I’ve finally found a moment in my busy film screening shedule to send you some thoughts about the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival, N. America’s most anticipated film event and one that I’ve been attending since 2002, a yer after the infamous installment when most of the industry got standed here after the fall of the World Trade Towers. Thus far the festival, which so often holds the headlines of the local media, has fallen victim to both the elections Stateside (McCain and Palin’s convention speeches were on the toungues of most of the industry) as well as the announcement of an early election here in Canada. With N. American governments entering into a phase of uncertain futures, lets look at how the the industry, also heading into the fall festival season with a bit of uncertainty, is experiencing the festival.
Like our own SIFF, Toronto scaled back this year’s program playing 30% fewer minutes of film than it did in previous a years. I’m not certain if this is because of the tumbling world economy, or because TIFF has been in the process of building their new flagship venue, The Bell Lightbox, scheduled to opne in a few short years. Either way, the festival’s slimmer line-up hasn’t changed much except for fewer screenings.
My festival started out quite well with three consecutive winners; Lisandro Alonso’s LIVERPOOL, Olivier Assayas’ HEURE D’ETE, and Claire Denis’ 35 SHOTS. Assayas’ latest is a departure from his more recent fare, and many around the festival are pleased with the results. Many have called it is a breath of fresh air, if only because it is grounded in an old age: that of objects, and the memories and history kept in them. Which seems to be a theme amongst some of the veteran directors of the festival.
Take for example Agnes Varda’s LES PLAGES D’AGNES, in which the lone female voice of the French New Wave takes a gentle look at her own life as she celebrates her 80th birthday. This is a charming, good humored film which uses reconstructions of events in her life, old photographs and excerpts from both her and her late husband Jacques Demy’s films to reminice about her past and cinemas place in it. Or for example Terence Davies’ gently melancholic visual poem to Davies early home Liverpool, a film which is much about the director’s own nostalgic musings of his youth as it is about the sadness of change and loss experienced by the city during its transformation into a modern port. One could also turn to Arnaud Desplechin’s Un Conte De Noël, a film about a painful family reunion at Christmas that seethes with animosity from a tragedy that happened years before.
All of these films feel more personal and therefore more authentic then recent entries from these directors. As an audience member watching these films I find myself looking inward, as I’m sure we all do on the eve of the election. Perhaps its the uncertainty of the future that brings these directors to explore its past. My guess is that we’ll only see more work like this in years to come.