#TIFF10, Day Seven: Practical mathematics

Me taking a photo of Roger Ebert taking a photo of Werner Herzog. In 3-D.

In the darkness I clutch my notebook with both hands, as though it were a bible. It is a beautiful little thing. I bought it in Kensington Market, and it is called a “recycled” notebook, which means that they took the cover and blank pages of other book and stitched them together into something that barely holds integrity and has no regularity or form whatsoever. Of course it cost a fortune. I love it. I am writing in it with a pencil, and found after the screening of Deep in the Woods that the nub had broken off in the dark and that all of my notes were ghost writing, invisible, not even impressions in the old, dry card stock.

I am holding my own. Better than holding my own, in fact; I am having a decidedly non-impactful TIFF – no aches and pains, no numb butt (!!) for the first time I think ever, no real psychological wounds, unless you presume that I got it out of the way early with the depression over the weekend. I am just cruising through it; I have the most bizarre urge to cram an IMAX screening of Inception into my day, just because I’m craving it. Yesterday I saw the best film of the festival so far, a good one, an ok one, and a bad one. So it goes.

Catherine Breillat’s film The Sleeping Beauty was not her best, but it was in every way “her.” That is a dear thing to me. It is a dear thing to see her come to TIFF with her films - she is a tough-assed old broad. She had a stroke and it only made her tougher. Between Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard I prefer Bluebeard; Sleeping Beauty loses its way in the middle when - of course - the lead character is losing her way. Breillat is working in high representational mode now, making films that are not even remotely supposed to seem “real” or even particularly well-crafted. If the abutment near the antique cottage where Anastasia will spend a happy summer has “JOY DIVISION” spray-painted on it, so what? Verisimilitude has little to do with the themes Breillat is probing here, and if The Sleeping Beauty is not a success, it is happy to live among the equally-valuable pantheon of the director’s fascinating failures.

When it comes to reviewing films, I am becoming gun-shy. When the kid from Australia who made Blame - who will become a good director, I am absolutely certain - gets up on stage in his little black suit, I have no urge to be the person who goes on Twitter immediately after the film is over and says that the film is no good. It is an object lesson in why I am reluctant to review films: there but for the grace, etc.

Take Repeaters, a Canadian film by Carl Bessai. It isn’t a bad film; it doesn’t quite pass for “good,” either. It bears tangential similarities to a script I have been nursing for a couple of years, and for all I know, were I to complete and film that script, my product would bear all the challenges of Repeaters. Who am I to say otherwise? I think one of my favourite things that has ever been said about filmmaking was said by Kevin Reynolds, the director of Waterworld. (Yes, I know.) Speaking of directing a film on water, he said it was like trying to hold 10 marbles on top of a beach ball. I think this extends to all filmmaking, water-bound or no. I look at the finely-executed perfection of The Black Swan, and I see a master working at an unparalleled level of control of craft. But even there, I am sure the film bears the serendipities of a thousand happy accidents and the scars of a thousand failed efforts. So it goes.

And so, we come around to the question of You Are Here, the feature film debut by my dear friend Daniel Cockburn, which is premiering at the festival tonight. You Are Here is one of the reasons I wanted to do more blogging, less reviewing, at this film festival. I of course cannot review the film per se, as I might as well attempt to review Daniel’s left foot. (“It’s a strange thing, with many surprises.”) I can share my experience of the thing, though, and the enormous pride (and amazement) I feel upon looking at it, where four years ago there was just a dusty, marked-up second draft of the script on Daniel’s old apartment’s kitchen table. It was a long time ago, it was yesterday, it is just one of the ways we have to mark the date and time, put a tent-pin down HERE and say that yes, we got here. We are all passing along this time-stream together, some faster, some slower, some with deeper thoughts in our heads and whole universes slowly collecting mass inside our minds. So it goes.

You Are Here, indeed. We all are. I do love this city in which I live, where all these thoughts are possible.

The bones of the thing - Nathan Phillips Square. Oh, you Toronto!