Monday, September 8, 2008

TIFF 2008 reviews: Genova

Genova is the movie I’d kind of worked myself into a lather over in the runup to the TIFF program book release, what with its “special presentation but not Visa Screening Room” status confusion. And all in all it really wasn’t worth my sweat. I was just psyched to have the opportunity, ultimately, to see Michael Winterbottom’s new film, no matter what the subject. Winterbottom’s a guy I’ve really gotten into in the past couple of years. The double Coogan whammy of 24 Hour Party People and Tristram Shandy really woke me up to the guy’s versatility: both movies play with narrative and storytelling in intriguing ways, and the latter was actually my favorite movie of 2006. I also recently saw 9 Songs, and it brought it home that this is a filmmaker with a unique and intriguing artistic sensibility. I did stay away from A Mighty Heart, but that’s more just an aversion to Angelina Jolie going all method. So anyway, I was down for whatever trip Winterbottom wanted to take us on this month (yes, month…he’s practically as prolific as Miike, it seems).

And “trip” is actually a better description of Genova than “story” when you get right down to it. I mean, there is a plot, the story of a family coping with the death of a mother by relocating to scenic Italy for a year (as we are wont to do, I’m sure…no, it’s not Hollywood-style contrived, there’s actually a reason for them to go), but you can sit back and watch the movie as a travelogue and probably walk out not disappointed. And the beauty of the city and ocean is only helped along by the always-luminous Catherine Keener. This was, to hear Colin Firth describe it in the Q&A after the screening, a real guerilla-style shoot, not so much in the absence of permits but in the lack of a crew, so the end result is a loose, 100% believably naturalistic family drama that happens to play out in gorgeous locales. You can immerse yourself in the mood; if anything I was reminded of the effect Alan Rudolph used to be able to pull off in his movies, that dream-like quality that lingers after the lights come up. So I’m glad I saw it, doubly glad the cast and director were all so engaging at the show. It’s no Tristram Shandy, but I dug it. (***)

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