Bill's Best of the TIFF
(alphabetical order)
Adam's Apples
Brokeback Mountain
A History of Violence
The Sun

Bill's Worst of TIFF
Evil Aliens
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes
Les Saignantes


Day 10 (Saturday Sept 17th)


Le Temps qui Reste (2005) François Ozon out of  (BM)
- An unsympathetic gay man discovers that he is dying and withholds this knowledge from everyone except his elderly grandmother, because, as he states, she too will die soon.
Severing relationships and mending others, leaving a last minute legacy and personal reflection occupy his last remaining days, yet they do little in breaking through his selfish nature.
An interesting low-key film from Ozon, but it doesn't really leave a strong lasting impression.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005) Chan-wook Park
out of  (BM)
- Interesting, but flawed conclusion to the Vengeance trilogy seems somewhat unfocused with a confusing first half and much pointless screen time dedicated to the past criminal lives of our heroine's fellow inmates. Once the heavily padded first half is over, the film finally finds its groove in it's disturbing finale which reminded me of a certain Agatha Christie novel. Good, but inferior to the two earlier films.

Adam's Apples (2005) Anders Thomas Jensen 5/5
- Adam, a neo-Nazi is sent to a small community church as part of his community service sentence, there he meets Ivan, a Pastor with such a strong sense of faith that he is almost certifiable...turning the other cheek is taken to preposterous new heights. Adam clearly thinks that the Ivan is insane and sets out to break him, but first he must realize his appointed goal...he must bake an apple cake!
An absolutely hilarious Danish comedy inspired by the Book of Job, this film was a real surprise for me and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Ulrich Thomsen (The Celebration) is fine as the neo-Nazi, but Mads Mikkelsen is a scream as the insanely optimistic Ivan, a truly memorable comic creation.

Mary (2005) Abel Ferrara
out of  (BM)
- Flawed, yet very interesting film from Ferrara which is the director's response to Mel Gibson's The Passion of Christ. Alternately fascinating and obtuse, I wasn't always clear about what exactly Ferrara was trying to say at times, but the film always remained watchable. Requires a second viewing.

Thank You for Smoking (2005) Jason Reitman
out of  (BM)
- Dialogue driven comedy/drama about tobacco lobbyists is a mildly amusing and entertaining but rather slight film from the son of Ivan Reitman...it's at least better than most of his dad's films.
Director Jason Reitman was in attendance.

Hostel (2005) Eli Roth
out of  (BM)
- From the director of Cabin Fever comes this grim and dark horror film that seems to mistake sadism for horror, suspense and thrills. Not bad, but nothing special either, several mutilations and torture scenes are guaranteed to be trimmed by the MPAA.
Director, cheerleader and Tarantino impersonator Eli Roth and cast Jay Fernandez, Derek Richardson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Eythor Gudjonsson and Rick Hoffman were in attendance.


Dear Wendy - dir by Thomas Vinterberg, script by Lars von Trier
Perhaps that’s the way it was intended, but I found this film to be built upon one implausible event after another. Dick (Jamie Bell) buys a toy gun at a local store, which later he finds out to be real. First implausibility: people don’t mistake real guns to be toys. Even assuming he has never seen a gun before, SOMEONE would have realized it was real and bought it or alerted the store-owner long before Dick ever walked in. Hell, even I thought it looked like a real gun from the moment it was first shown. Dick works in a small general store, in a town that looks more like a wild west ghost town done-up than any small Southern town I’ve seen. The Southern small towns I know about are less antiques and worn-signage (although, to be fair, that’s there too) and more McDonalds’s and Wal-Marts. The store, even though it’s extremely small, still manages to employee two simultaneous stockers in addition to the owner running the register. Perhaps Vinterberg and von Trier are in love with a romanticized notion of small towns that is far from reality ­ or perhaps they are aware of the differences. Perhaps having grown up in a small Southern town (and having worked in a hardware store that sells guns) I am overly sensitive to their misfired portrayals. At any rate, we are then made to believe that after Dick and his friend start a pacifist gun club, nearly all of the town’s losers and misfits magically develop the shared and confused interest in guns. I won’t give away the climax, although you’ve probably already guessed it. If Vinterberg is truly trying to explore the South’s fascination with guns, he has completely and utterly missed the target.
out of (TY)

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - dir by Park Chan-Wook
This is the final installment in Park Chan-Wook’s revenge trilogy, and it’s a worthy finale. I would rate Oldboy slightly higher, but this film is still satisfying, if not a little “more of the same.”
out of      (TY)

L’Enfant - dir by the Dardenne brothers
Gary’s review says it beautifully. out of

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha - dir by Mark Dornford-May
This is an adaptation of the opera Carmen set in Cape Town’s Khayelitsha township. The TIFF guidebook claimed it integrates local rhythms and that it was a “tribute to the power of African music.” Funny, there was hardly any African music in the film. Although the characters speak and sing in Xhosa, much of the film, from the nearly-exclusively orchestral scoring to the operatic-singing-style is rooted in European tradition. And what kind of message does that bring across when the film “celebrates” African traditions while imposing European music and singing style. This film is without a doubt very true to the source material ­ I just don’t feel it’s true to the culture it’s trying to highlight. On the up side, the cast who have never acted in front of the camera before are amazing, particularly Pauline Malefane (Carmen) who is destined to be a star.
out of  (TY)




Day 9 (Friday Sept 16th)


Tsotsi (2005) Gavin Hood out of (BM)
- A wonderful film from South Africa that shares some similarities to L'Enfant, and in some ways this is the better film.
A young African hoodlum steals the car of his latest shooting victim and accidentally kidnaps the woman's infant child.
At first he puts the crying child in a paper bag and hides it under the bed next to an open can of food, returning home later to find the screaming child completely covered in ants.
He forces a young neighborhood mother to breast feed the baby and when she offers to take care of the child, he refuses, stating that he will take care of the baby.
Slowly and surely, he begins to recognize and accept his responsibility to the child and re-evaluates his criminal life and associations.
Director Hood and lead actor Presley Chweneyagae were in attendance and both were practically bouncing off the floor with excitement.

Vers le Sud (2005) Laurent Cantet
out of  (BM)
- French film which details the lives of middle-aged (and older) women who vacation in Haiti to soak up some sun...and to have uncomplicated sex with young local men.
Each approaches the sex tourism trade from different perspectives and needs, and the film focuses on their interactions amongst each other and of Legba, the young Haitian they all desire.
Not as interesting a film as Cantet's previous two films, but still an interesting study of older female sexuality and Charlotte Rampling is as stunning as ever.

Drawing Restraint 9 (2005) Matthew Barney
out of  (BM)
- As a huge admirer of Barney's amazing Cremaster 3, this was a rather dull disappointment by comparison.
Taking place entirely on a whaling ship, the film is an arcane series of intricate details and procedures culminating in what appears to be the physical transformation of man into sea creature.
Surprisingly dull and uninteresting for most of it's 2 1/2 running time, it still gets points for effort and style.
Lots of walkouts during this film...

Entre ses Mains (2005) Anne Fontaine
out of  (BM)5
- A female insurance agent investigates a male veterinarian's flood damage claim and embarks on a relationship with him despite being happily married.
She begins to harbor private suspicions that he may be a notorious, currently active serial killer. A well-made but unexceptional French thriller starring Man Bites Dog's Benoit Poelvoorde.

Brothers of the Head (2005) Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe
out of  (BM)
- From the documentarian directors of Lost in La Mancha and The Hamster Factory comes this fake documentary that is so subtle and realistic, it almost seemed genuine.
Teenaged twin brothers, joined at the chest, become famous rock stars in England and this mockumentary details their ups and downs with the use of stock footage, home movies and talking head interviews (including an interview with Ken Russell, director of the "unfinished" bio-pic Two Headed Romeo starring Jonathan Pryce). Indistinguishable from the real thing, I'm sure that there were many in the audience who didn't realize that this was a complete put-on, but despite the slavish attention to detail, the film ultimately just wasn't that interesting.


