TIFF Diary: Crime D'Amour, Deep in the Woods, Film Socialism, At Ellen's Age

by Meredith Brody
September 13, 2010 12:28 PM
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Thompson on Hollywood
At TIFF, Meredith Brody ingests five films a day, like breathing, but finding decent meals along the way proves a challenge.
A blur of screenings and brief encounters, combined with perhaps the worst eating day of my adult life.

Only Day Two and already I manage both to wake up too early and then oversleep when I manage to catch a few more winks. Still, I make it down to the 9 a.m. screening of Alain Corneau’s Crime d’Amour, aka Love Crime (sounds better in French, as so much does, which I found, alas, half-baked. Two wonderful actresses – Kristin Scott Thomas and Ludivine Sagnier – double and triple-crossing each other in business, sex, and violence, but with a script that was both underwritten and ultimately a little pat and unbelievable.

What I really wanted to see afterwards was based on the pleasure principle: either Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Jack Goes Boating or Woody Allen’s You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. But I have a not-quite-ironclad-rule at festivals: not to see a movie that’s getting a release in twenty minutes. And both these movies are – September 23 for Jack, September 22 for Tall Dark Stranger. (Please God let me see the W. Allen before I see a trailer for it.)

Thus I willfully screwed myself out of a possible good time by seeing instead a South Korean movie called Late Autumn about the improbable romance between a reticent young murderess (let out on a 48-hour pass from prison, yeah, sure) and an annoying young male hustler. The title (mis)led me to expect something of a Ozu homage, and I could have cut half-an-hour out of the 120-minute running time with a dull butter knife.

But it did get me out in time to see Benoit Jacquot’s Deep in the Woods, which had the distinction of causing the greatest number of walkouts during a screening in recent memory: a room that holds 185 and was full when the screening began was way less than half so at the end. I’m not quite sure why, because it seemed pretty much like a classic Benoit Jacquot movie to me. As my seatmate John Powers said, after a very few minutes, when there was a shot of Isild Le Besco toute nue floating on her back in a river, “That’s the Benoit I know and love.” The story of a beautiful young girl who’s briefly ensorcelled and runs off with a grubby yet mesmerizing wild boy, set in a picturesque French countryside in 1865, kept me interested. (John developed an amusing theory that the film was about Jacquot’s own experiences making movies with a string of ensorcelled young French actresses.)

Although I had emerged from the gloom of the Scotiabank theaters to visit the press office in the fancy Hyatt Hotel a few blocks away, I didn’t have to grab anything more interesting than, oh god, a greasy, leaden Burger King whopper that served as breakfast, lunch, and a reminder not to do that again for a very long time.

Afterwards I went to see Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialism with Rachel Rosen, happily (for us living in the Bay Area) back as the director of programming for the San Francisco International Film Festival, after spending eight years in Los Angeles directing programming for Film Independent and the Los Angeles Film Festival. I’m not quite sure why the door guardians were so insistent on telling us that this was an unsubtitled print; I’m sure that the English subtitles, telegraphic in style and translating only the key words and concepts heard in French, are exactly what Godard wanted. I’d heard that Film Socialism was incoherent and pretentious, what one friend categorizes as “chic minimalism.” But, well, I liked it a whole lot. Nobody frames images as beautifully as Godard (and many are influenced, or just imitative). I also laughed a lot. And I think I would want to see it again even if I hadn’t taken two random five-minute naps along the way.

I followed Rachel over to At Ellen’s Age because I could, and the only other option at that time, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, has a release date (you guessed it) of September 24. Plus I like Jeanne Balibar, the French actress who believably incarnated a German stewardess who goes to hell in a handcart – sex, alcohol, and animal activism (didn’t see that one coming) -- after her lover impregnates another woman.

If I’d stopped to pick up a loaf of bread and a hunk of cheese, as I intended, on the way to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Soul of the City program in the Wavelengths (“exploring the cinematic visions of the avant garde”), I would not have been the very last person to gain admission from the rush line (true story). I would have been out in the cold, instead of inside with such arbiters of film taste as Haden Guest and David Pendleton of the Harvard Film Archive, Jonathan Marlow of the San Francisco Cinematheque, critic Gabe Klinger, Susan Oxtoby of the Pacific Film Archive, Chi-Hui Huang, who’s just left the San Francisco fellowship at NYU, Toshiko Adilman, the translator and widow of Toronto journalist Sid Adilman, and her son Nobu, currently surprising the food world with his show Foodjammers on the Food Network, and Rose Kuo, new executive director of the Fim Society of Lincoln Center in New York. And, oh yes, Mimi Brody (no relation, or at least we don’t think so, late of the UCLA Film Archive and now at Northwestern, who was next-to-the-last to get in via the rush line. (We won’t speak about the people who cut in front of her.)

The engrossing and delightful program, which was curated by Andréa Picard, featured city-based films including Callum Cooper’s iPhone-shot facades of British houses, Victoria, George, Edward,& Thatcher, Eriko Sonoda’s lyrical Landscape, Semi-surround, and the propulsive, witty Get Out of the Car, and Thom Andersen’s ode to lost Los Angeles--which I saw for the first time six weeks ago at a Cinefamily evening at the Silent Movie Theater in Los Angeles and will happily see again, perhaps in combination with his magical Los Angeles Plays Itself, which showed in Toronto at the Festival in 2003.

Afterwards it seemed like most of the audience hung around outside the Art Gallery of Ontario, chatting, like a big al fresco cocktail party, but without the cocktails, alas. David Pendleton and I considered attempting the Midnight Madness movie, but that way lies, well, madness. When it became clear that, although grabbing a drink had been suggested, no concerted effort was going to be made in that direction anytime soon, I headed for the subway. No place where loaf of bread and hunk of cheese could be purchased was spied en route, so I ducked into a 24-hour Tim Horton and emerged with the worst chicken salad sandwich I’ve ever partially consumed (most of it landed in a garbage can), as well as a chocolate donut iced in dubious neon green “mint” icing. What was I thinking? Somehow, on the way to a 9 a.m. screening tomorrow of Guillame Canet’s Little White Lies, which I’m hoping is an unguilty pleasure, I must find some fruit.

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More: festivals, Toronto

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