Monday, July 09, 2007

Ten Places to Go in T.O.

I'm cross-posting this list of ten places to go in Toronto, Ontario at Darren's TIFF blog, 1st Thursday. I'd love to hear your suggestions and tips to add to this list. Could I ask you to please leave them in the comments at the 1st Thursday cross-post so that all of us TIFF-goers can make use of them there? Thanks much.

It's devilishly hard to keep the list down to ten, so forgive me if I do some cramming and cheat a little:

1. Cinematheque Ontario. Alas, it's not in season during TIFF but this is the place that draws me most to Toronto and I just had to begin with a coup de chapeau to it.

2. Little India. On Queen Street, and probably my favorite Indian restaurant in Toronto. It's quite small, and monstrously popular, so I'd suggest lunch either early (11:30-ish) or late (2:00-ish). For a whole cornucopia of Indian food, I'd recommend a trip to the Indian section of town on Garrard Street East. For about three blocks, you could swear you were in the middle of Mumbai.

3. Bookstores: Andrew Tracy hipped me to this chain called BMV (Books Music Videos) that carries discounted merhandise and tons of it. I've been to 2 locations, one off Yonge near Dundas and the other at Yonge and Eglinton. I also recommend a great used-book shop called Eliot's on Yonge near Wellesley for books on art, film, music, etc.

4. College Street West: Adam Nayman turned me on to this books-and-music zone which includes stores like She Said Boom. I've been here just once and scarcely skimmed the surface. I'll be trying to squeeze in a visit during TIFF.

5. The Beguiling: Seriously: the best indie comics shop I've been to in North America and I've been to a few. If you're an indie comics aficionado, leave your credit card at home and take a budgeted amount of cash. You've been warned. Also, close by is one of the largest video stores in the city, Suspect Video.

6. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The gallery is only partially open because of construction but it'll be running exhibits of Chuck Close and Bernini during TIFF.

7. The Rex. Top-flight music club hosting the best in local Toronto jazz. Very often, there's not even a cover charge. Good food and beer selections. On Queen St., close to Little India.

8. Two More Great Bookstores: (a) Pages on Queen St., not far from the Rex; and (b) Theater Books, a stone's throw from the Varsity and Cumberland theaters. Great selection of film books at both places.

9. The Film Reference Library. Affiliated with the TIFF group. You can't borrow anything but you can watch videos and DVDs from their large collection (lots of rare and unreleased stuff) and consult books and back issues of periodicals. Recommended from their collection (and unavailable in the US): Claire Denis's U.S. Go Home and Olivier Assayas's Cold Water.

10. The NFB Mediatheque. For two bucks, you can get comfy in a large plush chair/viewing station and call up any of the hundreds of films produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The last time I was there, I caught Gilles Groulx's Le Chat Dans Le Sac (1964). My next trip will likely feature some Arthur Lipsett. Located close to the Scotiabank Theatres used by TIFF.

Your suggestions and tips for fun places to go in Toronto? Please let us know at this post at 1st Thursday. Thank you!

* * *

I saw Jules Dassin's Thieves' Highway (1949) the other night. A tough little film, modest but tenacious. And it didn't turn away its unsentimental eye until the very end when a cheery studio-tacked-on ending reared its absurd little head. Apparently, the ending was Zanuck's handiwork (so Dassin lamented). Afterwards, I just had to pull out my videotape of The Magnificent Ambersons, fast-forward it, and watch that ridiculous happy ending again. (Still, what a great film.) Just wondering: are there other examples of studio-imposed and -shot endings completely at odds with what the director wanted to do...? It's probably because I'm sleepy but no other specific instances are coming to mind at this minute...

* * *

A few links:

-- Here's a handful of Victor Erice's favorite films that he has put together to be shown at Cinematheque Ontario this month.

-- Rob Davis of Errata begins a new series of podcasts. First up: an interview with Guy Maddin.

-- Geoff Manaugh posts two essays on New York by Walter Murch and Michelangelo Antonioni respectively.

-- Dave Kehr on the recently announced third box set in the ongoing “Treasures from American Film Archives” series.

-- Colin MacCabe in The Observer: "Save our film heritage from the political vandals."

-- Media theorist Sean Cubitt's blog is subtitled: "Aphorisms and scribbled notes on the history and philosophy of media."


Blogger Tuwa said...

The only ridiculous studio-imposed endings I can think of offhand are both in lurid pulp films: Fatal Attraction originally ended with Douglas' character charged with murder (it was actually suicide), and Sliver (which I haven't seen) supposedly has an ending which doesn't fit the clues throughout the film simply because the test audience didn't like the original ending.

