Festival Watch 2006

Festival Watch 2006: Day Five

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

Because I promised her I wouldn't reveal any details, lets just say I sat next to a certain actress while watching a certain movie today, even though she's not officially supposed to arrive in town until tomorrow. She made a surprisingly good movie companion. Yeah, I'm sorry for being so cryptic, but she made me promise not to say anything before I was allowed to eat some of her popcorn.

Anybody pick up a copy of the Toronto Star today? In their A&E section, which has been festival-full for the past few days, they made a glaring mistake in the headline that ran across the entire top of the page: "Toronto International Film Ferstival." Nothing serious, but I still found it amusing.

And now for some movies:

7 Ans
Jean-Pascal Hattu, France
A French film about a woman whose husband gets locked in jail for seven years, 7 Ans is a story of exploitation that is nuanced on so many levels. Director Jean-Pascal Hattu manages to create a tenuous relationship between all his characters — particularly between lead character Maite (Valerie Donzelli), her husband, and the prison warden — which will leave you wondering exactly who is using whom.

Donzelli puts in a remarkable performance as a woman torn between pleasing her absent husband and pleasing herself, and manages to look remarkably sexy while doing it. Her relationship with her neighbour's soon whom she babysits is equally as engaging as any of her more sexual relationships with the two male protagonists, and is definitely worth examining closer on a second viewing. Hattu moves the film along with expert pacing, relishing some parts while moving quickly onto other events as necessary. 7 Ans may just be one of the best French films of the festival.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Larry Charles, USA
Being one of the most anticipated films of the festival, it's great to know that Borat didn't disappoint. Quite possibly one of the most offensive films I have ever seen in my life, Borat is definitely one of the funniest as well. Sacha Baron Cohen outdoes himself, by doing everything you've come to love in the show, but also by adding tons of great, inexplicable, and absolutely ridiculous stunts as well.

I'm not going to tell you to go see this, because I know you already are: everyone else has given it a glowing review as well. If you're looking for laugh-out-loud funny, the release date for Borat in October can't come soon enough. Oh, and stay until the end of the previews. There's one screen that shows up after them that will have you double over in laughter all over again.

The Namesake
Mira Nair, USA
Fans of Jhumpa Lahiri's novel will be delighted that Mira Nair stays true to Lahiri's vision and tone and follows the story quite closely. Fans of good cinema will be extremely delighted to know that Mira Nair's adaptation of The Namesake is breathtaking, heartwarming, and soul-soothing all at the same time, and is definitely a film that you can suggest to all your friends.

Not quite life-changing as some people are calling it, The Namesake is a story of an American-born Indian boy who grows up coming to terms with his cultural identity. It features some excellent shots of urban India, suburban New York, and some especially inspired filming of the Taj Mahal. Kal Penn puts in an amazing performance, breaking free of his stupid-high-teenager image, but the real star here is Bollywood actress Tabu, who plays the displaced wife Ashima with such poise and passion, you can't help but fall in love with her. The Namesake may not be the greatest film ever made, but it's definitely a great film to experience.

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