Going to TIFF

TIFF requires planning. First I buy a package of 10 tickets. I read the online movie descriptions and recognize the films I already read about, or directors I like or themes that interest me. Then I look at the schedule and since I can only take a day or two off work, immediately eliminate the films I can’t see. That leaves me with a finite number of choices, all to be exercised within a one-hour window on a designated date. It’s possible that I will get only some of my choices and then I will be forced to be spontaneous and take a chance on something unknown.

I’m not excited about the festival, because it’s work to get the tickets and even work to see the movies. Everything is preceded by a lineup – picking up the tickets, waiting to be let into the cinema.

The lineups can occasionally be fun. Out of boredom people start talking to each other. Word-of-mouth movie reviews can be as accurate as ones written by film critics. Woody Allen moments straight out of Annie Hall unfold in the TIFF lineup, with erudite (and sometimes pompous) history of cinema commentary for all to hear, whether they want to or not. It’s part of the TIFF experience.

This year my choices seem to fall into categories: Czechoslovakia, adolescents in trouble, moral choice in times of conflict. Not even one comedy, unless fate will intervene.

“Top of the Lake” ended on Saturday. It was a messy ending, inconclusive and not hopeful. Somehow the bad characters managed to elicit a reluctant sympathy from the viewer; they were in as much pain as those they hurt along the way. I hope no season 2 will come along. It would detract from the power of a story that probably wasn’t meant to continue.

I’ve been reading all the tributes to Elmore Leonard. He didn’t like too much filler and used real-life talk, so his characters seemed anchored in a non-literary world (although they are eloquent in their own way). I agree that it fit his stories, but disagree that all great writers must follow his rules of writing. Proust would have failed miserably, and so would Conrad.

“Justified” does Leonard proud. I wonder if Leonard liked Jim Thompson’s pulp fiction? Thompson had a darker vision than Leonard. His stories were American to the core, and yet the best film adaptation of Thompson is French. “Coup de Torchon” (1981) channels so perfectly the cynicism and heartlessness of Thompson’s crooks. Philippe Noiret and Isabelle Huppert don’t miss a beat.

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