July 31, 2007

New Additions to Midnight Madness, Real to Reel, and Vanguard (2007)

A couple big press releases were just posted, announcing new additions to Midnight Madness, Real to Reel, and Vanguard. Included are new films by Van Sant, Herzog, Dario Argento, Miiki, and Lee Kang-sheng.

July 30, 2007

Venice Lineup

Because the more obsessive of us enjoy keeping an eye on other festivals as well, here's the full lineup of this year's Biennale di Venezia. We can assume TIFF will be announcing several of these in the coming weeks. I can't say I'm too excited by many of the new films, though I'd be tempted, obviously, to see the Rohmer, Chabrol, and Oliviera. The only one I'm really crossing my fingers for is Help me Eros by Lee Kang-sheng, the star of Tsai Ming-liang's films.

Can anyone recommend (or warn us against) any of the lesser-known filmmakers in the Venice lineup?

July 27, 2007

Michel Brault (2007)

(by Girish.)

Just a quick note to point out that one of Canadian film history's greatest figures, the director/cinematographer Michel Brault, is being honored with a retrospective at TIFF this year. (For more on Brault, here's a post I did on Quebecois cinema a few months ago.)

Over the years I've seen most of the films in this program, so I thought I'd make some recommendations.

There are at least three unmissables:

-- Chronicle of a Summer (Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin, 1961), the seminal French "Direct Cinema" film on which Brault served as cinematographer, bringing innovations in camera equipment and technique learned from his years at the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

-- Pour la Suite du Monde (Pierre Perrault & Michel Brault, 1963), a documentary about age-old whale-hunting practices in rural Quebec. Probably the single most famous Canadian documentary, and the first Canadian film to compete at Cannes.

-- Les Bons Debarras (Francis Mankiewicz, 1980), a brilliant rural-Gothic mother-daughter drama, is often cited in polls of the best Canadian films ever made. It was shot by Brault and is the "Canadian Open Vault" film at TIFF this year.

In addition, let me recommend Brault's excellent Les Ordres (1974, winner of Best Director at Cannes) and Entre la Mer et L'eau Douce (1967, his first feature, with Genevieve Bujold).

Honestly, after TIFF '07 is over and done, I suspect many of the above films will be among the strongest that end up playing there. Which is why I wanted to make sure I put in a little word for them.

Personally, I'll be looking forward to seeing his shorts, which I've never been able to catch so far.

July 26, 2007

New Additions to Special Presentations (2007)

Eight English-language films were added to Special Presentations today, including new work from a couple of America's most interesting directors, Todd Haynes and Noah Baumbach.

July 25, 2007


The Royal Ontario Museum has recently undergone a fairly radical transformation. On June 2 the museum celebrated the official opening of the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, a multi-million dollar expansion designed by architect Daniel Libeskind. The Crystal is located at the busy intersection of Bloor and Queen's Park and can be seen from blocks away in every direction. In other words, finding the ROM shouldn't be a problem.

What is a problem -- for festival-goers, at least -- is the theater itself, which is an old room on the lower level of the original building. Assuming it hasn't undergone a radical transformation of its own since last September, The ROM is a long and narrow hall with too many seats. Also, it's way too close to passing subway lines. (Films at The ROM come with bonus sound effects.) As with The Elgin, I recommend sitting in the front third of the theater.

I do have one very fond memory from The ROM, though. In 2004, I arrived late to a screening of Chantal Akerman's Demain on demenage, so I walked quietly through the dark, working my way slowly up the right aisle until I found an open seat. When the lights came up I discovered I was sitting beside Jonathan Rosenbaum. After the film, he and I both asked questions -- his was about musicals, mine was about mother/daughter relationships -- and Akerman appeared amused by his, annoyed by mine. In my defense, she spent five or ten minutes responding to my question, so there must have been some merit to it.

Subway Stop: Museum
Rush & Ticket-Holder Lines: Form along Queen's Park, just to the north of the Museum's main entrance. (If you imagine yourself walking toward the steps in the photo above, the lines form just to the right.)

