By Matthew Curtis | Enzian Theater September 10, 2006 at 4:59AM
Day 3 at the Toronto Film Festival finds a new and curious trend in my films thus far, as well as some uncommonly wet weather that has cooled things off considerably. Usually by now I'm surprised when a movie has no scenes of someone vomiting (and TAXIDERMIA has enough to count for a week's worth), but so far that action has not been so prevalent. Nope, what's eliciting groans and making audiences squirm in their seats has been stitches--usually without the stitchee having any anaestetic and in a couple of cases, the characters are sewing up themselves! That'll get your attention...
I'm happy to report I've yet to hear a single cell phone go off at a screening (yea!), and the glow of open crackberries has been kept to a minimum. Thank you. I find it a little ironic that right after the pre-film trailer for the Motorola Talent Lab (short excerpts of films shot on a cell phone that presumably only look decent on a 2-inch screen), comes the Cineplex trailer imploring audiences to "Think BIg." In other words, go to their movie theaters and see films on the big screen, not on your I-pod, computer, or mobile phone. We'll have to see how this whole streaming movies to cell phones thing works out for Sprint. If you ever see me watching one, please put me out of my misery.
Thanks again to Matt Dentler and SXSW for the intimate gathering Friday night in celebration of Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price's new doc feature, SUMMERCAMP! Of special note was their choice of entertainment--The Flaming Lips, in town for a music festival headlining gig on Saturday night, did a short but fun acoustic set, including a tune called "Plastic Jesus" that's apparently from the film, COOL HAND LUKE. Still no word on the release of CHRISTMAS ON MARS by the way.
Quick takes: THE BOTHERSOME MAN (4-Stars) - a droll and surreal satire from Norway about a young man who, having failed at a suicde attempt, ends up in a city where everyone's just a bit too happy and polite. There's lots of funny stuff here, it's distinctly Scandinavian, and the prolonged train encounter is a gem. THE WHITE PLANET (3-Stars) - French filmmakers spend a year in Antarctica filming assorted wildlife and the changes of the seasons. Sound familiar? While it may not have the narrative thrust of that other recent doc feature about penguins, it still has some strikingly beautiful camerawork, baby polar bears that are cute as hell, and some other cool creatures like the hooded seals (that blows up the skin on their heads like Dizzy Gillespie's cheeks). BABEL (5-Stars) - the latest from Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, director of AMORES PERROS and 21 GRAMS, once again involves multiple story lines and time shifts, though this time on four continents and with a cast including Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Gael Garcia Bernal. The accidental and random shooting of an American tourist in Morocco is the common thread here, and while the three main stories may not be as integrally connected as in his other work, the film is brilliantly directed and shot, and emotionally gripping for the duration of its nearly 2 and a half hour running time. A must-see. TAXIDERMIA (3-Stars) - Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi's new film after his highly acclaimed HUKKLE plays like Monty Python and Jeunet & Caro crossed with Jodorowsky and Arrabal. Sick, twisted, graphic, extremely gross, yet quite funny in places, the film's three sections tell the story of a soldier with sexual fantasies (who happens to shoot flames out of his penis), and his descendants including a competitive eater who becomes a monster and a creepy taxidermist. One of those "you've got to see it to believe it" experiences, and definitely not for the squeamish (or vegans for that matter). LIGHTS IN THE DUSK (3-Stars) - Aki Kaurismaki's new work after THE MAN WITHOUT A PAST is instantly recognizable though not quite up to his prevous work. Deceptively simple and with that droll Finnish sensibility, this riff on a film noir involves a sad sack of a security worker who becomes the patsy for a blonde working for her Russian mobster boyfriend. PAN'S LABYRINTH (4-Stars) - Guillermo Del Toro is back in THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE mode with this magical and bloody fable set during the Spanish Civil War, where a fascist stepfather-Captain is as frightening and evil as the supernatural beasties that exist in a little girl's fantasy world come to life. Way too intense and gory for kids (who would actually love some of the elements here), this is a Grimms fairy tale for adults that truly delivers the goods. THE SUGAR CURTAIN (3-Stars) - an interesting doc about contemporary Cuba, in which the filmmaker goes back and talks to classmates from elementary school two decades ago as well as family members. Simply filmed and intimate, the overall tone is one of disillusionment for those that stayed behind and believed they were part of a common cause to make their youthful ideals for their homeland come to fruition.