Festival Watch 2006

Festival Watch 2006: Day Nine

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

One more day left in the festival, and I thought I'd venture out in the city to see how much the festival is actually impacting everyday Torontonians. And while most people I met were very excited about the economic and cultural impact of all the filmmakers and film enthusiasts meeting in our city, I realized that almost everyone I've spoken to were in the Yorkville area of downtown. In the interest of doing some research, I branched out into Etobicoke, North York, and Scarborough to see what everyday people there thought of TIFF this year.

Perhaps not surprisingly, a good number of people were barely aware of the festival, and several did not know — or even care — that it was happening for the past ten days. Apparently, the festival really only attracts a very niche crowd, and that crowd can usually be found in the box between Dupont, Spadina, Queen, and Yonge, at least during the festival. Maybe the festival needs to do some more marketing? Or maybe, as one person told me, they just need to drop some ticket prices.

Ah, and I'll be wrapping up the festival in tomorrow's festival watch post, with some of my highlights and major disappointments.

And now for some movies:

Breaking and Entering
Anthony Minghella, United Kingdom
Minghella's newest film has a lot of good things going for it: a brilliant muted screen palette by cinematographer Benoit Delhomme, and fantastically haunting score by Gabriel Yared, excellent performances by main actors Juliette Binoche, Robin Wright Penn, and Jude Law, and a witty and impactful script by Minghella himself. Sadly, what the film lacks is a true sense of engagement with the audience, which will make this film incredibly hard to market to the normal theatre-going audience.

Breaking and Entering is a mature film dealing with very intense themes and ideas, and it is wonderfully captured by Minghella's vision. Despite the fact that the ending makes the film a lot less resonant, there are some wonderful moments in the movie. This won't be an easy sell at the box office because it is weighty and not necessarily very accessible, but in general, it is worth watching for the excellent filmmaking in general.

Chacun Sa Nuit
Jean-Marc Barr and Pascal Arnold, France
The premise of this movie is a little jarring at first: the whole narrative revolves around the very intimate relationship between a group of friends, at the center of which are a brother-sister pair that share a physically-intense and provocative bond. When the brother is murdered, his sister launches a campaign to find his killer, unearthing tales and secrets from the past of every member of the group.

Chacun Sa Nuit succeeds because Arnold and Barr know that this jarring effect is good for the audience. There is a lot of sex (a whole lot) in this film, but it is not just there for cursory effect: instead, it provides an added layer to the narrative. Nudity, in this sense, is but another costume for the characters to wear. And when you finally find out who the killer is, you're still left with questions of motivation, which is why Chacun Sa Nuit is such a good film. It will keep you thinking.

Amazing Grace
Michael Apted, United Kingdom
Screening as the closing gala of the festival tomorrow, Michael Apted's most recent movie is a fitting close to a large-scale festival: it is a sweeping period piece with grandiose performances and even loftier messages. Amazing Grace details William Wilberforce's struggle to abolish the slave trade in England, and it is just as powerful as Spielberg's Amistad, while just as decorative as Coppola's Marie Antoinette.

Easily my second favorite film at the festival after Pan's Labyrinth, Amazing Grace is kept moving by a performance by Ioan Gruffudd that is nothing short of perfect. The costuming and the set decor is extravagant yet elegant, and the issues are emotional yet political. There's very little you can say about what is wrong with this film, and if you had to rush any film this festival, do try and see this one as it closes off the festival. It will sweep you off your feet.

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