You could make a parlor game out of rewriting endings to suit horrible test audience whims:

Casablanca: Rick and Victor are in a fistfight that busts up most of the furniture in the bar. Rick tells Victor he's won and that he hid the exit visas at the Blue Parrot because no one would ever expect it. Victor goes to look for them; Ilsa turns him in; Rick sells the visas; and the film ends with Rick and Ilsa reopening the bar with new furniture.

July 10, 2007 1:14 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah, didn't know about either, Tuwa. I remember really disliking Sliver back when it came out...

In the case of both Thieves' Highway and Ambersons, the new ending was not only shot and inserted by the studio and not the director, it was done without the director even fully realizing it was happening (at least from the accounts I've read)...

July 10, 2007 6:21 AM  
Blogger Darren said...

Murnau's The Last Laugh is the best example of a reworked ending I can think of. It's basically 65-70 minutes of sorrow and heartbreak capped by a ridiculous final reel in which the long-suffering hero becomes impossibly wealthy. I'm sure others here will remember all the details, but I recall it being such an outrageous shift in tone that I assumed Murnau was having some fun at the producers' expense.

July 10, 2007 9:34 AM  
Blogger Gareth said...

I'm not sure it's quite as egregious as the examples you cite, girish, in that the director of record shot both versions himself, but the producers of Julien Duvivier's 1936 La Belle équipe "ordered Duvivier to replace the fatal ending with a happy one" (Dudley Andrew, Mists of Regret: Culture and Sensibility in Classic French Film, Princeton, 1995); the new ending was more in keeping, at least in theory, with the spirit of the contemporary Popular Front government. The two endings apparently circulated simultaneously for a while, and then the pessimistic version (more in tune with Duvivier's other films of the period) dropped out of circulation for years. A friend of mine had a VHS tape with the two endings back to back, which was an odd experience. I haven't been able to find the film on DVD in any version.

July 10, 2007 9:42 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Robert Weine's Cabinet of Dr. Caligari was supposed to be set completely in the mind of a psychotic. UFA added the opening and closing scenes set in the asylum garden, and if my history's correct, they were filmed by Fritz Lang -- who used a vaguely similar device in Woman in the Window.

July 10, 2007 10:40 AM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Fantastic vintage clothing store on Queen Street West, called Gadabout, but maybe buying 1940s handbags wasn't what you had in mind. Ah well. Also, let me know if you have a huge itch to go shopping for hard-to-find perfumes.

I think you hit most of my favorites, but these are a few restaurants I loved:

Swan, 892 Queen St W
Gio Rana's, 1220 Queen St. E (at Leslie)
Amuse-Bouche on Tecumseth
Cafe La Gaffe, 24 Baldwin (a favorite of Michael Moore's crew when he was filming there some years back)

July 10, 2007 12:53 PM  
Blogger Cinebeats said...

I don't know anything about Toronto, but after reading your post I'd like to visit.

As for studio imposed or shot endings... I know there are millions of them, but my brain is shorting out.

I do remember that Hitchcock was forced by the studio to change the ending of Suspicion and he always regretted it. Cary Grant was supposed to be the killer in the end, but the studios didn't want Grant to be the bad guy and so he had to shoot a different ending.

I think Woody Allen was forced to shoot another ending for Hannah and Her Sisters too. The studio thought his original was too downbeat.

July 10, 2007 2:42 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Flickhead, you've just reminded me of the hospital bookends that the studio forced onto Siegel for the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Originally it was going to end with Miles raving in the streets, on that closeup on him shouting "you're next!" (I think Kaufmann managed to do it one better in his version).

July 10, 2007 3:40 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

July 10, 2007 4:51 PM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

Good call, Tuwa. I saw Siegel's cut of Invasion of the Body Snatchers theatrically in 1979. The Whit Bissell/Richard Deacon scenes were gone, as was Kevin McCarthy's narration. My only regret was having already seen the film -- countless times --because I'm sure Siegel's version would've had a far greater effect.

Also: producers/distributors meddled in the ending of Kiss Me Deadly.

Meanwhile, what's all this negativity toward Sliver? That piece of junk -- a low-rent Showgirls -- is amazing! The best film Roman Polanski never made...

July 10, 2007 4:53 PM  
Blogger David said...

For the great happy Casablanca ending that never was:

Skip to minute 5.

July 11, 2007 12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kudos for your blog! I bookmarked it last year & took another look right now! Great stuff!


