Thursday, August 02, 2007

one degree of separation

I am pleased to be linked to the blogs section of the official TIFF site. If you're new to my blog, navigate at right to see my posts on previous year TIFFs as well.

I have been wanting to do this for a while. I have been wanting to see how many films announced so far at TIFF I could thread together on a one-degree of separation connection. The trick is where to start?

Real to Reel was announced this week. Alongside these films, TIFF did a big media release on Tuesday identifying four programmes now fully slated (they are Canadian Retrospective, Sprockets Family Zone, Wavelengths and Midnight Madness). What they neglected to add is that the scheduling for these programmes is also on view. For some of these, that is nothing new. If, like me, you are a Wavelengths fan (more later), you know that the experimental film screenings always appear early in the media waves and always are screened in the popular first weekend. The venue this year seems to have moved from the arty but cramped Al Green Theatre at the Miles Nadal Community Centre to the Varsity 7. Though they do not say so, I imagine that this is to accommodate the Industry folks interested in those screenings and operating on tight schedules. Too bad. The Wavelengths vibe is a beat of its own and the alternate venue was a great thing. The festival always combines the Wavelengths public and industry screenings and all industry showings are at the Varsity. For those of us who enjoyed getting out for the walk along Bloor Street, this move is sort of sad news, though the Wavelengths programme itself is better than ever! (Stay tuned for a later post profile.)

Sad news? How can I speak of sad news in a week that holds the deaths of both Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni. That is cinematically akin to when Princess Diana and Mother Teresa died in those same memorable days in August ten years ago. Both filmmakers are giants, but Bergman's legacy cannot possibly be imagined: he was for a generation of directors an icon of how to find personal expression without losing depth or cultural value. My first memory on hearing the news was entirely personal. On the orientation day at the American Film Institute where I went to school in Los Angeles in 1983, I discreetly hid my feelings of intimidation from my already networking colleagues and hung out by the refreshment table. There, a lovely bearded older man struck up a conversation with me. He turned out to be Sven Nykvist, Bergman's legendary cinematographer and the school's guest speaker for the day. I wonder how those who helped to make the vision of a genius, respond to a death like this. Nykvist is also gone: he died last year. Cries and Whispers and Fanny Alexander not only had an impact on my impressionable young artist soul, they helped to form it. Sad news indeed.

To get on with the one-degree chain, let's start there with Bergman. One of the most moving testimonials on Bergman this week came from Woody Allen, who said, ""He was a friend and certainly the finest film director of my lifetime." Allen's latest film Cassandra's Dream was announced today as a new Gala. Featuring Ewan MacGregor and Colin Farrell, it is the latest in a series of Allen's movies to be shot entirely in England. It has a darker narrative than usual, but features a score by Philip Glass. Philip Glass is the subject of the newly announced Real to Reel documentary Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts by Australia's Scott Hicks (of Shine fame). The title says it all, reflecting Glass' own signature composition style and causing me to wonder if this will be like a slimmer version of 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould.

And speaking of that film, Francois Girard, its director, has a new film in this year's festival, Silk, which chronicles a 19th century silk merchant voyaging in Japan. The film features Keira Knightley, who is certainly hot this year. She appears also in British director Joe Wright's Atonement, which, like many films, is being screened at Venice before arriving in Toronto.
And now that we're on to Venice (I couldn't resist this pic which has nothing to do with the film festival!), a quick look at the slate for that event (which immediately precedes Toronto so closely that journalists can't even go home and do their laundry), shows already some overlap with TIFF and some titles we might hope to get. Besides Atonement, Venice is premiering TIFF entries In the Valley of Elah (Paul Haggis), Nightwatching (Peter Greenaway), Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy) and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik). Let's hope that Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited and Youssef Chahine's Heya fawda (le Chaos) also cross the Atlantic. These are just the films in competition! Out of competition there is Woody Allen's film mentioned above, and another Wes Anderson film, this time a short, Hotel Chevalier. Venice is also showing out of competition two restored and rarely screened Bertolucci films, La Via del Petrolio and Strategio del ragno. Which causes me to say to that organization one-degree removed from TIFF, "Take note, Cinematheque!" Happy planning!

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