In a Nutshell

The Toronto International Film Festival is exactly the right length. After seeing thirty or forty film programs in nine-and-a-half days, I’m always ready for it to end. I hate that it’ll be another year before I get to walk down Yonge Street again, discuss movies over sushi with friends again, and discover so many great new films again, but, for the time being at least, I’m glad to be home. Or, as a friend put it two years ago, “I wish there were more films; thank God there are no more films.”

Rather than knock out capsule reviews, I’ve decided instead to spend some time over the next few weeks writing longer and, hopefully, more thoughtful essays about groups of films. For whatever reason — maybe it was all of the long discussions with friends or the general atmosphere of cinephilia (in every best sense of the word) that pervades Toronto each September — but I’ve finally gotten the itch to be a writer again. I realize now that it’s taken some time and distance to shake off the frustrations and disappointments of my dissertation. But it’s time to get back at it again — to get back to the hard work of processing and analyzing and organizing and scraping out just the right word. It should be fun, and the remarkable lineup at TIFF will give me plenty to work with.

In the meantime here’s a general breakdown of my first impressions. If you have any questions, leave a comment. I already miss all of our post-film chats and am itching to continue them here and elsewhere in the blog-o-sphere.


These will likely end up on my short list of favorite films of the decade:

  • Still Life / Dong (Jia Zhang-ke)
  • Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

Stand Outs

All will be on my Top 10 of 2006:

  • Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako)
  • Climates (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  • Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa)
  • Flandres (Bruno Dumont)
  • Hamaca Paraguaya (Paz Encina)
  • I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone (Tsai Ming-liang)
  • Schuss! (Nicolas Rey)

Strong Recommendations

If TIFF weren’t so strong this year, these would all be Stand Outs:

  • Belle toujours (Manoel de Oliveira)
  • In Between Days (So Yong Kim)
  • Rain Dogs (Ho Yuhang)
  • Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo)
  • Zidane: Un Portrait du XXIe Siècle (Douglas Gordon and Philippe Parreno)

Solid Films

I enjoyed each of these for a variety of reasons and would recommend them all:

  • 12:08 East of Bucharest (Corneliu Porumboiu)
  • Fantasma (Lisandro Alonso)
  • Gambling, Gods, and LSD (Peter Mettler)
  • Grbavica (Jasmila Zbanic)
  • Iran: Une Révolution cinématographique (Nader Takmil Homayoun)
  • Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal)
  • Offside (Jafar Panahi)
  • Prague (Ole Christian Madsen)
  • Summer ’04 (Stefan Krohmer)
  • Summercamp! (Sarha Price and Bradley Beesley)
  • Ten Canoes (Rolf de Heer)

Frustrations and Disappointments

Only two this year. Both are well made and contain some fine moments, but they’re deeply flawed:

  • Day Night Day Night (Julia Loktev)
  • Red Road (Andrea Arnold)


Among my favorites of the Wavelengths shorts were films by: Xavier Lukomski, Cynthia Madansky, Christina Battle, Peter Tscherkassky, Chris Curreri, Jim Jennings, and Nathaniel Dorsky. If anyone’s curious, the new Kiarostami is crap.

Walk Outs

Two were due to scheduling problems; one was due to exhaustion:

  • The Beales of Grey Gardens (Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Ian Markiewicz) — I left after the first hour to go buy a ticket for Still Life, which had just been announced. I did, however, get to see Psychiatry in Russia (1955), Albert Maysles’ first film, which had never before been screened in public.
  • Coeurs (Alain Resnais) — I regret leaving Coeurs at the mid-point, but the two-hour nap I took instead did me a world of good.
  • These Girls (Tahani Rached) — I missed the last twenty-five minutes in order to hustle over to Wavelengths 1.

Skips and Reschedules

I only skipped one film, Drama/Mex (Gerardo Naranjo), and I’m glad I did because, instead, I spent three hours eating sushi, drinking wine, and talking blogs and movies with Girish and Michael. It was one of the high points of the trip. Also, after hearing not-so-good things about Kore-eda’s HANA, I sold my ticket and saw Rain Dogs, which was a really nice find.