The most persistent feeling one has at a big event like the Toronto International Film Festival (otherwise known as TIFF) -- other than the feeling of exhaustion -- is that you're somehow running behind.
Running behind, as in being late for a film, which you frequently are. Your last screening started late (to be fair, TIFF's press screenings nearly always start on time but some of the big galas take forever to get under way), putting you behind schedule; or you just missed the subway to get from one end of Yonge Street to the other; or you paused to actually eat something other than popcorn or high-priced coffee drinks. Or you took a much needed bathroom break. And you arrive to find that the line for your film snakes around multiple stanchions and it's touch-and-go as to whether you get in.
Or, more commonly, running behind, as in: It is physically impossible to see all the films you want to see in the amount of time you have at the festival. Whether it's three days (my abbreviated stay this year) or the entire 10 days that the festival runs: You always have the feeling that, somewhere, there's a movie showing that you want to see and you're not there.
Which, of course, is true. And always will be. Get over it.
Personal obligations kept me from heading to TIFF 2010 until yesterday. I took a serious pause when I started booking my stay online and realized that I was traveling to Toronto from New York on the ninth anniversary of 9/11. Then I shook it off and finalized the arrangements.
(For me and many film critics I know, 9/11 will forever be associated with TIFF because that's where we were on that morning in 2001. The only movie I remember from that festival -- though there undoubtedly were many to which I'd say, "Oh, I saw that there" -- was Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding. Because TIFF always starts the Thursday after the American holiday of Labor Day, it inevitably coincides with the 9/11 anniversary at some point in the week.)
But I arrived in Toronto this year with that feeling -- "I've missed so much already" -- and then put it out of my mind and plunged in, literally dropping my bag in my hotel room, picking up my festival credential at press headquarters and then walking over to the Scotia Bank multiplex where the bulk of the press screenings take place. The plane landed at 9 a.m. (a half-hour early!) and I was sitting in a movie - Let Me In, the remake of the marvelous Swedish vampire movie, Let the Right One In - when the lights went down at noon.
By the end of the day, I'd seen four films -- Clint Eastwood's Hereafter, about which I'm apparently forbidden to say that I liked it until tomorrow; the British comedy-drama Made in Dagenham, starring Sally Hawkins; and Client-9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, a new Alex Gibney documentary.
On the other hand, between films I saw at Sundance in January and films that were screened in New York prior to Toronto, I had seen almost another dozen titles prior to arriving, including Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Ben Affleck's The Town, Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe and a handful more.
So: am I behind? It still feels like it, but it always does. Meanwhile, here's a quick look at the films I saw Saturday:
"Let Me In": I've already heard some critics complain that this remake of the 2008 Swedish film - which stars young actors Kodi Smit-McPhee ("The Road") and Chloe Moretz ("Kickass") - was a shot-for-shot remake, which it isn't. What writer-director Matt Reeves has transferred from the Swedish to American versions is the sense of patience that Tomas Alfredson brought to the original film. Make no mistake: This is a vampire movie, with moments of brutal, bloody violence. But, in a sense, the most frightening things in this movie are the bullies who threaten young Owen, the friendless boy at the center of the story, and not the blood-slurping viciousness of his quiet young friend, Abby, who answers the question about her age with the response, "I'm 12 - more or less." It's haunting and exciting and beautifully rendered.
"Hereafter": Oops, sorry - like I said, I was asked not to comment on this one, which captivated me in a surprising way, until after it has its public screening tonight.
"Made in Dagenham": Played for comedy but with a dramatic theme, this film by Nigel Cole ("Calendar Girls") retells a true story, about a group of female auto workers at the Ford plant in Dagenham, England, in 1968. Initially protesting their being designated by Ford as unskilled workers, they eventually triggered a movement in Great Britain to strike down laws that permitted women to be paid significantly less than men. I'm a big fan of Sally Hawkins since "Happy Go Lucky," and she shows range here as a working-class woman who discovers her voice as a spokesperson for equal pay. Miranda Richardson also shines, as the British secretary of state who takes the women's cause seriously. It's hardly a ground-breaker but it is an audience-pleaser.
"Client-9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer": If Spitzer's downfall - in a prostitution scandal - seems familiar, the dots that filmmaker Alex Gibney connects are not. What's amazing is that he got such old-line financial villains as AIG's Maurice "Hank" Greenberg and Home Depot founder Kenneth Langone, as well as former New York State Senate boss Joseph Bruno, to gloat on camera about their part in bringing Spitzer down. By the end of the film, you'll be seeing Spitzer as a kind of modern-day "Mr. Smith Goes to Albany" - like a Jewish Jimmy Stewart with anger issues and a yen for strange women - in a version of the movie in which Claude Rains wins.
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