Claus (Germany)

July 11, 2007 3:56 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you--Darren, Gareth, Flickhead, Siren, Kimberly, Tuwa, Flickhead, David, and Claus, for all the suggestions and ideas!

Flickhead, it's been a long while since I saw Sliver and I'd be glad to give it a revisit since you recommend it.

Speaking of Philip Kaufman, I recently saw his 1972 film The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid and liked it quite a bit. It's a revisionist Western that really gives the Jesse James myth the going-over. Jesse (Robert Duvall) is a dumb, selfish, bigoted hillbilly pushed aside in the story by the much more charismatic Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson). It's also about incipient Big Business and a sociologically curious film that dwells on all sorts of daily rituals of the period (an endless, raucous baseball game is made to speak volumes about the times). It'll be out on DVD in the fall, I hear.

July 11, 2007 6:50 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Via Dave Kehr:
-- Michael Atkinson has a new blog called Zero for Conduct.
-- The Trailers From Hell site has directors commenting on trailers. Joe Dante talking about The Terror and The Unearthly is a hoot.

-- Dennis Cozzalio collects a flood of responses to his Professor Corey test.
-- Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell file their final dispatch from Bologna.
-- David Byrne has been going to lots of museums and galleries in Berlin.
-- Aaron Graham posts a handful of reviews written for DVD Fanaddict.

July 11, 2007 7:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

New issue of Film Comment.

July 11, 2007 8:44 AM  
Blogger acquarello said...

I'm really looking forward to After This Our Exile which they feature in the new Film Comment. It's screening this Saturday at Walter Reade with patrick Tam in attendance.

Speaking of changed endings, didn't Dumont change the ending of Flanders after the Cannes pre-screening after the film received a cool reception from the selection committee? Supposedly, there was a Twentynine Palm-ish denouement to Barbe and Demester's encounter, but then cut the scene out so that the film ended at the barn.

July 11, 2007 9:27 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

Ooh, thanks for the restaurant tip. My wife-to-be is an Indian food addict, so that'll be a nice place to take her during the window when she'll be up there with me.

July 11, 2007 10:28 AM  
Anonymous James said...

If you're at the NFB or the Scotiabank (formerly the Paramount) Cinema at Richmond and John, make sure you get to Burrito Boyz, which is at 120 Peter Street, just a bit west. It's easy to miss because it's a tiny takeout place down a few stairs, but their food is incredible and a great value.

July 11, 2007 11:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Yikes, Acquarello, I didn't realize Dumont was planning to pull a Twentynine Palms ending in Flanders; what you say reminds me of the idea of the 'festival film' genre, which I guess has its own focus-grouping methods!

Steve, congrats. I didn't realize you were engaged. And I look forward to meeting you at TIFF.

James, that's a great tip. I'm always in the market for some Mexican food.

July 11, 2007 12:26 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Thanks, David, that Casablanca ending is hilarious.

July 11, 2007 12:37 PM  
Blogger Daniel said...

A heads-up for anyone with Turner Classic Movies, they will be showing three Andre de Toth westerns in a row tomorrow evening as part of their Randolph Scott star-of-the-month series.

July 11, 2007 4:43 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah yes, thanks for that reminder, Daniel. Two of them, MAN IN THE SADDLE and THE STRANGER WORE A GUN, are available on DVD, but CARSON CITY (showing at 9:30 pm Eastern) is not.

July 11, 2007 5:00 PM  
Blogger Sachin G. said...

Acquarello, I quite liked After this our exile. The raw emotions on display in the opening 20 minutes were worth it. Also, there is a seductive love scene in the movie which is beautifully shot...shades of Wong kar wai's style but different..

July 12, 2007 12:21 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- J. Hoberman on Woody Allen's Manhattan.
-- Weeping Sam at The Listening Ear on Michael Moore.
-- Dave McDougall posts his top 100 films.

July 12, 2007 7:16 AM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Thanks, Sachin. My sister (who's an artist and not really a film buff) caught it at the NYAFF last month and she really liked the look of the film as well. Can't wait!

July 12, 2007 10:01 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I'm getting the Toronto trembles. And I just learned that I've been accredited this year. Oooooooh boy.

July 12, 2007 12:55 PM  
Blogger Alex said...

