Wednesday, September 21, 2011

TIFF - More Movies

On the 10th anniversary of  9/11, TIFF commemorated by showing a 4 minute documentary short before every feature film.  The short reflected on the thoughts and feelings of Piers Handling and other TIFF organizers and attendees as they had to deal with the tragedy that happened just as the 2001 festival was getting into full swing.

In interviews held at the time, they talked about debating whether or not to cancel the festival.  The decision to carry on, albeit without all the usual pomp and circumstance, showed the courage and resilience of all involved.  For many people stranded and unable to get home, watching movies provided a respite and helped them deal with the real life trauma happening before them.  Watching this short film brought back vivid memories of our own experiences that day and how it affected our TIFF experience for the rest of that festival.  This was a touching tribute that perfectly reflected the spirit of TIFF and everything it stands for.

For my next TIFF selection, rather than watching a movie, I attended a moderated conversation between director Deepa Mehta and author Salman Rushdie as they discussed the experience of turning his Booker Prize winning book Midnight's Children into a movie. Midnight's Children is about the trials and tribulations of a telepathic child born at the stroke of midnight on the day of India's independence from British rule and the Partition between India and Pakistan.

Deepa and Salman discussed their struggles to pick out the fundamental plot of the extremely lengthy and complicated book, trying to condense it to a viable movie length.  Deepa alluded to her political difficulties filming in India, leading her to make the movie in Sri Lanka.  They told amusing anecdotes about unsuccessfully trying to woo a famous Bollywood actress to the film, in an attempt at attracting a wider Indian audience.  She wanted them to rewrite her role, since she was far too young to play the mother of a 16 year old!  Salman talked about how the corrupt and cruel character General Zulfikar was based on an uncle that he didn't like.  He cackled as he gloated "Don't mess around with writers or they'll get their revenge."

They previewed a very rough montage of the movie, which is currently is in pre-production and will be released around Oct 2012.  It was beautifully shot and had that sweeping epic feel that is usually Oscar bait, but not my cup of tea.  Many devotees are skeptical about how their beloved "unfilmable" book can be made into a movie.  Deepa is out to prove them wrong.

This was an interesting experience to go to a talk rather than watch a movie.  I quite enjoyed hearing behind the scenes stories about the making of the movie, and would have appreciated it even more if the book/movie were more to my taste.  One unexpected  discovery was how Salman Rushdie looks exactly like a friend of ours. I spent much of the afternoon marveling at this.

Next up is a French/Belgium comedy called My Worst Nightmare about a middle aged, well-to-do Parisian couple (Agathe and Francois) in a comfortable if somewhat passionless relationship.  Their lives get turned upside down when they encounter a buffoonish, pushy, alcoholic but strangely charming handy man (Patrick) who insinuates himself into their lives.

Soon the couple has swapped partners. The initially icy Agathe (played by Isabelle Huppert) learns to loosen up and comes to appreciate the vibrance and joix de vivre of Patrick.  Meanwhile Francois has taken up with a much younger, tree hugging nature lover, a move he regrets a bit when she has him zip-lining from treetops.

Like many French movies, this comedy has a uniquely Gallic sense of humour and a blase attitude to sex and relationships.  There is no real drama regarding the breakup and the new couples are still able to interact amicably.

One of the funniest scenes in the movie involves a "babylicious" car wash run by Patrick's brother whose female employees could have come right out of Hooters restaurant.  The look on Agathe's face is priceless when her car goes through the wash and the soap on the windshield is wiped away by a pair of huge boobs and a bikini-clad bottom.

This was a mildly amusing pleasant comedy - not a stinker but nothing to rave about either.  The Q&A with the director and lead actress was not that interesting, due mainly to the language barrier.  In retrospect though, it was not so bad compared to upcoming Q&As from our next movies..

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