It’s only Day Three, and already I overslept – easier to do these past two years as the festival has shifted several kilometers south from Yorkville, where I could used to be able to roll out of bed from my friends’ house and still make a screening, to the area around the Bell Lightbox. Now I have to hike to a subway stop and travel downtown.
When I went to bed I was debating between an 8:30 a.m. screening of Derek Cianfrance’s ”The Place Beyond the Pines,” or getting in the secondary line early for the 9 a.m. priority press screening of Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.” I’d not only liked his “Blue Valentine,” but I’d also enjoyed interviewing the articulate and intense Cianfrance at the 2010 Mill Valley Film Festival, where I’d noticed a striking resemblance to his star and friend Ryan Gosling, who starred not only opposite Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine,” but also in this subsequent film. (Yes, I’m not the only one that’s mentioned this. Google his image and see for yourself!)
As I trained downtown and reached Osgoode Station, I realized I had to go for the nearer and more cinephilic option: the 9 a.m. showing of the architectural documentary “Perret in France and Algeria,” directed by the rigorous Heinz Emigholz, and sure not to be coming to a theater near me anytime soon. I thought I had a minute or so to spare, but no, the movie had begun before I entered the room.
Emigholz’s m.o. – carefully composed static shots of various angles of thirty of modernist architect Auguste Perret’s cast-concrete buildings in France and Algeria, its one-time colony – is something like leafing through a magnificent, enormous art book. I had previously adored his “Schindler’s Houses,” seen at TIFF in 2007, but there I had the benefit of knowing the buildings well, inside and out, and Emigholz also seemed to have better access. This time I felt frustrated by seeing the interiors of theaters and churches, but not of almost any of the residential buildings – at least one of which, an early apartment house in Paris, also seemed to frustrate Emigholz, who only devoted a few brief shots to it. The one time his camera penetrated a domestic interior, which seemed a shrine to its modernist period, we seemed shockingly to have entered an “Apartment Therapy” online House Tour. Perret’s influences extended past students like Le Corbusier (but is there really anybody “like” Le Corbusier?) to another master of concrete, Louis Kahn.
Afterwards I seemed to know most of the few aesthetes who had been in the screening room, including the Harvard Film Archive’s director, Haden Guest, who had hosted Emigholz at screenings of his films in Cambridge.