Sunday, September 16, 2007

Toronto Overview

Today, as per custom, is Post-Festival Depression Day. After 38 films—25 features and 13 shorts—in about a week, it feels unnatural to have all kinds of time on my hands today. As for the festival, even if the peaks from last year’s TIFF (like Still Life/Dong and Syndromes and a Century) perhaps stood a bit taller than this year’s best films, the average film quality level seemed unusually good this year.

* * *

So, in summary...

A few personal favorites: Dans la ville de Sylvia (José Luis Guerin); Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong); Voyage of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien); Useless (Jia Zhang-ke); The Romance of Astrea and Celadon (Eric Rohmer); and Paranoid Park (Gus van Sant).

I also really liked: The Last Mistress (Catherine Breillat); Four Women (Adoor Gopalakrishnan); My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin); Avant que j’oublie (Jacques Nolot); Fengming, A Chinese Memoir (Wang Bing); At Sea (Peter Hutton); Profit motive and the whispering wind (John Gianvito); and Don’t Touch the Axe (Jacques Rivette).

Two fiercely funny films: My Winnipeg (Guy Maddin); and A Girl Cut in Two (Claude Chabrol).

Great erotic cinema to (ever so gently) knock your socks off: the final reel of the Rohmer film.

While I liked many things about them, others seemed to appreciate these films more than I did: The Mourning Forest (Naomi Kawase); The Man from London (Bela Tarr); Alexandra (Alexander Sokurov); and One Hundred Nails (Ermanno Olmi).

Didn’t work for me at all: Redacted (Brian de Palma); and Christopher Columbus the Enigma (Manoel de Oliveira).

Wish I’d been able to squeeze them into my schedule: Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas); 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Christian Mungiu); The Banishment (Andrey Zvyagintsev); I’m Not There (Todd Haynes); Slingshot (Brillante Mendoza); and Happiness (Hur Jin-ho).

* * *

Socially, this was an active festival. I met up with several compadres from TIFFs of old: Darren Hughes, Doug Cummings, Michael Smith, Jim Emerson, J. Robert Parks, Michael Guillen, and my long-time Toronto cinephile pals Andrew P. and Moen M. And I’m really glad I got a chance to see and spend a little time with: Andrew Tracy and Adam Nayman of Cinema Scope; Dan Sallitt; Kevin Lee and Cindi; Andy Horbal and Walter “Quiet Bubble” (both all too briefly); Steve Carlson; Jesse Ataide; and Paul C.

Coming up, if I can get my act together: some actual write-ups (gasp) on the movies themselves!


Blogger Steve said...

Redacted didn't do it for me either. Hopefully, we can get Paul over here to offer a view in defense of Monsieur De Palma...

Dans la Ville de Sylvia has, in the span of three days, gone from a film of which I hadn't even heard to the film I most regret missing at Toronto. And I'm not going to be able to see it at the New York fest either, since it plays only on a Saturday. Crud. I did though take a chance on Michelangelo Quay's Eat, for This Is My Body, which turned out to be imperfect but way better than people were giving it credit for. Keep an eye out for it should it ever come to limited release. (Doubtful, but still...)

I, too, am pretty pleased that we were able to meet and carry on a couple of discussions. Hopefully, the future will bring more in this vein...

September 17, 2007 1:47 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Steve, I regret not being able to fit Michelangelo Quay's Eat, for This is my Body into my schedule. My two-day trip home in the middle unfortunately played a little havoc with my schedule.

I hope you'll be able to come up again next year, for at least part of, if not the whole festival. Perhaps we'll be able to actually sit down and catch a meal together.

September 17, 2007 6:18 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I am cursing my sweet tooth. I was on my way to catch Dans la Ville de Sylvia and was waylaid by the most buttery apple crumb pie at the Queen Mother Cafe. But the truth was, I needed a respite, to sit in the sun, crisp air, stolen time. Festivals can be such a demanding bitch.

The more I think about Redacted, the more I think it and Diary of the Dead are siblings from different fathers. Each had a protagonist ensorcelled by the camera lens, ultimately undone by the compulsion.

In retrospect, I'm so glad now that I gave up a film to come spend time at the Ethiopian House. I had no idea that press credentials would keep me on the other side of a great divide from most of you guys. The way they structure the impasse between public and press & industry was so WEIRD to me; it was as if there were two parallel festivals going on. Pluses and minuses abound. There's nothing like a free ticket; but, public gets the Q&As and the variety of venues.

Anyways, I'm glad I at least got to say hi to you, Girish, though my hopes of getting to know you a little better were dashed on the sidewalks of Bloor and Bay.

September 17, 2007 10:58 AM  
Blogger davis said...

Girish, did you end up seeing Seidl's Import/Export?

September 17, 2007 12:58 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Girish, I'm curious to know what you will say about the French films (especially Rohmer's which I find grotesque) as it seems we didn't appreciate them with the same enthousiasm. Unfortunately for me, the Guerin is the only one unreleased here so far, and the one I would have liked best. I'm looking forward the other reviews too.

