Sunday, September 09, 2007

TIFF 2007: Day Four (Some World Cinema)

The way my TIFF schedule worked out, Sunday was a day mostly for international film with tomorrow being a day for some American films.

I had positive feelings about each film today, but none were quite as strong as some of the ones I've liked so far.

This Argentinian film is about a couple who move across the border to Uruguay in order to try to shield their hermaphrodite child until she is old enough to choose an identity. An easy film to appreciate, this is also a hard film to really think too highly of. It has a bit of a forced self-consciousness that and staginess that I distrust--but I think this is really just a case that, as Darren Hughes said to me, given the film's subject matter it is hard for any scene to be about anything else. In the end the film sides a little too heavily with the father, making it a plea for tolerance and self-definition--messages that are worthy but may not require the effort it takes to get to them.

Bucking Broadway
A small screening at the Jackman of John Ford's recently rediscovered and restored Western. Peter Bogdonovich did a nice introduction to the film, but he said he had not yet screened it so little of introduction (or the parts of the interview that followed that I heard) added much to the Ford documentary recently replayed on AMC. Bogdonovich conceded that Bucking Broadway was not a great film, but one did see occasional shots (like one of the boss rancher looking out the door) that showed bits of what was to come. A different TIFF experience, and a nice change of pace, but I was hoping for something a bit meatier in the mediation of such an important filmmaker as Ford.

In Memory of Myself
The buzz in Toronto is that people who like Into Great Silence don't liek Saverio Costanzo's narrative film about a novice thinking about joining a monastery, while those who like In Memory of Me don't tend to like Into Great Silence. I liked this film, mostly for the ending (which, oddly I found more Hegelian than paradoxical), and I thought the acting and mood were terrific. The music ended up being a little too bombastic (reminding me of the use of music in The Passion of the Christ to marinate the film in emotion rather than extract emotion from it), and the use of silhouetting was effective but overdone. It's still early for me to make a definitive conclusion, but I think maybe the film could/should have been pared a bit. There were some talky parts that explained what we were seeing, and I found myself wanting either less of these or less of the characters then lyrically acting them out. In some ways it serves as a documentary about the process of entering a monastic order, and that it does so sympathetically without coming across as propaganda or endorsement is quite an achievement.

Buddha Collapsed From Shame
Hana Makhmalbaf's second film is a day in the life of a young girl in Iran who wants to go to school but is endlessly sidetracked by environmental, institutional, and personal factors. Not a flawless nor polished film, but it has moments of real power. There is a mix of stark naturalism and romantic idealization (of the child) that keeps the film from ringing true as a personal story, but as a vehicle to give us a window into the conditions that exist in places we may never see the plot suffices. When the boys (against the protagonist's protests) play "the stoning game" and the camera goes to a point of view shot of the young girl in the sand, we realize that the threads that hold a young girl to life are as tenuous as a young boy's ability to distinguish between reality and illusion while being taught by adults who don't appear to be able to make that distinction themselves.

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