously amusing, but feels claustrophobic since the entire film takes place in one house.

The Sun Also Rises (Tai yang zhao chang sheng qi) 5/10. Strong and humorous start about a boy trying to keep his crazy mother out of trouble, but gradually devolves into a surrealistic art film. Character motivations were puzzling.

Four Women (Moonnu Pennungal) 4/10 – Very depressing short stories of 4 Indian female archetypes: the prostitute, the virgin, the housewife, and the spinster. Reasonable direction and acting, but would have been a much better film with even a minuscule amount of levity or hope. Each story is about a woman struggling to break out of the label thrust upon her by others, and the lesson is that they can’t and they shouldn’t. Very regressive film.

The Voyeurs (Ami, Yasin Ar Amar Madhubala) 2/10 – Starts out as a quaint love story that ends with a political statement. Come on, pick the right kind of ending that is appropriate for your film. I felt that this kind of bait and switch was entrapment.

The Pope’s Toilet (El Baño del Papa) 5/10 – Depressing, yet hopeful story of a man’s quest to build a pay toilet for the throngs expected when the Pope visits his town. Well acted, but it got tiring to watch this poor man get thwarted at every turn.

Import/Export 5/10 – Interesting concept of a Ukrainian women who leaves everything behind to seek a better life in Austria, and loser of an Austrian man who winds up in Ukraine. The screenwriter could have made his point clearer by showing more progress. Also could have used better direction, score, and editing. This is the only film I saw that had more nudity than “Lust, Caution”.

Blind 10/10 – Disturbed blind man is assigned an ugly handler. Romance ensues. I have nothing bad to say about this film, it had perfect execution. Excellent direction, acting, story, superb art direction and cinematography. Hopefully this film gets wider release.

Sukiyaki Western Django 7/10 – A Japanese western you say? Pagodas in the Nevada desert? Six shooters and samurai swords? The entire dialog delivered phonetically in English by Japanese actors (the only natively English speaking actor is Quentin Tarantino)? Both a tribute and a parody of both Kurasawa films and spaghetti Westerns, this film is a hoot if you’re into these movies.

L’Age des Tenebres 8/10 – A civil servant with an ordinary life and ineffectual job has hyper-reality fantasies. Dark satire overflowing with Quebecois angst. Very amusing, but non-Canadians will wonder.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead 8/10 – Buddy heist film which is heavy in tragedy and irony. The non-linear story is a mastery of exposition. Marisa Tomei was great to look at, but had an unchallenging role. I was bothered that Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke played brothers who looked nothing alike. It also bothered me that Hoffman had a heterosexual role.

Boy A 8/10 – Original story of a disturbed young man who seeks to escape his past. Looking for a second chance, are we unprejudiced enough to do that? Terrific acting, fresh story, fresh actors, this is worth a look.

Mad Detective 7/10 – Insane police detective investigates the case of a missing cop. Terrible translation of the dialog, but satisfying ending.

The Devil’s Chair 7/10 – Better than average psycho asylum slasher flick. The inner dialog of the main character is sarcastic and witty. Great twists and turns, but not enough gratuitous nudity (as in, none).

Nothing is Private 9/10 – Very original story of a pubescent Lebanese American girl, and the clash of cultures and their view of the role of women under the backdrop of the first Gulf war. Directed by Alan Ball, and superiour to American Beauty



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