#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - Epilogue

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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.

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[4], 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

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - The

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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.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - Shadows

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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.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - Editor

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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.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - Cub

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Wednesday night a repeat of Friday - the rains started around the end of nap time, and persisted. I was reading the Prometheus sequel comic, Fire & Stone (it’s quite good so far), so the LV-223ish gloom was appreciated, and it did better prep this time than last, with my umbrella and waterproof everything. Everyone is bleating about In & Out Burger’s four-hour layover in Toronto tomorrow, so I went to Five Guys and got myself the superior cheeseburger. And they’re here all year round, gang.

Tonight was my double feature of kill-crazy adolescent boys, Goodnight Mommy followed by Cub. I already have a generous terror of boys, having been one myself, and having been bullied by other such ones besides. (Not for a while, don’t worry.) I know what’s going on in there from both sides of the equation, and it’s nothing good.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - [REC]POCALYPSE

It happened tonight, for no special reason - no special reason, and every special reason. That thing inside me that’s been coiled up tight since… well, since the last time we had this conversation - relaxed itself and unfurled like a flag in the breeze. I call it “my soul.”

Something about lifting the girl up. Something about 9/9. Something about defending myself against the dark arts, and the bright lightning of cutting the day cleanly in half - *this*, and then *that.* I’m always asleep when the sun comes up; I’m always asleep when the sun goes down. I walked over to the Ryerson tonight listening to the new U2 album that magically instated itself in my iPhone while I was sleeping. U2 and TIFF, bound together in my heart and mind since that perfect night in ’09, in the midst of that mad, neon-bright week. 2009, the TIFF against which all other TIFFs will forever be judged, and found wanting. That night, when I went to the 360 show unexpectedly and free, then dashed across town to catch Symbol at Midnight Madness. One of the eight best nights of my life.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - Cannon

This is phase 2. Creeping into bed at 3 in the morning and up for work all week at 9. Nap at 5, up again at 8, at the movies 9:30 - 2:00 and becoming deeply into the way Church St. feels between the Ryerson and Queen at 2:30 in the morning. When my head hits that pillow my thoughts are clear and clean and focused on only one thing: the stars, but not those stars.

The head cold is the wild card, and I spent the morning fighting my way out of a medication fugue state while trying to set up testing scenarios in a content management system. I shattered a French press, my fifth. Sometimes I’d just stare at twitter, watching the content flow down my screen like an angry little waterfall - something about Rob Ford taking a subway with nobody on it. I’d dare him $1,000 to come ride the Queen Streetcar at eight in the morning on a weekday sometime, but he’d just claim he’d already done it, and then fart “subways subways subways!” again before walking away.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop the Madness!! - It



I’m leaky, slimy, snotty and gross. Bloody Sunday is the worst day of TIFF - the first day of the real tiredness burn; the day the festival cold really lands; and it’s always the day, inexplicably, when rave reviews for every film you didn’t pick land all at once on the internet. Plus, it’s the night we lose the balcony at the Ryerson for a week. Why you gotta be that way, Sunday?

It Follows must have worked on me on a level of deep unsettlement, because under a full moon with a September chill in the air I more or less flat-out *ran* across the Ryerson quad to get the hell south after the movie, and home. The movie is disturbing to watch in ways having little or nothing to do with its content - turntable cameras like terrible ticking clocks of approaching death; and a pervasive, roaring dread of a seemingly dead world with a few laggard children left in it. But admittedly, as far as content goes, the spectres of various shapes and sizes (frequently nude, and in one notable case, aimlessly pissing on the floor as she walks) that pursue Jay across the film are the kind of nightmare I’ve been forcibly forgetting since I was a teenager. What does the film mean? I, and it, have no idea what to do with a metaphor so potent as a sexually transmitted demon haunting, and if the film was punishing Jaye’s sexuality, or exalting it, or just plain leaving it alone, I am no clearer on its intent. It didn’t feel like a horror film, unless by horror you mean something else - like the itchy suspicion that once you’ve fucked, you’ve started across the river into death. It isn’t a sure thing, but it made me want to get home. Quickly.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop The Madness!! - Tusk

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Film festival horny; and haunting DVD stores like it’s going out of style (which it is, making my decision to do so all the more questionable); and trolling the long corridors between the Ryerson and the Bloor and the Lightbox and back again like an endless march. Wearing head-to-toe mufti; I’m not here to impress anyone. With my hood up I’m a ghost - I blend into the rock wall behind me, invisible to the CHUDs and all the psychotic hangers-on.

When I sent Price my picks a few weeks ago he wrote back a note of congratulations, saying that my far-flung choices had successfully made his rarities and oddments look like the very center of the Hollywood mainstream. Today - Dukhtar, followed by Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere - was the payoff of the decisions I made around what to focus on at #TIFF14. Foreign (Pakistan and Vietnam, respectively), both directed by women, both first-time directors, both films with female protagonists, neither particularly likely to see the silver screen again in this part of the world. The experience of them as films was secondary to the experience of them as objects of contemplation, places to visit, rhythms to feel and languages to hear. The bubbling skitter of Urdu. The bellow of the train through the slums of Hanoi. The stark blue mountains in Pakistan, towards which three people run; and the small mounds of Huyen’s breasts as she realizes she is pregnant, and tries to scrub the encroaching darkness out of her nipples.

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#TIFF14 Blog: Stop The Madness!! - Big

Young Maxwell Price, 14 years old, attended his first Midnight Madness tonight; and Onni Tommila of Rare Exports returned to the fest, also 14 years old. Their voices are deeper, but not all the way to the bottom yet - the last time in a man’s life his voice can still be called “sweet.” Tommila returns with Big Game, the one where the kid finds the President of the United States wandering around Finland, while he’s out on a wilderness adventure. Tommila is the best thing about the movie, which means yes, he is routinely upstaging Samuel L. You Have To Cock It Motherfucker Jackson. I love that kid.

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