Fateless (TY) dir by Lajos Koltai
This Hungarian Holocaust tale is sure to join the ranks of Schindler's List and The Pianist as being a classic Holocaust drama. We follow a 14 year old Hungarian Jewish boy as he is taken from his family and sent to the concentration camp Birkenau. At 2 hours and 14 minutes, the film never feels too long ­ in fact, I didn’t want it to be over. The film was based on the Nobel Prize-winning novel by Imre Kertesz, who also wrote the screenplay. Ennio Morricone's score is simply astounding. There were several times during the Toronto International Film Festival where I fought sleep, where my mind drifted, where I laughed out loud; but this is the only film where my eyes welled up with tears. out of (TY)

John and Jane - dir by Ashim Ahluwalia
This documentary follows the lives of a handful of offshore call center operators in India. You’ve probably talked to someone like them while troubleshooting your computer or your cell phone. In order to better serve their American clientele, the call center assigns them Americanized names, teaches them American accents, and inundates them with American culture, from catalogues to movies. While the story is no doubt gripping, the most remarkable thing about this documentary is the explosively individual style of first time director Ahluwalia. The film is shot in 35 millimeter, with unconventional techniques in narrative and montage. At the screening, programmer Cameron Bailey said that the film was cold submitted to the fest along with the thousands of other entries. In other words, Ahluwalia didn’t get in because of connections or high-profile stars, but because he made an extremely good film. I would daresay that, if he continues making documentaries, he will be the next Errol Morris. out of (TY)

Drawing Restraint - dir by Mathew Barney, music by Bjork
Ok, I admit, I should have known what I was getting into. But I’ve never seen any of Mathew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle films, and I quite like Bjork. The description in the TIFF guide made this out to be a groundbreaking film, so I took a chance. Well, perhaps I am not intellectual enough to “get” this film. It is, more or less, a series of symbols, rituals, and evolving art “installation” pieces. Does it have a meaning? More importantly, is it intended to have a meaning? I have no idea. But whatever quantative emotional effect it was supposed to have, all I got was boredom interspersed with the occasional, “hey, that’s an interesting song.” Yet, with the possible exception of Barney’s other work, I can wholeheartedly say, there is NO film quite like this. out of (TY)

China Blue - dir by Micha Peled
This documentary explores the lives of sweatshop workers at the Lifeng Denim Factory in Shaxi, China. The film raises a lot of important issues and deservedly reserves much of the blame of the conditions on the Western companies that insist on paying the absolute minimum for the merchandise. If, for instance, a German retailer, bargains an additional 40 cents off each pair of jeans, that money comes out of reduced wages, postponement of payment, and longer working hours for the nearly all-female employees. Stylistically, this film is nothing to write home about, but the issues it brings forth are important, and I enjoyed my time watching it. During the credits, text informs us that the filmmakers were jailed and interrogated and some of the footage confiscated. But what it doesn’t say, and what the director told us afterwards, is the reason: the production team was shooting in China without the required permit, not because what they were doing was controversial. Ironically, I found it interesting that at the screening, the director insisted that no one take photographs of him.
out of      (TY)



Day 8 (Thursday Sept 15th)


L'Enfant (2005)- The Dardenne Brothers - A revealing narrative of subtle redemption, utilizing an atmosphere of some of the more impoverished members of society. Their struggle for life's essentials is simply a microcosm of our own. Deeply infused within the subtext, akin to the Dardennes other Palm D'or winning film - Rosetta, is the perceived myth that the acquisition of money and possessions will cause one to achieve personal value. An important topic indeed as probably the most common misconception of modern society. Yet it is almost universally accepted as our primary purpose... regardless of means or consequence. It has become a sad standard of how we gauge each other. L'Enfant is a far more direct attack than Rosetta on the mindless perpetuation of the revolving-door cycle of make-money/spend-money. Seeking and acquiring funds, despite the method and its pure indifference to our fellow man, seems more extensively accepted than ever. How often do we hear sympathy for the latest, already obscenely wealthy, celebrity proven to have engaged in 'insider trading' - an essential act of stealing from other, most likely smaller, investors. It has become the way of the world - because you would do same? I hope not but our examples are published in the newspapers daily (I digress). And of course the currency obtained is only temporarily pocketed as frivolous materialism takes over... and the circle of hollow existence continues. This is a direct attack on, but not exclusive to, the capitalist underbelly once again. Breaking free of these surrounding societal role models (let's remember La Promesse) is a revelation to, indeed, be celebrated. The occasional giggling in the crowd is disheartening as the vitally important message is, most likely, lost on many. An essential film - out of (GT)  Dardenne Brothers introduce film - PHOTO CLICK HERE


Les Saignantes (2005) Jean-Pierre Bekolo out of   (BM)
- Illogical and incomprehensible nonsense from Cameroon that's supposedly a political science-fiction thriller.
A high-up Government official dies while in the services of a prostitute who dangles from a bungee cord and shakes her ass a lot.
For reasons known only to the filmmakers, she takes the body to a meat processing plant, has it chopped up and keeps the head and wanders around with it.
Then she suddenly decides that she needs a body to attach to the official's head so that he can have a funeral??????
It goes on and on.....the most exciting part of this film was watching the audience members walk out one by one.

Eleven Men Out (2005) Robert I. Douglas
out of   (BM)
- Pointless, humorless and dull comedy from Iceland about a local soccer player who one day comes out of the closet.
Fired from his team, he joins another more gay-friendly team and soon other gay soccer players join up.
That's it, that's the entire movie. The end. Yawn.
Director Douglas was in attendance.

Wassup Rockers (2005) Larry Clark
out of    (BM)
- A light, change of pace film from Clark that's a mostly improvised yarn concerning a group of Latino skateboarders who hop on a bus to Beverly Hills to check out a popular skating site.
It starts out in typical Larry Clark fashion with close-ups of bare chests and bulging crotches, but these are soon forgotten as we (as well as Clark) begin to enjoy the company of these young men and begin to see them as something more than just pin-ups. Although a very leisurely film, it is sometimes quite funny...funny and entertaining enough that we probably could have done without the awkward and obviously scripted 'skits' (the cop, the starlet and the movie star) and just have let the cast entertain us in their own way.

L'Enfant (2005) Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
out of    (BM)
- Another slice of impoverished life from the Belgium duo that revisits much of the same themes of their previous films, yet it still manages to be an engrossing look at the perils of poverty and capitalism.
Added to this mix is the theme of personal responsibility and the awakening of empathy, a sense of social responsibility from those who have received none. Convincingly acted by a cast of mostly unknowns and a return collaboration with actor Jeremie Renier, memorable as the young Igor in the Dardennes first feature film "La Promesse". A must-see!
The Dardenne brothers were in attendance.

Dear Wendy (2005) Thomas Vintenberg
out of    (BM)
- From a script by Lars von Trier, director Vintenberg presents an ironic tale of America's relationship with guns. Similar in tone with von Trier's America trilogy (and possibly it's original starting point), the film tells of a group of pacifist young people (Dandies) who obsess with guns but vow to never use them on others. They give their guns names (Wendy), they write letters to their guns, their guns give them confidence and make them feel important...such a relationship cannot remain platonic. Very interesting film starts out rather slowly but begins to really hook you in with it's bizarre yet never outlandish fetishist rituals, a look at gun culture from a slightly fanciful angle.
Director Vintenberg and cast Michael Angarano and Alison Pill were in attendance.

