Monday, 12 September 2016

TIFF16 Day 5: Lion, (re)ASSIGNMENT, Julieta and a monk

Five days into TIFF16 and I'm exhausted. Its a happy tired for most of us who cover the festival, because we love film and we want others to love film too, which is why we share what we've been up to. We want to communicate the passion that is in the air around the central hub at King and John streets, the cinemas, and the stages that show the films and host the conversations.

Yesterday, I began my morning standing in the rush line on Queen Street, around the corner from the Elgin Theatre (called the Visa Screening Room during TIFF) waiting to see if I could get into the public screening of Lion, starring Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman. I was number 78 in the line but I got in and had a bird's eye view of the screen from my lovely single seat next to a column in the balcony.

I rarely cry at the movies, but Lion got me in end. Upon sharing this shocking news on social media some friends of mine quickly let me know that they teared up too. This from a feel good movie where we know the ending! The film is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley, an Indian boy adopted by  a Tasmanian couple after being lost at  a train station. Years later the man searches for and finds his home using Google Earth. What makes the film so engaging is the continual connection between the young Saroo played heart-touching innocence by Sunny Pawar (Satyajit Ray would have loved him!) and the anguished, guilt-ridden man he becomes (played by  Dev Patel). Later today, I'll be speaking with composers Dustin O'Halloran and Hauschka about the film's music.



After a bite and a glimpse of the winning Jays'  game at the Friar and Firkin (where I discovered that I get a discount on food with my TICF membership card--woohoo), I headed up the now-working escalators ( a drama for another time) at the Scotiabank Theatre to stand in line for the  press and industry screening of Walter Hill's (re)ASSIGNMENT. I was cautious about this one because its a revenge story about a hitman who wakes up a woman after he is operated by an insane doctor: firstly, Michelle Rodrigues,a non-trans actor plays the lead role of Frank and secondly, I wondered if there would be running jokes about the trans experience. If there are protest that the Frank role wasn't cast by a trans actor, I understand, but I must tell you that Michelle does an excellent job of retaining the mental masculine identity despite the gender switch forced upon him by scientist and self-proclaimed artist, Dr. Rachel Ray, played with clinical dispassion by Sigourney Weaver. Rounding out the main trio of actors is Tony Shaloub, as the psychiatrist who is charged with determining Ray's fitness for parole. The exchanges between Weaver and Shaloub is like a chess match between a computer and a human, with the computer taunting its opponent on its inability to ever be as smart as it.


A quick streetcar ride and back to the Elgin Theatre for the North American première of Julieta, directed by Pedro Almodovar. Its such a pleasure to watch a  film by a sure-handed director. Adapted from three short stories by award-winning writer, Alice Munro, Julieta is a mother-daughter tale that deals with the theme of loss and guilt. The film is presented in flashbacks and forwards with the role of young Julieta being played by newcomer, Adriana Ugarte and middle-aged Julieta by Emma Suarez. In the small but pivotal role of housekeeper for Julieta and her husband Xion, is Almadovor regular, Rossey De Palma. De Palma and Ugarte were both present for the intro and Q & A session, and what delight they both were. They love Toronto and intend to buy Alice Munro books in Canada.

I loved this film, the acting, the locations (from coastal waters to urban Madrid), and the miser-en-scene, so vital in an Almodovar film. I think someone needs to market " Almodovar red". Other palettes in the film include the joyful and sorrowful blue and restrained white. In form and to a certain extent content, this film reminded me most of All About My Mother. Julieta is a fine film worthy of multiple viewings: you're guaranteed to see something new every time.

Photo Credit: All stills courtesy of TIFF


Thursday, 8 September 2016

Happy First Day if TIFF16: Are You Ready?

TIFF 2016 kicks off today and if you're a regular at the festival you know it's like back to school for film lovers: we meet up with other regulars, some of whom we only see once a year, and we make new friends who we will see next September. Sometimes we chat in line, on the street, and sometimes it's a quick "hi" and "bye" as we dash off to the next film. 

