Things I overheard while eavesdropping during the festival so far include:
(Some film student-looking guy): He has more than… double my knowledge of international cinema!
(Some jaded and quite famous film reviewer): One year, I swear, I’m going to get a button that reads: “It’s just a fucking movie!”
(Some industry guy, talking loudly on his cell phone while in line ahead of me): I saw Roger Moore’s [sic] film last night. Well, you know I agree with his politics, I mean totally. But he can be so childish. This one was good though, not too didratic [double sic].
(Some local film reviewer with perhaps ironic facial hair, regarding the popular midnight madness public showings of horror films): I cannot watch a movie with that audience. (His friend): What, you mean like real people? (Mustache man): Yeah.
(Industry guy, looking a bit peaked, as we exited The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus): Oh, what a horrible mess. (Weird looking lady behind him): Yeah! Didn’t you just fucking love it?
(Reviewer from some obscure website unavailable outside of the mighty U.S. of A., to a helpful unpaid festival volunteer): So, am I to understand that no one in Canada has ever heard of the Huffington Post?
(Some serious film fanatic, as he sat down in front of me at a 9 a.m. screening): Only for Herzog would I do this. I was up till like three in the morning.
The Spine, Chris Landreth
This immensely weird animated short gives up its secrets only grudgingly. A group therapy session, a broken down old man revived through art, a pushy fat woman, a raft of bizarre images. At the root this is a film about love, need, and fortitude—the spine is a metaphor, if course. But, for what? Weirdly beautiful, but ultimately unsatisfying.
Runaway Train, Cordell Barker
In this fun animated short, a train pulling two cars rockets through the mountains. In the first car, aristocrats. In the next car, the poor. As the train runs out of control, pulling up a steep hill, the coal-shoveller runs out of fuel. Faced with the prospect of rolling all the way back down, the aristocrats convince the poor to give them everything they have, so that it can be used to feed the fire. They pay them huge sums of money in exchange for the clothes right off their backs. But, once they are stripped bare, the aristocrats take back the money and unhook their car. The train clears the top of the hill, only to fly uncontrollably over the other side, rocketing downhill. A metaphor for capitalism, perhaps?
Vive La Rose, Bruce Alcock
A five-minute stop motion and paint animation music video, of sorts, vaguely dramatizing an old-sounding but apparently recently-written French Canadian folk song about a dying woman. Apologies to those who must have slaved over this piece - one imagines it was terrifically labour intensive - but I just didn’t get this one at all. The song lives in a drawer? In a cabin by the sea?
Night Mayor, Guy Maddin
Guy Maddin, beloved Canadian director of such films as My Winnipeg and The Saddest Music in the World brings us this ultra-creepy 13-minute journey into the mind of an inventor. A recent immigrant from Serbia, the narrator (who refers to himself as the Night Mayor (or, is it nightmare?) has found himself drawn to the Canadian landscape, and the mystery of lights in the sky. So, he has built a machine through which the aurora borealis (or northern lights) can be made into visible music, into images we can hear. This briefly unites the country, as all can share in the commonality of elemental image and sound, until the government steps in to break it apart. A critique, perhaps, of recent budget cuts to Canadian national arts funding projects? Whatever the political backdrop, what we are really asked to enjoy is the experience of slipping into Maddin’s black and white, heavily stylized imagination. An exhilarating, if mostly confounding, exercise in dreamy experimentation.
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