July 23, 2007

Wavelengths (2007)

Wavelengths 1: What the Water Said

  • POOL Chris Chong Chan Fui (Malaysia/Canada)
  • WHAT THE WATER SAID, NOS. 4-6 David Gatten (USA)
  • AT SEA Peter Hutton (USA)
Wavelengths 2: Winds of Change
  • EUROPA 2005, 27 OCTOBRE Straub and Huillet (Italy)
Wavelengths 3: Cross Worlds
  • ALL THAT RISES Daïchi Saïto (Canada)
  • CROSS WORLDS Cécile Fontaine (France)
  • THE ACROBAT Chris Kennedy (USA/Canada)
  • ECHO Izabella Pruska-Oldenhof (Canada)
  • THE BUTTERFLY IN WINTER Ute Aurand and Maria Lang (Germany)
  • MONICA Enrico Mandirola (France)
Wavelengths 4: In the Space of Time
  • QUARTET Nicky Hamlyn (UK)
  • ERZÄHLUNG Hannes Schüpbach (Switzerland/Italy)
  • GONE Karø Goldt (Germany)
Wavelengths 5: Schindler's Houses
  • THE ANTHEM Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Thailand)
  • SCHINDLER'S HOUSES Heinz Emigholz (Austria)
Wavelengths 6: Pour Vos Beaux Yeux
  • POUR VOS BEAUX YEUX Henri Storck (Belgium)
  • FAUX MOUVEMENTS Pip Chodorov (France)
  • TAPE FILM Chris Kennedy (USA/Canada)
  • ECP 2D: SUN John Price (Canada)
  • PAPILLON Olivier Fouchard (France)

Midnight Madness (2007)

Sprockets (2007)

July 22, 2007

The Elgin

The Elgin and Winter Garden Theatres, according to Wikipedia, are the last surviving stacked Edwardian theatres in the world. Like so many North American theatres of the era (it was built in 1913), The Elgin went from Vaudeville house to vacant hole to porno/B-movie palace before being restored by a heritage foundation in the late-1980s. Since reopening, The Elgin has staged largescale theatrical productions and served as a host theatre for TIFF.

My take on The Elgin is that every festival-goer should see at least one film there. It's a beautiful room with all of the ornate details typical of early 20th-century theatres. Upon entering, you might feel as though you've stepped into an Edward Hopper painting. More than once I've heard The Elgin described as "cavernous. It's a deep room with a low-hanging balcony, so your experience of a film will be determined greatly by the location of your seat -- much moreso than in other TIFF venues. My advice: get in line early and make a dash for the first 10 or 15 rows. The Elgin is located at 189 Yonge, just north of the intersection with Queen.

Subway Stop: Queen
Rush & Ticket-Holder Lines: Form outside of the theatre on Yonge

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July 19, 2007

Two Quick Notes (2007)

First, Paolo Barzman's Emotional Arithmetic will be the closing night film.

Second, Robert Davis's latest podcast begins with a ten-minute conversation with J. Robert Parks that they recorded midway through TIFF 2006. I listened to it this morning with a big, stupid grin on my face, because it's exactly the kind of conversation one stumbles into five or six times a day during the festival.

July 18, 2007

Canadian Films (2007)

Yesterday's batch of news releases focused on TIFF's wide-ranging lineup of Canadian films. Rather than creating separate posts for Canadian Open Vault, Canadian Retrospective, Short Cuts Canada, and Canada First!, I'll list them all here. Also, several interesting Canadian films have been added to Contemporary World Cinema, Real to Reel, Gala Presentations, and Special Presentations, including the latest from Denys Arcand, David Cronenberg, Guy Maddin, and Francois Girard.

Canadian Open Vault

  • LES BONS DÉBARRAS (1980) Francis Mankiewicz
Canadian Retrospective: Michel Brault
Canada First!
  • AMAL Richie Mehta, ON
  • LE CÈDRE PENCHÉ Rafaël Ouellet, QC
  • JUST BURIED Chaz Thorne, BC/NS
  • THEY WAIT Ernie Barbarash, BC
  • THIS BEAUTIFUL CITY Ed Gass-Donnelly, ON
  • WALK ALL OVER ME Robert Cuffley, AB/BC
Short Cuts Canada

July 17, 2007

The Official Poster (2007)

I just noticed this page, which seems to be the half-written introduction to a feature-in-the-works: a gallery of past TIFF posters.

