Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Toronto '08: The Round-Up



So, I'm back from a week in Toronto, where I took in a couple of dozen screenings. Here's how the films stacked up.

Flat-Out, Holy-Cow Masterpiece:

RR (James Benning, USA)

Top-Of-The-Heap Favorites:

35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France)
Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA)
Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso, Argentina)
A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, France)
Jerichow (Christian Petzold, Germany)
Lorna's Silence (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium)

Excellent:

Birdsong (Albert Serra, Spain)
Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)
Le Genou d'Artemide (Jean-Marie Straub, France)
Winter and Saraband (Nathaniel Dorsky, USA)
Horizontal Boundaries (Pat O'Neill, USA)
Public Domain (Jim Jennings, USA)

Strong, Fascinating:

The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda, France)
Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim, S. Korea)
Garden/ing (Eriko Sonoda, Japan)

Still Pondering:

24 City (Jia Zhang-ke, China)
Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan)

Interesting:

La Mémoire des Anges (Luc Bourdon, Canada)

Disappointments:

Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
Four Nights with Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland)
One Day You'll Understand (Amos Gitai, France)
Dioses (Josué Méndez, Peru)

I Regret Not Being Able To Schedule:

When It Was Blue (Jennifer Reeves, USA)
Revanche (Gotz Spielmann, Austria)
Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, France)


* * *

I have a brief piece at Artforum on four of the films. This was my tenth straight TIFF, and I was reminded of how much a film festival experience resembles an endurance event. To 'perform' well--both in terms of number of films seen and the quality of alertness and attention given to each--means eating well, getting enough sleep, avoiding alcohol, and so on. All the things I was somewhat negligent with this year. I ended up skipping a few films, then felt a twinge of regret.

Darren at Long Pauses and Rob at Daily Plastic have posted their TIFF round-ups. One of the highlights of my festival this year was being able to spend time with them. Darren and Rob are my models, my exemplars, for 'festivalling'. They frequently took in 4-5 films a day, did multiple filmmaker interviews, made time for socializing, and blogged from the festival--amazing! Next year I'll be looking to take a lesson or two from their playbooks to up my 'festival productivity'.

Finally, this can't go unmentioned: The avant-garde program ("Wavelengths"), curated by Andréa Picard, hit an all-time high this year. For this more than any other reason, I'm looking forward to TIFF '09.

Your comments on any of the above films or current festivals (e.g. TIFF, NYFF)? They're most welcome.


* * *

Some links:

-- First: Michael Sicinski's invaluable coverage at his site, including links to his Greencine dispatches.

-- Adam Nayman, Jason Anderson, and other critics at TIFF on video at Eye Weekly.

-- Craig Keller (with links to Andy Rector) on current events at Cahiers du cinéma.

-- via Dave Kehr: Godard's first movie since 2006 is the trailer for the Viennale, viewable here.

-- via Chris Cagle: A big film book sale at University of California Press.

-- David Bordwell on film titles.

-- New at Moving Image Source: essays by Chris Fujiwara, Dennis Lim, Richard Porton, Ed Halter, and others.

pic: Christian Petzold's Jerichow.