The 2010 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF)

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu, Andrei Ujica (2010)

The 2010 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) seemed particularly hysterical. Toronto crowds have proved reliable predictors of future box office success – Slumdog Millionaire (2008) was rescued from straight-to-DVD obscurity at TIFF, and Precious (2009) was an audience favourite here before becoming an Oscar contender. It’s a track record that contributes to the sense that TIFF has arrived, it now being considered second in importance only to Cannes in terms of industry weight. Burnishing this image is the glamorous new TIFF Bell Lightbox, home to the festival and the branding of its corporate sponsor Bell, the hated pretty much by everyone Canadian telephone conglomerate. Not that we live in an age where anyone cares about this kind of thing. One of the main venues for TIFF screenings was a big commercial movie complex that is mystifyingly (to me at least) branded with the name of a bank. Regardless, the Lightbox is a glorious addition to the city’s art ecosystem, a reassuring sign that, better late than never, Toronto has caught on to the prestige and economic power that culture can bring to a city.

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The 2009 Toronto International Film Festival

July 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

Apichatpong Weerasethakul, A Letter to Uncle Boonmee, Thailand 2009

By far the best film I saw in Wavelengths was A Letter to Uncle Boonmee (2009) by Apichatpong Weersethakul. In a landscape of pretenders, Weersethakul is the real deal: an artist working at the leading edge of cinematic practice today. Far from keeping his audience at the formalised distance so characteristic of the avant-garde ethos, he makes full use of cinema’s ability to immerse viewers in an experience of time and place. As with Weersethakul’s features, A Letter… is highly evocative of its location (in a luscious, rain-soaked Nabua in northeastern Thailand), but otherwise has little in common with conventional narrative cinema. Lacking the perspective of any view of the horizon, panoramic shots of the jungle work to create an interior space, inside of which the film situates the viewer. Matching the circular movement of the camera is the narrator’s repeat readings of the titular letter. Far from being an exercise in cinematic distanciation, Weersethakul makes believers of us all.

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