September 17, 2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

...oh, and by the way, Girish, I meant to wish you happy birthday on the third year of your site!!

September 17, 2007 1:44 PM  
Blogger Darren said...

I just posted my wrap-up post and included a couple TIFF-inspired mp3s. Rob, skipping the Seidl film is one of my few regrets. The screening didn't begin until 9:45 and I was exhausted, but everyone who saw it loved it.

September 17, 2007 1:48 PM  
Anonymous jim emerson said...

Great to see you, too -- much too briefly. Next year, let's see if we can go you your favorite Indian place on Queen Street. I couldn't get beyond the (long, pointy) Varsity/Cumberland/Elgin triangle this year...

I've still got movies backed up to write about at Scanners -- but, as you know, we quite agree about "Secret Sunshine" and the Rohmer and the Chabrol and the De Palma...

September 17, 2007 2:05 PM  
Blogger Marilyn said...

This isn't really about TIFF-- except that Bela Tarr's new film The Man from London got some favorable comments from Jonathan Rosenbaum--but I promised to blog about the Tarr event at Facets that happened this past Sunday for the benefit of some people who expressed an interest in it here.

Unfortunately, Tarr could not stay for the panel discussion because he had to leave to attend to a family emergency. The discussion went on, however, and my summary can be read at

September 17, 2007 3:14 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thank you very much for the summary Marylin. You even answered the question I wanted Maya to ask at his Tarr interview. I'll be on the lookout for your reviews of Werckmeister Harmonies and The Passenger.

Bonus for Chris Marker fans only : his latest short clip, Leila Attacks, screened as a pre-program with Isild LeBesco's new feature : Charly. (MOV file, 7Mb, 1')

September 17, 2007 6:47 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Merci, tout le monde. (Still hung over from all the good French cinema at TIFF...)

Michael, I really wish we could've hung out more and made it down to Eggstasy. I'm amazed by how prolific you've been at both Twitch and Greencine...and thanks for remembering the blog birthday. I'd forgotten all about it myself!

Rob, I resolved this TIFF that I would try very hard to not schedule any films after 9 pm. Which worked out well because I got a full night's sleep every night and never felt drowsy or tired during the films. The downside was that I gave up on a couple of choice late-night screenings, the Seidl prime among them.

I caught all the films in the Seidl retro that TIFF did in '01 and also liked his most recent doc, Jesus You Know, so missing Import/Export hurts quite a bit. I'm hoping it eventually joins the half dozen or so Seidls that are out on DVD here.

Darren, Marilyn and Harry -- Thanks much for posting those links.

Harry, just curious: what did you mean by the Rohmer film being "grotesque"?

It's funny: I ended up liking quite a bit of the French-language cinema that you weren't crazy about (Hou, Breillat, Rohmer, Rivette, etc.)

Jim, we'll definitely have to get you over to Little India on Queen next year! Oddly, I never managed to eat there myself this year (the lines were long-ish and I was scurrying from one film to another) but it's a good place. Their paalak paneer and gulab jamuns are especially amazing.

September 17, 2007 9:53 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Nice to hang out with you too, Girish! And sorry that I missed the Ethiopia House event.

My top eight TIFF 2007 films (note: I'm saving Une Vieille Maitresse, In the City of Sylvia, Useless, A Girl Cut in Two, and Secret Sunshine for NYFF):

1. The Tracey Fragments
2. Happiness
3. Avant Que J'Oublie
4. The Banishment
5. Mutum
6. Silent Light
7. Wolfsbergen
8. Corroboree

I'm usually a big Seidl fan, but Import Export rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason.

September 17, 2007 11:27 PM  
Blogger Ryan Krahn said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

September 17, 2007 11:45 PM  
Blogger Ryan Krahn said...

It was great to meet you in line for Don't Touch the Axe, as I've been quietly enjoying your blog for quite awhile now. As the Rivette was the only film of the ones you saw that I was able to catch, I'm hoping that you'll write a thing or two on it... I'm a bit torn on it, to be honest.

I am noticing that few critics/bloggers seemed to have taken in the amazing California Dreamin' during the TIFF... I wonder if this is because of its likely appearance at other festivals or, perhaps, an upcoming DVD release?

September 17, 2007 11:47 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I know it's a matter of taste for French cinema that divide us, Girish, this is not what I admire most. Although it's not a distaste for Rohmer in this case, I quite like other films of his.
By "grotesque" I mean the film is too incoherent with its subject. Baroque, anachronistic, synchretic, caricatural stylization while taking itself too seriously. Naive worldview, puerile sentiments, facile "erotism", inconsequential happy ending... I would have prefered adolescent protagonist to suit the immature tone. Not to mention the too conventional mise-en-scene. But we could discuss this further later if you like.

