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TIFF 2019

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It's a definite sign that I'm ready for this muggy Tennessee summer to end, that I'm checking the TIFF website daily for any news (none yet, naturally).

So, who's going?  Jessica and I will be there for its entirety.

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I didn't go last year just because I was suffering some post-tenure burnout, and I missed it less than I thought I would. (Partly because of the inaugural Filmfest 919 in Chapel Hill and better access to FYC screeners). Due to budget cuts at work, I didn't put in to go this year, though I think I will return at some point. Just such a hard time of the year for me since my university starts classes the end of August.

I will miss seeing you and Jessica though. 

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7 hours ago, kenmorefield said:

I didn't go last year just because I was suffering some post-tenure burnout, and I missed it less than I thought I would. (Partly because of the inaugural Filmfest 919 in Chapel Hill and better access to FYC screeners). Due to budget cuts at work, I didn't put in to go this year, though I think I will return at some point. Just such a hard time of the year for me since my university starts classes the end of August.

I will miss seeing you and Jessica though. 

I'm sorry to read this, but I certainly understand the timing issue for you.  I'm glad we have Full Frame to catch up in person at least once yearly.

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I'll be there for a few days. I'm teaching my first Cinema Studies course at UT this fall, so my plan is to fly up on Wednesday, skip my Thursday class, and then fly back on Tuesday in time to teach that afternoon. I have to admit that the TIFF thrill is finally -- after 15 years! -- starting to fade for me a bit. I'll be able to watch films for five full days, including all of the Wavelengths shorts programs, pick up some interviews, see a bunch of friends, and eat a couple good meals. I'm usually ready to leave on Tuesday morning anyway, so this should work out well.

With the short TIFF trip, I figure I can also justify going up to New York for more of Projections during NYFF. My course is on film criticism, so the department head is encouraging me to go to fests. My boss at my day job is also supportive. I'm really grateful for the opportunity.

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I might be in for a film or two. University starts here the week after Labour Day, so it's a tough time, but I might pop in on the weekend to catch something. My teaching schedule is Mondays and Wednesdays this fall, so I can conceivably make a Friday screening on first weekend.

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Well, Anders and Darren, maybe our paths will cross in Toronto this year.  This will "only" be my fifth TIFF - and including Full Frame in April, my ninth film fest overall - so I still get that Christmas Eve feeling as each festival approaches.  Glad to see that TIFF will start making film announcements next Tuesday.  

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With the Wavelengths and Masters lineups announced today, this is shaping up to be a really strong year. My only major disappointment is that it looks like Kelly Reichardt's new film will premiere at Telluride and then skip TIFF before screening at NYFF. I'd also heard rumors of a new Tsai Ming-liang feature that didn't make the lineup, apparently. I wonder if I'll be able to squeeze in 30 films in five days? :)

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Here's my schedule for TIFF, with 3 premieres that I'm going to try for in parentheses:

Thurs 9/5:

- The Climb (Covino)

- The Personal History of David Copperfield (Iannucci)

Fri 9/6:

- Varda by Agnes (Varda)

(Pain and Glory - Almodovar)

Sat 9/7

- How to Build a Girl (Giedroyc)

- Citizen K (Gibney)

Sun 9/8

- The Perfect Candidate (al-Mansour)

- While at War (Amenabar)

Mon 9/9

- La Belle Epoque (Bedos)

- The Truth (Kore-eda)

Tues 9/10

- Synonyms (Lapid)

- (Motherless Brooklyn - Norton)

Wed 9/11

- Sanctuary (Longoria)

- Zombi Child (Bonello)

Thurs 9/12

- Les Miserables (Ly)

- The Cordillera of Dreams (Guzman)

(Western Stars - Zimny and Springsteen)

Fri 9/13

- The Cave (Fayyad)

- Wet Season (Chen)

Sat 9/14

- Atlantics (Diop)

- Beanpole (Balagov)

 

I'm quite pleased with the selection of films this year: a nice mix of new films from beloved directors, actors I enjoy seeing in most anything, films with good buzz from other festivals, and subject matter that stoked my curiosity.  Anders and Darren, I hope our paths can cross at some point.