"Jesse (Robert Duvall) is a dumb, selfish, bigoted hillbilly pushed aside in the story by the much more charismatic Cole Younger (Cliff Robertson). It's also about incipient Big Business"

The James family was one of the wealthier and more prominent in the area (as was the Younger family). Jesse James' father was not only well-educated (having a master's degree in the mid nineteenth century) but also founded the local college (which still exists) and was the preeminent local minister, as well as a prosperous farmer with a sizeable library. His mother also had been well-educated and was well known for her intelligence. His stepfather was a physician. The James' lived in a settled region that had extensive trade relations and several well-developed towns. These were not hillbillies, but rather the leading families of pro-slavery sentiment in their county. Cole Younger's grandfathers were a judge and a high-ranking military officer.

July 13, 2007 2:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael, congrats--that's great news. I've heard it's really hard to swing accreditation at TIFF...

Wow Alex, that's fascinating, I had no idea. You would not be able to extrapolate that history from this film. Kaufman withholds most of Jesse and Cole's biographical/historical information so that the audience can only make judgments about the characters via their behavior and speech. (Paradoxically, he does include all manner of sociological/quotidian observations around the characters.) The film is slated for fall DVD release; perhaps it will come with extras like a director's DVD commentary track which might clarify Kaufman's intentions.

I saw it on a Jesse James double bill with Fuller's I Shot Jesse James (which is not about Jesse at all but about Bob Ford). I've read only lukewarm things about it but I'd like to see the Nick Ray/Jesse James film.

July 13, 2007 6:21 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Aaron Graham has a post on Australian filmmaker Richard Franklin, who has died.
-- Walter at Quiet Bubble on the "mad scientists" of every artform.
-- CelineJulie posts a viewing wish list for working-class films.

July 13, 2007 6:39 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

Thanks a lot for the mention, Girish.

I can’t think of any films with ridiculous studio endings, because I don’t know much about film history. Reading about this topic here is great. I like the ending of THE LAST LAUGH (1924, F.W. Murnau), though. I didn’t expect that the story of such an old film would shift its tone just like that. It’s a nice surprise for me.

As for changes in endings, I have read from wikipedia that Sam Mendes changed the original ending of AMERICAN BEAUTY. I think what he did might be right, because I like this film very much.

Sometimes the ending is changed when the film is remade. Most people would think that the endings of THE VANISHING (1993, George Sluizer) and DIABOLIQUE (1996, Jeremiah S. Chechik) are horrible, especially when compared to the original endings of SPOORLOOS (1988, George Sluizer) and LES DIABOLIQUES (1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot), respectively. However, in my opinion, though I agree that the original endings are much much much better, I think I like it that the two versions have different endings. I think I like the differences between these two versions, though that means the new versions might be much inferior to the original versions. I think I would be so bored if the two versions were similar.

Speaking of that, I think I have to contradict myself, because sometimes I don’t like the differences between the original and the new version. I think I have no rule for this kind of thing. It’s a case-by-case basis for me. One example is BLACK CHRISTMAS (1974, Bob Clark). I like the ending of the original version very much. It’s quite cruel, and very haunting. I think the ending of BLACK CHRISTMAS (2006, Glen Morgan), the remake version, is very boring and worth forgetting.

If I can change an ending in any film, I think I would like to change the ending of VA SAVOIR (2001, Jacques Rivette). I hate its ending. I think it’s too conclusive for me, and it’s not what I expect of Jacques Rivette. I like the way Rivette ended UP DOWN FRAGILE (1995), LA BELLE NOISEUSE (1991), and CELINE AND JULIE GO BOATING (1974) very much. I feel that the endings of these films are so abrupt, so unexpected. And that’s what I love. I don’t know how I would write the ending of VA SAVOIR by myself, though. I just want it to end very abruptly.

July 13, 2007 11:45 AM  
Blogger Alex said...

"Wow Alex, that's fascinating, I had no idea. You would not be able to extrapolate that history from this film. Kaufman withholds most of Jesse and Cole's biographical/historical information so that the audience can only make judgments about the characters via their behavior and speech. (Paradoxically, he does include all manner of sociological/quotidian observations around the characters.)"

I haven't seen this particular Jesse James movie, but essentially every Jesse James movie entirely misconstrues what the guy really was (a sociopathic Confederate terrorist from the pro-slavery elite of his region). Of course, that wouldn't make much of an interesting Western movie.

Even revisionist versions tend to get the story equally wrong - the James Younger gang wasn't a bunch of agragrian anticapitalist yokels fighting the big corporations of the nineteenth century. Rather, they didn't like particular corporations because those corporations worked against their own families' dominance of already widespread capitalist activities in their region. I.E. it was more that they simply wished to keep more profits in their families' hands, rather than opposing profits or trade (or even corporations, since friends of the James family incorporated a bank in their town) in any larger or more meaningful sense.

