Day 4 and already I’m hit with film festival exhaustion. It might sound like an easy thing to do nothing but watch films for several days. I’m here to tell you, nothing could be further from the truth. Films require a kind of mental attention. Watching more than two in a row tires out the mind. Factor in the fact that at a festival as big as TIFF you’re also running all over town, standing in line-ups, getting up early, going to sleep late, and by the end of it you feel like you’re going to collapse.
All that being said, a film festival is a gloriously fun thing. It’s exhausting, but also rewarding. And even when the films themselves aren’t rewarding, the people you meet and hang out with make it all worthwhile. The night before I’d stayed up until 3am finishing off Cloud Atlas so that I’d have read it all before seeing the new film adaptation. It was worth it.
Here’s a film that has sharply divided critics. Well, count me in the pro-Cloud Atlas camp. Okay, so it’s not as good as the book. And hell, it probably could never be. That bar is just too high. The film is still a remarkably ambitious, almost always successful work. It’s got three directors, Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis, as well as an incredible cast who don make-up in order to play multiple roles across six stories told in about 165 minutes. That Cloud Atlas isn’t a total disaster is noteworthy; that it stands as a beautiful, exciting and emotional film is something of a wonder.
Tykwer and the Wachowskis intercut the six stories from the novel, finding the connections between them and fitting them all together. The result is a film deftly controlled for maximum impact. Not every story or story beat works, but they all add up to something grander. Cloud Atlas is a tapestry of human connection through time and story, and the operatic effect of the film matches that perfectly. I love seeing filmmaking like this. Bold, assured, messy, captivating.
From Cloud Atlas it was off to the Lightbox to take in the latest film from documentarian Alex Gibney.
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Gibney is a flashy director. His style doesn’t always sit well with critics, but his approach is clearly populist. He doesn’t want to be a grandstanding filmmaker like Michael Moore, but he still wants regular people to actually watch his films. Mea Maxima Culpa is one that deserves to be watched. Though not quite at the level of Taxi to the Darkside or Client 9, the subject matter in his new film is perhaps more important. It tells the story of one of the earliest known cases of sexual abuse in an American Catholic Church, at a school for deaf children. The film then expands its scope to examine the extend of Church cover-ups in cases of sexual abuse, implicating everyone from the Bishops to Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II.
The approach works. Although I already knew a lot of what Gibney was telling me, specific stories were mostly new to me. Also new was the degree to which Church officials worked to keep everything as quiet as possible. It’s a difficult subject, but an important one, and docs like this are necessary to make clear just how dangerous powerful institutions like the Catholic Church can be when they aren’t held accountable to law or morality.
Getting out of the Gibney doc, I was considering switching the ticket for my next film in favour of seeing the Vanguard selection, Painless. I ended up sticking with the ticket I had and I was not disappointed.
The Deflowering of Eva van End
A Dutch Welcome to the Dollhouse? Awesome. I could leave it at that, but The Deflowering of Eva van End is more than just a knock-off. It’s got that dark comedic style, but it’s also a wonderful little comedy and a bit more hopeful than a Solondz film.
The story follows a normal family that gets shaken up when they take in a German exchange student for two weeks. The German is basically perfect. The nicest, most considerate person on the planet. His perfection throws everything hilariously off balance. Watching the changes the family undergoes is funny, dark and sometimes even touching. I wouldn’t really want to say more about the surprising directions the film takes except that you should do yourself a favour and seek out the film whenever it gets released.
I should have gone home after Eva van End. I was dead tired and had a long day ahead of me coming up, but for some reason I didn’t feel like going home. Instead, I sat myself in the rush line for the Midnight Madness film, Hellbenders.
This film is not good. Simple as that. It starts off with some promise. Sort of a crasser version of Ghostbusters about a team of “hellbound saints” who do exorcisms. Well, within about five minutes the joke is already old and all that’s left is a bevy of annoying characters, boring scenes and terrible special effects. For some reason the film is in 3D, but I’m not sure why.
Though the film wasn’t good, the company was. After the film, I went with Matt Price and another friend of his to grab pancakes at the Golden Griddle, you know, because pancakes always taste best at 2:30 in the morning. A fun time, and certainly worth sitting through Hellbenders to enjoy.