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Looking forward to your report on the new Koreeda. Say hello to Jessica for me!

 

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Here's the latest draft of my schedule. I only get to watch films for five days, so I'm cramming in as many as possible.

9/5
- Endless Night (Enciso) or A Hidden Life (Malick)
- Atlantics (Diop)
- I Was at Home, But (Schanelec)
- Zombie Child (Bonello)

- Bacarau (Mendonca)

9/6
- INTERVIEW or Guest of Honor (Egoyan) or Short Cuts 1 (including Lanthimos)

- Proxima (Winocour)
- The Whistlers (Porumboiu)
- Three Summers (Kogut)
- Wavelengths 1
- Vitalina Varela (Costa)

9/7
- INTERVIEW or Cunningham (Kovgan)

- The Traitor (Bellocchio)
- Workforce (Zonana)
- Seven Years in May (Uchôa) / My Skin, Luminous (Rodríguez, Pereda)
- Wavelengths 2
- Krabi, 2562 (Suwichakornpong, Rivers)

9/8
- INTERVIEW or The Burnt Orange Heresy (Capotondi)
- Martin Eden (Marcello)

- Lina from Lima (González) or The Audition (Weisse)
- INTERVIEW?
- Liberte (Serra)

- Wavelengths 3

9/9
- The Moneychanger (Veiroj)
- Ema (Larraín)
- State Funeral (Loznitsa)

- Wavelengths 4
- Wet Season (Chen)
cleardot.gif
 

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Nice.  Some overlap with our selections, but on different days, alas; so it looks like any encounters we have will be random as usual.  I would've loved to see Bacurau, The Whistlers, Ema, Liberte, and State Funeral as well, but so many great choices this year.

Happy to report I did get tickets to Springsteen, Almodovar, and Motherless Brooklyn, thanks to the TIFF members' ticket pre-sale - for a regular attender who doesn't have press credentials, a yearly TIFF membership is definitely the way to go.

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So, how was TIFF for you, Darren?  And Anders, were you able to catch any films?

Aside from Jessica having the gall to come down with walking pneumonia - and thus we got our first taste of Canadian healthcare - we had a splendid festival.  We missed Koreeda's latest, due to spending an afternoon in a walk-in clinic, but we still managed to see 21 films in 10 days.  My favorite films were Lapid's Synonyms (second 5-star review of the year), The Cave, Zombi Child, Pain and Glory, and La Belle Epoque; but I also highly recommend Hearts and Bones, Les Miserables, and Beanpole.  The two disappointments were Wet Season (a big letdown after Ilo Ilo) and Atlantics (which I pretty much hated).

Take home lessons after 6 years of TIFF:

- no more premieres at Roy Thompson - totally shitty movie venue

- cram in more films for the first half, before all the directors and actors go home (I should've figured this out after 2-3 years, but I'm a slow learner)

- TIFF membership is totally worth it, for earlier access to tix in general, as well as premiere tickets specifically

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Sorry to hear about Jessica's pneumonia. It just occurred to me that, aside from a cold one year and an occasional bout of anxiety/panic (usually brought on by exhaustion and the stress of interviews), I've never dealt with any health issues in all of my years of attending fests. On top of the pain of the sickness, that must've been incredibly frustrating!

I saw 25 films/programs during my five days at the fest. Of the 16 TIFFs I've attended, this was the worst lineup yet. It's such a huge program, so I'm always hesitant to make generalizations based on 10% of what screened, but that seemed to be the general consensus among critics too. A few friends had already seen most of the top-line stuff at Berlin, Cannes, and Locarno, so their TIFF was especially bleak.

