Anticipating TIFF (2008)

What a week. Yesterday, around 1 pm, our realtor stopped by the house and plunked down a For Sale sign in our front yard. After a four-and-a-half year search, Joanna has finally found us the perfect farm house with enough acreage for her two horses, and so now the game of falling dominoes begins. (Typical story: We can’t buy that place until we sell this one, and we’ll need the buyer — assuming there is a buyer — to give us at least 30 days to get out.) About 40 minutes after the For Sale sign appeared in our yard I accepted a job offer from the Alumni Affairs office at UT, so as of October 1, I’ll be their new Communications Manager. It’s all exciting and bittersweet, but mostly it’s just totally and completely exhausting.

The Toronto International Film Festival is always the most highly anticipated week-and-a-half of my year, but this time around my eagerness to go watch movies, hang out with friends, and wander around a great city is being trumped by the more basic and urgent need for a vacation. I’m deep-down-in-the-bones tired and I can’t wait to get away and be a different version of myself for 11 days. When I got home last year, I told Joanna that Toronto has become my mistress. I’ll stand by that metaphor.

TIFF will be a slightly different experience this year in at least two important ways. First, several friends won’t be making the trip, and their absence, to be perfectly frank, sucks. The boot camp metaphor is old and tired and not perfectly applicable here, but there’s an intensity to the festival experience that fosters friendships of a kind I don’t often experience in my day-to-day life. We’re together all day, every day; we eat together and drink together and spend nearly every minute outside of the theater talking and debating. It’s great fun, and I’m genuinely going to miss the folks who won’t be around.

TIFF will also be different this year because, for the first time, I’ll have a press pass. I’ll be doing my best to fill Dan Sallitt’s shoes, covering the fest for Senses of Cinema. I’m sticking mostly to public screenings but do hope to pick up an interview or two while I’m there. I’m also just curious to snatch a quick peek at the industry side of the fest.

As for the lineup, this is the first time in my five years of attending that I’m disappointed — not necessarily because of what’s showing, much of which should be exceptional, but because of what is missing. Lucrecia Martel’s The Headless Woman was the Cannes film I most wanted to see, and, inexplicably, it wasn’t programmed. Same goes for new films by Philippe Garrel, Abbas Kiarostami, Theo Angelopoulos, Hong Sang-soo, and Ross McElwee. This will also be my first TIFF without a film by Tsai Ming-liang and/or Hou Hsiao-hsien

So, what am I excited about? Claire Denis, first and foremost. I know nothing about 35 Rhums other than that Denis made it with her regular family of collaborators: cinematographer Agnes Godard, writer Jean-Pol Fargeau, and actors Alex Descas and Gregoire Colin. Until proven otherwise, I can only assume it will be the best film I see all year. I’m also incredibly excited to see James Benning’s RR in the Wavelengths program, along with new films by Nathaniel Dorsky, Jim Jennings, Jean-Marie Straub, and Jennifer Reeves. I’m seeing a bunch of the Cannes films and, at the moment at least, am most anticipating Alsonso’s Liverpool and Serra’s Birdsong.

Here’s my schedule. Capsule reviews will hopefully follow in the coming weeks.

Thursday, 9/4

  • Acne (Federico Veiroj)

Friday, 9/5

Saturday, 9/6

Sunday, 9/7

Monday, 9/8

Tuesday, 9/9

Wednesday, 9/10

Thursday, 9/11

Friday, 9/12

Saturday, 9/13