While groceries and convenience stores in my Toronto neighborhood all seem to stock club soda, Pellegrino, and Perrier, I have been unsuccessful in finding regular old, simple, bubbly carbonated water. One storekeeper pointed me toward the Alka Seltzer on the shelf--uh, no. This begs the question: do Toronto delis make chocolate egg creams, and if so, what do they make them with? I wasn't aware that seltzer was a uniquely American concept.
The Opening Night Party was as impressive as ever with its sheer size, variety of offerings, and how many people it can accomodate. But recent years have seen a shift in the type of people that attend, with more and more sponsors and locals making the social scene and less of the indie distributors, journalists, and fellow film festival staffers that I'm used to hanging out with. There was`a Greek theme this year (complete with traditional dancers and enough baklava to fell an army), no doubt inspired by one of the settings in Jeremy Podeswa's festival opener, FUGITIVE PIECES. The food was tasty, but there was a serious lack of chocolate in the dessert offerings. I did like the change from Sleeman's beer to Stella Artois, and the pour-your-own station, complete with Stella girls to lend their assistance, was a fun idea. As Stella also sponsors the Florida Film Festival, this should be part of the deal come springtime. Only celebrity sighting: Scott Speedman (maybe not UNDERWORLD or DUETS, but I'm still partial to "Felicity.")
Short takes on movies--for consistency sake, I'll use a 5-star system just like the Orlando Sentinel and Orlando Weekly. It's always important to start out strong (ONCE was my Sundance opener), and Anton Corbijn's CONTROL (4-stars) was lead-off dynamite. One of rock's greatest photographers does a masterful job recreating the tragic story of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Manchester's incredibly influential (pre-New Order) punk band, Joy Division. Beautifully shot in b&w cinemascope, the film covers 1973 - 1980 in its story of this troubled young artist being torn apart by his talent, his love for two women, and his failing mental and physical health as a result of epileptic seizures and the drugs prescribed to control them. Though the film labors a bit in the third act, this is an amazing feature debut for Corbijn and Sam Riley as Curtis couldn't be better. To top it all off, the actors actually play live in all of the Joy Division concert scenes and sound great.
Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud's PERSEPOLIS (4-stars) is a wonderful, smart, and sometimes very funny adaptation of her autobiographical graphic novels (which, to be honest, I was not familiar with). Rendered in a lovely and deceptively simple looking, hand-drawn, mostly b&w animation, this is a precocious girl's coming-of-age tale that spans two decades of a revolution, a war, the fall of the Shah, and life in Iran, Austria, and France. It's so personal, refreshing, and disarming, I wasn't surprised at the ovation it received after its industry screening--and rousing applause from the press is an occurence that doesn't take place very often.
Julien Leclercq's CHRYSALIS (2-stars) is a highly stylized piece of French sci-fi, a cyber punk film noir set in Paris in 2025. There's a link between a murder, a badass smuggler/cop killer, and a super high tech surgical center that also happens to be doing memory erase and implant experiments, and it's up to an ultraviolent Police Lieuteneant of few words to figure it all out. Unfortunately, with exception to some intense hand-to-hand combat and its striking production design (and loud sound mix), the story deteriorates into a mass of cliches and over acting. The walkouts were frequent and numerous on this one.