I realized this year how much I crave a "wow" experience at a fest, because I didn't get one this time. Even the Wavelengths shorts program, which is usually the highlight of my film year, only included two or three pieces that really worked for me. I still need to catch up with a couple noteworthy TIFF films -- Synonyms, Parasite, Marriage Story, Uncut Gems, Portrait of a Lady on Fire -- and maybe one of those will give me that "wow" I'm chasing. Or maybe one of the films that didn't play TIFF -- Reichardt, Desplechin, the Dardennes -- will be my film of 2019.

As it stands, I didn't give any feature at TIFF a rating higher than a 4. My favorites were I Was at Home, But (Schanelec), Liberte (Serra), The Traitor (Bellocchio), and, the most pleasant surprise to me, A Hidden Life. I thought I was done with Malick, but this one complicates my sense of his spiritual project. I mean, I was even disappointed by Pedro Costa! And Atlantics was a big disappointment too. I love Mati Diop's short films, but the feature just doesn't work. I feel like there might a good film in there somewhere but it was lost in the edit. Most scenes don't work. The shape of the entire film doesn't work. I'd be curious to hear the inside story of what kind of pressures she felt to make it a more conventional, Netflix-friendly film. I wonder, even, if the cut was rushed to meet the Cannes deadline. She spent a decade trying to get a feature made, so I hate that the result feels compromised in some way. The good news (at least for me, as a believer in her talent) is that she won some awards and got distribution from Netflix, so hopefully it'll be easier for her to finance the next project.

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2 hours ago, Darren H said:

I'd be curious to hear the inside story of what kind of pressures she felt to make it a more conventional, Netflix-friendly film. I wonder, even, if the cut was rushed to meet the Cannes deadline.

Was there any indication that the edit you saw at TIFF differed from the film shown at Cannes, especially following its acquisition by Netflix?

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3 hours ago, Darren H said:

I realized this year how much I crave a "wow" experience at a fest, because I didn't get one this time. Even the Wavelengths shorts program, which is usually the highlight of my film year, only included two or three pieces that really worked for me. I still need to catch up with a couple noteworthy TIFF films -- Synonyms, Parasite, Marriage Story, Uncut Gems, Portrait of a Lady on Fire -- and maybe one of those will give me that "wow" I'm chasing. Or maybe one of the films that didn't play TIFF -- Reichardt, Desplechin, the Dardennes -- will be my film of 2019.

As it stands, I didn't give any feature at TIFF a rating higher than a 4. My favorites were I Was at Home, But (Schanelec), Liberte (Serra), The Traitor (Bellocchio), and, the most pleasant surprise to me, A Hidden Life.

I'm sorry it was a disappointing year at TIFF for you.  I half- or three-quarters expect you'll find that wow experience you're craving with Synonyms - it definitely blew Jessica's and my socks off, and the audience seemed fully onboard with the director's project.  It only added to our fascination to learn that it is largely autobiographical.

I would've loved to see Portrait of a Lady, but I couldn't fit it in our schedule; same with Serra's latest, since I loved Death of Louis XIV.

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Was there any indication that the edit you saw at TIFF differed from the film shown at Cannes, especially following its acquisition by Netflix?

No. Sorry to have implied that in my earlier post. Diop's short films are all quite unconventional--experimental, even. They're also very small productions. Financing is so hard to come by these days, and public funding organizations typically require completed scripts before lending their support, so there's a push for convention in the process itself. This is all speculation on my part, but I feel like there's a tension in Atlantics between the storytelling and Diop's interest in formal invention (a series of beautiful, washed-out shots of the ocean are the only parts of the film that look like her other work).

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That makes sense, Darren. I know some films have gone through edits following their premieres at festivals, and wondered if Atlantics had been one of them (the title seems to have changed a few times). I enjoyed the film more than it sounds like you or Andrew did, but wasn't ready to hail it as a masterpiece like some critics did at Cannes. It's a bold first feature, but I agree with your observation of the the scattered aesthetic—some of the images from the opening scenes are remarkable, from the ocean waves to the giant otherworldly skyscraper, but the film's ending felt strangely conventional to me, as if the visual ideas had run out so we better wrap this narrative up and call it done.

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