Daily Archives: September 15, 2015

Born to be Blue – Director – Robert Budreau

This movie is brilliant. Maybe the best movie I have seen so far at the festival. Ethan Hawke portrays the legendary jazz trumpeter and singer Chet Baker in a tightly scripted film that covers an early part of his career about his struggles to deal with heroin addiction and the connection between that and his music. It’s a complex story but handled very well. The filming, much of which happened in Sudbury, and the acting are at the highest level. The music is great with Canadian jazz artists doing most of the work although Ethan Hawke apparently did much of the singing and he is very good. Jazz stalwarts like Mike Murley and Terry Clarke back him up and really enhance the movie. Baker rose to stardom at the time of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis but when jazz was still a domain of black musicians in New York. Baker was part of a new style of west coast cool jazz and he sang as well which was not well regarded by the New York artists. A great quote from the film has Ethan Hawke in a kind of soliloquy saying: Hey Dizzy, Miles, there’s a white boy coming from California and he’s gonna eat your lunch.

The biography of Chet Baker is a novel in itself and this film only touches on the early part of his career. His most productive time for playing and recording occurred after the end of this film but we see how he gets to that point and it is a moving story. Going back to Hitchcock and Truffaut, one of Hitchcock’s techniques or skills was to portray feelings and thoughts of the characters in a glance or a look rather than dialogue. In the last scene of this movie, Baker is on stage at Birdland. Playing at Birdland in NYC is the sign he has finally made it back to the top. He struggles however to go on stage and although he has been clean – no heroin for years – he is tempted to use again just to get the confidence he needs to go on. The tension builds and we do not know if he will resort to heroin he has in his dressing room or take the methadone that has kept him clean so long. His fiancée who has helped him stay clean all this time did not come with him to NYC and he felt abandoned by her however she shows up unannounced just as he comes on stage. She has told him she will leave him if he goes back on the drugs and she will know he is using just by his manner when he is high. He comes out, sees her and starts to play My Funny Valentine. He brushes his cheek which is the sign he is using again and she sees it. He continues to play as he watches her take off her engagement ring and walk out. He however has made it back, the heroin helps him play to his full potential while destroying him at the same time. His eyes say it all: goodbye, I’ve made it, I am never going back. Fade to black. Great scene, great ending, great performance.

No release date for this film yet but some critics who have seen it say it is Ethan Hawke’s best performance in film. It is bound to come out and it will be well worth your while to see it.

Into the Forest – Director – Patricia Rozema

This is officially the worst movie I have seen so far at TIFF. I was intrigued by the theme about two sisters in an isolated house in the US northwest when all the electrical power goes out for good all over the world. How will they survive? Some will remember back in 2003 when the entire northeast of the continent lost power for three days. It was survivable but a wee bit scary when you realize how dependent we are on electricity and how fragile it really is. This movie promised to help us understand that but it fails on many levels. I was not overly impressed with the script which was written by the director. The story fails to make any sense on so many levels as to be unbelievable and basically it was really boring. To go back to the Hitchcock film – there was really no suspense. The events were so predictable there was literally no tension in what should have been a very scary or at least anxiety provoking movie.

I think the director was trying to explore how a crisis like this might affect the relationship between two people particularly family members who are caught in a trap from which they really have no way out. The problem is that this scenario was not believable. The film is not science fiction or apocalyptic particularly so it was just too artificial and in the end overly melodramatic. It was also way way too long. We got the point about 30 or 45 minutes in and the rest was denouement. Oh yeah a story generally has a climax and then a denouement but this film has no climax because it really never goes anywhere.

I was also irritated by the fact that no explanation of the power outage was ever given or any sense that the country was at least adapting in some way to the crisis. The result was really a plot and story that was totally unengaging. I should tell you that this movie is well liked by many and has a high rating on IMDb for some reason yet to be made clear to me. So if you like the actors and like the director by all means go but don’t say you weren’t warned.