The Great Yokai War (2005) Takashi Miike
out of    (BM)
- Takashi Miike has vowed not to make any more horror films. This film, Zebraman and the upcoming remake of Ultraman are examples of the kind of films he now chooses to make, bizarre and not completely wholesome children's films featuring giant monsters, little kids, ghosts, CGI animation, wacky humor and impossibly cute little furry hand puppets that squeak-talk. Compelling in it's gonzo, anything goes, over-the-top outrageousness, the film succeeds despite being a little overlong and drawn-out at 124 minutes.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes  - dir by the Brothers Quay
I’m sad to say this film is just not very good. The Brothers Quay have a knack at conjuring surreal animated imagery ­ unfortunately, it is looking like they don’t have a knack for storytelling or live-action directing. The film is filled with unnecessary voice-overs and clunky construction. The animation used in the film is minimal; in fact, it almost appears as if they simply cut in pre-existing animated shorts. The style is very similar to that of Guy Maddin, except without his talent.
out of   (TY)

Douches Foides - dir by Antony Cordier
This is a tale of high-school relationships ­ what happens when another boy is brought in to the sex life of a long-term couple. Predictably, jealousy and insecurity breed, and things are never the same. Oh yeah, and there’s sex. Where have I heard this before? The TIFF book calls this French cinema at it’s best. Um. No.
out of (TY)

Citizen Dog (TY) dir by Wisit Sasanatieng
This Thai film is another festival highlight that deserves to be nationally distributed. This is an example of good weird! There is a manic energy pervading this film from start to finish. It is filled with the strange images of a plastic bottle mountain, interchangeable fingers, a ghost motorcycle taxi driver, a chain-smoking little girl, her talking teddy bear and more. I think the actor who plays the main character Pod (Mahasmut Bunyaraksh) has the potential to be an international star. An instant cult classic! out of



Day 7 (Wednesday Sept 14th)


The Proposition - Dir by John Hillcoat
This is musician Nick Cave’s first screenplay and second collaboration with director John Hillcoat. I have a few minor quibbles with the pacing and about some of the conventional techniques (see the lashing scene), but the acting was top-notch, particularly Ray Winstone and Guy Pierce. This film doesn’t have heroes and villains ­ all characters carry their own sins and guilt. Rather, it is about survival in the harsh and continually changing frontiers of Australia in the late nineteenth century.
out of      (TY)

Tideland - Dir by Terry Gilliam
This, for me, was the biggest disappointment of the fest. I wanted to like it so bad, but it’s overacted from all angles, filled with horrible attempts at Southern accents, and it doesn’t go in any clear direction. Instead, it goes everywhere for no particular reason. A big, frustrating mess. If it gets released nationally, I’ll be surprised if it plays more than a week.
out of   (TY)

Everlasting Regret  - Dir by Stanley Kwan
I'd like to revisit this one later when I'm not so burnt out on film. On my first viewing, I found it a little slow paced. I'd like to read the book (if an English translation is available.)
out of  (TY)

Iron Island  - Dir by Mohammad Rasoulof
This film was one of the highlights of the fest for me. It’s about life on an abandoned oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and about the ship’s captain and landlord Nemat (Ali Nasirian). The captain is kind and fair, yet he definitely understands the advantage of being in control and relied upon. When the tanker has to be cleared for scrapping, out of kindness or desire for continued control (or both), he figures out a way for the displaced families to live together, still under his rule. The director hinted at this being a metaphor about the isolation a country can have and the advantages that isolation bestows upon its rulers. He wanted to make it clear that it was not necessarily about Iran, but it could be about many countries. Yet he also lamented that some of his favorite footage was cut by government censors. I think it is no coincidence that so many Iranian films put their protests by way of metaphors. Perhaps this isn’t just a stylistic choice but instead the only way for their message to escape, uncut. This is an Iranian filmmaker at the top of his game that just may be as well known as Kiarostami one day. out of


The Last Hangman (2005)  Adrian Shergold   out of      (BM)
- An intimate period drama detailing the infamous career of Albert Pierrepoint, Britain's last hangman.
Pierrepoint's esteemed reputation was such that he was singularly flown to Germany to carry out the Nuremberg executions, an event which uncovered his professional anonymity.
The film interestingly contrasts both Pierrepoint's professional and personal ethics once he becomes a known public figure, the public furor over the execution of Ruth Ellis (the last woman hanged in England) and an execution that forces him to reconsider the morality of his profession.
Filmed in an almost Mike Leigh-like manner with another fine performance from Leigh regular Timothy Spall, the film offers a fascinating character study and an intricate look at a profession most of us know little about. Presented in HD Digital
Director Shergold and actor Timothy Spall were in attendance.
The Willow Tree (2005)  Majid Majidi   out of      (BM)
- The latest film from Iran's Majidi thankfully features no lost or distressed children or women's rights issues, instead it's a beautiful, heartfelt tale of a middle-aged man, blind since 8 years, who regains his eyesight after an operation. How does someone deal with becoming sighted after 38 years of blindness, seeing your wife for the first time, seeing your mother suddenly as an aged senior and dealing with a new personal freedom? This film is a definitely a technical and stylistic improvement over Majidi's previous films and a welcome change-of-pace from the usual Iranian films.
Director Majid Majidi was in attendance.
Fateless (2005)  Lajos Koltai   out of      (BM)
- Directorial debut from cinematographer Lajos Koltai is yet another Holocaust drama, but this is a much more subtle, restrained personable account based on the novel by Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz.
The true story of a 14-year old Hungarian Jew who is separated from his family and survives in three different concentration camps, owes much of it's strength to the lead performance of Marcell Nagy who is completely believable as the youngster relying on his wits and pure chance to survive.
Director Koltai and actor Marcell Nagy were in attendance.
Twelve and Holding (2005)  Michael Cuesta   out of (BM)
- Sophomore directorial effort from Michael Cuesta (L.I.E.) is a completely unconvincing drama of how three pre-teens deal with grief, self-esteem and their oncoming adolescence.
I've never liked films which show children acting and talking in ways that no child ever has...precocious to the point of science-fiction!
Yet another US 'indie' that looks and sounds exactly like almost every other independent film produced in the last 10 years.
Director Michael Cuesta was in attendance.


Bubble (Steven Soderbergh)
Welcome back Steven Soderbergh! Aiming for the opposite side of the spectrum of his George Clooney collaborations, Soderbergh has made a very small, concise, and yet effective film. Working entirely with non-professional actors and shooting on HD video, the lives of these working class protagonists is palpable amidst the sharply realized class observations. There are also some underpinnings of film noir, as the story deal with the effects on a couple of co-workers when a beautiful but manipulative girl gets a job at their factory. This is easily Soderbergh¹s best film since The Limey.
out of      (AL)

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (Tommy Lee Jones)
A contemporary western from the macho Eastwood school of filmmaking, which features what will probably be an Academy Award nomination from Jones. It¹s not a bad western, but I fond myself more or less ambivalent towards these characters and their journey of honor and redemption. People have been comparing this to Peckinpah, if only because the protagonists have a body in tow, but if you show up expecting Peckinpah you will be sorely disappointed. I plan on seeing this again, but I¹m fairly confident that this is one film
that critics are severely overrating.
out of (AL)

The Forsaken Land (Vimukthi Jayasundara)
It¹s not hard to see why a jury headed by Abbas Kiarostami would go for this at Cannes where it shared the Camera D¹or. Featuring one of the most memorable shots I¹ve seen this year ­ a frozen hand protrudes from a still lake under the dawn of a new day ­ Jayasundara has constructed a powerful, and dreamlike statement on the condition of Sri Lanka that is ravaged by civil war. The long takes are pure Kiarostami, but the characters of this film move about and interact with their environment in a way that reminded heavily of the work of Satyajit Ray. *please note* that due to a combination of festival fatigue and an untimely fire alarm during the screening, that I won¹t be assigning this a rating. Needless to say however, this is pretty strong stuff.

Gabrielle (Patrice Chereau)
I¹ve never been an ardent fan of Chereau¹s work, and I also consider Joseph Conrad to be one of THE great writers of all time, so perhaps this is why this trite little film just didn¹t work for me. The lead performances reek of theatricality and the stylish cinemascope photography, which bounces between black-and-white to saturated color, offers nothing to chew on. To complicate matters further, Chereau employs the hammy technique of occasionally stripping an actor of their line and presenting it as text on-screen in BIG BOLD LETTERS. I expect some will fall head-over-heels for this at the NYFF, but this is one film that feels trivial amidst a festival of the size.
out of   (AL)



Day 6 (Tuesday Sept 13th)


Seven Swords - dir by Tsui Hark
Not a fantasy? So what were those flying head-chop spinning discs and the mechanically-implausible swords? This is a typical sword-play epic ­ a little hard to follow at times, but still enjoyable.
out of  (TY)

Backstage - dir by Emmanuelle Bercot
This French film is a nice treatment on obsessive fandom. I found Isild Le Besco’s performance as the fan Lucie to be quite phenomenal.  out of   (TY)

Why We Fight - dir by Eugene Jarecki
The best documentary out of the five I've seen at the fest. The director spoke for a long time after the film and offered to continue the talk outside. This film is a well-reasoned critique of the rise of the military-industrial complex in America. It doesn’t sensationalize or “politicize” the issue. Rather, it points out that the Republicans are not the only ones to put forth an imperial agenda. Democrat and Republican presidents and congresses have all contributed to America’s expanding imperialism. This documentary is a triumph in clear, unemotional reasoning. Michael Moore, watch and learn.out of

Duelist - dir by Lee Myung-se
The visuals are in a word, AWESOME. From the opening credit sequence, I knew I was in for something special. If it kept up that level of intensity, it was sure to be a classic. Well . . . it didn't. It teeter-tottered between an artful dance of swordplay and a screwball comedy -- and the overacting (although I'm sure intentional and probably understood in South Korea) just didn't work for me. Also, it’s a little hard to follow. But this is some of the most colorful and vibrant cinematography I’ve seen in a long time (more so than House of Flying Daggers).
out of      (TY)

Seven Swords (2005) Tsui Hark out of  (BM)
- An expensively produced straight-forward non-fantasy war epic from Hong Kong action director Hark, the film has lots of big, sweeping and bloody battle scenes, epic vistas and very little wirefu.
At over 2 and a half hours long and with numerous characters coming and going, the film did become confusing at times and hard to follow. Not quite as good as Zhang Yimou's recent swordplays, but still entertaining.

