Wednesday, September 12, 2007

TIFF Day 6 (Tuesday)

Yonge Street, downtown Toronto

I'm now into the latter half of my TIFF experience and already things are starting to quieten down, with the screenings seeming less busy than they were at the start of the festival. Before I continue with my moviegoing, I should update you on a few news snippets regarding some of the films I've already seen. King Of The Hill and Diary Of The Dead have both been picked up for US distribution by the Weinstein Company, with Optimum releasing both titles in the UK. Meanwhile Eastern Promises has emerged the critics choice here with the eight-strong Screen Jury scoring it an average 3.1 out of 4.

Onto Tuesday's screenings... well, it had to happen sooner or later - I overslept, thereby missing Woody Allen's new film Cassandra's Dream which stars Colin Farrell and Ewan McGregor. A quick shuffle of my schedule and I picked Alexi Tan's Blood Brothers which I'd originally planned to see later in the evening. Produced by the heavyweight team of John Woo and Terence Chang, Blood Brothers is a period crime drama set in 1930's Shanghai taking its inspiration from Woo's own Bullet In The Head. Three friends move to the big city and get drawn into the gangster underworld whilst working at the Paradise Club where Lulu (the lovely Shu Qi) is the resident singer. It's a familiar story highlighting the disintegration of their relationship as they're forced to choose sides between the crime boss and their disloyal friends. Engaging for the most part, it's a shame that the film feels the need to climax in a hail of bullets which undoes a lot of the good work that has come before it.

Next I selected the Austrian comedy Forever Never Anywhere directed by Antonin Svoboda. Almost a companion piece to Stuart Gordon's Stuck, this is about three middle-aged guys who find themselves trapped in a car after they crash down a mountain. The car - which used to belong to former Austrian president Kurt Waldheim - ends wedged between two tree trunks, and with all the electrics out, there's no means of escape. Their saviour appears to be a young schoolboy who stumbles across their car, but instead he decides to use the men as live guinea pigs for his studies. It's a nice idea which offers up plenty of comic potential, but sadly misses the target as often as it hits. It's a shame to say, but I couldn't help feeling that this is one film which might actually work better as a remake.

Night Of The Creeps comes to Toronto!

After Forever Never Anywhere finished I hit the wall, exhausted from all the movies I've seen over the past few days. Skipping Gillian Anderson's Houdini pic Death Defying Acts, instead I decided to get out and see a bit of the city. One thing I spied during my stroll downtown was a flyer advertising a screening of Night Of The Creeps with director Fred Dekker in attendance - so I was gutted to read that it's taking place next week, a few days after I leave.

Me, ahem, stuck in a lift

I had a little adventure of my own when I got back to the hotel. I took the lift up to the 11th floor as usual... and couldn't get out. The door refused to open, so I was forced to sound the alarm and an engineer had to come out to free me. In the end I was stuck in the lift for 35 minutes, much to the amusement of Ian who was able to talk to me through the door from outside in the hallway. Well, there's a first time for everything I suppose - good job I'm not claustrophobic, huh?

Me, Ant, Paul, Bruce, Johanna and Mitch at The Foxes Den

After my elevator incident I was ready for a stiff drink, so it was perfect planning that we had a gathering arranged at The Foxes Den on Bay Street. Most of our regular crowd were there including Ant Timpson, Bruce Fletcher and Mitch Davis, plus we were joined later by Jake West (Evil Aliens) and friends who'd just flown in from Los Angeles. Hanging out with this crowd was just what I needed and I think everyone enjoyed swapping stories. I'm still not sure who (if anyone) paid our huge bar tab but the staff told us it had been taken care of when we asked, so we didn't persue it any further!

Sukiyaki Western Django - your feedback is welcomed

As midnight approached most of our group were planning to go on to some Latin American Movie party downtown, so Mitch and I said our goodbyes and caught a cab to the Ryerson as we both felt we had to see Sukiyaki Western Django, the latest film from the maverick Japanese director Takashi Miike. Sadly Miike wasn't there in person, but a couple of his actors were, and he had recorded a specially recorded intro in which he gave out his email address so that we could all send him our comments on the film. Typically weird, typically Miike. Let's clear this up right away, the only link to the original Django films is the theme music (used at the end) and Miike's end coda which reveals that the kid in the film goes off to Italy and changes his name to Django! Miike's recent output - The Great Yokai War aside - has been underwhelming, and sadly Sukiyaki Western Django continues his slump. Frankly it's an absurd mess; the narrative is impenetratable and for the most part I had no clear idea who the characters were or what they were trying to achieve. The biggest issue however is that Miike has chosen to shoot it in English, with all the actors speaking phonetically. I have to assume this is wholly intentional, but it does mean that as a direct result it plays like a comedy, plus it requires English subtitles throughout. Visually it's fine, and there are one or two neat moments, plus a bizarre cameo from Quentin Tarantino, but on the whole it left me baffled. Still, I have to say that the atmosphere was amazing - it had sold more tickets that the Argento and the Romero films - and the packed Midnight Madness crowd generally seemed to enjoy it.

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