My last full day at the Toronto International Film Festival was a day of hits and misses.
The biggest miss? Showing up at the Scotiabank multiplex early for a press screening of Robert Redford's The Conspirator Monday night, only to be told that said screening had been canceled.
Here, then, was the perfect chance to try to catch a bit of the lightning that only a film festival can offer. Specifically, I took myself to the next available press screening -- an Australian film called Blame -- about which I knew nothing, other than the fact that it was from Australia and it was almost ready to start.
There is so much media about most films these days that you rarely have the opportunity to walk into a movie blind like that. Sometimes you discover a gem, as happened to me when I went to a screening of Catfish (opening next week) at Sundance this year, without a clue as to what I was about to see.
On the other hand, sometimes you get a film like Blame, the movie I saw Monday night, a thriller so formulaic that it could have been a math equation. A music teacher shows up at his remote country home after a week of teaching -- and is suddenly attacked by a group of young people in ski masks and suits. They tie him up and blindfold him, then force-feed him an overdose of sleeping pills -- revenge, apparently, for a crime that eventually is specified. But he doesn't die and things unravel from there. Except you see the twists coming a mile away and the film loses tension -- rather than builds it -- the longer it goes on. It's set in a great-looking house, though.
The day's other disappointment was Submarine, a coming of age tale set in Wales about a teen named Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), who gets his first girlfriend at the same time that he's trying to save his parents' marriage. It's cute, it's occasionally funny in a mildly quirky way - but the writing is never strong enough to save it from comparisons to similar but better films such as Rushmore or Youth in Revolt, which were smarter and cleverer. I'd actually heard good things about Submarine, and so walked out early of a press screening of The Promise, the documentary about Bruce Springsteen making Darkness on the Edge of Town, a decision I came to regret.
The day actually got off to a strong start. I saw what may be the single most fascinating film of this festival: Errol Morris' Tabloid, a wonderfully bizarre documentary...