Sunday, September 11, 2005

Toronto: Day Two

Imagine Me and You (UK, Ol Parker, 93 min. With: Piper Perabo, Lena Headey, Matthew Goode)

Or: One Wedding and a Lesbian Florist. (It’s your funeral). Comedy highlights in this terminally inoffensive British Kissing Jessica Stein include Perabo signalling her sudden switch to the other team by renting gay porn and even asking her husband for a beer. I can’t entirely hate any film which ends with The Turtles’ Happy Together kicking in as its lovebirds clinch in some heavy traffic near Bank tube, but they haven’t even screwed! C()

Tideland (Canada/UK, Terry Gilliam, 122 min. With: Jodelle Ferland, Jeff Bridges, Janet McTeer, Brendan Fletcher)

Try and imagine a Nickelodeon version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas crossed with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Go on, try again. Gilliam’s grotesque rural fantasy/horror is nothing if not defiantly uncommercial, but it’s also frankly a bit of a slog: there’s a lot of mooching around to sit through before the blecch highlight of Ferland (who’s excellent) stuffing doll’s heads into the open stomach of dead dad Bridges’s dried corpse. I’d love to claim it’s worth the wait. Throw in paedophilic frissons with brain-damaged boyfriend Fletcher and cue walkouts (there were many). A lot of it, particularly McTeer’s role as the embalming witch, struck me as ripped off Philip Ridley’s amazing 1990 horror oddity The Reflecting Skin. And I really prefer Gilliam when he’s setting fire to large quantities of someone else’s cash rather than trying to do this sort of down-home surrealism on the cheap. Still, at least it’s genuinely off the wall. C+

Mary (France/USA, Abel Ferrara, 83 min. With: Juliette Binoche, Forest Whitaker, Matthew Modine, Heather Graham)

I came out with my head spinning, but that may have been the lingering effect of a nasty cold. On reflection, though, this is pretty interesting, and Ferrara’s best film since The Funeral. Structurally you think satire, with Modine laying it on a bit thick as a Mel figure who’s just released his Christ epic (“This Is My Blood”) and Binoche difficult to get a read on as a Mary Magdalene who can’t shake the role. But it belongs to Whitaker, at his brooding best as the TV journo trying to get a fix on which version of Christ we’re talking about anyway. Hell is New York, nightmarishly visualised by one Stefano Falivene, and we all have our crosses to bear, and, well, let’s just say it’s Ferrara doing what he does best – thrashing about, tossing up some pretty essential questions, and socking them to us as viscerally and troublingly as he knows how. B

The Shore (US, Dionysius Zervos, 100 min. With: Lesley Anne Warren, Ben Gazzara, Izabella Miko)

Blind luck (and an arresting still in the fest catalogue) led me to pick up tickets for the public screening of this, a spellbinding feature debut and the first part of a projected trilogy from Zervos. This man is already in total control of his medium, using the disappearance of a young girl on a New Jersey beach to anchor an astonishingly composed mood poem about loss and isolation. The way he has characters continually vacating the frame to leave us with an aching void is worthy of Antonioni, and the sound design’s startlingly rich and suggestive. Similar material to Ozon’s Under the Sand, but I really think this is even better, and Warren’s portrait of fragile denial at least the equal of Rampling’s. A revelation on every imaginable level - I’ll be lucky to see a better film in the whole festival. A


Nick Sung said...

Hi Tim,
I'm sorry, but I have to completely disagree with you about The Shore. It was by far the most pretentious, least confident film, first or otherwise, that I have ever seen. Everything about it was trite and overplayed, and any comparsons to Kieslowski, Antonioni or even Ozon (inconsistant as he is) are misplaced and horrendously generous. Its main failure was a lack of elegance and revelation, everything organized to tell and not to show, to give and not to challenge, to succumb to cliche instead of finding an honest voice. Just my two cents,


m said...


I would love to find out what I'm missing with THE SHORE. I thought this movie was a huge disaster in every way. I find it baffling that you specifically mention the sound design as a positive. I found the sound to be muffled, inconsistent and actually at times completely out of sync.


tim r said...

