“THERE! – ARE! – FOUR!! – LIGHTS!!!”
The history of Cardassia, some of it anyway, is laid out in miniature over the course of Gul Madred’s torture sessions with Captain Picard in Part II of “Chain of Command.” We learn that it was a civilization of deep history and art, that fell to poverty and despair before ultimately being taken over by its military to dig its way away from the brink of self-destruction. The pre-war Germany vibe is strong, and a lot of the groundwork laid here carries nicely onto Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.Read more
I want to tell you about a movie I saw this afternoon, Still the Water. Directed by Naomi Kawase, it concerns two teenagers on an island off the coast of Japan, dealing with death and change in their family, in parallel and together. It is a movie about nothing in particular, really, composed of a series of low-key scenes, and just as often, silent sequences of the characters traveling, or thinking, or sitting. Don’t worry: it is very much the movie I signed up to see, a kind of rural Japanese melodrama with its accompanying piano score and a great sense of the sea and the salt air, and the sound of leaves rustling.
“It’s not easy, but it is simple,” one older character says of the process of finding and falling for the love of your life. Somehow in its simplicity Still the Water manages to be a contemplation of love, mortality, time, age, parenthood, childhood, sex, tattoos, men, women, and families. It struck me like a thunderclap - never did I expect the “wind-down” day of TIFF to yield my favourite film of the festival. But Still the Water certainly is. And for all its patient, even meditative tempo - for all the work thus required to get there, after a week of 23 films and 10 Midnight Madnesses in a row - Still the Water sticks the landing like I could scarcely believe. Its final moments of sweet first love (I have seen an inordinate amount of sex this week; this was the first time I have seen two mid-coital lovers smile at one another, as though the experience meant something to them), and breathtaking underwater swimming framed against an old man’s knowing words, are transcendent. It will be on my list of the best films of 2014.
I’ll be goddamned. Last day, best film. STILL THE WATER. So simple. So rich. #TIFF14— Matt Brown (@tederick) September 14, 2014
In like kind, The Grump works perfectly well for its first hour and a half or so; and then miraculously lands on a final ten minutes that are roughly as good and as resonant as the first ten minutes of Up. I am drowning in embarrassment of riches here. In 48 hours I have seen Over Your Dead Body, Theeb, The Guest, Still the Water, and The Grump. I would confidently call all five my top five films for TIFF 2014. A few others - Cub, Big Game, 1001 Grams - will remain among the year’s most memorable.
I chose The Grump to be my final film for one reason: because I am one. I stand here on the precipice of being irritated beyond my interest in doing this annual plunge into the night-and-day film festival; “Deep TIFF,” as I just described it on the podcast. Deep TIFF means reaching into the briny sea with both hands to try to pull out something exceptional from the masses of the catch; deep TIFF means focus, and planning, and quite a bit of money. It’s not something I’m convinced I want to do forever; there are deeper and more compelling things I could use my focus and planning and money on, which will cut just as close to the bone - and quite probably deeper, if I’m doing them right. It will never just be cinema for me, I guess, is what I’m saying. The elation I felt this afternoon as wonders unfolded in front of me can spring out of sources. But this, here, at the film festival, will always be where I learned how to do it: how to crack my chest like a lobster tail, release the flag to the wind, let the stars take me. The festival ends. TIFF lasts all year round.
Here’s something I scribbled in my notebook in the dark at some screening at some point this week: “Can you live in the moment, love what you have, be positive and be true to yourself?” The final plain, in the seats of #TIFF14. Well: can you?
Best of the fest: Still the Water
Fucking terrific: Over Your Dead Body, Theeb, The Guest, The Grump
Really, really good: Cub, Big Game, 1001 Grams
Solid: Wet Bum, Tusk, Tokyo Tribe, What We Do In The Shadows
Acceptable: Dukhtar, It Follows, Electric Boogaloo, Goodnight Mommy, REC, The Editor
Could have been better: Spring, Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere, They Have Escaped, A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting On Existence
Worst: The Tribe
Mamo closes up the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival with talk of our favourite films, the Audience Choice winners, and the noticeable movements of the year – plus, hairy boobs.
Fighting some kind of psycho-emotional Purge Night as day breaks cold and grisly on the last weekend of #TIFF14. I duck in to Theeb first thing, earlier in the morning than I should be doing this, though I woke up earlier all week for work, so I’m not entirely clear on why my body and mind and heart and soul and all the itty bitty angels are fighting me quite so hard on this. But fight me, they do. The movie is wonderful and the intro and Q&A equally so, and I take the time to dream I’m a Bedouin boy trying to survive on his own in that canyon on pluck and sheer will. Then I dream about what it means to dream about such things. I am no such boy - and yet, it moves.
What we learned yesterday and today: that after-work nap is the fuzzy beige line between this thing working like MechaGodzilla, vs. the whole King Ghidorah going off the rails. I spent a couple of lost hours immediately after work doing other things much further up the priority list than my date with the couch, and felt fine about it till I crash landed in the midst of another midnight in a row. Man! I had this shit wired, not 2 days ago! So I can tell you that What We Do In The Shadows was dandy, for the parts of it I was able to intake. It seemed to me a comfortable B-side to Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive from last year, with the central thesis again being that immortal vampiric life might seem all well and good, but the actual doing of it would likely be an exercise in scarcely-withheld insanity-due-to-boredom. I can’t help but wonder if it wasn’t a bit too on the nose for the Midnight Madness crowd, as subject matter. There was certainly a brightly lit scene at the tail end which, after so much mercurial gloom, nearly made me hiss and claw for the shadows.Read more
Heading into the last turn of TIFF week; it’s all straightaway from here out, after tonight. I finally took myself up on a personal commitment made a decade ago to be intelligent about this thing, and booked myself into a good long massage this morning to iron out a week’s worth of festival seating. The seats at the Ryerson have improved a lot since we moved to the venue in ‘05 but they still do a number on ya if you slouch, as one tends to do at Midnight Madness; especially the ground-floor seats we’ve been gulagged in all week. The recliner chairs at the Scotiamount are insanity on a stick - I spend more muscle strength trying to keep my body in a workable film viewing position than I expend in the average bike marathon. I won’t be in the Elgin this week, or the Winter Garden, and it doesn’t feel like a real festival without them. Another corner of the world taken away.Read more
Does TIFF have a gala problem? We look at the festival’s changing relationship with red carpet premieres and superstar filmmakers as Team Mamo charts a weirder course through international filmmaking waters…