September 18, 2007 7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are only three awards given by the press at toronto. this year all went to latinamerican movies, cochochi and the zone both mexican and encarnation, argentinan. However, i cant find any notes about these movies. It is like nobody but the jury saw them! What happened? there were not buzz for these movies? they are not crowd pleasers and therefore ignored? Can anybody explain

September 18, 2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Anon: Your representation isn't quite accurate. La Zona got quite a bit of attention at the Venice Film Festival and was well-attended at my P&I screening. Cochochi less so. I saw Encarnacion in the VIP lounge which seats less than 40. If you're asking why the public may not have been as drawn to these titles, I would suspect that some of the bigger mainstream titles might have shoved everything lesser known out of the way. Toronto, which I understand was once known for its championing little known films, has clearly transformed into the starting gun for the Oscar race.

I know that Darren Hughes has written up Encarnacion. He liked it much better than I did. I capsuled La Zona for The Greencine Daily and have written up Cochochi for The Evening Class and am negotiating discussions between Cochochi's sales agent and the Global Film Initiative in hopes that the latter can afford to pick it up for distribution or at least commence a working relationship with Garcia and Luna for future first-time features coming out of Mexico.

September 18, 2007 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Filipe said...

Dan, now I'm feeling bad for not being able to include in The Tracey Fragments in my Rio schedule (at least I can still hope it shows up at São Paulo).

September 18, 2007 6:06 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Ryan - I saw California Dreamin' (Endless) and liked it quite a bit - if I'd extended my list to nine films, that would have been the ninth. It seemed a little unfocused - maybe the guy didn't live to do a final cut? But I really liked the direction. Nemescu reminded me a lot of Billy Wilder, but more able to provide naturalistic counterpoint to the farce, and with a better eye.

Harry - I think Rohmer knows that his film is anachronistic. In a way, I think that's the whole point: there's no such thing as a 17th century movie, just different ways to cobble together 20th and 21st century techniques to translate the 17th century. Certainly Rohmer didn't use the same framing and cutting that he uses for contemporary subjects.

Filipe - not everyone liked The Tracey Fragments. But, for me, McDonald's gimmick of filling the screen with a variable number of panels was transformative, not superficial. The possibilities of the new technique seemed endless, and McDonald was tireless in exploring them. I felt as if I was watching cinema being reinvented.

By the way, does Mutum have a good reputation down there? I think Kogut is a really confident and powerful director.

September 19, 2007 12:05 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, everyone.

Ryan, I enjoyed meeting you as well.
Re: the Rivette, I found it difficult and severe but interesting. If I can, I'll try to write a small something about it.

Dan, I heard that The Tracey Fragments is being released in Toronto theaters soon (in the next month or two).

Kevin Lee has an interesting account of a Bela Tarr personal appearance in Minneapolis.

September 19, 2007 7:46 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I didn't say it was involuntary. It's actually a period pic dated of the Vth century as seen through the revisionist eyes of XVIIth century catholic aristocrats (speech on the celtic paganism being just christian monotheism?). That's why it's grotesque, intentionnally. But I didn't understand what was the relevance today of this "mise-en-abîme". The premise is ridiculous, so the tone should be more humorous. And the level of erotic transgression (platonic love, cross-dressing, homosexual love) is very superficial. I mean there is nothing in this story that makes it stand out in history of litterature, why adapt this text instead of another stronger drama?
I'd like to hear how you guys interpretate the point of this film, and why you find it original.

September 19, 2007 8:49 AM  
Anonymous Nathaniel said...

Girish, what didn't you like about the Oliveira? It's one of the features I'm looking forward to the most coming out of this year's TIFF so I was disappointed to hear that it didn't work for you.

September 19, 2007 1:50 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Nathaniel, I've seen about a half dozen Oliveiras (I especially like I'm Going Home, La Lettre and Belle Toujours) but this new film is the only Oliveira I found dry and unengaging. It's about the quest of a doctor/researcher to prove that Columbus was actually Portuguese. The film spans the 40s to the present day. It consists mostly of conversations (which I usually enjoy about his films) that are (IMO) devoid of tension or ambiguity or frissons. The film smacks of academicism. Its only point of interest (for me) was seeing the awesomely spry Oliveira (at 98!); he has a prominent acting role in it.

Speaking of Oliveira, I'm dying to see his Bovary adaptation, Valley of Abraham but the Facets DVD is quite simply unwatchable. Would also love to get my hands on Oporto of my Childhood, Doomed Love, and Inquietude.

Harry -- I think you're right: it might be a question of taste that leads to our divergent takes on some of this recent French cinema. I'm not quite ready to debate the Rohmer until I've seen it again and can marshall some details to mount a meaningful defense. Let me just say one or two small things in general:

"The premise is ridiculous, so the tone should be more humorous."

The strangeness and implausbility of the set-up is treated with seriousness and a straight face (and not played for laughs) by Rohmer, which I think is a strength of this film. Playing it just for humor might likely (I feel) have resulted in a casual, lightweight work. I like how this film approaches its 'ridiculousness' with utter seriousness. I found this gesture very moving.

"why adapt this text instead of another stronger drama?"

