Friday, September 22, 2006

TIFF Wrap-Up in Short.

Probably the best TIFF festival in the past 5 years for me, perhaps since I've been going even...Pub nights were fun. And for some reason I bumped into this couple from Knoxville, TN at what seemed like over a third of the films I was at. Good Q&As from the cast from For Your Consideration, as well as Chris Smith a the Midnight Severance Screening. Also the Del Toro Q&A was one of the most intelligent and passionate ones I've been at since, uh, well the Devil's Backbone Q&A.

Here are all my films, a rating out of 10, and a brief comment. Live links on film titles in the below list go to full reviews I've written. If you are interested in anything that I've not written on, nearly all the below films has been written about by the staff in the sites alphabetical review archives.

Abandoned, The 4 Atmosphere to spare and a winning metaphor, but too repetitive. Would have been a nearly perfect 45 minute film.

All the Boys Love Mandy Lane 3 A few points for portraying teens as confused and desperate for attention. The actual film construction leaves a lot to be desired.

Banquet, The 9 Completely recontextualizing Hamlet as a story of unfulfilled love and desire, and told from Gertudes point of view. Perfect Martial Arts scenes complement the epic material. Masterful.

Black Sheep 6 Owes just a little too much to Peter Jacksons Dead Alive, but has almost note perfect comic timing and some great set-pieces.

Brand Upon the Brain! 10 A once-in-a-lifetime experience with Live Orchestra, narrator and foley artists. Still Maddins latest is him at top form, and a worthy 'sequel' to Cowards Bend the Knee.

Cashback 8 Biggest out of the blue surprise for me at the festival this year, early 20's confusion filtered through a realization of the possibilities in the world. A romantic feel good movie for guys.

Crime, Un 8 Here is a film which fully trusts its audience to follow along with an intelligent and complex story with some dark corners and darker emotions. Best of Breed for modern noir.

Election 6 Arch and experimental, the film gets a bit muddled in the middle, but is perhaps the most ambitious HK effort since the 1990s. The opening and closing segments of the film are masterfully brutal and uncompromising.

Election 2 8 Keeping the ambitions of the first one, and having the background out of the way, lets Election 2 flourish. This sequel is more focused and richer.

End of the Line 4 Great opening jump-scare. A muddled plot and inconsistent tone and overall flat aesthetic don't capitalize on the great premise.

Everything's Gone Green 7 A very nice ode to both Vancouver and Canada. A smooth and excellent transition of aspects of Douglas Coupland's novels into a winning screenplay

Exiled 10 Johnny To's action and comedy finest hour. The most fun I had at a festival screening this year

Fido 7 Setting this Zombie Comedy in the 1950s and casting good actors made Fido a surprise of the festival, and Canadian genre cinema.

For Your Consideration 7 Christopher Guests weakest film, but probably still the funniest movie you will see all year. Impressivley, it is 85% improvised.

Fountain, The 9 A movie much simpler than the critics would have you believe. It is emotionally honest and big spectacle of grand ideas. An instant classic worthy of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

HANA 6 For its gentle tone and serious subject matter, the film does run on a bit long. But it is beautiful, intelligent and warm.

Host, The 8 Expectations were high and mostly met. The ability to switch tone and style within the film are signs of a master at work.

Invisible Waves 4 After Last Life in the Universe, this film feels like a retread, and a bad one at that (although it is not without moments of humour and interest). Even Doyle's cinematography is lacking.

Jade Warrior 5 A victim of my own expectations. A smart story which failed to live up to its promise.

King and the Clown 9 A delightful blend of Korean History, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and even shades of a gay melodrama. It perfectly captures the joy of performing is a smart and slickly entertaining way.

Little Children 8 Complex, darkly funny, and timely satire on the current culture in America. Its only flaw is talking down to the audience on occasion.

Macbeth 2 Conceptually interesting, but failed attempt to merge Shakespeare's Macbeth with Aussie crime culture.

Pan's Labyrinth 10 Sublime fairy tale for adults is stylish, smart, and earns every ounce of its emotional (and theologically honest) punch.

