September 4, 2009
Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2009 Preview
The week before the opening of the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the longest of the year for the North American cinephile. Imagine getting an e-mail nine days before Christmas with a list of all the gifts you got--but not being able to open any of them yet. Add to the mix a trickle of early reviews for many of these films now playing at festivals in Venice and Telluride--The Road appears to be getting hammered, Life During Wartime is getting a lot of advance praise--and you can turn normally taciturn, middle-aged adults into giddy school boys marking days off their calendars.
Beginning this Thursday, I will be posting dispatches from North America's largest and most prestigious film festival. A strong festival showing can make or break an independent film--Bella rode the coattails of the People's Choice Award to a wider distribution than it might otherwise have received--or position a studio film as an Oscar favorite. (Last year's People's Choice Award winner was a little film called Slumdog Millionaire).
Here are the three films I'm most looking forward to seeing at this year's festival:Vision--Margarethe von Trotta
DVD of von Trotta's The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum or her 2003 film, Rosenstrasse. Both are available from Netflix.
Air Doll--Hirokazu Kore-eda
The description makes this sound like a Japanese remake of Lars and the Real Girl, and the subject matter may well put off more conservative viewers. Kore-eda has earned the benefit of the doubt from me, however. His Still Walking was one of the gems of last year's festival, and Maborosi is an an emotionally rich story of grief and loss. Not familiar with Kore-eda's work? Try Nobody Knows. This 2005 gem is about four children left to fend for themselves in a Tokyo apartment. It is one of the most accessible of Kore-eda's films.
Of course, the joy of a festival this size is that there is almost always a surprise--the film you weren't planning on seeing but caught at the last moment based on buzz you heard in a line or at a restaurant. Last year, for me, that film was Martin Provost's art biopic Seraphine. The year before, strong word of mouth from a first day screening convinced me to do a ticket exchange to see Vincent Paronnaud's animated rendition of Marjane Satrapi's Persepolis, and it is now one of my favorite films. The year before that, Amir Bar-Lev's incredible documentary My Kid Could Paint That seemed to come out of nowhere to captivate me.
What will this year's joyous discovery be? Check back here beginning September 10th for daily reports. You'll know as soon as I do.
Guest blogger Kenneth R. Morefield, an English prof at Campbell University, is writing about the Toronto International Film Festival for CT Movies.