Yes, that’s right–four movies yesterday.
At 12:45 yesterday afternoon I saw “Penelope,” the first feature film by director Mark Polansky. This was the highlight of the festival so far for me. I’m a big fan of Christina Ricci because she always picks interesting films; even if they’re bad (The Man Who Cried, anyone?) they’re at least different. This one was a fable/romantic comedy about a 100-year-old family curse; the first-born girl of the blue-blooded Wilhern family will be born with a pig’s snout, and the curse can only be lifted when the girl is loved by one of her own kind. Christina Ricci plays Penelope; Catherine O’Hara (spectacular in a role that called for being over the top) is her mother, Peter Dinklage is a reporter determined to get a photograph of the Wilhern girl. Like any good fable, there are mistaken identities, unrequited love, and a moral at the end (“rich people suck” is one guess, but there’s more to it than that). And the boy and girl live happily ever after. Add in a bit part by co-producer Reese Witherspoon as a punkish scooter messenger (on a Vespa with wings), and you’ve got a delightful film. The crowd loved it, and a special highlight was thtat the director and most of the cast (including Ricci and Dinklage) showed up for the Q&A for the afternoon showing–most stars only appear for the gala openings in the evenings. (Admittedly, most of the actors at these events don’t have much to say beyond how much fun the production was and how much they liked their fellow cast members, but Ricci had some reasonably articulate comments about the role, and Dinklage was funny.)
The 3:45 show was “Fido,” a zombie comedy directed by Canadian director Andrew Currie and the biggest-budget film ever produced in British Columbia. The twist in this zombie film is that science has developed a way of controlling zombies, and ZomCon Corporation has commercialized it; now zombies do all the menial work and are part of daily life. Scottish comedian Billy Connolly plays a faithful zombie named Fido, the companion of young Timmy. Dylan Baker and Carrie-Anne Moss are the distant, self-involved father and the surprisingly resourceful mother. It’s essentially a fun B-movie, and the expected “Fido, is Timmy in trouble?” scene is carried off well.
At 6:30 I saw “Half Moon,” an Iran/Iraq/Austria/France co-production by Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi. I can’t say much about it. I think Iranian films are like jazz to me; I’m not familiar enough with the language to “get” it. Like the other two or three Iranian films I’ve seen, there isn’t really a plot. Instead, one thing happens, then several other things happen, and then it stops. I gather that the art of Iranian film is the way the best ones work subtly to get their messages past the Iranian censors, and probably if I saw more of them I would understand them better, but I’m not there yet. Again, like most Iranian films, the actors are all amateurs; the director said he picked them all out on the street over a week or so. Also, I dozed off for a few minutes and I think I missed some plot points. Oh, well.
The Midnight Madness film was “All the Boys Love Mandy Lane,” another feature debut by director Jonathan Levine. It’s a dark teen horror film, with some surprising plot twists that make it even more twisted than before. The crowd, again, loved it. I had a great time myself. It’s still looking for a distributor, but the crowd reaction and the buzz around the film makes it pretty certain you’ll have a chance to see it.
Apparently the Toronto subway shuts down before 2:00 am, so I walked back from the Ryerson Theatre to the Fairmont Royal York. But no problem! Even at that hour there are lots of people on the streets, and I felt perfectly safe. I love Toronto!