July 16, 2007

The Isabel Bader

This might sound odd, but the Isabel Bader Theatre is the one TIFF venue where I have on occasion felt underdressed -- and I mean that as a compliment. Evening screenings there, especially during weekends, feel more like social events than run-of-the-mill movies at a multiplex. The building, located on the campus of Victoria University, opened in 2001 and features plush seating, a small balcony, and especially good acoustics. My one complaint with the Bader is its sight lines, which can be frustrating during heavily-subtitled films.

The Bader is on Charles Street, one block south of Bloor, making it a quick walk from other north-end venues like The Varsity and The Cumberland. (Something to keep in mind on those five-film days.) Eat before you get there -- Charles is a quiet, tree-lined street. More than once I've grabbed a hot dog from a street vendor (there are a ton of 'em on University) and found a comfortable place in line outside of the Bader.

Two of my favorite TIFF experiences were at the Bader. In 2004, I saw the premiere of Moolade there. Because the film got off to a late start and ran longer than expected, there was no time for a post-screening Q&A. Instead, Ousmane Sembene invited everyone to join him outside in the courtyard, where he took a seat, lit his pipe, and chatted about what would prove, sadly, to be his last film. The next night I returned for the premiere of L'Intrus, which frustrated me to the point of exhaustion. When Claire Denis took the stage afterwards, she was haggard from jetlag and lacked the energy (or will) to fight through the stream of poor, meandering questions that too often plague Q&As. L'Intrus is my favorite TIFF film, though, because it revealed to me how essential conversation is to the festival experience. By the time I flew home -- after talking and talking and talking about Denis's film with Girish and others -- I'd completely reevaluated my original response and was eager to spend the next few months watching and rewatching all of her films.

Subway Stop: Museum
Rush & Ticket-Holder Lines: Form outside of the theater along Charles Street

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July 13, 2007

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

From Noel Murray's "Pre-Pre-TIFF" post at the Onion AV Club blog:

But one aspect of TIFF-going that I haven’t seen written about much—though veterans often talk about it amongst themselves—is the emotional rollercoaster of “announcement season.” From the moment Cannes ends, TIFF-goers start contemplating which of the most hotly buzzed Cannes titles will make it to Toronto. (Answer: Pretty much all of them.) And then we start watching the preliminary announcements from Venice and New York—the former because they often schedule must-see films that we didn’t previously know existed, and the latter because whatever gets pegged as the opening night NYFF film won’t be playing TIFF. (So no Wes Anderson’s The Darjeeling Limited for us in Toronto this year.)

I started 1st Thursday, in part, because by early-June I was already exchanging emails with several friends, doing exactly what Noel describes. One person I know tracks films from Cannes, Berlin, and Rotterdam in a spreadsheet and has already compiled an ordered list of the 100 films he's most eager to see, whether at TIFF or elsewhere. Another friend keeps a close eye on Variety, cutting and pasting snippets from reviews that catch his attention. (More than once I've seen a film simply because Robert Koehler happened to use words like "poetic" or "impressionist" in a positive note -- Munyurangabo, here I come.)

Last year, in a post called "Impossibly, Even Scarily, Geeky," I revealed my own strategy for choosing films. It involves Excel, the assigning of points based on peculiar and ever-evolving criteria, and some simple computations. This year I created my new file, tiff2007.xls, on June 27, soon after TIFF announced its first large batch of confirmed titles. And now, like Noel, I make frequent detours to the Media Centre, eagerly anticipating each new release.

July 11, 2007

Additions to Gala and Special Presentations (2007)

Eight more films have been added to the Gala and Special Presentations programs, including Cannes best director Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. (via indieWIRE)

I want to invite everyone to discuss the announced films in the various program posts. I'd be especially curious to hear from anyone who has actually seen the films, either at festivals or during theatrical runs in other countries.

Edit: The announcement is now up on the official TIFF site.

July 9, 2007

Ten Places to Go in T.O.

(by Girish.)

It's devilishly hard to keep the list down to ten, so forgive me if I do some cramming and cheat a little:

1. Cinematheque Ontario. Alas, it's not in season during TIFF but this is the place that draws me most to Toronto and I just had to begin with a coup de chapeau to it.

