Enter the light

A crack pipe for a candle. Still from Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void.

Last year’s TIFF literally changed my life. Since earlier this year, when people ask me “why did you quit your job?”, the real answer is that during one week of TIFF ‘09, some things happened that forced my eyes open on what had gone out of my life; and then a month later, I went somewhere which confirmed my suspicions.

For simplicity’s sake, let’s say “I saw the light.” I was already living a fairly grey, dismal existence, drifting further and further from where/who I wanted to be. I was already having a pretty amazing TIFF ‘09, new worlds open and good times had. And then on a day when sex and death were particularly raw wounds at that particular moment, I saw a film called Enter the Void, about which I’ve written plenty. It’s not necessarily the best movie ever made, though I’d argue it’s somewhere in the top fifty; but such considerations aside, let us say that on a personal level, sex and death and existence collided onscreen in a fusillade of candy-coloured light, in a big wide movie theatre with a big wide screen - and right then and there, all the chords of my mortal life played in unison.

This was not the way things had been, up till that moment. That was September 15, 2009, which was nearly a year ago, but feels like ages more.

So what then? I’d known for a long time that things were not well. Some quality of authenticity was lacking. I knew changes were needed, and I even knew what they were. But something woke up in me that day - an engagement, a connection to the tangible, a little lightsabre of the soul. Enter the Light.

Enter the Void - finger puppet edition.

A couple of days later, I got an email at 8:00 in the morning. It’s Steve - he’s got an extra ticket for U2’s 360 tour, that night. I’d mostly grown out of U2 years ago, didn’t think much of the new album, but free’s free. And again leaving aside all other considerations of time and place - I’d call that a hell of a show, by any man’s yardstick - let it be said that what followed for me at the SkyDome that night was a night-long existential orgasm, and that from my fresh-formed vantage point I was essentially watching Enter the Void: The Stage Show. For what seemed like an infinite moment that night - time and self stretching in all directions around me - I lived in the light. I remember running - yes, running - across town to get from the Dome to the Ryerson to see Symbol after the show was over, and I do recall that every single molecule of me had no mass. I was a beam. I flew.

U2 360 9-17-09.

So now then. The fall continues. The weather gets colder. A month later, I was in Germany. I spent a couple of weeks in Berlin with the woman I love and two good friends. I ate pretzels and drank thick beer; lunch was apfel cake. Nights were spent plunged into thirty dozen artthings and wild jaunts. This happened. On the day after Hallowe’en I was alone, on a train from Germany to Switzerland. I was listening to No Line on the Horizon - good concerts have that way of revealing the music to you - “Magnificent,” I believe - and I pulled out the Black Diary and wrote five or six points by which I will, I believe, live the rest of my life. I wrote a book of law - or better yet, made myself a map. I’ve added to and modified it since. But the work was done. The pipe was in the ground. The light was everywhere.


Out of the darkness, into the light. On the train from Berlin to Schaffhausen.

In Switzerland I stood on the banks of the Rhine and watched the river flow away to Rotterdam, my next stop - and understood, with soul-calming certainty, that the river goes there, and so do I. After Rotterdam I was back in Berlin, and spent the last day there all alone. Girlfriend was in Toronto, and Daniel and Brenda in Venice. I walked from one side of Berlin to the other on a dappled, breezy November day. The city was painted in colour and vision. When my plane left the next day, it flew back over the same track I’d walked, and the city gleamed with golden light. Pathways across the earth, and back home.

Bono in the TRON suit.

About a year ago, then, I got my life damn good and changed. It’s too much to ask that every year, every TIFF, every big grand thing like this, be like that. But boy, I’m sure grateful one of them happened, and that it happened to me.


Being the last post re: the Toronto International Film Festival, 2009.

Total score: 36 out of 30

How it went down: Enter the Void

The non-film experience: U2 360 tour

The ones I’ll remember: Valhalla Rising, Fish Tank, Symbol, The White Stripes Under The Great White Northern Lights, Harry Brown, The Men Who Stare At Goats, The White Ribbon, My Queen Karo, and Herzog x2

#tiff09 in 140 characters, being (at this time) the new art form:

ONG BAK 2: Fighting a dude on top of & under a living elephant is near the batshit craziest thing you can do in a movie or in life itself.

MISFORTUNATES is fun when it’s working but the story feels slim and interconnects badly.

IMAGINARIUM OF DOCTOR PARNASSUS is like mainlining Gilliam. Some story problems and almost indescribably beautiful imagination. Keep making movies, Terry.

PANIQUE AU VILLAGE: I swear the song at the end of PANIQUE AU VILLAGE goes like this: “Saginooganay! Mexico! Saganooganay, Mexico.” Am I tired?


I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND is trivial and mundane. Disappointing.

BEAUTIFUL KATE is pretty tame throughout, but really nails the closer.

MY YEAR WITHOUT SEX: I stayed for about five months.