Prague 10 As perfect as a crumbling relationship drama can ever be. Flawless direction, brilliant acting, and perfect screenplay.

Princess 7 A film designed to provoke and alienate its core audience. Not necessarily a bad thing, but still hard to watch. You cannot always having things both ways, but this film certainly tries.

Renaissance 5 Gorgeous sci-fi noir is technically flawless, but emotionally inert.

Rescue Dawn 6 Powerful and well acted, but curiously long-winded in parts and stands in the shadow of Aguirre: Wrath of God.

Severance 8 About as perfect as this type of movie can ever get. It plays with horror conventions and slyly pushes the envelope on social commentary inbetween big laughs and gory violence.

Sheitan 6 Loopy and hilariously fun to watch. Vincent Cassel is as whacked out as everything else on display here. Oh, and this has to be the most politically incorrect film at this years festival.

Shortbus 7 A bit obvious in the scripting, but is the first 9/11 hard-core sex feel good movie ever made. And there is something to be said for that.

Slumming 7 A great metaphysical character study with some sublime moments.

Ten Canoes 6 Overly long and slightly redundant (between the subtitles and voice-over narration), this aboriginal cultural document is surprisingly funny and pleasantly vulgar. People are people, regardless of culture.

Time 7 A movie designed to provoke, similar to Little Children or anything by Von Trier, it is as technically and aesthetically skillful as its characters are unlikable.

Wake, The 5 A nice story telling style and script are done in by some pacing issues and curious lack of tension. I still don't know what went wrong with this film.

Woman on the Beach 8 An intelligent and intimate look at how people become attracted and distracted with one another.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

TIFF Review: Woman on the Beach

I’ll confess up front that I’m not overly familiar with Hong Sang-Soo’s body of work. Last years A Tale of Cinema was a bit off putting due to the story structure being a tad esoteric. Paradoxically, it was intimate and fascinating and I was thinking about it for several days after seeing it; as good an indication as any that things were swirling just out of my reach on a single viewing. Woman on the Beach is much more accessible, and happily, is a satisfyingly complex work as well. With the veneer of an occasionally humorous relationship drama, it takes one particular aspect of human nature and examines it from as many sides as he can within the two hour timeframe.
Anyone who has watched two children in a roomful of toys argue and fight over one seemingly random toy - just because one or the other happens to have possession of it - will immediately understand where the film is coming from. And things are so much more complicated with adults, whose egos and defense mechanisms are much more developed.
The story follows a film director, Joong-Rae, who is working on the script to his latest film. Because he is experiencing a bit of a block in getting from concept to screenplay, he decides to head out for a change in scenery from the city to a beach resort which is more or less deserted in its off season. On a whim, he invites one of his crew, Chang-Wook, to join him on his trip and Chang-Wook brings his girlfriend Moon-Sook. Joong-Rae is immediately attracted to Moon-Sook, likely (to some degree) due to fact that his friend is quite average looking and she is most definitely not. Joong-Rae’s casual self confidence and high-profile as a director cause an immediate attraction from Moon-Sook, despite (or because of) his dismissal of her singing abilities (she is a music composer for films who is writing and singing on her debut pop music album.) Over dinner and lots of Soju, the new ‘couple’ find a way to dump Chang-Wook, making love in an abandoned hotel room. The next morning, Joong-Rae is more interested in working on his screenplay, and brushes Moon-Sook off. Not long after, he meets up with a two other women, one of whom looks like Moon-Sook, and Joong-Rae begins to pursue her. It’s not just the resemblance that attracts him, but also a subtle intimacy between the two women.
Woman on the Beach cleverly explores how we paint one image on a person based on our awareness that someone else favours them. Like the old expression that the most attractive men are the ones with wedding rings on their fingers. The film asks the question how much of human attraction is based on either what we cannot (or should not) have, as well as exploring the way a certain bit of recklessness (what the French call l’amour fou) enhances things until the next morning you often. All of this is done in carefully composed and well observed scenes taking place over walks through town or countryside, and many lunches and dinners involving alcohol.
After describing the outline of his movie, which revolves around a man getting to the bottom of a peculiar coincidence of the same thing happening three times in a single day, Joong-Rae comments that an audience will not believe the film because people tend to only believe in things they understand. Maybe he is right. However, people do clearly bounce around from one attraction to the next following on the least logical grounds. In many cases, logic is clearly the enemy.
Naturally, the number three factors heavily (literally and symbolically) in the film as each chapter involves a threesome which wants to shed a person to get to a couple. Hong Sang-Soo does these transitions from situation to situation in a very natural way so that the manipulation does not feel forced in the slightest, and each time examines his central exploration from a different angle. The opening scene involving a phone call and a coincidence and the closing shot involving two men getting a character unstuck out of the sand on the beach mesh perfectly into the story, and also sum up things an elegant way. Woman on the Beach is certainly worth the journey.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Even More TIFF Reviews

