Daily Archives: September 9, 2012

Writers – United States – Josh Boone

Again we had the whole cast and the director there for the presentation. Biggest name? Greg Kinnear who is the star in name but is overshadowed not unwillingly but a superb young cast who play his coming of age kids and their first loves. The Chair of the Board of Directors of TIFF introduced the film and clearly was out of place and unsure how to introduce the cast. It was sadly very awkward but still great to see them. The Chair suggested to us that the movie was a hilarious look at relationships as the come apart and come together again. Well… hilarious it’s not, touching, warm and insightful it is. I found myself thinking alternatively that this was a typical melodramatic Hollywood treatment of love lost and won, but the young cast kept it from becoming that and it became very moving for me. So while not hilarious, there is humour and the story is entertaining, well-paced and you really care about all the characters. It’s a film about writers and it is very well written. It will be out this fall and definitely worth a night out. Hey even Stephen King has a cameo.


Le Capital – France – Costa-Gavras

We all know Costa-Gavras right? “Z”, State of Siege”, “Missing” all great left wing (far left wing) brilliant films that highlighted major issues of their time. This year Costa-Gavras has given us his look at the banking crisis and the banking industry in general and it is a brilliantly satirical look too (although not funny at all). It tells the story of a young and ambitious banker who has definite insight into the moral and ethical lines he is crossing as he is promoted CEO of a major European Bank at a critical time in it’s development. He is placed there by manipulative investors who hope to take advantage of his inexperience through greed and seduction. I will not give away the plot but racing back and forth among Paris, Miami, New York, London and Tokyo, it is an exciting and sexy economic thriller if such a thing can exist. It follows many twists and turns right up to the final lines (which are great!!) and the fade to black. No matter what your politics you cannot help but enjoy a master film maker and story teller in action.

Big thrill for me was having the man himself there as well as the lead actor. I have loved his films from when I first saw “Z” in 1969, (yes I am that old!), and I urge you all to hunt them down on DVD and watch just to be entertained and to have your eyes opened. He is a great Director. Enough said.

Le Capital

Thermae Romae – Japan – Hideki Takeuchi

Hmmm…. Thermae Romae? Roman Baths? This is a Japanese film? Yep!

This was a total surprise for me. I saw it at Roy Thompson Hall which was maybe half full but almost entirely of the Toronto Japanese youth. I felt old and very European. The movie is a comedy that is currently one of the most popular films in Japan and the connection between Japan and Rome is that both cultures are very keen on public baths. It is based on a Manga (look it up) novel. Basically a graphic novel as we know them here, that tells the story of a Roman architect ordered by Emperor Hadrian to build a personal bath house for him alone. Lacking confidence in his own ability he is not sure where to start but as fortune has it he accidentally tumbles on a time vortex that takes him to modern Japan. Hilarity ensues as ancient European culture encounters modern Japanese culture. Some of the funniest scenes include our Roman architect and hero encountering modern Japanese plumbing (toilets). Let’s just say the modern Japanese toilet has many features our common household toilets lack. He takes back the ideas he finds to ancient Rome and of course succeeds beyond Hadrian’s and the Roman public’s wildest dreams. There is much more the story and he make multiple trips and there is a love interest in Japan and political challenges in Rome to overcome.

A surprising film and story that is wholly Japanese. Even the Romans are played by leading Japanese actors. The lead in this film is Hiroshi Abe who is a young and handsome heartthrob in Japan. He and the director and many of the cast were there and as he was introduced the Japanese fans (particularly the women) were greatly appreciative. I hope it comes to general release in Canada and if it does I really urge you to see it despite is being all in Japanese but with good subtitles. It is a funny movie that will introduce you to a new cultural experience.

Thermae Romae

Gatekeepers – Israel – Dror Moreh

I love the documentary program at TIFF. There are always some amazing films that may not see the light of general release but challenge us with new perspectives and ideas. This film is no exception. I saw it at the recently renovated Bloor Cinema, home of the Hot Docs Festival. It is a great venue and well worth the visit near Bathurst and Bloor. But enough of that – on to the movie.

It is an series of interviews with the current head of Shin Bet and five of his predecessors. Shin Bet is the successor to the Mossad, the Israeli secret service charged with preventing terrorist attacks within Israel and against Israelis. It is a highly effective agency as Israel has been incredibly successful at preventing attacks against its citizens. These men are stunningly open about what they have done and why and their own moral evaluation of what they do and have done. They are also apolitical, non-ideological and incredibly insightful, self-reflective and intelligent. The interviews are interspersed with video of the outcome of terrorist attacks and targeted strikes against the perpetrators. The film is not all about defence against the PLO, and later Hamas and Hezbollah but also about taking down Israeli conspiracies to kill hundreds of Palestinians and destroy the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

The director was there and stayed for a Q and A after the film. He is a crusader for peace in the Middle East and his film has already had an effect. The men he interviewed were supportive of his efforts. Rather than right-wing ideologues dedicated to the destruction of Israel’s enemies they are much more complex. As one said, “When you have done what I have done, seen what I have seen, — when you leave, your politics are left wing”.

This film may have some international attention. It will feature at the New York City Film Festival later this fall and after that it would be great to see it in general release. See it if you can.


Argo – United States, Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck was there!! I have pictures!! This was at the Elgin Theatre so there was a huge audience and Ben was charming but I do have some complaints. This film is based on the recently released CIA files relating to the rescue of 6 American Diplomats who escaped the US Embassy in Tehran in 1980. Ben was very complimentary to the Canadian audience for the help offered to the diplomats but the film really minimized the courage and risks the Canadians took to save the six Americans. While at the time all credit for the escape went to Canada it was the CIA who ultimately led the escape. Nonetheless the Canadians took them in, arranged the passports and kept them hidden for 79 days at great risk to their own lives. Ben’s film basically gives full credit to the CIA and the Canadians are portrayed as flunkies essentially. Very bad on you Ben but thanks for making an otherwise thrilling movie (fictionalized as it is.) This is Affleck’s third film as a director and the previous one –The Town was amazing. This one is also very good (some say his best) but misrepresenting Canada eats at me I have to admit. Still, I was just as thrilled as the rest of the audience when Ben (who also stars in the movie) rescues his compadres.

One other complaint and one other word of praise: The film does note that the current Iranian government and militant Islamic regime is a direct result of the British and American Secret Services overthrowing a left wing democratic government that had nationalized the oil industry and putting in place the brutal Shah who later was overthrown resulting in the current regime bent on revenge. Nonetheless we are to sympathize (and do) with the US diplomats who are dealing with the sequelae. The film also is really well written and two supporting characters played by Alan Arkin and John Goodman offer some the best comic relief I have ever seen. So… despite my whining about Canada, this will be a big hit when it is released shortly. Leave your Canadian pride behind and go see it if you like thrillers. You can’t miss.