Great cinematic adaptations need not necessarily be drawn from great and 'dramatically rich' works of literature. (The Cahiers guys, like Chabrol, have written about this.) Even a small, slight anecdote (like the paragraph about the donkey in Dostoyevsky's Idiot that inspired Balthazar) can form the seed of a great film. Also, a lot of 'contemplative cinema' that you (and I and many others) champion would look pretty 'undramatic' on the page. 'Drama' and richness of dramatic incident in literature does not automatically guarantee better cinema (at all), IMO.

Perhaps we can chat more about the film after I've had the chance to see it again (which I would very much like to.)

September 19, 2007 6:29 PM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Harry - I'm not in love with this particular Rohmer film - I find it fascinating, but a lot of my engagement is intellectual. I will say, though, that what draws me into the film is that Rohmer doesn't want to pronounce the story ridiculous: he seems to have a genuine interest in the time period and in the sensibility that he finds in its art, and he's trying to understand and convey that sensibility (albeit, necessarily, with modern cinema techniques). Because he doesn't find the period's art alienating, he's able to put me in a state of mind where I want to try to relate to it more.

September 19, 2007 10:16 PM  
Anonymous Nathaniel said...

Girish, you're right, the current region 1 disc of Valley of Abraham is unwatchable. Thankfully, there are other very worthwhile options. I heartily recommend that you check out's a Portuguese site that stocks some otherwise unavailable Oliveira DVDs in excellent editions. Their version of Valley of Abraham is in the proper aspect ratio, in the proper language (the American edition is dubbed in French), and is the complete 210 minute cut. This was a great find for me as Valley is my favorite film--not just of Oliveira's work, of anyone's. The long cut is nothing short of majestic and utterly, utterly exhausting.

They also carry Oporto but, unfortunatley, Doomed Love and Inquietude remain virtually impossible to get. I am glad you enjoyed La Lettre; it's another favorite of mine. Absolutely incredible.

September 20, 2007 3:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Nathaniel, thanks for the tip on Blue Planet! Great to hear. I had no idea...

David Bordwell on Bela Tarr.

September 20, 2007 6:39 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

I love how Bordwell writes. I wish I had his erudition. Reading his essay, however, made me realize where I am clever. If I'm not a great mind, at least I'm a great heart and admit that mine is more of an emotional intelligence than a mental one. I realize in retrospect just how important it was for me to position myself with Bela as a terrified new journalist. He loved that. Put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Don't worry." And only once raised his voice to me (when I tried to broach your questions regarding contemplative cinema, Harry). I got around that by realizing he prefers his own terms. He's more than willing to talk about "pure" cinema, so when Greencine publishes my interview, substitute "contemplative" and we're all on the same page.

The most recent substitution I've read is Johnny Ray Huston's lovely essay on "somnabulist" cinema. But over here at Casa Maya we still chant "Soporifc is terrific."

September 20, 2007 11:32 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I've just watched La Marquise d'O. introduced by a Positif critic. It's formidable. The genre is not quite comparable, but regarding the issues I brought up : the acting is very serious and the drama is rather tragic, but we laugh a lot at the ridicule of their out-dated manners and moral. There is no incoherence, because each narrative level is given an expected treatment. The source novel by Kleist is a beauty of irony, even if written very seriously. Maybe what I dislike in Astrée is the absence of self-criticism, or irony for the absurdity of the world depicted.
The apex of silliness being the episode of Céladon retreated in his hut in the woods...
So you believe it's not a lightweight work? I understand our taste may differ, but i'd hope we see the same shallow content. I mean it could be light and funny and still be well done and transcended (which is another thing I disagree with, but is arguable). What's great in the film? Is it the subject (fable), the narration (d'Urfé adapted by Rohmer), the dialogue (d'Urfé) or the filmic rendition (Rohmer)?

Of course, I'm not accusing the lightness of the adapted text. What's wrong is that this novel doesn't say anything new that would justify picking it over others. AND Rohmer's cinematographic adaptation doesn't add any originality to it.
I'm not against Rohmer. I think the study of intellectualized erotism and fantasy in Le Genou de Claire is very interesting. And his re-interpretation of historical drama in Lancelot and The Lady and The Duke is unconventional. So he can be insightful when he wants.

P.S. Oliveira's Bovary is very original and with a strong atmosphere (contrary to Sokurov's take which I disliked as I told you before)

I think Rohmer's interest is more in the literary language rather than the epoch or the story. Thus his concern is focused on rendering diction, and his attention to mise-en-scene is neglected.
What do you relate to exactly? Everything is fake, conceited, simulated (both in the diegesis and the subtext).

Well sorry for the long rant.

September 20, 2007 12:04 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thanks Michael, looking forward to your interview! Sorry to get you in trouble... I'm confused. I'm not surprised a filmmaker resist being pigeonholed, giving labels is a critic thing. Auteurs don't have the distance to define their own style, unless your name is Bresson.
I know this phrasing of "contemplative cinema" doesn't work for anyone... but we haven't found another choice yet (and I'm trying hard for over a year now). Any suggestions?
"Somnambulist", "soporific" implies night, dreams, sleep, which is not quite right. Too restrictive I mean. This cinema is realistic, and doesn't belong to an "underground" world of "after hours". And if it describes its audience it is as negative as "boring art film". I'd prefer a positive name.