2. Little India. On Queen Street, and probably my favorite Indian restaurant in Toronto. It's quite small, and monstrously popular, so I'd suggest lunch either early (11:30-ish) or late (2:00-ish). For a whole cornucopia of Indian food, I'd recommend a trip to the Indian section of town on Garrard Street East. For about three blocks, you could swear you were in the middle of Mumbai.

3. Bookstores: Andrew Tracy hipped me to this chain called BMV (Books Music Videos) that carries discounted merhandise and tons of it. I've been to 2 locations, one off Yonge near Dundas and the other at Yonge and Eglinton. I also recommend a great used-book shop called Eliot's on Yonge near Wellesley for books on art, film, music, etc.

4. College Street West: Adam Nayman turned me on to this books-and-music zone which includes stores like She Said Boom. I've been here just once and scarcely skimmed the surface. I'll be trying to squeeze in a visit during TIFF.

5. The Beguiling: Seriously: the best indie comics shop I've been to in North America and I've been to a few. If you're an indie comics aficionado, leave your credit card at home and take a budgeted amount of cash. You've been warned. Also, close by is one of the largest video stores in the city, Suspect Video.

6. The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The gallery is only partially open because of construction but it'll be running exhibits of Chuck Close and Bernini during TIFF.

7. The Rex. Top-flight music club hosting the best in local Toronto jazz. Very often, there's not even a cover charge. Good food and beer selections. On Queen St., close to Little India.

8. Two More Great Bookstores: (a) Pages on Queen St., not far from the Rex; and (b) Theater Books, a stone's throw from the Varsity and Cumberland theaters. Great selection of film books at both places.

9. The Film Reference Library. Affiliated with the TIFF group. You can't borrow anything but you can watch videos and DVDs from their large collection (lots of rare and unreleased stuff) and consult books and back issues of periodicals. Recommended from their collection (and unavailable in the US): Claire Denis's U.S. Go Home and Olivier Assayas's Cold Water.

10. The NFB Mediatheque. For two bucks, you can get comfy in a large plush chair/viewing station and call up any of the hundreds of films produced by the National Film Board of Canada. The last time I was there, I caught Gilles Groulx's Le Chat Dans Le Sac (1964). My next trip will likely feature some Arthur Lipsett. Located close to the Scotiabank Theatres used by TIFF.

Your suggestions and tips for fun places to go in Toronto? Perhaps we can build ourselves a little trove of ideas here. Thank you!

The Varsity

The Cineplex Odeon Varsity Theater is located in the Manulife Centre at 55 Bloor Street West (one block west of the intersection of Bloor and Yonge). The TIFFG Box Office is on the north side of the building at street level; The Varsity is on the opposite end and one level up. The Manulife Centre is also home to a large Chapters bookstore and several small restaurants and coffee shops, so it's a decent place to kill time between films.

The Varsity is unique among TIFF venues in that the quality of viewing experience varies greatly from theater to theater. Varsity 1-6 are among my favorite screens at the festival. Each features stadium seating and fantastic projection and sound, but the rooms are a bit smaller and more intimate than those at The Paramount. Varsity 7 is a very small room with one level of seating. (If you ever went to a multiplex in a mall in the early-'80s, you'll remember theaters like Varsity 7 .) Due to its size, Varsity 8 often hosts high-demand films. It's a massive room with deep seats, limited leg room, and horrible sight lines. Subtitled films often send the audience's heads a-bobbin'.

Note: Ticket-holder lines begin near the theater lobby, but because of limited space there, they often continue down the back stairs and outside of the building onto Balmuto Street (on the east side of the building). Rush lines almost always begin outside, on the south end of Balmuto.

Subway Stop: Bloor-Yonge
Rush & Ticket-Holder Lines: Theater lobby and on east side of building (Balmuto Street)

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July 6, 2007

The Ryerson

With more than 1,200 seats, The Ryerson is typically used for non-gala showings of higher profile films. For example, in past years I've seen films by Cronenberg, Egoyan, Frears, Ozon, and the Dardennes there. It also hosts the Midnight Madness program. The theater is located on the campus of Ryerson University at 43 Gerrard, two blocks east of Yonge.

