Friday, September 14, 2007



Saturday was supposed to be my big movie day at the festival. The weather report was calling for rain and there were plenty of films playing all day that I was dying to see. There was just one small snag to get past. Going into the weekend, I only had one ticket purchased for the entire day and everything else I wanted to see was sold out. This brings me to my one complaint about the Toronto Film Festival. This is not a festival for the people. The regular filmgoer is first weeded out by the cost of a ticket. Regular screenings sell for $17.95 plus applicable taxes and service fees if purchased online. This may seem exorbitant but it is nowhere near as pricey as the cost of a gala or Visa screening. These elite projections go for $37.95. I suppose the rationale is that they are often high profile films having their world or North American premieres and will most likely be attended by the directors and stars. My Friday night alone, which consisted of just two films, cost me almost $85. That was hard to swallow at first but I became appreciative of these tickets as it was beginning to seem like they might end up being my only tickets. When the general onsale finally happened, there had been so many pre-sale opportunities for Visa gold or platinum customers that the only ticket I was able to get was to watch a restored print of Jean Renoir’s LA GRANDE ILLUSION. I spent the entire day trying to get through to the festival box office and when I finally did, the operator who had clearly had one of the longest days of his life, simply told me that if the website said the show was sold out, then it was. I was not amused as the website specifically referred me to the box office in the event the film had no tickets available online.

Tickets for gala screenings were going for as high as $400 dollars online. It was mind boggling to me that anyone would pay that much to see any movie, no matter who was going to be in attendance at the screening. I thought about this while I waited in the regular ticket holders line and watched all the Visa gold or platinum ticket holders walk past me into the theatre when many of them had not been there as long as I had. This was a festival for the privileged. I was certainly privileged to be there but not every cinephile can afford, or is silly enough to justify being able to afford, the prices at TIFF. Going to TIFF was, for many, not about the movies but rather about being seen at the movies. The privilege is not appreciating the film itself but rather telling your friends and colleagues that you caught the world premiere of this movie or that movie and you were sitting three seats away from Cate Blanchett when you did. Luckily for my day, I managed to find people online who were looking to unload their tickets to PERSEPOLIS and MICHAEL CLAYTON at prices that resembled what they paid for them (an easy $55 for the set). And fortunately for my piece of mind, I was sitting in front of two devout cinephiles at GRAND ILLUSION, who went on before the screening about the many films they had already seen so early into the festival and how great the festival was after so many years. The passion is still afire for those who can afford it. It was Tony Gilroy, MICHAEL CLAYTON writer/director, who said it best before his film screened that Saturday afternoon. It went a little something like, ”You are all so lucky to live somewhere where something like this takes place.” So true, Tony, considering I’ve heard it ain’t cheap to live there either.

PERSEPOLIS was by far the best film I saw at the festival. Based on Marjane Satrapi’s highly lauded graphic novel of the same name, PERSEPOLIS is her biographical account of what it was like growing up in Iran during both a revolution and a war. It is mostly black and white, entirely hand drawn and always captivating. Her story is heartbreaking and enlightening. As a precocious your girl, she was easily influenced by her surrounding family and their progressive, humanistic ideals. Her family had convictions and integrity and these were not so much passed on to Marjane so much as awakened within her at an early age. Despite an abundance of love surrounding her amidst such political turmoil, Marjane still develops into a very lonesome figure who goes inside of herself in search of understanding and does not return for many a year. Her journey is sometimes painful and sometimes hilarious but it is the intimate, personal frankness that makes you feel privileged for being privy to it. The richness of the story is only further enhanced by the stark beauty of the style. PERSEPOLIS is a unique experience that will find a special place in your soul while it exposes you to worlds unknown.

The festival has screenings all over town. They have a convenient online schedule that shows how long each film is and whether or not your choices will overlap but they often do not start on time and not being familiar with the terrain made it difficult to assess travel times between venues. I needed again to grab a cab to my next screening, MICHAEL CLAYTON, at Ryerson University, in order to make it on time. Luckily, I did, lucky for a couple of reason. First, I was able to find a reasonable seat and secondly, lucky because the movie was pretty solid. It is slick, stylish and stellar from the start but still somewhat unfocused. This is a movie about a man, precisely a man named Michael Clayton (George Clooney). Writer/Director, Gilroy, is not interested in pandering to his audience but it makes the beginning of his film a bit clunky. Scene after scene establishes characteristics of Mr. Clayton’s personality but this is before any of us has been given the chance to care to know anything about him. The action does start shortly after all this establishment and while I may not have cared to begin with, I certainly finished by wanting to know more. Clayton is a lawyer who no longer litigates in a courtroom but whose major purpose is to clean up messes made by employees of the firm that employs him. Gilroy is one of the smartest writers in Hollywood these days, having written the entire Bourne series. With MICHAEL CLAYTON, he tries his hand at directing and crafts an intelligent thriller that brings more attention to the hero than most films do. By doing so, he makes it apparent that heroes are humans too and there is always more going on that you don’t know a thing about.

While I may not have had the privileged experience those with more money and clout have at this festival, I must say that I certainly feel privileged for the opportunity to see such wonderful films. All in all, it was a beautiful day.
Next ...
Part Three:
3:10 TO YUMA

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