Frank, Guy, and Manuela

by Matthew Curtis
September 10, 2007 3:53 AM
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I found it odd that there was no official 2007 Toronto Film Festival trailer to make fun of this year (come on--what festival trailer have you ever not gotten sick of after so many viewings?) Then a staff member told me that the Bell Lightbox piece about the future facilities for the festival is in its place. I can live with that, especially when the soundtrack is taken from "I Feel it All" from the excellent most recent Feist CD, "The Reminder." The tune instantly grabs your attention, and if you like what you hear, I highly recommend the whole thing. I think it's officially the-CD-I've-given-the-most-as-a-gift in 2007, so that's gotta mean somethin'.

I had missed Andrew Wagner's STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING (4-stars) when it played at Sundance, so I was`happy to be able to catch up to it here. This is a graceful New York drama, with an outstanding Frank Langella as a once-distinguished writer and professor whose books have gone out of print and his latest has been a work-in-progress for a decade. While he still maintains close relations with his single, my-clock-is-ticking daughter (a fine Lili Taylor), his routine receives a huge jolt when he agrees to be interviewed for a pushy graduate student's Masters thesis (Lauren Ambrose from "Six Feet Under.") The give and take that develops in the relationship between these intelligent individuals is fascinating and sometimes touching to experience. With InDigEnt no longer producing small, quality films such as this one, let's hope similar stories still find a way to get told.

Canadian iconoclast Guy Maddin's self-described "docu-fantasia" about his hometown, MY WINNIPEG (4-stars), is a brilliant homage to past and place. It's also probably the funniest and perhaps most entertaining thing he's ever done. Combining re-enactments of traumatic family experiences from his youth with archival footage from the city's odd history with moments of pure fantasy, this is documentary filmmaking at its most surreal. Listening to the filmmaker's narration while being assaulted by the images, rear projection, and titles up on the screen, reminded me somewhat of a magical blend of Alan Berliner, David Sedaris, and early David Lynch. Wait until you see the horse "monuments" after a fire at a racetrack stable caused the animals to flee and get stuck in a frozen lake for the whole winter--unbelievable, and images I won't soon forget.

And speaking of unforgettable images, how about a hot actress (the lovely Manuela Velles) taking a dump on Gerritt Graham's face in Julio Medem's way over the top CHAOTIC ANA (1-star). The ridiculous and disappointing new work from the director of SEX AND LUCIA is a coming-of-age film in which the heroine gets repeatedly hypnotized to travel back in time and see how her past lives have affected her present one--who cares? Even the great Charlotte Rampling looks silly in this confused (and confusing) outlandish drama. It does feature some nice cinematography though. I guess that wasn't enough for all the walk-outs.

--Matthew

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