The good news for festival-goers is that, with The Ryerson as a venue, there's little chance of ever being left without a "hot" ticket. They cram a lot of bodies into that room. And for a theater that only occasionally functions as a cinema, the presentations are quite good, with a big screen, relatively sharp projection, and better-than-average sound. It's not, however, a place I would choose to spend an entire day, and, in fact, over the last few years I've managed to avoid making a single trip to The Ryerson. The seats are uncomfortable (which becomes more and more of a concern as the week progresses), and the sight lines can be quite bad.

Subway Stops: More or less equidistant from College and Dundas
Rush & Ticket-Holder Lines: Form along Gerrard Street

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July 4, 2007

Official Site is Live

The official TIFF site is live.
The new site is a fantastic, standards-compliant design with some cool functions, including a Google map of the festival site -- something I'd planned to do here. Edit: The map now seems to be functioning properly. Very nice.

July 3, 2007

About 1st Thursday

The Toronto International Film Festival has traditionally begun on the first Thursday in September. It's my favorite day of the year, and this site is one more way for me to indulge my obsession with it. Think of it as a First-Timer's Guide to TIFF.

My first experience of downtown Toronto went badly. I got off the subway at Yonge and Bloor, fell into step with the mass of commuters (it was rush hour), and emerged, blinking and disoriented, onto street level with only the TIFF map to guide me. I'd allowed myself two hours to find the festival office, claim my tickets, and make my way to the Paramount for my first screening (Hirokazu Kore-eda's Nobody Knows, if you're curious). After too many wrong turns, several subway rides, and a lot of running, I finally made it to the theater -- sweaty, frustrated, and tired -- in time to catch the last twenty minutes of the film.

This site evolved out of . . . well, to be frank, it evolved out of my obsessive-compulsion. For each of the last two years, beginning sometime in mid-July, I've subjected a small group of friends and fellow festival-goers to a barrage of TIFF-related email. Our main goal is to help first-timers avoid frustrating mistakes, save a bit of money, and make the most efficient use of their time (filling out a TIFF film schedule is one of the great joys in my life, but, dammit, you just can't see everything). We also share information about films, exchange hotel and restaurant recommendations, and plan get-togethers. This site will serve more or less the same purpose. I'm hoping other folks from our little group will chip in with advice, too.

Note: All photos featured in the header of 1st Thursday are the work of Toronto-based photoblogger Sam Javanrouh.

Darren Hughes is a web developer and writer in Knoxville, Tennessee. He blogs about film, art, politics, and other stuff at Long Pauses. 2010 will mark his seventh trip to TIFF.

July 2, 2007

The Out-of-Town Package (Updated for 2008)

Note: The cost of the Out-of-Town package remains $150 for 2008.

A friend and I always say that the annual ritual of opening the Out-of-Town Package is the closest we'll ever come to recapturing the childhood thrill of Christmas morning. The package allows festival-goers from outside of Toronto to request tickets a week before the festival begins. It comes at a cost ($150), but, in my experience, it's money very well spent. The most significant advantage of the Out-of-Town package is this: In four years, I have received all but three or four of my first film choices. Given the amount of time others spend waiting in ticket and rush lines, I gladly pay the extra money for the convenience of having an envelope full of tickets waiting for me when I arrive in Toronto. The package also includes a copy of the complete, full-color Festival Program Book ($32 last year).

The Out-of-Town Package works something like this: On August 27, you will receive a FedEx shipment that includes the program book, a festival schedule, ticket order forms, and a pre-paid FedEx return envelope. The order forms are fairly straight-forward -- you simply highlight the films you want to see and note the number of tickets requested for each. You will then be expected to FedEx your forms back to TIFF by 5pm on the following day, guaranteeing that they arrive by 1pm on Friday, August 29, which is the deadline for the advanced ticket drawing.

Note: The Out-of-Town Package works in conjunction with the festival passes and coupons (Festival, Daytime, 10-Film, etc.). You can't use it to buy individual tickets. After you arrive in Toronto, you will be able to redeem your coupons for actual tickets at the Festival Ticket Office at College Park.

July 1, 2007

College Park (Updated for 2008)

Note: College Park is no longer home to a festival box office. It has been replaced by the new office at Toronto Life Square at 10 Dundas Street East, which is where advanced ticket orders can be picked up.

There's decent grocery store on the lower level of College Park, which is a nice convenience given its close proximity to so many downtown hotels (one block from the Days Inn and Delta Chelsea).

Subway Stop: College