Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Seen Any Good Films Lately? YES!

David Lean's HOBSON'S CHOICE, part of Cinematheque Ontario's Encounter David Lean series that has kept me out late at night.

It seems that since TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) I have been going from one film festival to another or attending Doc Soup screenings. With Toronto being a film city, I'm sure many of you have attended the same screenings. Did you see what I saw?

I didn’t cover this festival, but a friend had a couple of tickets so I managed to see the hilarious office vampire tale, Netherbeast Incorporated (Darrel Hammond and Judd Nelson) and the visually stunning, but poorly written, Mutant Chronicles (Thomas Jane, Ron Perlman). The highlight of attending that night was seeing Steven Kostanski's short film, Laser Ghosts 2: Return to Laser Cove, which effectively parodies common sci-fi horror plots. I can do horror comedies, and action horrors, but I can't go gory. I loved the trailer for Tokyo Gore Police, but had to pass on the ticket because I just can't see these types of films. My friend, who is a hardcore horror fan and enjoyed the film, told me that the cinematography was wonderful, but agreed that I would not have been able to last.

Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival
I had a wonderful discussion with Academy Award Nominee, director, Christine Choy about Asian representation in North American cinema. Her documentary Long Story Short chronicles the experiences of Tony and Trudie Long as recounted by them and their daughter, Jodi Long. In the documentary, Tony Long is fired from his role in Flower Drum Song because of a fight with one of the producers. The movie and the play are integral to the documentary, and Christine and I spoke about the Asian representation from the first incarnations of this work to the play's revival on Broadway with an updated script. Besides the lack of non-stereotypical work for Asian actors and the persistence of Chinese actors playing Japanese roles etc, we also touched on the topic of film schools (Christine is in the film department of NYU), and how Asian students are not being encouraged to write stories that reflect their own experiences.

Congratulations to Aram Collier on his award for "THE OTHERS" featuring Lou Diamond Philips (the Every Asian/Latino/Inuit/Indian) and Randall Lloyd Okita for the incredibly inventive, MACHINE WITH A WISHBONE. I wish I could say the same for THE DRUMMER, but unlike most of the audience I did not like this mix of Zen meets gangster movie. For other award winners, visit www.reelasian.com.

Doc Soup
Both October and November screenings at Doc Soup took me to the American South with very personal films. Trouble the Water, which has won a Sundance Film Festival award, took me to New Orleans and the personal videos of a young couple as they deal with the encrouching waters of Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. One of the things that resonate with me is the couple's reaction to seeing Black people outside of New Orleans who lived suburban lifestyles that they had never seen before. As bad as the situation that they lived through, they probably never would have had the opportunity to move beyond their own impoverished neighbourhood. The Order of Myths took me to Alabama and the racially segregated celebration of Mardis Gras. The filmmaking is rudimentary, but the film is worth watching because of the class differential that I don't usually see when filmmakers tackle the issue of racism. Class structures are usually seen in films about England, but in The Order of Myths, to be part of the White Mardis Gras world, you have to belong to certain White families. Getting a glimpse into this closed world where Blacks are still the ones serving food in the background is like watching a video of modern Alabama superimposed on a slide show of American slavery. As for the Black Mardis Gras, it was interesting to see how they out-formalized the White Mardis Gras functions in terms of pomp and glitter. This film was a very interesting social commentary.

Canadian Films:
32 Short Films About Glenn Gould

I love talking film with Steve Gravestock, Associate Director of Canadian Programming and Special Projects for the Toronto International Film Festival Group. He loves Canadian and Nordic film and so do I, but I enjoy talking film with him because he always keeps it conversational. (If you've ever been stuck discussing aspect ratio and film run times with die hard film afficionados you'll know what I mean.) If you tuned in to our chat on Saturday, November 15th, I hope you got a sense of what this film meant to Canadian cinema of the early 1990s and why its still relevant today. If you missed the recent screenings at the Royale Cinema, rent it. The DVD won't be the fresh new print that was screened and it has been formatted for television, but until a newer version is released, it will be as good as it gets. The colour palette and depth of the photograpy, Colm Feore performance and Glenn Gould's music is well worth it.

In their continued support of Canadian film, The First Weekend Club has launched Canada Screens, a monthly screening of Canadian films. Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y was shown in the very intimate underground of the Drake Hotel on Sunday, Nov. 30th, and even though I had seen this film before I still teared up at the end (as did many others in the audience). During the Q & A following the film Jean-Marc talked about how important the soundtrack (Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, David Bowie,Patsy Cline...)was to the making of the film ($650, 000 for music out of a total film budget of 7 million) was to the story and how he fought to get certain songs to reflect the rebellion of his main character as well as mark the passing time from the early 60's to 80's. He also expressed his immense surprise at how well the film connected with everyone who saw it (the film swept the Genies and the Jutras and has won many International awards).

I also had a chance to speak to Jean-Marc about the difficulty of distribution and about the heartbreaking process of making a film and not having final say (his last project, not C.R.A.Z.Y). The reality is film is a business and studios will do everything to get bums in seats; they won't risk their money on anything that appears too "art house". As an audience we lose when what we see at the theatres is limited. Thanks goodness for festivals and special screenings! Next up for me is David Lean's The Bridge on the River Kwai, just one of the many Lean films I've seen over the past few months (Oliver Twist, Brief Encounter, The Passionate Friends, Summertime). To be cont'd...


Anonymous said...

I think CRAZY is one of the best Canadian films of all time, and like donna g I always tear up at the end.

Hye! said...

I think I saw many of the same films... I also give kudos to "The Other" short film; really great editing and funny. But my highlights are the David Lean films... Lawrence of Arabia: 4hrs of great cinematography, acting, directing and not to mention a great cast.

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