September 20, 2007 12:17 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Oh and where can I find this "somnabulist cinema" essay by Johnny Ray Huston?

September 20, 2007 12:19 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

I've tried for over an hour to track down this Bay Guardian article by Huston on Serra's Honor of the Knights to no avail. Sorry.

September 20, 2007 5:13 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael, I'm looking forward to reading your Greencine Tarr interview. Your strategy was very smart and pragmatic.

"Well sorry for the long rant."

Harry, never apologize for your musings. As you know, I find them interesting and stimulating without fail. Even when I find myself disagreeing with them. As is the case with the Rohmer film. I hope you won't mind if I take a raincheck on debating this film. I'm sure that spirited discussions of the film will soon be sparking up in the blogosphere since it's playing NYFF. Thanks, as always, for your thoughts.

September 20, 2007 6:40 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

That article on "somnambulist cinema" was enough to make me sleepwalk over to Yerba Buena Center last week to check out the Serra film for myself last Thursday, but I was dismayed to learn that the print had not yet arrived and the screening canceled. I couldn't make the other two showings, as I was working during one, and had already made plans to see Uchida's the Mad Fox with a friend during the other. (the Uchida, my first of his films, was alright I guess but to me felt very over-plotted and mostly interesting as a seeming precursor to Suzuki's Princess Raccoon.) That's the second print-traffic snafu and resultant screening cancellation I've encountered in as many months (the other being a Herzog double-bill at the Castro). Wonder what's going on? I haven't had this happen to me before ever, that I can remember anyway.

September 20, 2007 7:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian, are you seeing any other Uchida films? Cinematheque Ontario is doing the retro in the fall and I'd love to get a recommendation or two of his strongest films so I can plan a road trip around them. They are also doing Ophuls, which will allow me to catch up with the remaining few that have continued to elude me.

September 20, 2007 8:15 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thanks for trying to locate the article Michael. I've added the reference on the Unspoken blog anyway.
Bordwell's article is great! See, he's trying to define and name his work against Tarr's approval too. Does "pure cinema" refers to anti-theatrical? Anyway, it's a self-congratulating label, everybody would want their films to be called "pure", it's not a meaningful/descriptive/specific wording. Rejecting "contemplative" and stylistic references doesn't matter, he's unique. Only us want to trace back parallels and trends, a posteriori. It would be interesting to confront him on what he refuse to answer : how he defines his own style and how it came to be. Bordwell finds a plausible lineage, even if Tarr will deny.

I don't know what "raincheck" means, but I assume it's the "agree to disagree" end of the argument, and that's alright. Usually critics loved the film. So my opinion is the minority. There was a long debate on the Cahiers forum already.

September 20, 2007 8:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Harry. btw, "raincheck" means to postpone to another time. But "agree to disagree" might also do. :-)

September 20, 2007 8:19 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Brian, missing prints seems to be all the rage these days. I'm having it happen more and more. The other evening at the MVFF screening of Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, the print ended up missing and Larsen had to show the screener dvd with its copyright disclaimers. It was irritating. It's bad enough to have to deal with that at home; not when I leave my home and make the effort to get somewhere else.

I enjoyed Uchida's Mad Fox, primarily for its staged conventions. I'm hoping to catch the doublebill this weekend Will you be there? I was going to catch the one this evening but was at an earlier press screening of The Assassination of Jesse James, unaware that the film was nearly three hours long. Yeesh.

Girish, Senses of Cinema has some good write-ups on Uchida; worth perusing.

September 20, 2007 11:20 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Michael, I didn't notice you at the Mad Fox. I doubt I'll be there this weekend for The Master Spearman and the Outsiders, unfortunately. I'm guessing I'll only be going to one more film in the Uchida series: a Fugitive From the Past. I did hear reports from those who saw Yoshiwara: the Pleasure Quarter (with a screenplay by Yoshikata Yoda) that indicated that it was not-to-be-missed. I wish I hadn't.

September 21, 2007 5:09 PM  
Anonymous msic said...

Hey Girish, sorry we didn't meet up this year. I was in Toronto for less than 24 hours before I had to return to Syracuse to attend to a (fortunately small) family emergency. But it sounds like a fine time was had by all, and unlike years past, nearly everyone seems to have found at least one masterpiece they can champion without reservations. Now *that's* a year for cinema!

September 21, 2007 9:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey Michael, I'm sorry you had to return to Syracuse but I'm glad the emergency didn't prove serious. If we don't meet up in our backyard before then (e.g. Eastman), I look forward to doing so next TIFF.

September 22, 2007 8:47 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Maya, I really regret missing you this year--I heard you were doing the press routine? Maybe we'll get a chance to catch up at PSIFF?