If you're not a regular, then visit http://www.tiff.net/tickets/ for tickets and answers to some Frequently Asked Questions. If you have the patience, then call 416-599-TIFF (8433) of 1-888-599-8433, but please have your information ready: title of film, date, time, venue, number of tickets. If you can't get your first choice, then have your second choice ready to go. Have your credit card ready. TIFF is also using Ticketmaster as an online option: http://www.ticketmaster.ca/Toronto-International-Film-Festival-tickets/artist/1493334?tm_link=tm_homeA_b_10001_1

TIFF is a large festival and it's expensive ($25 - $49 before services charges). Don't stress the customer service reps when buying tickets over the phone or in person: they have nothing to do with the prices, especially TIFF's new demand pricing, which raises the price of a film if it's selling out fast. To counter this, TIFF is offering some free films (Guillermo del Toro's Pan Labyrinth, for example), and Festival Street is back on King Street, with streets closed between Simcoe to Peter Street for pedestrian-friendly activities--get the selfie sticks out!

Friday, 12 August 2016

A Moment of Silence--Lost in Translation?


A MOMENT OF SILENCE
by Mohammad Yaghoubi
Nowadays Theatre
Playing at SummerWorks 2016

PROGRAMME DESCRIPTION: 
Shiva wakes up to find she has been asleep for three years. In that time, the world around her has changed drastically. Her friends and family seem different. Strangers act oddly. It’s Iran in 1980 and she has just slept through the Islamic Revolution. For the next ten years, Shiva continues to fall asleep for years at a time. Each time she wakes up there’s a new change she has to try to grasp: the war with Iraq, a series of murders of dissident artists  as well as transformations in her own family. Meanwhile, the playwright creating Shiva’s story begins to receive phone calls threatening his life.

MY THOUGHTS:
"A Moment of Silence" is written by the award-winning, playwright, director and screenwriter, Mohammad Yaghoubi, and has been translated and performed in several languages. The play makes its Canadian debut at SummerWorks 2016 and is the first English-language of Nowadays Theatre. I haven't read the text, but considering its accolades on the international theatre scene, I think there must be something lost in translation because the production I saw recently failed on several levels.

The use of surtitles for an English-Language play baffled me. As the captions were stage directions, I assumed that they were a deconstructionist tool used to reference the act of writing, but their use was inconsistent throughout the performance. At one point, there is even a captioned footnote about a writer who died in Canada. Why? I don't know. The best use of the surtitles was in letting us know what year it is when Shiva wakes up, but even then, the titles didn't appear for the last year.

I'm sure that in the original work, Shiva must come across as confused and angry at her circumstances. For better or ill, life is roiling by her, and she has no way of determining her fate; she can't live her life, only react to her situation upon waking. Each time she awoke, I hoped for some connection to her plight, and each time the actor let down me down. The anger was there, but where was the despair, the loneliness, the frustration and fear? This production offered a strident, one-note Shiva who bored instead of engaged me.

The programme description (above) indicates that the playwright is male, but here, the character is female (Shirin) married to Jimmy, a taxi driver. This adds to the play's references about the changing social restrictions imposed upon women after the Revolution (from short skirts to mandatory hijabs; justification for driving with no male relative in the car), but does little else. I should have empathized strongly with the female writer's initial defiance and eventual fear of the terrorizing phone calls she receives over the years, but again, the emotions just weren't there. Firstly, the actors have no chemistry as a couple in a long-term relationship and, secondly, the voice acting on the telephone calls wasn't convincingly menacing.

"A Moment of Silence" should have resonated with the importance of its subject matter; instead I ( and other theatregoers) couldn't leave the theatre fast enough. I am always recommending Iranian films to my friends and readers/listeners, and had hoped to do the same with this play. Sadly, frustratingly, I cannot. I will, however, seek out the text so that I can compare what I have seen to what is intended. It's a play in high regard, after all!

If you've already bought a ticket, please do leave a comment about your experience. If you haven't purchased a ticket, please support another SummerWorks performance instead.


If You Must...
A MOMENT OF SILENCE
Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst Street (south of Queen, north of King)

REMAINING PERFORMANCES
Saturday, August 13, 3:30 pm
Sunday, August 14, 2:45 pm
$15 General Admission, no latecomers



Images Source
http://www.nowadaystheatre.org/a-moment-of-silence/
http://summerworks.ca/2016/artists/a-moment-of-silence/