Thursday, August 21, 2008

Initial thoughts on the film list and one final rant

So, Christmas (ie: Program Book Day) is just around the corner and things are in kind of a holding pattern. The full film list went live on Tuesday, but with no blurbs or schedule accompanying it, such a posting tends to leave one more frustrated than anything else. Each year I spend that Tuesday evening cross-referencing titles with the imdb, but since most of the films haven’t had any kind of release even in their home countries, and many others have secured little if no distribution, information can be scarce. Many titles don’t show up at all on an imdb search, and others have little more than a title and main cast credits in the listing: no external reviews or official website which makes advance querying futile until the book comes out to give a few more hints.

All I can really do until the 26th, then, is to research what I can and make lists based on directors, actors, and countries of origin that I’m hoping to visit cinematically this year. Two Icelandic movies have made my list--both about weddings, oddly enough; I guess nuptials was this year’s theme du jour in the Reykjavik film community. French-Canadian films seem a little thin on the ground, but the weird way in which Canuck flicks are programmed (a concentration in Canada First! and then scattershot through every other program) makes it hard to be sure until I see the catalog en toto.

Paul Schrader’s latest, a holocaust drama starring Wilem Dafoe, is playing, thankfully in the Masters program and not as a Special Presentation, and that’s my Can’t Miss for this year. Schrader’s one of my few remaining cinematic heroes; Taxi Driver was such a seminal film for me, and so many others, like Hardcore, Mishima, Auto Focus and Last Temptation of Christ, have made a huge impact on my life. I went to the AFI largely because Schrader was one of the first Fellows there…though he dropped out due to political reasons, which I should have seen as an omen for how well I’d succeed in film after actually graduating. So I’ll be lining up early for that one if I can score a ticket, and in my required one fanboy move of the festival I’ll be bringing along my Light Sleeper poster and a Sharpie, just in case director and star walk the gauntlet slowly outside the Ryerson.

This week’s Now magazine also has a pullout section with some interesting info. There’s a purported full rundown of the Galas and Special Presentations and Genova isn’t on the list. Very curious. Cancelled from the fest? Downgraded to an accessible screening? (interjection: I sketched out this posting at work and checked the site at home, and Genova is indeed listed on the TIFF site as being an SP, so who knows?) In its own TIFF article, Eye also makes the first comment I’ve seen so far in the press about the elevation of status and ticket prices for SP screenings. I’m really hoping a few more people will kick up a bit of a stink. It also seems, judging from this pullout, that the second or third screenings of Gala and SP movies are also being held at the Visa Screening Room which ixnays ticket package purchases.

I know I seem to be harping on this issue, but it’s not a minor one to me. I don’t have an issue with the exclusionary galas; part of the international cachet of the film fest is the Hollywood North rollout of Oscar season prestige product and the attendant celebrity buzz. My own preferred beat at the TIFF is the smaller indie film or the obscure foreign entry or quirky doc, so the galas are off my radar. I mean, I’m going to go see Burn After Reading when it gets released anyway, and I don’t feel like I’m being shut out of a valuable viewing experience by not ponying up a couple of sawbucks for the nosebleeds. But in my festival experience, the Special Presentations have a certain magic to them; the Visa Screening Room is one of the most beautiful theatres I’ve ever set foot in—I’d rank it up there with the (late) Rialto in Montreal or the main room at Mann’s Chinese. The films that make that SP cut, they’ve been leaning towards “why isn’t this a gala?” lately but something like, say, Snow Cake or a Johnny To flick late in the evening feel more like regular festival programming, not something that needs to shut out the hoi polloi. True, it’s one program out of the dozen or so, but it still seems like a major step away from the notion of the “people’s festival.”

Okay, I’m officially dropping the subject now.

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