Harry, I love The Marquise of O as well as The Romance of Celadon and Astrea...I'm not sure what I could say that would sway you, but I find both films visually refined (in different ways; one is painterly, the other is almost Renoirian in its naturalism); both are emotionally and philosophically compelling. I would argue that the "distance" you seek might be found in Celadon's increasingly absurd powerlessness in light of his principles (which the film clearly supports), which ultimately pay off but not before a tremendous amount of (charming) silliness. I've heard it's not a particularly popular text in France (nor is Ne touchez pas la hache) so I guess I'm not surprised by your resistance in those terms.

September 22, 2007 1:38 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

As I said, French critics usually love the film, and celebrate the farewell film of the old master, especially at Cahiers as you can imagine. These texts are quite obscur indeed, because few people are even aware of their existance here (Balzac's one is better known though). I haven't read any.
My main regret is they don't have anything new to say about humanity and our contemporean world.
Astree is a wannabe fable from Homer's antiquity, but the tragedy misses its mythological dimension because of the happy-ending.

Anyway, other films deserve more attention than these same-old academic adaptations (even if they are good), in my opinion. Films with more urgent, contemporean, political subjects... ;)

September 22, 2007 5:10 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Girish --

Finally found some time to read this post!

I'm so pleased to hear you describe the Chabrol as "fiercely funny." I was laughing through most of the press screening, though few others in the theater were.

Chabrol has reached new heights of contempt for the haut bourgeois, and I thought Magimel was simply perfect in the role as the spoiled heir.

I've never been much of a fan of Ludivine Sagnier -- in fact nothing after Water Drops on Burning Rocks impressed me until I saw her in this.

Personally, I think this is Chabrol's best in years. Based on those I spoke to at the press screening, I appear to be in the minority.

Dan --

Happy to hear somebody speaking up for The Tracey Fragments. I was surprised at how little coverage I found coming out of Toronto. I saw this back in Berlin in February, and I was highly impressed. With Ellen Page appearing in about 7 films next year, I thought this would grab more attention. Oh well. . .

September 22, 2007 9:06 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Doug, real sorry we missed at TIFF too. Definitely, let's catch up at PSIFF.

September 23, 2007 2:02 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Girish, you and Filmbrain have me really looking forward to the Chabrol. I am slowly working my way through some of his high points, after loving La Ceremonie a couple of years ago. And Benoit Magimel -- ROWR. Nothing like a beautiful man who can also act.

September 23, 2007 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Filipe said...

Dan, Mutum is getting its first brazilian screening this week. I know the brazilan press at Cannes liked it, but not as much as you seems to. I'm probably seem it in São Paulo later in October (there's always a good side for having two big film festivals in a six weeks period).

I saw the new Chabrol today, it almost feels like a Manoel de Oliveira film. And yes, Magimel is great.

September 24, 2007 2:23 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hi, everyone.

After a week of the blahs, health-wise, things are looking up. Autumn is in the air and it's a crisp 50 degrees outside.

Filmbrain, Siren, Filipe -- I've spent most of the week watching or re-watching Chabrol. The Siren should give The Bridesmaid (2004) a spin. Of his films of the last 10 years or so, it just might be my favorite (along with the new one). Also, FYI, Magimel is in every scene.

Hoping to return at some point this week with a TIFFy post. Meanwhile, lots of action on the Interweb:

-- Chris Fujiwara on the New Crowned Hope films (Tsai. Apichatpong, Encina).
-- At Flickhead's: Bunuel Blog-A-Thon.
-- At Goatdog's: William Wyler Blog-A-Thon.
-- Acquarello has been prolifically filing dispatches from NYFF.
-- via Dave McDougall: Douglas Kellner: "May '68 in France: Dynamics and Consequences."
-- In the NYT mag: a lengthy article on Haneke.
-- Steve Shaviro on Zodiac.
-- Jonathan Rosenbaum on Flying: Confessions of a Free Woman by Jennifer Fox.

September 24, 2007 8:03 AM  
Blogger Flickhead said...

With Buñuel in mind, Chabrol's La Fleur du mal is an especially tart critique of the bourgeoisie...who, in Chabrol's universe, inbreed to insure the survival of their power, bank accounts, business and real estate holdings. While La Cérémonie is a masterpiece, La Fleur du mal has become one of my favorites of his recent films.

September 24, 2007 3:04 PM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Umm...actually, G, I've just finished the Demirkubuz retrospective last night, and didn't start attending the NYFF press screenings until this morning. Suffice it to say, I'm still working on clearing the backlog on the Saturday Demirkubuz films. :( Anyway, quick alert for people in NYC to catch tonight's screening of Demirkubuz's The Third Page at WRT; that and The Confession are my favorites from the complete retrospective.

Only two from the NYFF so far...Silent Light didn't do much for me, but I really liked Abel Ferrara's Go Go Tales.

September 24, 2007 6:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Flickhead, I like La Fleur du Mal too, and after you mentioned it, I queued it up to revisit it tonight. Also, I'm enjoying the Bunuel blog-a-thon.

Acquarello, for some reason I mistakenly thought that the Demirkubuz series was an adjunct/sidebar to NYFF. And I'm envious you got to see Go Go Tales! It played in the competition at Montreal on condition (I assume) that it wouldn't show up at TIFF. Look forward to hearing more from you about what you liked or didn't at NYFF.