Shooting Dogs (2005) Michael Caton-Jones
out of  (BM)
- Another retelling of the Rwandan massacre of 1994, this is also based on a true story and focuses on the dilemma of a English priest and a student teacher whose compound is a temporary safe haven for the persecuted Tutsis.
John Hurt is fine as usual as the priest and many of the film's production crew are actual survivors of the massacre.
Director Caton-Jones was in attendance.

Little Fish (2005) Rowan Woods
out of (BM)
- Intimate, low-key Australian drama about dead-end lives and drug abuse in the Asian district of Sydney. Cate Blanchette is fine as usual, but the stand-out performance is that of Hugo Weaving as an ex-football hero/junkie drug dealer.

Romance & Cigarettes (2005) John Turturro
out of (BM)
- A musical drama about a failing marriage, this is a film I really tried to like but after the opening musical number (James Gandolfini singing "A Man Without Love") it went straight downhill from there.
Nothing in this film works, the musical segments are horrible and very badly choreographed, the editing is haphazard, the acting is all over the place and the whole thing just isn't very interesting. And to think that this was produced by the Coen Brothers??????
Director Turturro was in attendance as were Joel & Ethan Coen.

Thumbsucker (2005) Mike Mills
out of      (BM)
- Intelligent and complex drama about a teenaged boy who still continues to suck his thumb, gets diagnosed with ADD, becomes a debating champion and finds himself.
Strong potential to become a sleeper hit, the film is a beautifully acted coming of age film with realistic family dynamics, but never simply another teen film.
Director Mills was in attendance as were actors Lou Pucci, Kelli Garner, Tilda Swinton (who also produced) and Keanu Reeves (who caused a mob scene outside the cinema)

The District (2004) Aron Gauder
out of  (BM)
- Visually inventive Hungarian hip-hop time-travel animated film. The animation is a hybrid of CGI, rotoscoping and cut-out figures using drawings of the voice actors' real faces.
Entertaining film was marred only by some occasionally very un-readable plain white subtitles which completely disappeared in front of any bright color on the screen.
Shoeless director Gauder was in attendance.



Day 5 (Monday Sept 12th)


Winter Passing - dir by Adam Rapp
The directorial debut from playwright Adam Rapp, Winter Passing is a simple, yet unexpectantly-deep character piece. The film stars Zooey Deschanel, a struggling New York actress trying to distance herself from her famous novelist parents. When she is offered a large sum for publication of her parents’ letters (left to her by her mother in her will), she goes back home to face her drunken father (Ed Harris) and his strange entourage. Will Ferrell plays a wannabe rocker who serves as Harris’s friend, assistant and bodyguard. And he holds his own against the magnificent talents of Ed Harris and Zooey Deschanel. Rapp knows pacing and he knows how to write dialogue ­ what’s important isn’t what is said, but what is behind the words. More so than most scripts where the bulk of the film can be understood without seeing the final product, Rapp’s words are like a scaffolding, leaving it to the actors to bring the organism to life. This film is neither ambitious nor aspiring. It’s just simple, good, and extremely satisfying. out of

Lie With Me (TY) dir by Clement Virgo
There were several films at this year’s TIFF that sold themselves on sex. Battle in Heaven, Douches Froides and Lie With Me were just a few. However, sometimes this can mean there simply isn’t much else there. And that’s the case with Lie With Me. Strip away the nudity and soft-core sex scenes, and you have a very conventional drama that doesn’t bring anything new to the table. Very ho-hum. The TIFF book states that Clement Virgo is one of Canada’s most daring and original talents. If that is the case (which I am optimistic that it isn’t), then I fear for Canada place in international cinema.
out of (TY)

Cache (TY) dir by Michael Haneke
Perhaps this will require a second viewing to fully understand, but I wasn’t taken by Michael Haneke’s new film. I admit I have only seen one of his films previously, Code Unknown, which I liked a great deal. After some time to digest, I liked what I understood to be Cache’s main point ­ that sometimes the victim can actually be the aggressor ­ but it’s told in a very droll, static way (intentional, I’m quite sure.) There is a mystery that may or may not be revealed in the final shot (according to whom you ask) that kept my ever-fraying interest from completely severing. But is it worth holding out for a final piece of the puzzle when the journey to get there is just not very enjoyable?
out of  (TY)

Wassup Rockers (TY) dir by Larry Clark
I enjoyed this film a great deal. During a photo shoot, featuring an actress from Ken Park, Clark discovered this group of South Central Hispanic youth, who were completely at odds with their environment. They wore tight jeans, played punk rock, road skateboards and rejected the culture around them. And, they were incredibly sweet for such a harsh environment. So Larry Clark wrote a script around them, they starred, and the result is Wassup Rockers. Well, Clark’s initial impression was accurate ­ these kids ARE fun to watch, and the film is an absolute riot. After it was over, one audience member asked Clark, “I think this is your best film, but what the fuck happened to you?!” He was referring to the trademark Clark nudity and language that permeate some of his other films. However, this film is only tame by relative standards ­ by any other director, it would seem very adult in content (for instance, 14 and 15 year old boys and girls drink, smoke, and seek out sex). I think I enjoyed myself more during this film than any other at the fest. But, I am only giving it 4 stars, because I found the juxtaposition of realism and Keystone-Cop farce a bit like oil and water. For example, the group spends the last half of the movie running away from the law and trying to get back to South Central. Here is where most of the farce happens; they are shot at by an obvious Charlton Heston parody, doted over by existential Hollywood party-goers, and lured by an aging Martini-soaked Hollywood actress. That occupies the same film where, for instance, one of the skaters tells a girl about his life in South Central, where he saw a friend get shot point blank (all true). Faults aside, this is Clark’s most entertaining picture to date.
out of      (TY)

Black Bull (TY) dir by Pedro Gonzalez-Rubio and Carlos Armella
I'm a little bothered by the filmmakers' ethics or lack thereof. They continue to videotape as a man beats his wife, then later again as she threatens him with a knife. Eventually, they step in while he is choking her, but only after she repeatedly pleas for their help. You can almost hear the directors behind the camera reluctantly thinking, "Well . . . ok, but the footage was so good!" I asked them during the Q&A if it was difficult to know when to step in and when to keep rolling. Their reply was, "But she hits him too." (That makes it ok for them to continue filming?) Still, it is a hard-edged portrait of a drunken bullfighter, raw to the bone. The horrible treatment of bulls in this movie is enough to convince me that bullfighting should be outlawed along with dog fighting and cockfighting.
out of      (TY)


Sunflower (2005) Yang Zhang out of (BM)
- My most pleasant surprise of the Festival so far.
A beautiful and touching tale of a father and son, spanning 30-plus years in Beijing.
Beginning in a small Communist-owned rickety home and ending in a modern-day high-rise apartment, the film explores the drastic changes in China as well as the
strained father/son relationship.
A painter by trade, the father is released from a communist labor camp and sees his young son for the first time. Due to the severe beatings he received on his hands, he can no longer paint and begins to transfer his passion onto his son by teaching him to draw. Although the son does have artistic talent, he would rather be outside playing with his friends, but his father is determined to make something of his son...at all costs.
An extraordinary film from the director of Shower and Quitting and an absolute must-see!
The wonderful actors who portray the father and the adult son were in attendance (can't recall or spell their names)

Cache (Hidden) (2005) Michael Haneke
out of      (BM)
- I may be just too tired from the Festival, but this was the first Haneke film I've seen that completely left me puzzled after the first viewing, with too many unanswered questions remaining.
I have since been filled-in on some scenes and actions in the film that I completely missed entirely (and I'm sure others did also).
On the surface, it's a whodunit with an initial premise not un-similar to Lynch's Lost Highway in which a married couple receive mysterious video tapes of the outside of their home, but typical of Haneke, it's about so much more (just don't ask me what at this point).
Really need to (and fully intend to) see this again as soon as I can, but I really liked what I saw.

