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TIFF 11: The Flying Machine and Miss Bala

I usually loathe 3-D films, but I was lured into seeing this one by the mix of live action and animation. Even with glasses on top of glasses, I managed to appreciate the animated effects, however, I did find some of the details superfluous--do I really need flower petals floating toward my eyes?

Directors Martin Clapp, Geoff Lindsey and Dorota Kobiela
and their vast team have put a lot of work into this feature, and it shows. Like any film, it's the story that matters and this film within a film is a good one for children. Set in London, the live action part of the film involves a workaholic single mom (Heather Graham) and her two children, Jane (Kizzy Mee) and Fred (Jamie Munns). The trio attend a Chopin recital by pianist Lang Lang (who plays himself) where they view a stop motion animated short about a young girl, her separation from her father, and a magical flying machine made up of a grand piano, a harp and other spare parts. This part of the film is free of dialogue, but accompanied by Lang Lang playing several works by Chopin. Live action and and animation are then combined when the the family as well as Lang Lang go on a flying journey to various cities visited by Chopin.

Younger children will not notice how miscast Heather Graham is in the role of the mother, which is to their advantage. Lucky for them the rest of the cast do a good job of it, especially Kizzy Mee, who has a career ahead of her if she can get through the awkward teenage years that kill many a child actor. I adore Chopin, so it was lovely to have a pianist the stature of Lang Lang performing his music throughout the entire film. With this being a 3-D film, I'm not sure where it will play to mass audiences. Will North American theatres run a film like this? I think not. Which leaves children's festivals and perhaps art galleries. It will be interesting to see just where this film ends up.

Sunday September 11, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 12:30pm
Sunday September 18, TIFF Bell Lightbox 2, 12:45pm

I chose this shot of actress Stephanie Sigman because she spends an awful lot of screen time in bra and panties. She has a great figure but there seemed a bit of the prurient about the numerous scenes of her dressed in this manner. She plays a young woman who witnesses a gang-related shoot out at a night club. When she snitches to the wrong police officer (most of Latin friends would laugh at her naivete, but I chose to let this plot point go) she ends up having to deal with the leader of the gang (Noe Hernandez). We know she is going to end up at some point having sex with him to save her family, and that she will also be forced to do drops for the gang, but it's the cinematic choices made by director Gerardo Naranjo (who wrote the script with Mauricio Katz) that doesn't deliver the message about the huge impact that drugs and drug-related crimes have had on Mexico. Hernandez is wonderful in his role as the ruthless gang leader who takes a liking to the Miss Baja beauty contestant, but Sigman doesn't match his acting prowess and doesn't quite know how to show understated emotion. I was never bored watching this film but I definitely left the theatre dissatisfied.

Sunday September 11, Scotiabank Theatre 4, 9:15pm
Monday September 12, AMC 3, 2:45pm

Toronto International Film Festival
Sept. 8-18, 2011
416-599-8433 or 1-800-599-8433


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