Today was my Gala day! I selected only two Gala films this year Blood Brothers and L'Âge des ténèbres and who would have thought but then ended up being back to back screenings with slightly quieter audiences. Things do feel like they are winding down. I'm sure today will be the last of the quiet days heading into the last weekend at TIFF, weekends are always busier. I'm hoping for some good weather and cheerful lineups.
Films of the Day:
Sun Also Rises, The / Tai Yang Zhao Chang Shen Qi
Dir: Jiang Wen
Reason to see: Sounded like interesting stories told over time with possible mystical notes.
Impressions: Interesting stories, great acting and powerful visuals in this film. However I will admit I was pretty tired and I had a hard time following what was going on. I would really like to see it again, and will take the opportunity to do so if it returns to Toronto.
Alexi Tan (right) director of Blood Brothers
Blood Brothers / Tian Tang Kou
dir: Alexi Tan
Reason to see: This one I was concerned I would not get a ticket, it’s a Gala and looks a little brutal in terms of violence but historical and highly stylized.
Impressions: As I expected this film was quite violent, it's a gangster/brotherhood film set in Shanghai in the 30's but I'm glad I knew that going in because there is so much more to it than just that. As a lot of films in the festival this year, it is a film about choices but in the realm of a gangster film it felt like a very unique look at this. To top it off, the ensemble cast is phenomenal, during the Q&A director Alexi Tan said that all of them were his first choice and that he was looking to cast the next generation of Chinese superstars. This film also made me rethink my own reaction when I see something billed as "from the producers of...", which I usually would write off pretty quickly. But in essence this is a film just like that, with a first time director and produced by John Woo & Terence Chang and it's an excellent film.
Âge des ténèbres, L
dir: Denys Arcand
Reason to see: It’s Denys Arcand - need I say more? Well if you insist Les Invasions barbares is one of my favourite films, ever.
Impressions: First things first - this was my only screening this year at the Elgin, and what a marvellous location it is. But, to my surprize, I saw a sign ...one I expected to say the normal 'only bottled water past this point' but alas, it said that... along with popcorn! POPCORN? At the Elgin? What a shocker. I had to have some! Anyhow, on to the screening.... I don't actually have too much to say. I am such a huge fan of Les invasions barbares, but this one wasn't quite on par to that. It was a touching story, however quite intrenched in the male experience therefore I didn't find all of it accessible but what was accessible was great, sometimes touching, sometimes hilarious and oftentimes both. The audience reaction was very positive and filled with laughter.
Gillian Armstrong (right) director of Death Defying Acts
Death Defying Acts
Dir: Gillian Armstrong
Reason to see: Last minute substitution and sounded very compelling.
Impressions: First impression was "Why on Earth is the line so long and photographers lined up?" This was a back up choice for me and I barely had any recollection as to what it was about (at 41 films with 1-3 back ups each it really is a lot to remember). So I trotted along, snagged a seat in the first row on the side, and intro included the wonderful director Gillian Armstrong and one of the actors... Guy Pearce! Wow, now that was exciting! But, on to the film which was a dramatized look at Harry Houdini and his $10,000 reward for the last words from his mother. Enter Catherine Zeta-Jones and Saoirse Ronan as a mother-daughter psychic performers. I will not say more about the plot but rather that it was a quite enjoyable film.
Guy Pearce (right) and Gillian Armstrong (centre) at the Death Defying Acts Q&A
Highlight of the day: Today's highlights were definitely the Q&A's. Both Blood Brothers and Death Defying Acts had wonderful Q&A's with great questions from the engaging audience and lovely giving responses. A bizarre parallel was both Alexi Tan and Gillian Armstrong said that their next film they want it not to be a period piece.