In Berlin, by the wall, you were 5′ 10″ tall

Towards the end of a rambling introduction to the North American premiere of his film late Tuesday night, director Julian Schnabel said he wanted to introduce his friend Lou. “Lou, stand up.”

Lou Fucking Reed. In the audience. Now, there was something I’d not counted on! In fact, just a few minutes earlier, I had been pondering the idea… and had decided that hell would likely freeze over before Lou Reed would sit in a movie theatre audience and watch himself perform onstage onscreen. Shows you what I know, eh?

Let me admit right up front that Berlin has never been one of my favourite Lou Reed albums. I know, I know… that makes me a heathen. I agree. But, damn, it’s just so full of anger and sadness and loss… and drugs… and violence… and death. And, (again) honestly, I have just never really been into “concept” albums. They strike me as hopelessly cornball.

Nevertheless, I must say I loved the experience of watching this album being performed onstage in this film. It really turned me upside down in my opinion of the record. The arrangements were lush, the musicians looked like they were really enjoying themselves (even Lou cracked a smile or two!), the set (designed by Schnabel, himself) was dreamy and mysterious, and he used snippets of what were meant to feel like home movies of “Caroline”–shot by his daughter, Lola. And I’d never heard of this guy before, but backing vocalist Antony has an incredible voice and does a fabulous job on one of the encores in duet with Lou. I just wish the performance were longer–I’d’ve happily sat there for another coupla hours.

I’m told by a friend who saw it that Schabel’s other film at TIFF07, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (for which he was awarded the Best Director award at Cannes earlier this year), is quite brilliant.

→ originally published 2007-09-13

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TIFF decisions

Okay, well, once the TIFF schedule came out, I took some time to go through it and figure out when would be the best time for me to go… It’s a much more expensive venture than going to Hot Docs (which I attended in its entirety), so I figured I’d look for the two- or three-day span that contained the highest number of screenings of the films at the top of my wish list.

I settled on September 10-12, inclusive.

Booked the same hotel I stayed in last year–the inconvenient and somewhat dumpy Days Inn in The Beaches–because it was too late to get anything downtown without offering up an arm or a leg for whatever handful of rooms might still be available. And I will need both arms and both legs for the upcoming half-marathon, so… The Beaches it is.

Happily, I was able to buy tickets to a bunch of screenings online at the TIFF website. So I have tickets for Diary of the Dead (George Romero’s new zombie film–and I can just hear your moans of jealousy all the way up here, ZombieKillah!),
This one's just eating your heart out, isn't it, Zeke?

as well as Stuck (Stuart Gordon), Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog), Lou Reed’s Berlin (Julian Schnabel), and Man From Plains (Jonathan Demme). I do have time to see some others but I will play that by ear because I’d also like to see some friends while I’m in town.

It’s a drag, but neither of the Joy Division films are screening over those days. So I will miss out on them. *update* Pete Howell has a good interview with Control‘s director Anton Corbijn and star Sam Riley here.

Now, I’m going to try to update this thing as I go along, but I can’t make any promises. If I can nip into some internet cafés between screenings like I did last year, I will.

BTW, that “Chasing the Buzz” feature at the Star got referenced at the TIFF site in the very cool Midnight Madness blog. The Romero and Gordon films I’m seeing are part of the MM programme, but Stuck is the only actual midnight screening I’m attending. The Diary of the Dead midnight screening is tonight. I’m seeing it Monday afternoon.

And, thanks to the MM blog, here’s the first glimpse of a new documentary about The Master!

→ originally published 2007-09-08

Chasing the buzz

Clearly illustrating how true it is that it ain’t whatcha know but, rather, whoya know, I was invited to take part in a survey of what we most wanna see at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. What was the criteria for being invited to participate? Something about being buff. Or mebbe it was something about being a film buff. Or someat like that. But the rules! Oy, the rules! They were cruel: I could name only three films and I could justify each choice with only one sentence. Ye gods.

But, hereabouts, my rules rule. So here’s a little further elucidation…

Stuck, dir. Stuart Gordon

I haven’t seen all of Stuart Gordon’s films but I have really liked every one I have seen (Re-Animator, From Beyond, Dagon, Castle Freak, King of the Ants, and Edmond).

Stuck is based on a true story that I can remember being all over the news a few years ago. In Texas, an intoxicated woman struck a man with her car and he flew up over the hood and lodged in her windshield. Did she call 911? No. Did she drive to the hospital? No. Instead, she drove all the way home with him like that, pulled into her garage and closed the door and then went in the house and left the poor guy to die a slow painful death overnight—ignoring his cries for help that she could hear from inside her house. Then she dumped the body. Isn’t that sweet? A girl you’d like to take home to meet Mom, eh?

Anyhow, throughout his filmmography, you will find that Stuart Gordon has a deft hand when it comes to finding the blacker-than-black comic side of a gruesome story. His films are what you could call transgressive–just a step beyond where other filmmakers might draw the line, y’know?

Making a smartass remark about head would be too easy, don't you think?
(Like, oh, say, a sex scene between a nubile young thang and Dr. Hill’s re-animated decapitated head.)

That approach and tone is what I like best about his work. I don’t know if he takes that kind of off-kilter funny/weird/awful tack with this film, but I am sure anxious to see!   Continue reading