September 25, 2007 7:44 AM  
Blogger girish said...

via CelineJulie: Apichatpong Weerasethakul has an article in today's Bangkok Post. ("A hidden agenda that deems us morons: The folly and future of Thai cinema under military dictatorship").

September 25, 2007 11:05 AM  
Blogger celinejulie said...

Thank you very much, Girish.

Girish, since you wrote in August that Lucia Bose is an arresting presence in STORY OF A LOVE AFFAIR (1950, Michelangelo Antonioni), I would like to tell you that Blaq Out has released a DVD of NATHALIE GRANGER (1972, Marguerite Duras), starring Lucia Bose, Jeanne Moreau, and Gerard Depardieu. I don’t know if you’ve known it already or not. But this news makes me feel very glad. The website of Blaq Out says it has English subtitles, and the special features include the interviews with Benoit Jacquot and Luc Moullet.

September 25, 2007 11:52 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, CelineJulie. I know you're a big Marguerite Duras fan. I've seen just one of her films, which I absolutely adore (India Song), and would love the chance to see more.

September 25, 2007 11:58 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Harry: you said, "I think Rohmer's interest is more in the literary language rather than the epoch or the story. Thus his concern is focused on rendering diction, and his attention to mise-en-scene is neglected./What do you relate to exactly? Everything is fake, conceited, simulated (both in the diegesis and the subtext)."

I don't feel at all that Rohmer neglects mise-en-scene. It's true that he reverses some of his usual style choices: most conspicuously, he cross-cuts consistently on dialogue, something he almost never does. (He wrote the book on selective cutting during dialogue sequences in Ma nuit chez Maud.) And he starts many scenes with a silent-film-style long shot that seems primarily to depict the setting, and secondarily to situate the actor in it: not a shot he uses a lot in other films.

My interest, I must admit, is mostly in watching a director I know well select tools from the cinematic toolkit and fit them to his subject. Given that Rohmer's style for films set in the present doesn't vary so wildly, I think it's quite reasonable to assume that he's trying to make a fit between cinema technique and what he considers a 17th-century perspective. And, of course, he says as much in the written introduction to the film.

Girish - I'm a Uchida fan, but almost everything I've seen from him is from the 60s. I too liked Murder in Yoshiwara, and there are some remarkable things in Duel at Ichijoji Temple. But most commentators focus on his 30s or 50s work. I hope this retro makes its way to NYC.

September 25, 2007 4:17 PM  
Blogger Campaspe said...

Girish, HA! I saw The Bridesmaid recently, and indeed it was excellent, although I still have to give the prize to La Ceremonie. Many wonderful shots of Magimel and all the while I get to insist to Mr. C. that no, really, it's a CHABROL movie. :D

and now, per Flickhead & you, to queue up La Fleur du Mal ...

September 25, 2007 10:02 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Siren, I agree with you completely about La Ceremonie, and wasn't including it in my 10-year window since it's from '95. You'll be pleased to know that Magimel also plays the lead in La Fleur du Mal.

Teaching eases up a bit (at least for the day); shall try to scribble out a post by tonight.

September 26, 2007 9:05 AM  
Blogger Brian said...

Girish, thanks for mentioning the Apichatpong article on CelineJulie's blog. Though your link doesn't work anymore (Bangkok Post articles are only publicly available for a brief period of time), CelineJulie has been kind enough to copy it here.

September 26, 2007 4:38 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian, thanks for posting that! I didn't realize the link had died.

September 26, 2007 4:45 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

how does these very academic reverse-shots and establishing shots fit to his subject then? Is it more befitting than his (more experimental) directorial choices for The Lady And The Duke or Perceval? (sorry if I wrote mistakenly "Lancelot" above, I didn't see Perceval)
I think Bresson's Lancelot gives an interesting perspective to a non conventional mise-en-scene for a period pic, notably the idea to paints a real atmosphere, rather than a painstakingly detailed historical reconstitution (which is bound to be inexact). I can't say Rohmer's atmosphere transported me farther than the open-air stage of today's provincial theatre troups. what's so insightful about his direction (or absence of one)?
Rohmer can do whetever he wants, he's an old master, we don't have to complain about his choices, I respect them. But I'm baffled by the appraisal for an originality that is nowhere to be found (in this film).

September 26, 2007 5:56 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Acquarello -- I'm afraid I'm going to have to suggest pistols at dawn over your dislike of Stellet Licht.

Girish -- how I wish you saw this film in Toronto. I've not been able to think of anything else for two days now.

Go-Go Tales was tremendous fun -- great to see Abel making a straight-out comedy.

This morning it was 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Wonderful film, but pales in comparison to Stellet Licht.

September 26, 2007 9:36 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain, unfortunately Silent Light played on the day I had to return home to teach my grad class. I know it has distribution in Canada but I'm hoping it gets picked up here too.

Meanwhile, can't seem to catch a blogging break here...