Yikes. Well, it's quite possible I just went completely mad - fourth film of the day etc - and I'm certainly erring on the side of generosity with that grade (factoring in first film status, and I must admit it does have the feel of a brilliantly promising piece of graduate work rather than a fully-fledged, arthouse-ready feature). Even so, I was knocked out by its strangeness - it's like no other film set in America that I've ever seen. (Obviously in a bad way, from where you're both sitting.) There are certainly decisions I'd question in the editing, and, for sure, a distinct amateurishness around the edges - some bad ADR etc, obviously signs of budgetary constraint. (I'd distinguish this from the ambient sound design, which I thought was almost overwhelmingly effective.) It's amazing to me, though, that you found it unchallenging and unrevealing. All I can say is that I had no expectations whatsoever going in, but after a quarter of an hour the movie had me totally under its spell, kept me there, and took some while to release me afterwards. The narrative was really the least interesting element, and on reflection stuff like the other girl's pregnancy at the end looks more than a little clunky and overreaching. (Weirdly, it didn't seem so at the time.) But shot for shot it had an eerie, dislocated power - it might have been set on the moon, or anywhere, and I think that's what I most valued about it. I suppose it's no new thing for people to have violently polarised reactions to this kind of "poetic" film-making, but what you found ersatz and try-hard struck me as genuinely ambitious, unusually immersive, and eye-opening in every way.

[A quick trawl around the web reveals that Zervos's film needs all the fans it can get. The majority view of the few people who appear to have seen it at TIFF is most certainly not mine. Which I suppose means (a) it might be fest-circuit exposure only for this one and (b) bring on the strait-jackets. Nonetheless, I maintain that it was the real revelation of TIFF '05 for me, and I'm dying to hear from anyone else who even half thought so.]


m said...

Fair enough. I have to say, though, that for my money David Gordon Green's 'George Washington' is a much better example of poetic filmmaking which presents a unique perspective on America. And it was a first film as well.

However, after reading your other reviews I think we agree completely on the other films we had in common at TIFF (Hostel, L'enfant, Tristram Shandy and Tideland). Great site.

Nick Sung said...

Yeah, I'd have to second the DGG choice, and add his 'All the Real Girls'. Typically, I tend towards these more meditative films (like 'Nobody Knows', 'What Time is it There?' and 'I'm Going Home'), so I guess I was a little jarred by how strongly "The Shore' played certain things.

It did have a certain dislocated-ness to it, though, very true. I very much like the similar thing at the end of Terry Zwigoff's 'Ghost World'.

Sadly, we didn't have many films in common during the fest, although this, 'L'Enfant' and 'Cache' certainly were good ones to have! Cheers,


tim r said...

Thanks guys - I feel a little less wildly off-beam now. I'm a great fan of What Time is it There?, glad to find someone else who is too. Did you catch The Wayward Cloud yet? Now there's a strange one.


Nick Sung said...

Hi Tim--I wanted to, but couldn't fit it in...
I'll have to check it out!

Scott Lewis said...

There may be few, but here is another positive review

Beautifully done. Zervos captures the internal struggles a family in this visual poem about loss. The movie is set in a beach town where the sign on the boardwalk says something to the effect of "through these gates walk the happiest people on earth". Not so in this town. These characters struggle internally and individually, not sharing with each other what each of them is gong through personally as they deal with the disappearance of 5 year old Anna, played by Erika Faye Shasho. We are not meant to mourn the loss of the little girl so much as we are to see these characters try to deal with the idea of loss. A loss that has always been there under the surface. They seem to be stuck in this place as if on the giant ferris wheel on the boardwalk. Ben Gazarra, the grandfather of the missing girl, is firmly strapped in on this ferris wheel as he just wants everything to be "normal again", however unhealthy that "normal" may have been. Izabella Miko, the mother of the missing girl, has a beautiful empty sadness about her that is magnified by the film score. The best performance in the film is delivered by Lesley Anne Warren. She shines as the grandmother in complete denial of what has happened. Definitely high marks for Zervos in his feature film debut.