In a larger sense, it's very hard to mesh any sensible current liberal politics with a plot that makes sense as a Western thriller and retain any actual connection with the real history. Wyler's Track of the Cat comes about as close as I think possible and most utterly fail.

Samuel Fuller's Westerns, though they're entertaining in a fevered sense, largely fail to connect thrilling plots with plausible politics UNLIKE his contemporary works (particularly his war movies like Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets, The Big Red One).

July 13, 2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks so much, CelineJulie and Alex!

July 14, 2007 8:02 AM  
Blogger girish said...

-- Zach on Knocked Up and Judd Apatow.
-- Stuart Klawans in The Nation on the new Die Hard movie and Knocked Up.
-- Aaron Hillis's film, Fish Kill Flea, has its "roof-top premiere" in NYC next weekend.

Netflix new releases today include Billy Wilder's Ace in the Hole and a couple of films by Raymond Bernard, Wooden Crosses and Les Miserables. (I know nothing of Bernard or his films.)

July 15, 2007 9:45 AM  
Anonymous greg said...

I still find myself surprised by the critical reception surrounding Knocked Up. This is simplistic and reductionist but there seems to be such a "critics seem to like it, I'm gonna pick it apart as much as I can" back and forth going on. I for one am a big fan of the movie finding it both quite funny, touching and intelligent. I do wish Apatow was as good a director as he is a writer and director of actors and that he would learn a lesson or two from Albert Brooks or Lubitsch and others and come to view the value of the held two-shot instead of constant cutting but one can hope. Regardless I think the film has some good insight into actual relationships and what it means to attempt to live and interact with another person all the while being amazingly funny. It just seems the arguments against the film one constantly reads, why no abortion, she's too hot for him, that labeling of pro-suburbia, its conservative, homophobia, etc seem off-base and based more in the writers of articles than the film itself. Oh well, enough rambling but just some not coherent thoughts on the movie itself and the continued debates around it.

July 15, 2007 1:03 PM  
Blogger Zach Campbell said...

Greg, I'm curious what this insight is that Knocked Up offers into relationships? Because a lot of the film's fans are referencing the insights without saying what they are.

July 15, 2007 7:54 PM  
Anonymous greg said...

Just a couple quick comments on Knocked Up. I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about the film in that people want it to be something it isn't. That is, a lot of critiques are based on a view of the film outside of its genre. It is a somewhat classicly composed comedy coming out of Apatow's appreciation of Gary Shandling, Albert Brooks, etc. (Though as stated I do wish he was as good a director as Albert Brooks). As such it relies on certain shorthands and tropes that films like that utilize. The interesting things the film does, to me, are best viewed within that structure. So you don't have a Contempt like long take of a marital dispute but do have what I found to be a fairly intelligent addressing of the difficulties of a marriage, in the Paul Rudd-Leslie Mann couple, within the confines of a "traditional" comedy. I would also argue that in the Rogen-Heigl relationship there is a similar look at what it means to attempt to live with another person. I'm unfortunately not having instant recall now of exact quotes, etc. but I did find the depictions of their relationship to cut deeper, more realistically and with a questioning/critical eye within the form than The Break-Up or some other foolishness. Similarly the showing of male groups of friends, on its own and in relation to ones outside relationships did ring true to this viewer and wasn't just some comic relief. Is the film 100 percent successfull? No, and there are simple ways it could have been, but there ya go. So thats a, sort of, brief gloss on some aspects of the film.

July 16, 2007 1:45 PM  
Anonymous Jimmy said...

I'm thinking of going to the Toronto fest this year. Since this site seems to be loaded with fest vets, could anyone offer any suggestions for what ticket plan I should look into? Or if I even need to get a plan? Completely flying blind here, and any advice would be greatly appreciated... Thanks!

July 16, 2007 2:35 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Jimmy, click on the link for Darren's blog 1st Thursday (right at the very top of this post) and dig into the archives; it's packed with info and good advice on the fest, ticket packages, etc.

July 16, 2007 2:51 PM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

I just moved outside of Toronto and am looking forward to checking a lot of this out. One question, though: having no experience driving into Toronto, thusfar, I'm interested in any suggestions on where to find all-day (and/or evening) parking near the downtown area... Because spending the whole day at the Mediatheque only to be running out refilling the $2.00 per 1/2 hour parking metres could become a bit tedious. Thanks a lot,


July 31, 2007 2:33 AM  
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