Trust the Man (2005) Bart Freundlich
out of  (BM)
- A lightweight and wacky comedy/romance of the kind that only ever happens in New York.
Much lighter in tone than Freundlich's previous film World Traveler, this is a light soufflé of a comedy and an excuse for a bunch of actor friends to get together for some fun.
Entertaining enough but instantly forgettable.
Director Freundlich and actors Julianne Moore, David Duchovny, Ellen Barkin, Billy Crudup, Maggie Gyllenhaal, James LeGros and Eva Mendes were in attendance.

River Queen (2005) Vincent Ward
out of  (BM)
- As a fan of Ward's earlier work, I found this to be a disappointment.
A re-telling of events concerning the 1860s British colonization of New Zealand and centering around a young Irish woman who has conflicted loyalties between the British and the Maori (she has a Maori son).
Ward has chosen to relate this story in a seemingly distant, almost second-hand manner (not unlike those local recreations of historical dates where folks dress-up and re-enact battles), resulting in a strong disassociation with anything happening on screen...we simply watch events take place without ever becoming emotionally involved or caring about any of them.
Unfortunate, as Ward is one of those directors that always seems to problems in having his projects come to fruition, so it's going to be a long wait for his next film.
Director Ward was in attendance.

Bangkok Loco (2004) Phornchai Hongrathanaphorn
out of  (BM)
- A bizarre, wild and loopy, martial-arts, musical horror/comedy...think of a Thai version of The Monkees tv show and you'll have a good idea of what's in store here.
Not everything here translates well to an English-speaking audience, but it's hard not to enjoy this peculiar little film, even if it runs out of steam three-quarters of the way through.
Director Hongrathanaphorn was in attendance.


Cache (Michael Haneke) Another puzzling, yet masterfully constructed look at the breakdown of a bourgeois family from Michael Haneke. Taking the formal approach of his “Seventh Continent,” and mixing in the impending doom of “Funny Games,” this is a darkly pragmatic look at not only the way we view our own lives, but the role that cinema plays in this view, implicating the viewer in on the proceedings of this disturbing puzzle. It’s near impossible to discuss this on any sort of substantial level without disclosing some serious plot details -- the ending for example has left many scratching their heads -- although the answer might not be as elusive as some might think. Haneke is asking us to seriously engage the images onscreen (ie. camera placement), and your ability to reflect on this goes a long way towards your appreciation of the film. out of      (AL)

Vers le Sud (Laurent Cantet)
A major letdown after Cantet’s previous work, this is a capable film, but nothing to cheer about. It tells the story of three women, all French, but from different regions of the world, who get caught up in jealousy and romance with young male escorts at their Haitian vacation resort. The performances (especially Charlotte Rampling) and the location photography are all first-rate, but Cantet fumbles the ball when he tries to extend the film into a message about class and race relations. Maybe down the road once he has built up a larger body of work, this film may pick up a deeper meaning, but as it stands now, it’s a bit forgettable.
out of (AL)

You Bet Your Life (Antonin Svoboda)
I have to believe that this story about a man addicted to gambling who extends his addiction into every facet of his life by resting each decision he makes on the outcome of a roll of the dice, is more of a guilty pleasure for the gambler in me, than a successful film. Svoboda elicits some lifelike performances from his two leads by the fact that he shoots the movie on video; with the abundance of footage he accumulated producing some magical unscripted moments. Think of this as “Run, Lola, Run” for the “Rounders” fans out there.
out of(AL)

Bangkok Loco (Pornchai Hongrattanaporn)
Started out amazing, with comparisons to Hellzapoppin’ and Seijun Suzuki running through my mind, but quickly fizzled out, before eventually turning into a bit of a bore. There is an abundance of references to all things Thai (the films of Ratanaruang were one of the few things I was able to pick up on), so many of the jokes came across as nonsensical absurdity to this American. Hongrattanaporn has an inventive sensibility, so I will keep an eye out for his future work, but this is one you can skip over.
out of (AL)


Day 4 (Sunday Sept 11th)


Day Break - Dir by Hamid Rahmanian
This film is an impressive debut from a director sure to be on the frontlines of Iranian cinema. The plot concerns a prisoner, Mansour, facing the death penalty in a Tehran prison. Under Iranian law (based on laws from the Koran), the family of the victim decides the fate of the accused. If they forgive him, he is given a finite jail sentence and released (up until the 1980’s, he was simply set free). However, if they cannot forgive him, the prisoner is hanged. One of the family members must pull the rope that marks his death. Mansour’s decision is continually postponed as his victim’s family is absent time and time again. His fate is suspended, and he undergoes massive psychological strains. I think the film (through it’s lighting, shot composition, and acting) effectively conveys this feeling of being trapped somewhere between life and death. The director told the audience that he did not intend the film to be a political statement about Iranian laws; rather, he was more interested in the psychological aspect of such a dilemma. He modeled Mansour after several real-life prisoners who were kept in waiting. When the victim’s family eventually shows up, do they forgive Mansour or send him to the gallows? You’ll have to watch to find out.
out of      (TY)


A History of Violence (2005) David Cronenberg out of      (BM)
- A gripping and taunt of suppressed identity and moral values based on a graphic novel (which I've never read).
I really liked this film lot, it's a distinct, low-key seemingly normal outing for Cronenberg, which for me, falters only in a weak third act...the act in which William Hurt makes his appearance.
Up until that point I was riveted to the screen, so I was somewhat disappointed when the film took a slightly pulp-y, Charles Bronson-goes-to-Canada turn of events. I'm curious to know how the graphic novel ends, as the film's ending felt lacking and unfinished to me. Cronenberg once again shows us his skill with actors, eliciting strong and intense performances from Viggo Mortensen, Ed Harris and Maria Bello.
Well worth watching.

Oliver Twist (2005) Roman Polanski
out of  (BM)
- A faithful, meticulously detailed and seemingly expensive adaptation of the Dickens classic.
Nothing really wrong with the film itself, but when a director of Polanski's caliber and reputation helms yet another remake of the Dickens tale, one would anticipate or even expect a darker, more atmospheric vision than the somewhat bland, BBC-like adaptation on hand here. One wonders why Polanski even bothered with this film.
Producer Alain Sarde was in attendance.

Manderlay (2005) Lars von Trier
out of
- The second episode of von Trier's American history lesson doesn't quite surprise you as much as Dogville, since everything but the story is re-created in this film (sets, design, story format, "Young Americans")
This time, von Tries zeros in on US race relations and nation building by using focusing on a Southern plantation in the 1930's as the basis for his allegory. The subject matter and how von Trier chooses to make some of his points are not exactly what you would call PC-filmmaking, and I fully expect Manderlay to have a rougher go of it than Dogville did.
I loved Dogville, I love confrontational in-your-face filmmaking and I loved Manderlay and I can't wait to see it again. I didn't really take to Bryce Dallas Howard as Grace...far too bland and vanilla for my liking, I really did miss Nicole Kidman's presence.
Bryce Dallas Howard was in attendance.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005) The Brothers Quay
out of (BM)
- It's been 10 years since the Quay's first and only feature film Institute Benjamenta...that's 10 whole years to figure out what they did wrong the first time.
They're back and now they have made pretty much the same movie only this time in COLOR!!!!...it didn't help.
It's a beautiful-looking film with some strange imagery, but it's just as boring and difficult to get into as Benjamenta was.
The Brothers Quay were in attendance.

Stoned (2005) Stephen Woolley
out of (BM)
- A largely uninteresting dramatized account of the life and murder of the founder of The Rolling Stones, Brian Jones.
This is the directorial debut of long-time British producer Woolley and I'm afraid it shows, he somehow even manages to make Mick Jagger and Keith Richards boring.
Stephen Woolley was in attendance.

