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Toronto International Film FestivalóA Thumbnail Sketch

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The partyís over and the stars have gone back home. The Festival has ended and now itís time to take a look back at what happened. This wasnít the best Festival Iíve attended. There seemed to be no overwhelming hits and there seemed to be little agreement among festival goers as to the best films. Personally, I didnít see anything that really blew me away. I saw a number of films that I liked, and I saw a few that I didnít like, but most of the films I watched were just OK. So letís take a quick look at what I did see. I wound up watching about 42 films, which is a few more than last year. Many of these films will be in theatres within a short time. In fact, a couple of them are already in the theatres. Hereís is a rundown of what I saw and a very short statement of what I thought about them. Iíll try to give a more definitive review when they arrive at the theatres.

Recent DVD Releases

Death Defying Acts

is a love story involving Harry Houdini and is set in Scotland. This is one film I really enjoyed, although it was not a great film. Romantics will enjoy it and Catherine Zeta-Jones is always easy on the eyes.

Surfwise

is a documentary about Dorian Paskowitz, a medical doctor and surfing enthusiast, and his wife and nine children. They spent their lives travelling around the United States in a small camper looking for the best spots to surf. It is absolutely fascinating.

Into The Wild

is Sean Pennís latest directorial effort and tells the amazing story of Christopher McCandless, who after graduating from college gives away all his worldly possessions and hits the road to find out what life is really all about.

Persepolis

is an excellent animated film detailing Marjane Satrapisí life as a young Muslim woman growing up in revolutionary Iran and then being sent to a school in Vienna in order to avoid the excesses of the revolution.

The Counterfeiters

is an outstanding German/Austrian co-production about a Jewish counterfeiter, who is shipped out to a concentration camp and is forced to produce bogus British and American currency for the Nazis.

The Bandís Visit

is a wonderful little film that explores the common elements we have as people no matter where we come from. In this instance, a small Egyptian band is invited to Israel to perform and gets stranded in a small town in the desert.

Fugitive Pieces

is an excellent Canadian film that explores the guilt Holocaust survivors feel because they did not perish with their family and friends.

Emotional Arithmetic

is another Canadian film with echoes of survivor guilt after the Holocaust and features a wonderful performance by Susan Sarandon.

The Secrets

is a wonderful Israeli film that looks at discrimination against women in the world of Orthodox Judaism.

Eastern Promises

is a good thriller involving the Russian Mafia in London, England and was directed by David Cronenberg.

When Did You Last See Your Father

features excellent performances by Colin Firth and Jim Broadbent and looks at the relationships between fathers and sons.

Edge of Heaven

travels between Turkey and Germany and tells the story of a mother and daughter and a father and son. Each of their lives is interconnected and each has his or her own story to tell.

Reservation Road

also deals with fathers and sons. In this case, the son of one of the fathers is killed in a hit and run car accident and the driver is haunted by the memory of what he had done.

Across The Universe

features over thirty songs by the Beatles in a rather strange interpretation of the fab fourís music. Some parts work and some parts donít. The story line is kind of lame, but the featured performers have a lot of charisma.

Breakfast With Scot

is an interesting Canadian film about a gay couple who wind up taking in a young boy until the boyís father can return to the country. Heartwarming comedy without the usual stereotypes.

In The Valley of Elah

features Tommy Lee Jones as the father of a young soldier who has just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq and has vanished. Jones begins his own investigation into the unusual circumstances of his sonís disappearance.

Captain Mike Across America

is Michael Mooreís latest documentary. This one deals with the 2004 presidential campaign in the United States and Mooreís attempts to galvanize college students to vote for the Democratic Party.

Michael Clayton

brings George Clooney back to the big screen as the fixer in a big American law firm. Clooney is excellent in this thriller and will certainly be nominated when awards season begins.

Rendition

At one time this film may have been considered somewhat far fetched, by after recent developments, we know that things like this can happen. Reese Witherspoon plays the wife of an Egyptian engineer who is suspected of having ties with a terrorist ring and is secretly detained by U.S. officials and shipped to an Arab country for interrogation.

