Weather in Toronto is a funny thing. It’s a city with a pretty wide range of climate, and it can often be quite random. For example, while I was nearly dying of heat in line for the American Beauty live read on Thursday, standing in line for Frances Ha on Saturday was a cold, rainy experience. That’s not to say the weather put a damper on the day (it didn’t at all), but it’s one of the factors that makes TIFF a simultaneously fun and frustrating experience. You just never know what you’re going to get day-to-day from the clouds above.
Day 3 was another “take my mom to TIFF” day. Got up reasonably early, ate some breakfast and went down to stand in line outside the Elgin/Winter Garden in the rain. Luckily, we found a spot in line with some cover. Matt Price also showed up at some point, and finally the line let in.
I don’t count myself as a Noah Baumbach fan. The only film of his I really like is The Squid and the Whale. Apparently all he needed was Greta Gerwig to co-write the screenplay. The difference is huge. The director who previously peddled in dark, depressing films has pulled off a film of unending joy. I smiled and laughed through every scene of Frances Ha.
It’s be easy to dismiss Frances Ha as yet another Girls, but where Lena Dunham’s show comes from a very specific perspective and more low-rent approach, Frances Ha delivers something more cinematic. It has almost the feel of a Woody Allen film, with references to his work included. It also feels like it has a full arc, which makes its specificity less of a problem. It shouldn’t be difficult for anyone to identify with Frances’ struggles in the film. Oh, and did I mention it’s consistently hilarious and full of joy? Yeah. Definitely a winner.
After Frances Ha I ran over to the TIFF Bell Lightbox to get in line for one of the biggest films playing the festival, The Master.
Paul Thomas Anderson isn’t the most prolific of directors, with The Master being only his sixth film since 1996. In that time, though, he’s morphed into perhaps the most assured director working today. He simply operates on another level. That isn’t to say he can’t be touched. I still consider No Country for Old Men a better film than There Will Be Blood, but the vision of the latter is undeniable. He’s a director unafraid to push formal technique to bold, operatic levels, and his grasp of how far he can go is clearly limited only by his incredible confidence, both in his own abilities as a director and in the audience’s willingness to go along with him.
The Master is the next step in Anderson’s journey toward being the next Kubrick. It’s a story inspired by Scientology, but it’s not really about Scientology at all. Anderson’s focus is on character, in this case two characters. One is a broken man returned home from the Pacific Theatre, and the other is the leader of a new cult who tries to tame him. They have something of a battle of wills between them, but also a mutual love and respect. What their relationship means is difficult to tell, certainly after only one viewing, but one thing is for sure: I will be seeing this film again, many more times, and hopefully a number of those viewings will be in the beautiful 70mm format for which it was shot.
From The Master I went over to the Eaton Centre to sit down for a coffee and continue reading Cloud Atlas, a book I was determined to finish before its screening the next day. Eventually I made my way back to the Elgin to take in a screening of Something in the Air.
Something in the Air
So far, I’ve loved everything I’ve seen from French director Olivier Assayas. That trend continues with his semi-autobiographical coming-of-age tale, Something in the Air. The film follows a teenager growing up in the early 70s, acting as a young revolutionary with a group of friends. He travels around the world, finds and loses love, attempts to set himself up for the future. It’s essentially about a kid who thinks he has convictions, learning that maybe his focus needs to be on discovering what he really wants out of life.
Assayas’ portrait of this time is mostly unsentimental, and in many ways satirical. The “revolutionary tactics” of these kids are painted almost as well-meaning folly. The director also keeps an interesting distance from his main character, often letting other character project their ideas on him. As he grows and becomes more confident we get a greater insight into his character. It’s a technique that works beautifully. The film also meanders quite a lot, but it’s always engaging. It’s the kind of film that could have just as easily ended thirty minutes earlier or gone on for another two hours and it’d have been just as watchable either way. Such is the world Assayas creates.
After that it was time to head home, finish off Cloud Atlas and get ready for the new day.