Isolation (2005) Billy O'Brien
out of      (BM)
- Effective Irish thriller about genetic experiments on cows that goes horribly wrong.
It's a well-directed and acted film that never turns silly (as most horror films these days do) and it maintains a certain amount of realism for maximum effectiveness.
Probably won't be liked by the Evil Aliens crowd.
Director O'Brian and actor John Lynch were in attendance.


The Smell of Paradise ­ This documentary travels across Chechnya, Afghanistan, Dagestan, Qatar and other countries to find out what motivates radical Islamic minds. What would cause a person to take lives in the name of religion? This film has remarkable footage of terrorists and political exiles, and one senses the enormous danger that the filmmakers were constantly in. But in the end, I was never sure exactly what the filmmakers’ position was (even after the Q&A) and the footage at times seemed to be put together with no real connection. Yet, it’s still should be seen, to begin to understand what can motivate a person to strap a bomb to himself and walk into a crowded building. out of  (TY)

Into Great Silence
This documentary chronicles the lives of monks at the monastery of the Grande Chartreuse in the French Alps. The film is extremely quiet with hardly any dialogue; so quiet that when a cell phone rang on vibrate, it created a minor disturbance. I think the filmmaker is attempting to emulate the austerity of the monks by his slow, quiet, methodical style. But there is a fine line between austere and mundane, and sadly, this film is just plain tedious. Keep in mind that the running time is 2 hours and 44 minutes. There are some extremely beautiful shots in this film ­ some that even bring back your interest, but they are presented with no real emotional-core, cut like a silent industrial-training film; I think there is a beautiful film hidden somewhere inside, if only the director would cut the fat, find the heart, and trim it to an hour and 20 minutes. I wouldn’t be surprised if he does as over 1/3 of the audience walked out long before it was over. But as it stands, it would be more enjoyable to cut firewood in a monastery.
out of (TY)

L’Annulaire ­
I enjoyed this film a great deal more than another reviewer did. Perhaps it had something to do with the not-unsavory Olga Kurylenko. Her character Iris, gets a job as a receptionist at a company that preserves personal objects. Be it a kidney stone or a piano score, they will preserve the item that hold memories for you and store it for safe-keeping. This movie deals with obsession and control quite effectively. Iris’s boss seems to know what she wants, her innermost desires before even she does. He has an unnatural hold over her; yet who’s in control, him or her? Much to think about here, absorbing and fun to watch (at least for me). I’d like to read the Japanese cult novel for which this film was based.
out of  (TY)

Mary ­
Here again, I am in disagreement with another reviewer. But that’s ok. Films are just chemical etchings on celluloid ­ it’s up to a human brain to provide the value. That being said, this film just didn’t succeed for me. Mary does indeed poke at Mel Gibson and The Passion of the Christ, but it is not a parody. Rather, it’s an examination of three lives as they each have a crisis in faith. But though I teeter tottered on whether or not this film supported or criticized faith, in the end, it seems to support it. (Being a skeptic, I can’t take another film glorifying faith.) But then again, maybe it doesn’t support it ­ who can tell for sure? It definitely does criticize those who capitalize on faith, but it is unfocused and unsure exactly of what it wants to be. Although Forest Whitaker may have given the performance of his career, Heather Graham sounds like she’s reading the lines off a cue card. Only one of the three characters (Ted Younger) truly changes through the course of the film and I get a sense that even he will relapse back to his old self. Tony Childress, starts off as an asshole and remains one. Marie Palesi has a life-altering religious experience at the beginning (she becomes a religious nut), but she remains a religious nut to the end. Muddled, grasping at something that it fails to reach.
out of (TY)


A History of Violence (David Cronenberg) I’m not sure which was more disturbing, the brutally honest indignation of American values that this film depicted, or the oblivious audience I saw it with who missed the point entirely. The fact that this audience felt the need to applaud every time someone was brutally killed on-screen was almost like a twisting of the knife, confirming the wicked truth behind every frame of this masterful film. Cronenberg has for all intents and purposes made a modern day Sirk film where image and subtext are everything (look at that wallpaper!). I look forward to seeing this one again, ideally in a place slightly more detached from that, which is illustrated in the film. out of (AL)

Manderlay (Lar von Trier)
Much better than I anticipated, but not quite up to level that Dogville was, this certainly won’t win Lars any new supporters. The political implications are certainly far more applicable to the world of today (eg. US occupation of Iraq), than they are any sort of meaningful commentary on America’s history of slavery and racism. Bryce Dallas Howard is a worthy predecessor for Nicole Kidman, her performance plays like an alluring interpretation of a similar, yet alternate psyche of the same character. She should win considerable acclaim for this role, but the impressive supporting cast is largely wasted, and in the end character is one of this film’s biggest downfalls. Where Dogville was able to function on many different levels, simultaneously a straightforward drama, an experiment in Brechtian detachment, and an allegory for the immigrant experience, Manderlay is merely allegory, and fails to exist as anything else. Here’s hoping that the third film tries something new… 
out of(AL)

L’Annulaire (Diane Bertrand)
It’s hard to imagine how Bertrand ever expected audiences would go for this naïve excuse for “dreamlike imagery,” and possibly mistake it for cinema. Not a single image in this sorry excuse for a movie carries to it a purpose or desire to be anything more than window dressings to an undeveloped and boring story. It’s not even worth recounting a “plot summary” because the film has no idea what it wants to be about. Instead I should be figuring out how this ever got into this festival. Zero stars

Mary (Abel Ferrara)
The film of the festival so far! Ferrara is at the top of his game in this, his most compassionate film to date. A deeply powerful look at religion, the soul, and it’s place in the Hollywood machine, this is the story of a director (Matthew Modine) who makes a Christ film as a means to exploit the religious dollar in American theater goers (Mel Gibson anyone?). Beautifully mixing video and film, and utilizing his typical flair for cityscapes and brutal close-up framing, this represents the apotheosis for years subtle religious undertones in Ferrara’s work that seem to have boiled over here, and exploded onto the screen in a rage of post-9/11 self-affirmation. Forrest Whitaker turns in the performance of his career. out of

Isolation (Billy O’Brian)
Very effective thriller about a small cattle farm that consents to allow a bio-tech corporation perform genetic tests on the cows and the horrible side effects that ensue. This is heavily indebted to David Cronenberg’s “Shivers,” but O’Brian ups the overall ickiness of the plot by adding a great deal gruesome dissection footage. Killer horror film score and some able Scope photography makes this one of the better genre films of the year.
out of(AL)



Day 3 (Saturday Sept 10th)


The President’s Last Bang ­ This is an enjoyable account of the assassination of South Korean president Park Chung-hee by the KCIA Chief agent and KCIA director. The plotters claim they are fighting for a more democratic state and that the corruption will end if the president is taken out of power. I found the movie tightly paced and fascinating. If I have a chance, I’ll see this again. out of      (TY)

Battle in Heaven ­
From Japon director Carlos Reygadas. Based on the description of this film in the TIFF book, I was expecting a fun, adrenaline-charged action flick. Boy, did I read it wrong! The film centers around overweight chauffeur Marcos as he wrestles with what to do about a kidnapping gone fatally wrong. But the plot’s not really important here -- the heart of this film is in its methodical pacing, effective soundtrack and amazing performances from non-actors. In that respect, it reminds me of Italian neo-realism. Many found this film to be style over substance, but I feel more like it’s substance with minimal style. Sure, there are technical camera moves ­ but never did they overpower or distract from what was being shown. The film is very graphic, with scenes of an onscreen blowjob at the start, middle and end. But as the director stated in the Q&A, this film is not pornography. The shots were never exploitative, never intended to arouse; instead, they harnessed emotions, moods. He said that the seemingly-irrelevant opening blowjob scene was like the opening overture of an opera, intended to set the pace. There is a comical, yet touching scene of the overweight Marcos and his obese wife having sex. Never has a movie showed people that look like this being this intimate. Onscreen, sex is reserved for the beautiful and extraordinary, but I think what is shown here is more in tune with what sex is really like for the majority of people. Reygadas’s film has elements of Tsai Ming-liang, Antonioni, Tarkovsky, De Sica, Harmony Korine, and something entirely unique, something of his own. A lasting work from a true auteur.out of

