Festival Watch 2006

Festival Watch 2006: Day Eight

A brief look at the some of the films and events happening at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

Day eight of the festival is usually the day where the lineups are a little shorter, the volunteers and staff are a little less talkative, and everyone is cranky and sick. It's easy to get sick if you're at the Toronto International Film Festival, because watching movies all day (and for some people like me, trying to juggle a full time job at the same time) makes you really tired and susceptible to bugs. Being at the festival, your sleeping and eating habits are usually altered enough to throw you out of your regular groove, and it's also often easy to forget that while you're in a theatre all day, the world is still spinning around you, and people are still living their lives.

So yeah, I'm a little sick. Which means my movie watching over the next few days might be a little light, maybe only about three a day. I hope you don't mind. The festival is bound to pick up a little steam for Friday and Saturday, so if you've got some time to kill this weekend, rest up now because the closing two days are usually full of fun.

And now for some movies:

Prague
Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark
This film may just be one of the sleeper hits of the festival. Sure, it seems on the surface as a pretty conventional drama about broken relationships, but it's this same sense of familiarity that makes Prague so impressive. Instead of boring the audience with a story that everyone has heard, director Ole Christian Madsen takes the story and tells it in way where even the city of Prague has a voice in the matter. This film has the ability to shake you up even when you're tired and need a nap.

Of course, part of the success of this film lies in the absolutely stunning performance by Mads Mikkelsen, who has clearly stood out in my mind as one of the best actors in the festival after his performances in Prague and After the Wedding. His portrayal of a man that takes personal tragedy and bottles it up in an effort to save his relationship is nothing short of brilliant, and it doesn't matter that you can't understand the Danish he speaks for part of the film. He'll still blow you away.

In Between Days
So Yong Kim, USA/Canada/South Korea
Filmed entirely in Toronto, set in Toronto, and using Torontonian actors, In Between Days explores a part of the city that is often ignored in most film: the ethnic enclaves that litter the city. Set in the Korean neighborhoods of North York, So Yong Kim's film looks at the suburban malaise that is prevalent among immigrant groups that never seem to find their place in the large expanse of the city.

The acting is strong and Toronto is quite nicely depicted as a cold, impersonal place, but the themes seem to be recycled and Kim never does manage to cover any new ground here. At times, the film does seem to drag, but in general, it is quite well-crafted. Nothing special, but definitely worth a look to see a side of Toronto that you normally don't see on the big screen.

The Fountain
Darren Aronofsky, USA
I can now fully understand why people of Venice could have been a little upset after watching Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain, and I blame the booing on the marketing team. After all, The Fountain — at least according to the trailers and the TV spots — is being marketed as this fantastic journey of immortality that stretches for over 1000 years, or as a love story that stretches beyond time. It is nothing like that. Instead, Aronofsky's film is more of a spiritual journey than a sci-fi/fantasy film, and if you go in expecting anything else, you will be disappointed.

That being said, The Fountain is quite impressive, with decent acting by the main characters, well-detailed visuals, and pretty exciting plot development. Sometimes, the film may seem a little surreal, but Aronofsky does pull off the time-shifting quite well. Vaguely reminiscent of Pi, The Fountain is not your everyday Hollywood blockbuster, but should do swift business in the box office in the first weekend because of the buzz. Maybe the marketing team actually got it right for the public and not for the festival circuit.


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