September 27, 2007 7:12 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Gerry Canavan posts an interesting excerpt from a piece on Wes Anderson in New York Magazine. (I had the exact same experience with The Big Lebowski.)

September 27, 2007 7:17 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

your comparison with 4 months, which is great, sounds very promising for Stellet Licht. (another 2 months before I can see it)

September 27, 2007 10:46 AM  
Anonymous john jack said...

Errol Morris on Susan Sontag, The Valley of the Shadow of Death, the posing of photographs, and psychological motivations. via

September 27, 2007 11:16 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for that. Fascinating.

September 27, 2007 11:40 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Harry - when I used the word "fit," I didn't mean to imply that there is an objective reason to use cutting on dialogue for 17th century subjects. I'm interested in the film because it's Rohmer's inquiry into a historical mindset that he's interested in, and his choices tell us something about how he regards the artist-audience relationship of that period. Maybe it's not the most ecstatic time I've ever had in a theater - but then I have a casual interest in art history, compared with Rohmer.

Lancelot du Lac (which is much more important to me than Astree et Celadon) is a different thing altogether. I think Bresson thinks that the old legend is interesting to us in the 20th century, and he makes film that is modern in spirit, adapting the Arthurian legend to himself instead of vice versa. If Rohmer had gone into his film with that approach, he probably would have done something stylistically closer to what he usually does.

September 27, 2007 1:03 PM  
Blogger Maya said...

Filmbrain, as much as I love Acquarello and am so sorry it had to come to this, I will HAND you the pistols at dawn. That is, if I don't get distracted watching the last stars concede to the rising sun....

September 28, 2007 2:04 AM  
Blogger acquarello said...

Them's fightin' words! Since the film's about the Mennonite community, can't we have a quilting contest instead? >:)

I finally cleared my Demirkubuz backlog, so I'll be tackling the NYFF screenings next, starting with the Reygadas in the next day or two. I still need to put some form to my resistance to it, but the "recipe" quality of the film's aesthetic had a lot to do with it, I think.

September 28, 2007 8:05 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

I certainly didn't mean to compare the importance of Lancelot and Astrée (nor do I compare Rohmer to Bresson), but just to see what solutions they favored when dealing with the same anachronistic problem of making a medieval movie.
I don't know why it bothers you that an auteur would "repeat" his own signature style, since it's the very trait of an auteur. And I heard people defend the film precisely saying that it's a typical Rhomerian way.
I think I would prefer the film if it was more Rhomerian actually, which would better. But I already said that.
What is the "the artist-audience relationship of that period"?

September 28, 2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry, I notice that you're seeing many of the Kiarostami films I (and many others) caught in NYC in the spring. I'd be curious to know your take on them, which ones you liked, etc. The Erice-Kiarostami letters film was scheduled but unfortunately MoMA canceled it at the last minute. (Which reminds me that there's some writing on it at Rouge.)

September 28, 2007 9:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry, thanks for posting your notes of the Kiarostami interview.

September 29, 2007 8:11 AM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Yes the retrospective has started now. I linked to your Kiarostami post in my last presentation. But I forgot about Rouge, thanks for the reminder.
The first few short films of Kiaorstami I've seen are adorable, I love their wordless, strictly visual narration. And I saw Through the Olive Trees too, which will be my favorite I think.

September 30, 2007 3:48 AM  
Blogger Dan Sallitt said...

Harry - it definitely doesn't bother me when a director uses the same style in multiple movies. I was just noting that Rohmer didn't want to use his usual style ideas here. I think he wanted to render the spirit of the material as much as he could, and he probably felt that his usual style had too many modernist aspects for that purpose.

You asked, 'What is the "the artist-audience relationship of that period'?" I'm no scholar of the period, but we can see what Rohmer thought about the original work by the style choices he made. For instance, he starts scenes with a bit of introductory pomp, which is not his usual way: there's often a fade-in, and an establishing silent-movie-style long-shot of environment and main character. Or: he omits purely visual interludes, even when he could substitute them for the non-stop talk. Or: he lets some scenes play out without ellipses, risking awkwardness. In general, he seems to want to fill everything in, instead of allowing modernist gaps in the narrative. As a result, the pace is actually faster than in a modern Rohmer film. I was taking notes during the film, and I never had a chance to catch up - the dialogue was unrelenting.

Obviously this agenda means one lost opportunity after another if we want modernist style coups. I'd rather take Le Genou de Claire or Le Rayon vert to a desert island, but that's not what we get this time. There's an uncanny shot where, after dodging Astree for nearly the whole movie, Celadon comes across Astree and her girlfriend sleeping in the woods. As dictated by the style he's using, Rohmer puts all the actors in the same long shot, so that the half-naked girls are a bit concealed by all the greenery. Like Celadon, we don't quite believe our eyes. I don't think Rohmer would have shot the scene that way normally, but it's the payoff of the approach he's been using, and it's got a certain power that depends on the form of what we've been watching for the last 75 minutes.

October 01, 2007 3:49 PM  
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