Sa-Kwa --
I chose to see this film for one reason: Moon So-ri. In Lee Chang Dong’s masterpiece Oasis, she gave one of my all-time favorite performances. In that film, she played an abused woman with cerebral palsy ­ so convincing that a friend of mine who has cerebral palsy believed she had the condition in real life until she got up and moved around in a dream sequence. In Sa-Kwa, she is the sometimes heart-broken, sometimes heart-breaking Hyun-jung. She’s not the most beautiful actress, yet there’s something about her expressions, the way she moves her mouth, her eyes. Her beauty comes from some force radiating from inside, and it’s quite infectious. This film is one of the most accurate accounts of love that I’ve ever seen ­ how it feels to be in it, to have it ripped from you, to find it again, and most importantly, how to sustain it. Director Kang Yi-kwan said in his Q&A that he was not so interested in making a story about finding love, but rather, a story about keeping it alive over time. A wonderful film that all can identify with, not to be missed.
out of      (TY)


Takeshis' (2005) Takeshi Kitano out of      (BM)
- A very funny comedy with Kitano playing himself, detailing the trappings of his fame in addition to playing an unemployed look-alike actor (who dreams of being as famous as Kitano) and a bizarre fantasy-world where both these realities intermingle.
I found this to be accessible and entertaining with only a few moments of head-scratching at some inside jokes that I wasn't privy too. The scene with Kitano as a cabbie driving through a corpse-filled street was hilarious.

Three Times (2005) Hsiao-hsien Hou
out of      (BM)
- Beautifully told three-part film detailing the relationship of a young couple (played by the same actors) in three different time periods. I thought that the first episode ("1966") was the best and very reminiscent of Wong Kar-wai. Not really the ideal type of film to watch during a busy festival as there isn't plenty of time to contemplate the film before moving on to the next. Will revisit on DVD.

Linda Linda Linda (2005) Nobuhiro Yamashita
out of      (BM)
- Slight, but amusing Japanese film concerning a group female high-school students recruiting a last-minute female singer to perform in their high school battle of the bands. In a dare, they pick a non-singing Korean student as their lead singer and her assimilation into the band provides much of the film's humor.

Brokeback Mountain (2005) Ang Lee
out of      (BM)
- Lovingly told and beautifully shot tale of cowboy love out on the open range. Much acclaimed film works very well on it's own, but high expectations just may very well hurt the film as it is more of an actor's showcase rather than a narrative-driven film.
Actors Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, a pregnant Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway were in attendance.

Breakfast on Pluto (2005) Neil Jordan
out of     (BM)
- A meticulous recreation of the 60s and 70s era through fashion and music provide the backdrop for the life-story of Patrick "Kitty" Brady, a Irish transvestite cabaret singer.
Although living through some troublous, I didn't find Brady's story to be of any particular interest and I'm not really sure why his life has been put on film other than to serve as a showcase for actor Cillian Murphy.
Murphy offers an astonishingly believable performance and maintains a feminine persona throughout the entirety of the film and is ably supported by longtime Jordan stalwarts, Liam Neeson and Stephen Rea.
I really enjoyed the recreated details of the time period ("Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep"), but I may have been the only person in the theatre who actually knew who the Wombles were. :D
Director Jordan, producer Stephen Woolley and actors Cillian Murphy and Liam Neeson were in attendance.

Evil Aliens (2005) Jake West  - Zero Star (BM)
- Rock-bottom wannabe cult-film is a complete hodgepodge rip-off of other, much better genre films.
Loud, grating and moronic crap with every line of dialogue literally screamed into the camera. Best performance of the night was from the paid laughers who were sitting directly behind me and who laughed REAL HARD all night. Complete crap!!!
Director Jake West bravely showed his face.


Takeshis’ (Takeshi Kitano) – Not quite the masterpiece that some have been claiming, this is nonetheless a very worthy and inventive film from the great Kitano. A deconstruction of the persona of ‘Beat’ Takeshi with “stream of conscious” narrative structure, it’s not hard to draw up the Fellini comparisons, although Chaplin’s “Limelight” is another worthy film to reference (just as Chaplin was forever seen as “The Tramp,” so Kitano is forever associated as the bad ass Yakuza). The elliptical editing is really something of a marvel and should be enough for even detractors of his work to finally recognize the “edited by” credit Kitano always takes, as signs of where his true filmic mastery lies. Frequently hilarious, I got the feeling that for every one “In-joke” I was picking up on, at least two were passing me by, so in this sense, the film might be a bit too esoteric for most Americans.  out of  (AL)

Three Times (Hou Hsiao-hsien) -
Three different stories each set during a pivotal time in Taiwanese history, and each featuring the same actors playing out variations of the same characters. Hou has made a beautiful and deeply moving film as he constructs each of his stories in a different style, the 1911 passage for instance is rendered faithful to the cinema of its’ time, silent with intertitles. The first passage set in 1966 and entitled “A Time of Love,” was probably my favorite – eloquent long takes in a pool hall as a young soldier falls for the girl who works there as music by The Platters emanates from the radio – this was 45 minutes of flawless filmmaking that had me transported in it’s sheer perfection. The last section is perhaps the most difficult to place, it would be unfair to call it a shortened version of Millenium Mambo, but there are certainly the same existential questions of youth handled in a similar manner. Needless to say, this is probably a masterpiece, with a great deal to say about Taiwan and its history, communication, music, and cinema itself. out of

I Am (Dorota Kedzierzawska) -
Nothing wrong with this one per se, it’s just that I’ve seen this story many times before and told with greater fluidity in works like Mouchette, Kes, and even the underrated Ratcatcher. Performances are top notch by the non-professional children actors and there is some stunning cinematography of the autumn drenched Poland town. Michal Nyman’s heavy-handed musical score goes a long way towards hammering home the emotion, which would explain the many sniffling patrons as the end credits rolled.
out of  (AL)

Evil Aliens (Jake West) -
Ha ha, I get it. I too have seen Bad Taste and Evil Dead II. Remember when that eyeball shot out of a creatures head in Evil Dead II and sailed across the room into that girl’s mouth? Wasn’t that hilarious? Or how about the end of Dead Alive when he grabs a lawnmower and the film turns into a pool of fake blood and guts, wasn’t that just grand? This movie is crap. Zero stars



Day 2 (Friday Sept 9th)


Takeshis' -- I like weird films. But I've learned that there are many types of weird. There is a great gulf between the weirdness of, say, Freaks, Gummo, and Blood of a Poet and the weirdness of Schizopolis, Donnie Darko and Takeshis. Although sometimes funny and sometimes fun to watch, I feel like this was simply weirdness for weirdness sake. It feels like it was trying to boldly go in a new cinematic direction (and perhaps it should be admired for the attempt), but in the end, it just feels like a hodgepodge. Lines are repeated in different context, scenes re-enacted, and actors used in several roles -- all very innovative -- but it just didn't quite get there for me. I wanted to love this, but I can't. out of  (TY)

Three Times --
If you like Hou Hsiao-hsien's other films, you will love this one. Divided into three stories in different time periods, using the same actors (Chang Chen, Shu Qi), this film captures mood and essence beautifully. In the first section, "A Time for Love," I was reminded of the nostalgic works of Wong Kar Wai. Perhaps it's because it's of the emphasis on popular song of the time and love held-off by awkwardness and distance. From the very first camera movements assuredly scanning a pool table, turning it's attention to a ball, a face, a hand; we know we're in for something special. The second section, "A Time for Freedom," takes place 1911 Japan-controlled Taiwan and deals with the relationship between a concubine and her master. What's most remarkable about this segment is the use of sound -- namely, it's isolated music score. All of the dialogue is muted and the words shown in intertitles. Most directors would have attempted to recreate the look of a silent film, in black and white, matted frames, and that particular genres other conventions -- but HHH eschews all of that for something better. One gets the sense he's not trying to make a period piece, but taking advantage of the strengths going silent offers. When not focused on the dialogue being spoken, we learn to read the faces of the characters with that much more intensity. This section is beautiful, daring, and groundbreaking. The third section, "A Time for Youth," set in 2005 Taipei, does indeed feel like a shortened version of Millennium Mambo as Adam said, but it's only a minor quibble. I was a little confused by the relationship of the three characters (indeed, shifting the focus from two characters to three does throw of the aesthetic a little for me), but all the more for me to understand in my next viewing, which I hope is sooner than later. out of