A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman.

Dorfman was an advisor to Chilean President Salvador Allende when the CIA organized a coup and Dorfman wound up in exile. In this outstanding documentary, Dorfman returns to Chile to visit the places and people who lived the Socialist dream with him.

Dans La Vie

is an interesting French film about the friendship between an old Jewish woman and the Arab woman who comes to care for her.

Then She Found Me

is Helen Huntís first attempt at directing a film and she does very well with this story of a woman attempting to find love and have a child before her biological clock runs out.

The Jane Austen Book Club

is sure to find lots of fans amongst lovers of Jane Austenís novels and those looking for a good chick flick.

Run Fat Boy Run

is a British comedy directed by American David Schwimmer, about a man who panics and leaves his pregnant wife at the alter. A few years later he tries to win his way back into the life of the woman he jilted.

Shake Hands With The Devil

is a good drama about the genocide in Rwanda as seen through the eyes of Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, the head of the United Nations forces stationed in Rwanda at the time. This is a film that will stay with you for a long time after youíve seen it.

Caramel

tells the story of several women who work in a hair salon in Beirut, Lebanon. The setting makes this an interesting film to watch and tends to overcome some of its shortcomings.

The Stone Angel

is based on the Margaret Laurence novel and is a good adaptation of the book. It tells the story of a strong willed woman who in her declining days reminisces about her youth and the decisions she made as a young woman.

The Tracey Fragments

is the latest offering by Canadian director, Bruce McDonald. The film is composed of a series of split screens and visual devices that can be a distraction. In this case, it seems to work most of the time, but not always. You have to see it and make up your own mind about this one.

And Along Came Tourists

tells about a German young man who chooses to do alternative civilian work rather than do compulsory military service. He is sent to work at the Auschwitz concentration camp and is deeply affected by the camp and the town adjoining it.

Honeydripper

is set in the deep South of the 1950s and tells the story of a club owner who is facing bankruptcy unless he can come up with a performer who will draw a substantial crowd. The owner hires a legendary soul guitarist but things donít work out exactly like he plans.

Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who

is an interesting description of the rise of the rock group, The Who, and will interest the millions of their fans, but proves to be an unexceptional documentary.

Young People Fuc-ing.

The title is more titillating than the story, as we watch four or five couples getting it on and learn about the sexual hang ups they all have.

American Venus

was one film I really disliked. It tells about an American woman who gets her kicks from owning and handling guns.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

received a lot of hype from the Cannes festival, but I found it to be somewhat of a yawn. It gives us the full details about the day in the life of a young woman who decides to have an abortion.

Closing The Ring

is a love story between three men and one woman. The woman marries one of them just before he ships out to Britain during World War II. When her husband is killed, she marries his friend, while the third man keeps the fires burning in his heart for her for the rest of his life.

The Man From Plains

is the deification of former United States President Jimmy Carter. This documentary follows Carter on his latest book tour and concentrates almost entirely on Carterís controversial opinions about the Middle East.

Disengagement

is a terrible film by festival favourite Amos Gitai. I will never understand why festival programmers have fallen in love with Gitai. He hasnít made a good film in a long time.

Jellyfish

is an Israeli film about a young girl who comes out of the sea and is taken home by a woman who finds her on the beach. The woman attempts to determine who the child belongs to. This one was a little too artsy for me.

Children of the Sun

is a documentary about the decline of the Israeli kibbutz. It has some great archival film, but I was disappointed because it is too vague and disorganized. I would have liked to know who the narrators were and the time period some of the film was dealing with.

Love Comes Lately

is based on three short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer. With a pedigree like that I was probably expecting too much and I found this film under whelming.

In Bloom

tells the story of a high school girl who survived an incident similar to Columbine. The story goes back and forth in time and it is difficult to get a real grasp on what is actually happening.

The Babysitters

is the fantasy of men going through a midlife crisis. One man begins an affair with his childrenís babysitter and then gets her to provide his friends with other babysitters. In the end, a whole group of teenage girls run their own little prostitution ring in order to earn money for clothes, jewelry and college.