OK, I'm falling behind writing about the all of the films that I've seen. That number is about 20 as of this morning. Over 10 to go in the next three days. Somehow I managed to schedule 6 films on Saturday to close the festival.


End of the Line (Maurice Deveraux)
Little Children (Todd Field)
Pan's Labyrinth (Guellermo Del Toro)

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

More TIFF Reviews

I've been trying to successfully juggle watching the maximum amount of movies, with finding enough sleep, writing those movies up, and trying to kiss my wife and kids as well. Sleep seems to be the big sacrifice, and thankfully LJ is keeping the home-fires buring and the kids occupied!

Here are some more TIFF reviews, with links going to until I can properly post them here.

Un Crime
Everything's Gone Green


Sunday, September 10, 2006

First Round of TIFF Reviews

This entry is just shorthand linking until I can properly update the site (admittedly this may not happen until after the festival is over!). Below are links to the entries for TIFF films. Because I'm posting these while waiting in line, and the limited sit-down time I have between screenings, there may be a fair number of grammer errors, if you point them out to me by email, it would be much appreciated.


Slumming (Michael Glawogger)
Brand Upon The Brain! (Guy Maddin)
Fido (Andrew Currie)
Rescue Dawn (Werner Herzog)
Jade Warrior (Antti-Jussi Annila)

Monday, September 04, 2006

KBT on Hold for TIFF 2006

There will be no KBT screenings for the month of September, as my time will be occupied watching over 35 films and hopefully reviewing two thirds of that number during the Toronto International Film Festival (September 8-16). Reviews will first be posted to Twitchfilm, but they will end up on this blog eventually - with more hyperlinks. Also, a best-of list for this years TIFF films (that I've seen anyway) will show up around Sunday September 17th. The theme for this years is 'Slumming' as I am seeing almost all genre-type films and leaving most of the arty stuff alone. There are a few notable exceptions: The new Guy Maddin film (if I'm lucky enough to get a ticket between now and Friday. Brand Upon the Brain! is a hot ticket to get due to the live orchestra component (the film is silent) making it only a single screening), the new Werner Herzog film, the new Hong Sang-soo film, John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus and Ki-duk Kim's Time.

Below is the list of films I am aiming to see at this years festival (links go to TIFF catalogue page):

Friday September 8,
Brand Upon the Brain!
The Host

Saturday September 9,
Ten Canoes
King and the Clown
Rescue Dawn
All the Boys Love Mandy Lane

Sunday September 10,
Jade Warrior
Black Sheep

Monday September 11,
For Your Consideration
End of the Line
Un Crime
The Abandoned

Tuesday September 12,
Everything's Gone Green
The Half Life of Timofey Berezin
Trapped Ashes

Wednesday September 13,
Pan's Labyrinth
The Last Winter
Election 2

Thursday September 14,
The Fountain

Friday September 15, 2006

Saturday September 16, 2006
The Wake
The Banquet
Invisible Waves
Woman on the Beach

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Happy 2nd Birthday to Kurt's Film Blog!

The blog was started to cover the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival and has morphed into the archive for KBT screenings. There have been a whopping 72 KBT screenings and next week will mark the 3rd TIFF festival to be captured to this blog.

I hope somebody out there is reading!