SYMBOL is the greatest movie ever made about anything. Push the white room baby dick. Goodnight.

TANNER HALL is aimless and pretty. Like teenaged girls. (OUCH!)

MY SON, MY SON, WHAT HAVE YE DONE is terrible, exhilarating, bold and utterly daft. Herzog’s initials should be W.T.F.

LIFE DURING WARTIME didn’t do much for me. Was confused by its intentions.

VENGEANCE is the real Johnny To. Stylish and fun.

BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS: Shoot me again! My soul is still dancing!

ENTER THE VOID is a work of dedicated genius. Best thing I’ve seen. Dozens of walkouts. I want to watch it again right now.

MY QUEEN KARO is a nice little gem, somewhat shapeless but quite smart and observant.

WHEAT: awe-inspiring to look at, coma-inducing to watch.

HARRY BROWN is solid as a sack of bricks. A real firecracker. Immaculately crafted.

BRAN NUE DAE is like a big sloppy wet kiss from a round girl in the hot summer sunshine. Atrocious good fun. Funtrocious!

LOVED ONES: It isn’t Midnight Madness till there’s CHUDs! Loved Ones tore the roof off the place!

ACCIDENT is somewhat clever but entirely airless. Goes in entirely the wrong direction: surveillance is boring to watch!

WARRIOR & THE WOLF: what exactly am I supposed to feel about a “hero” who rapes someone that many times?

VALHALLA RISING is slow and powerful like a lava river.

MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS: “Now, more than ever, we need the Jedi.” MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS rules.

THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED is terrific. Don’t let anyone tell you a fucking word about it. Except “terrific.”

WHITE RIBBON is challenging, satisfying, a little too distant. Respect it more than enjoy it.

THE HOLE: Up till we were kicked out, I’d happily call THE HOLE the best family adventure since GOONIES. I wanna see the end!

FISH TANK: When a movie works at TIFF, it crackles. You know it instantly. FISH TANK crackles.

DOGTOOTH is obtuse, languid, and, of course, incestuous. The kind of foreign film that puts first-timers off the film fest for life.

JENNIFER’S BODY feels a draft shy of figuring out exactly what it’s trying to do.

AN EDUCATION is nicely accomplished and quite sweet. And Carey Mulligan is absolutely fantastic.


I profoundly regret ever having to do anything other than this.

- M

Mamo #151: Zemamo no go

We wrap up on the Toronto Film fest, discuss the business end of a screening at the Elgin, and provide the highest quality in depth analysis ever given from a bench in the mall. Plus we parse the…

Review: Ong Bak 2

Fighting another dude on top of, and under, a living pachyderm certainly must count somewhere near the top of the ten batshit craziest things you could possibly do in a movie, or in life itself.

Review: The Misfortunates

The story as a whole, however, feels slim. There are framing sequences in the present day with Gunther looking back on his boyhood, but the two timelines connect awkwardly.

Review: Panique au village!

Although the majority of the characters in the town have regular names, the lead characters are Cowboy, Indian, and Horse. I love simplicity.

The fall

Time has stopped. That’s the only explanation. That’s the only way to account for why it’s only 11 minutes past ten o’clock and I’ve already been at work for a billion and a half hours.

I am surreptitiously rounding up the last of my TIFF musings, which have hit a bit of a lull in the wake of the massive peaks of the week preceding. I think I had an awareness of this at the time, but it wasn’t till sometime around 4 a.m. today that I twigged in its conclusion to having just experienced one of the best weeks of my life.

The 360 tour. The White Stripes at the Elgin. The birthday. The nearly unmatched quality of the festival. Valhalla Rising. Herzog, and Herzog. And a movie which isn’t just the best film I saw at TIFF, but actually one of the best films I have ever seen. Last week was a perfect storm of all the available awesome, and its eye was 155 minutes of sublime experiential candy called Enter the Void.

Now back in my dungeon and decidedly surly about it. It is time for the blowing of bridges. I’m loud - and getting louder.

Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

There is no way around it, and ultimately, Parnassus makes good use of it: the context around the actor supercharges the text. Ledger was last seen dangling from the Gotham City skyline before disappearing into the wind like smoke; when we meet him here, he is still dangling, but now dead.

Review: The White Stripes Under The Great White Northern Lights

The White Stripes Under The Great White Northern Lights is the real deal. A rock documentary that roars, and soars.

Under the great white northern lights

The White Stripes Under The Great White Northern Lights is the real deal. A rock documentary that roars, and soars. It rescued my rather irritating day yesterday, and ushered in my birthday with a one-two rock n’ roll punch: U2 on Thursday and White Stripes on Friday? I’m doing something right.

The concert footage is terrific, and the film builds nicely on the musings of It Might Get Loud to create pathways to better art. Jack and Meg sat in the balcony at the Elgin with the rest of us. I’m going to remember this week for a long, long time.