If I Were Going to TIFF 2007…

Every TIFF lineup I’ve seen to date has been great, but this year’s lineup seems especially so.
No Country for Old Men, Coen Brothers

This actually came out awhile ago, but I haven’t had time to comment on it until now. The complete film schedule for the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival has been announced, and holy moley, it’s a good one. Every TIFF lineup I’ve seen to date has been great, but this year’s lineup seems especially so.

However, I won’t be attending this year’s festival — Renae and I are heading to the Pacific Northwest, instead, for a belated anniversary trip. But if I was going to Toronto, here are the films that I’d be queueing up to see.

The Banishment (Andrey Zvyagintsev) — Zvyagintsev’s previous film, 2003’s The Return, was a film that was as powerful as it was visually stunning (which is to say, quite a bit). I’ve read less-than-positive things about his latest, but it did garner a “Best Actor” prize at Cannes. Whatever the case, I’d still love to see The Banishment based solely on the greatness of The Return, and to see how Zvyagintsev has developed as a filmmaker.

Blood Brothers (Alexi Tan) — Could it be that Hong Kong cinema is going through an honest-to-God revival? First came Sha Po Lang, which proved the country still knew how to do martial arts action. And now comes Blood Brothers, which conjures up all that was good and great about the “heroic bloodshed” genre. The movie follows three young men in 1930s Shanghai, as they venture to the city to make their fortune. Soon, however, they get caught up in the city’s grimy underworld and find themselves turning against each other. The movie stars Daniel Wu, Lie Ye, and the lovely Shu Qi, and is produced by John Woo.

Control (Anton Corbijn) — A documentary by one of the world’s greatest rock n’ roll photographers about the life and times of Ian Curtis, lead singer of Joy Division? Where does the line start?

Dainipponjin (Hitoshi Matsumoto) — Superhero films are all the rage, but I doubt that any of them feature a monster that lets rip stink clouds equaling the smell of twenty thousand human feces chased by a dash of horny suitor. However, Dainipponjin does, and for me, that’s reason enough to see it.

Flash Point (Wilson Yip) — Donnie Yen and Wilson Yip worked together on Sha Po Lang, one of the finest action films to come out of Hong Kong in ages (and a huge hit in Toronto back in 2005). This is their new film, and it looks to be more of the same. Which means Donnie Yen doing his trademark reverse kicks and handing a lot of baddies their busted up asses. Perfect stuff for a Midnight Madness screening.

Jar City (Baltasar Kormákur) — Todd just reviewed Jar City over at Twitch, and he uses terms like “stark,” “elegaic,” “existentialist,” and “noir” — all of which sound great to me. But it also sounds like the film packs an emotional punch, as well. I’ve only seen a handful of Icelandic films, but there’s something in that country’s cinema that — much its music — I find particular intriguing and compelling, and I want to see more.

La Jetée (Chris Marker) — People always gape at me when I tell them I don’t care for 12 Monkeys. Brad Pitt’s manic performance aside, I thought the film was clumsy and monotonous. That, and I’ve seen La Jetée, the beautiful, bittersweet, and elegant short on which 12 Monkeys is based. And it’s playing on the big screen in Toronto this year. I’d probably skip any other movie on this list for a chance to see Chris Marker’s film, that’s how much I love it.

Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie) — I just saw the trailer for this a few days ago. The premise — an intensely introverted guy with obvious mental issues buys a sex doll off the Internet and pretends its his girlfriend, and to help him out, the rest of the town goes along with the ploy — sounds like it go either way. But it sounds like it could be one of those ensemble pictures with a cast of lovably quirky townspeople, and I tend to enjoy those. That, and it stars Ryan Gosling in the lead, and he’s done very well in the past in such indie films as Half Nelson and The Believer.

Mad Detective (Johnnie To, Wai Ka Fai) — A year ago, I probably would’ve skipped this. But based upon the strength of Election 1+2 and The Exiled, I’m suddenly much more interested in the films of Johnnie To.

Mongol (Sergei Bodrov) — This one has been bouncing around the blogs for awhile now, with a few stills and clips appearing here and there. The always great Tadanobu Asano (Last Life in the Universe, Bright Future, Vital) stars as Genghis Khan in this Russian-funded biopic. The fact that Asano’s name is attached is reason enough for me to see it, but everything I’ve seen also makes it look like this film will be a truly epic piece.

