Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

TIFF 2005: Days Nine And Ten

Days Nine and Ten

Okay, the festival is over and my plane lands in about 45 minutes, leaving me roughly half an hour before all electronic devices must be turned off. (Incidentally, why is this such a big deal? If listening to my iPod on descent could legitimately threaten the planes navigational system, perhaps I should consider alternative forms of travel.) So unlike the lugubrious slog of my previous blog posts, this will be an exercise in speed. Without further Apu:

Tristram Shandy: A Cock And Bull Story: Michael Winterbottom’s riff on one of the world’s earliest post-modern novels (“written before there was even modernism to be ‘post’ about”) is loaded with funny lines, mostly commenting on the filmmaking process. I’d have liked it to go deeper, but the Steve Coogan that ran off with the funniest segment in Coffee & Cigarettes is in full effect here.

Wallace & Gromit: Curse Of The Were-Rabbit: The Wallace & Gromit shorts are still the perfect length for their adventures, but the eagerly awaited feature version sustains the fun and invention for longer than you might expect. Oddly enough, director Nick Park comes up a bit short in the sort of Rube Goldberg finale that he usually nails, but that’s a minor complaint when he turns out such hand-crafted delights.

Hostel: Eli Roth made a big splash a few years ago when his goofy debut film Cabin Fever closed the festival. Roth returns to the same midnight slot with Hostel and offers more of the same frathouse humor and gore, but it seems less charming this time around. There’s something funny about the idea of three all-American buddies who wind up in Slovakia after finding Amsterdam not sufficiently debauched, but then again, that same scenario popped up in Eurotrip.

Midnight Movies: From The Margins To The Mainstream: If I had time, I’d write a whole essay about why this frivolous documentary shouldn’t be in the festival (short take: It’s not good enough. It’s in the Dialogues section, which is usually reserved for filmmakers presenting older films that are not their own. It’s based on the Midnight Movies book by J. Hoberman and Jonathan Rosenbaum, both of whom were at the festival and yet weren’t asked to participate in the discussion.) In any case, a diverting enough look at the midnight phenomenon, but the film only spends about five minutes on the latter half of its subtitle and some crucial questions are left unexplored as a result.

Pusher, Pusher II, Pusher III: I reviewed the gritty Danish crime movie Pusher several years ago and I mostly stand by my review, though I appreciated its seedy look, dark humor, and highly charged lead performance more on a second viewing. The sequels, produced one after another, offer more of the same, each following a different character in the drug scene. It would have been better if the movies interacted more closely—the stories are told in straight chronology, and information from previous films rarely bleed from one film to the next—but the film strikes me as an ideal HBO series in the making. The half-series on display here is well worth a renewal.

No Direction Home: Bob Dylan: Martin Scorsese’s 220-minute opus on a decade in Dylan’s career has been labeled “definitive,” and for awhile, it wears that definitiveness like an iron weight. But the film picks up in the second half, when Dylan becomes the highly reluctant figurehead for the peace movement and all things leftist. To that end, his decision to “go electric” is as punk rock as it gets, and Scorsese nicely captures the extraordinary (and extraordinarily misguided) outrage that followed. Better still, Scorsese is interested exclusively in the development of Dylan’s craft and its relationship to the culture, so not a minute is wasted on the personal trivia that clutters most screen biographies.

Thank You For Smoking: The runaway success of the festival, this satire on the spin industry sparked a bidding war between Paramount and Fox Searchlight that was nearly as comical as the movie itself. (One had a verbal agreement, the other had a written one. Guess which prevailed?) Jason Reitman, son of comedy maestro Ivan, works in broad strokes as he follows a tobacco lobbyist (played by Aaron Eckhart with the full force of his oily charm) who gets hung up in political controversy. Many big laughs here and a surprising lack of sentimentality: The presence of Eckhart’s impressionable son sets off some alarm bells, but it doesn’t necessarily stiffen his “moral flexibility.”

So that’s my festival. Look for a formal wrap-up by Noel and myself in an upcoming issue. For now, I leave you with a festival Top Five:

1. Brokeback Mountain
2. A History Of Violence
3. Hidden
4. Sympathy For Lady Vengeance
5. L’Enfant