Shanghai Dreams
This is a beautiful piece of work. The story revolves around a family that moved from Shanghai in the 60's to a rural area of China to do their part by supplying human manpower to an under populated area. The father regrets his decision, and that regret turns into bitterness and an almost fanatical desire to give his kids "the life they deserve" in Shanghai. However, his bosses will not accept his or anyone else's resignation, fearing a mass exodus. Although he is obsessed with giving his kids a better life, he doesn't seem to notice that his kids are getting along just fine in rural Guizhou province, except for his micromanagement of their lives. For instance, when a boy takes interest in his daughter, he forbids her to see him, even throwing away gifts that he gave her and watching her every move. This is the type of film that takes a family's struggle and magnifies it to a national scope. China in the 80's couldn't come to turns with what it was and what its citizens wanted it to be -- it forced masses of people to become short-roped prisoners in an area they despised, and this film illustrates that (and inspires further research) economically and beautifully. out of

Shark in the Head ­
This is a sweet, simple little film about the neighborhood loon. It breaks the usual stereotypes about mental illness (violence, screaming, etc) and portrays the main character as a harmless, although sometimes annoying, old man. I like the way the director integrated stop motion and hand-drawn animation. By no means a masterpiece, but it accomplishes what it came to do.
out of      (TY)

Obaba ­
This film from Spanish director Montxo Armendariz is one of my favorites so far. Lushly photographed, surreal and mysterious, I was captivated from start to finish. Lead actress Barbara Lennie is my new obsession. Her character videotapes locals in the secluded town of Obaba, exploring their relationships as classmates and of their lives thereafter. A lizard may or may not crawl up her ear and feed on her brain. Like many films in the festival, this one leaves some things unresolved; yet that doesn’t bother me here. I think the reason may be that I found each moment captivating and I wasn’t impatient for the next bit of the puzzle. Other films (such as Cache), I found I was simply holding on for the mystery, less watching and more waiting. In short, it’s not whether or not the mystery is revealed, it’s how much fun you have on the way.out of


Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas) – In just his second film, Carlos Reygadas has proven to be a filmmaker of assured visual style. As with his previous film Japon, Reygadas displays a unique fascination with the unattractive naked bodies of his non-professional actors and a poetic distancing from the narrative of the film itself. This is ostensibly speaking, classic film noir – a man (Marcos) has remorse about a kidnapping gone wrong and is torn between his love for the prostitute daughter of his boss and seeking atonement for the crime he has committed. Practically all of the film’s major events (ie. the kidnapping) are left off-screen and the film focuses instead on a mix of Marcos engaging in hard sex with Ana (the film has two scenes of very realistic oral sex), and some heavy-duty symbolism of religion and the Mexican state. It’s stunning to look at, and Reygadas’ effective use of Bach on the soundtrack goes a long way, but beneath it all I’m not too sure there is a great deal of substance here.  out of  (AL)

Tideland (Terry Gilliam) –
This is a much smaller film than Gilliam is accustomed to making, and I think it worked wonders for him. A Canadian production, this twisted little tale tells the heartbreaking story of a young girl (10 yr. old Jodelle Ferland, in brilliant performance) who is forced to take care of her drug addicted parents, even going so far as to help them shoot-up. She escapes this nightmarish home life by retreating into her imagination, and the film becomes a Gilliamesque “Alice in Wonderland” of sorts. Filled with a cast of eccentric characters, and some stunning camerawork, this is a welcome return to the imaginative filmmaking of the Terry Gilliam of old.
out of      (AL)

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (Brothers Quay) –
I am now fairly convinced that the Brothers quay are not capable of making a feature length film, and even more so, a film with live actors. What starts out as a promising story—a piano tuner is hired by a mysterious inventor of automatons to help clean up his precious inventions—quickly morphs into a drawn out series of half-baked ideas. The performances are wooden, and the Quay brothers seem to acknowledge the shortcomings of their actors by editing the live-action stuff to shambles. Some life occasionally pops into the film when the Quay’s adopt the stop-motion stuff that the are accustomed to, but for the most part it seems at odds with the rest of the film, which dully plays out to be as lifeless as the animated automatons it depicts.
out of   (AL)

Banlieue 13 (Pierre Morrel) –
Written and produced by Luc Besson, this action film tells the story of a France of the future, where dangerous ghettos are blocked off by a large wall to exist separate from the rest of civilization. It stars David Belle, the inventor of the trend sport parkour, wherein participants tackle urban landscapes by running and leaping their way through any obstacle that may come in their way. There is an opening chase scene which is quite extraordinary, but the film unfortunately is never able to top the initial thrill it gives, and eventually this becomes your standard no-brainer action flick, complete with ticking time bomb. In a perfect world this would have been more Ma 6-T Va Crack-er and less Vin Diesel. 
out of   (AL)

The Sun (2005) Aleksandr Sokurov  out of

- Slow but interesting film about Hiroshita's last days as the Emperor of Japan.
A very colorless and dark film with an amazing performance by Issei Ogata as Hiroshita. (BM)
Douches Froides (Cold Showers) (2005) Antony Cordier  out of
- Documentarian Cordier's first fictional film is an average tale of your typical French teen-aged sexual threesome. Lots of skin on display, appealing performances and not much else.
Director Cordier was in attendance. (BM)
Battle in Heaven (2005) Carlos Reygadas out of
- Despite not really understanding what this film was about, I still found it rather compelling to watch despitethe inclusion of numerous unnecessary graphic scenes of sex and nudity intended to make the film 'controversial'. (BM)
Director Reygadas was in attendance.
Tideland (2005) Terry Gilliam out of (BM)
- A huge disappointment from Gilliam, a grating and un-involving misfire about a young girl's fantasy life which results from the death of her parents. The hammy and over-the-top performances didn't help much, and despite a rather interestingly morbid turn of events late in the film, I was too bored to care at that point. (BM)
Director Gilliam, producer Jeremy Thomas, novelist Mitch Cullin and cast Jeff Bridges, Jennifer Tilly, Brendan Fletcher, Jodelle Ferland and others were in attendance.
Neverwas (2005) Joshua Michael Stern out of
- Average film concerning a student doctor interning in the psychiatric hospital where his novelist father spend his last days, and who was the inspiration and lead character in his father's fantasy novels as a child. (BM)
Director Stern and cast Aaron Eckhart, Nick Nolte and Alan Cumming were in attendance.
Banlieue 13 (2004) Pierre Morel   out of
- Produced by Luc Besson, this is a fast-paced and entertaining French action film
with all-real stuntwork (no spfx or wires) and sticks with the nitty-gritty action throughout.
Actor Cyril Raffaelli was in attendance. (BM)

Day 1 (Thursday Sept 8th)

50 Ways of Saying Fabulous (2005) Stewart Main out of  
Earnest and well-intentioned comedy/drama from New Zealand concerning sexual and gender confusion among young teens. The film is a little too awkward to be a real winner but the appealing cast carries the film. the director and the 3 lead actors were in attendance. (BM)

Water -- I admit I have never before seen one of Deepa Mehta's films, but she is regarded as one of Canada's greatest directors. (She was born in India but now calls Canada her home.) Water is the final film in her elemental trilogy. It is a separate story, however, and can be judged on it's own merits. The story is set in India in the 30's when an 8-year-old girl is forced to live in a widow's camp after her husband dies. Because of a literal interpretation of religious verses, the women must live a humble and imprisoning life once their husbands pass on. I have heard it said several times over that Water is her most accomplished and greatest work; sadly, this can't reflect well on her other films. Although well acted, gorgeously shot, and dealing with important issues -- I still found Water clunky and uninspired. It is an important work, just not a very good one. out of (TY)

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005) Shane Black
out of     
The directorial debut of the screenwriter of the Lethal Weapon films is a smart and funny send-up of the private dick genre. Surprising and clever right from the nifty animated opening credits.
Director Black, actors Val Kilmer, Robert Downey Jr, Michelle Monaghan and producer Joel Silver (dressed entirely in pink, even the shoes) were in attendance (BM)

Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic (2005) Liam Lynch
out of     
Hilariously funny and off-color film of comedienne Silverman's one-woman stand-up routine.
Never heard of her before this film, but I'll keep my eye out for more appearances based on what I saw here. Silverman was in attendance. (BM)


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