The Mourning Forest (Naomi Kawase) — I missed Kawase’s previous film — Shara — when it played at TIFF a few years back, and I’ve been waiting for the DVD ever since. And so I’d love to see her next film, which has been garnering some positive press from other festival screenings.

No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen, Ethan Coen) — Everything I’ve read indicates that this film, an adaptation of Cormac MacCarthy’s novel, might be the Coens’ darkest film to date — as well as their best. Which, seeing as how these are the Coen Brothers we’re talking about, is saying something. The film stars Josh Brolin as a man who makes off with a bunch of money that isn’t his, which sets in motion a bunch of nastiness — much of which is meted out by Javier Bardem, whose performance give me chills even in just the few short segments that I’ve seen (like the trailer). Tommy Lee Jones and Woody Harrelson also star.

The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona) — My main reason for interest in this film is that Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) is attached to this film as a producer. Del Toro is one of my favorite filmmakers these days, and if he saw reason enough to put his name on this film, that’s good enough for me.

Ploy (Pen-ek Ratanaruang) — Ratanaruang’s previous film, Invisible Waves, didn’t do too much for me. Indeed, it was perhaps the biggest disappointment of last year’s TIFF for me. That being said, I’m willing to see anything by the man who did Last Life in the Universe, one of my favorite films of the last 5 years or so. Todd from Twitch saw Ploy at Cannes earlier this year (his review), and liked it quite a bit. Ploy stars Lalita Panyopas (the lead actress in Ratanaruang’s 6ixtynin9) as a woman returning to Thailand with her husband, and an intense psychological drama unfolds when her husband encounters a young woman in their hotel lobby.

Religulous: A Conversation with Bill Maher and Larry Charles — A film about religion by Bill Maher (“Politically Incorrect”) and Larry Charles (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) that’s pronounced like “ridiculous”? Call me crazy, but I have a feeling that it’ll be a wee bit on the sacreligious side of things. I also have a feeling that it’ll be a lot less incendiary and provocative than most folks — be they religious or be they skeptic — probably think it’ll be, and that it won’t say anything that hasn’t already been said about religion. Still, I bet it’ll be entertaining.

Run, Fat Boy, Run (David Schwimmer) — Because I am contractually obligated to see everything starring Simon Pegg. And yes, it’s directed by that David Schwimmer.

Sukiyaki Western Django (Takashi Miike) — An honest-to-goodness Japanese Sergio Leone-esque spaghetti western by (in)famous director Takahsi Miike shot in English and starring Hideaki Ito (Princess Blade, Blister), Masanobu Ando (Battle Royale, Adrenaline Drive)… and Quentin Tarantino?!? Only at Midnight Madness, man, only at Midnight Madness.

Vexille (Fumihiko Sori) — In 2004, Sori produced the CGI-enhanced Appleseed full-length. Which, while a little lacking in the story department, was a visually stunning mix of traditional cel animation, motion capture, and CGI. Vexille — his first directorial effort after 2002’s excellent Ping Pong — is another such movie, following a female agent sent to investigate a futuristic Japan and its possible use of forbidden technology. Blending CGI with cel animation is nothing new, but there’s something about Sori et al’s use that I find especially intriguing, and I’d like to see more.

The Virgin Spring (Ingmar Bergman) — It’s been nearly a month since Ingmar Bergman, one of the world’s greatest filmmakers, died. So I imagine it will be especially poignant when The Virgin Spring is screened as part of TIFF’s “Dialogues” program, in which actors and directors show and discuss films that have been influential in their lives and careers.

Flight of the Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien) — I’ll admit to rolling my eyes a little when I first about Hou Hsiao-hsien’s newest project, a remake of 1956’s The Red Balloon. Then I got to thinking. The film does star Juliette Binoche, and this is Hou Hsiao-hsien (Café Lumière, Millennium Mambo) we’re talking about here. And then I realized that I really wanted to see it. But alas, I’ll just have to wait a little while longer.

I’m sure that there are many more noteworthy titles that I am missing; these are just the first batch that immediately came find while skimming the complete schedule.

As always, I look forward to a battery of bloggers — the Twitch crew, Darren Hughes, Girish, and J. Robert Parks, to name but a few — opening my eyes to a whole host of new and wonderful films very soon.

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