TIFF2010, Day 4 films

STATE OF VIOLENCE South Africa 3 cats - A leading businessman trying to put his violent past behind him outwardly but without any internal change, learns the devastating consequences of forgetting past sins without repentance.  The film has a great look, and an arresting pace - it's clear there is a confident eye behind the lens, one determined to show all facets of present-day Cape Town.  The newly rich in their gated McMansion tracts and the still poor in their tin shanties in the townships, mind and soul, one obsessed with the future, the other still grappling with the past.  One man's journey, choices, burdens to tell a larger story about a country.  Definitely Shakespearean in mood - I'm thinking Macbeth, Othello. The key here was casting, and while the supporting players were all good, the lead actor was only solid when he needed to be more dynamic.  A great deal hinges on his reactions, and frowning doesn't always equal distress.  That might have been alright, if the plot was not as muddy, but a pivotal flashback was confusing - when was it, whose was it, who were the people in it?  The director was young, engaging and charismatic, definitely someone to keep an eye on.  One interesting thing - as I was walking out in the crowd, I overheard two conversations where people were complaining about the unbelievability of the police not being involved at all during the events of the film ''I mean he was a CEO, no way the cops wouldn't be all over this" type of thing - oy, Western privilege lenses are a bitch and a half to get out, aren't they? These were the comments AFTER the director had been asked a related question, and he answered a) this is a film about one man's perception, in a b)country where the police had always been the enemy.   It wasn't a doc, folks, and even if it was, yes its true in some countries the police and courts do not equal the law of the land necessarily.

HOW TO START YOUR OWN COUNTRY Canada 2.5 cats (doc) Okay, I'm going to admit it right now, sometimes in filmfests you pick a film not so much because it interests you but because it fits your schedule.  Welcome to this year's candidate for that job.  Granted, there were elements that intrigued me - this was the directorial debut of one of Guy Maddin's longtime producers, and he did pick quite the array of folks to talk to about this topic.  Piggybacking off a book of the same name (and using its author as one of the film's recurring talking heads), this is a collection of interviews about a variety of folks who have created their own countries, for various reasons.   Yes, you get your wacky characters, and the film dotes a little bit too much on a couple of them, it felt a bit like we were making fun of dotty old people which didn't sit well.  But then there's Dean Kamen, of all people, talking about his successful feint to get New York off his back about the wind turbine he built on his island off Long Island.  And the section about the Seastead group was pretty interesting - the dude from Paypal has funded research in this foundation trying to create ways to have people living on floating platforms (big, like city block size) on the ocean.   Yeah, there you go, that was about it.

TRIGGER - see my earlier entry

NORWEGIAN WOOD Japan 2.5 cats I saw this with Christine of IFFBoston, who had read the book, and her main comment was 'why the hell did Murakami let him adapt the book?', so lovers of the book, take note.  A teenaged boy in 1960s Japan deals with the aftermath of his best friend's suicide at the end of high school - he goes to Tokyo for college, glad to be away from home's sadness, but a reunion with his friend's girlfriend plunges him back into the ramifications of the tragic event, for both of them.  Meanwhile, he tries to navigate the confusing world around him, notably a lothario friend and an enigmatic girl.  Even though I didn't read the book, it was clear early on that this was a film adaptation of an internal and impressionistic novel - it was beautifully shot, well lit and cast, but the storyline proceeded with fits and starts that ultimately didn't jibe.  I'm fairly certain I could guess at which points the director veered from the novel, or tried to compress elements - unfortunately the seams showed.  And his choices, what to emphasize, what to jettison, weren't terribly successful, I thought.  Shots meant to convey the mood of the protagonist's emotions, or the significance of the moment, just came off as melodramatic and florid.  The voiceover took on too much of the expository burden.  And the music - oy, was it a HUGE distraction.  He picked a mishmash of three styles - period songs, classical heavy on the strings, and this atonal/ambient sort of theme, and again, his choices of when to use which when were poorly made.  I thought the period music was most successfully done, and of course it was the least used of the three - those damn strings were his favorite, sadly.  This was one of my biggest disappointments of the festival, I have to say.






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