TIFF ’08 Wrap-Up

On Friday afternoon, I ran into Victor Morton as we were both coming out of a screening of Christian Petzold’s Jerichow. He described the film as “a solid 7”; I wasn’t much capable of describing it at all. (I’m embarrassingly inept at discussing a film immediately after seeing it, and by day 9 of TIFF I’m downright illiterate.) That phrase, though — “a solid 7” — has stuck with me. It’s a fair description, I think, of TIFF ’08, in general. I saw a lot of very good films, a handful of great ones, and at least one masterpiece, James Benning’s RR, which I’ve already blogged. By comparison to past years, though, it was maybe a bit of a disappointment. A solid 7. The Martel and Garrel films would have pushed it to an 8, I bet.

Having a press pass certainly made scheduling much easier and allowed me to pack in more screenings (38) than ever before. It also gave me access to filmmakers, which was good fun. Before the fest I targeted four directors I was especially interested in meeting — Nathaniel Dorsky, Claire Denis, Lisandro Alonso, and Albert Serra — and I was able to spend 30-40 minutes with each of them. My interviews with the latter three, along with more extensive coverage of the fest, will appear in the November issue of Senses of Cinema. The Dorsky I plan to get up much sooner — hopefully before the upcoming retrospective in NYC.

I really dig these photos, which I snapped with my iPhone.

Claire Denis

Albert Serra

Lisandro Alonso

Here’s a quick breakdown of what I saw, more or less in order of preference. I’m never sure how to handle the Wavelengths shorts, so I’ve included several of them that I thought were especially strong and arbitrarily omitted others. Wavelengths was, without question, the highlight of TIFF for me this year. I plan to write about it at length in Senses.

Masterpieces

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

  • RR (James Benning)

Stand Outs

Will be among my favorite films of the year:

  • 35 Rhums (Claire Denis)
  • Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso)
  • Revanche (Gotz Spielmann)
  • Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
  • A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
  • When It Was Blue (Jennifer Reeves)
  • Birdsong (Albert Serra)
  • Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
  • Horizontal Boundaries (Pat O’Neill)
  • Winter and Sarabande (Nathaniel Dorsky)

Strong Recommendations

  • Garden/ing (Eriko Sonoda)
  • Black and White Trypps Number Three and Trypps #5 (Ben Russell)
  • The Beaches of Agnes (Agnes Varda)
  • Salamandra (Pablo Aguero)
  • Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater)
  • Lorna’s Silence (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
  • Public Domain (Jim Jennings)
  • Le Genou d’Artemide (Jean-Marie Straub)
  • Waltz with Bashir (Ari Folman)
  • Nuit de Chien (Werner Schroeter)
  • Hunger (Steve McQueen)
  • Jerichow (Christian Petzold)

Solid Films

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

  • Genova (Michael Winterbottom)
  • Katia’s Sister (Mijke de Jong)
  • Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone)
  • Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim)
  • Blind Loves (Juraj Lehotsky)
  • Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy)

Frustrations and Disappointments

These films are by great auteurs, but they’re flawed or unsatisfying in various ways. Each is more interesting than any film in the “solid” category:

  • 24 City (Jia Zhang-ke)
  • Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
  • Of Time and the City (Terrence Davies)

Duds and Misfires

Had I not been sitting in the middle of a row, I probably would have walked out:

  • PA-RA-DA (Marco Pontecorvo)
  • Four Nights with Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski)
  • Unspoken (Fien Troch)
  • The Country Teacher (Bohdan Slama)
  • Delta (Kornel Mundruczo)

Retrospective

A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear a master filmmaker discuss her first film:

  • La Pointe Courte (Agnes Varda)