|"Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring."|
Toronto, Day 3
Another beautiful film from Korea, Kim Ki-duk's "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter .. and Spring," shares a bill with Errol Morris's timely examination of the Vietnam War and the latest from actress of the moment Scarlett Johansson.
By ANDREA GRONVALL
Over its 28 years, the Toronto International Film Festival has
become increasingly toploaded in its first four days. By Day 3, the number
of movie screenings on the printed press schedule had nearly tripled, not to
mention the extras that had been added around town as distributors and sales
agents compete for the attention of critics, junket press, programmers and
buyers. Wading through the congestion, you revise plans as you prioritize.
It becomes harder to justify devoting precious hours to a film that already
has distribution, knowing it'll be in commercial release sooner or later.
On the other hand, so much product has arrived here with major studio or
indie backing that seeking out only the unattached is, well, perverse. No
way was I going to pass up Sony Pictures Classics' new documentary from
Errol Morris, chronicler of the brilliant ("A Brief History of Time"), the
quirky ("Fast, Cheap & Out of Control"), and the notorious ("Mr. Death: The
Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.>"). It seems somehow particularly
fitting that in his latest work, Morris turns his patented device, the
Interrotron a two-way camera/monitor that locks the direct gaze of the subject with that of
his interviewer on one of the chief architects of the war in Vietnam. "The
Fog of War" is subtitled "11 Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara,"
and that's how the film is structured and derives its considerable power. (Click for full review.)
|TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL, DAY 3|
|Toronto International Film Festival, Toronto, Ontario, Sept. 4-13, 2003.|
Related links: Official site | "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring" | "Bright Young Things" | "The Fog of War" review
| RELATED ARTICLES|
Toronto Film Festival, Day 1|
Our correspondent at the Toronto International Film Festival unearths promising new work from Germany and Korea.
Toronto Film Festival, Day 2|
A pair of gorgeously clinical works from Peter Greenaway are balanced by a music groupie-mentary from L.A. and a knockout martial-arts picture from Thailand.
Toronto Film Festival, Day 4|
Substantial female roles for adult actresses are among the highlights at the festival, including Cate Blanchett in "Veronica Guerin" and Anne Reid in "The Mother."
Toronto Film Festival, Days 5&6|
A documentary that uses the movies to trace the architectural history of Los Angeles is a highlight among the out-of-the-way offerings at the Toronto Film Festival.
At the age of 85, the former secretary of defense for Presidents John F.
Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, can look back over his life and admit
mistakes. Which is not to say he is taking blame. As Morris himself
declares, "It is much more difficult to analyze the causes of error than
apologize for it." From the very first lesson, "Empathize with your enemy,"
we're reminded that McNamara's career has to be evaluated against the
background of the Cold War and the containment of nuclear weapons. JFK's
ability to identify and understand the motives behind Nikita Khrushchev and
Fidel Castro's behavior was what averted war during the Cuban Missile
Crisis. At the end of the film, when McNamara has journeyed to Vietnam to
confer with retired General Vo Nguyen Giap, we are given the enemy's
perspective that the U.S. never correctly read Hanoi's leaders. Our
government saw our troop commitment as battling the influence and ambitions
of communist China; the Vietnamese, who had been fighting China for a
thousand years, regarded this latest war as yet another struggle against
McNamara's earliest childhood memory is of 1918, of fireworks marking the
Armistice. From Woodrow Wilson's misplaced belief that World War I was "the
war to end all wars," to horrific new disclosures about the firebombing of
Japanese civilians during World War II, to the false interpretation of data
that led to the erroneous conclusion U.S. destroyers were attacked in the
Tonkin Gulf on August 4, 1964 "The Fog of War" is replete with lessons
about human fallibility and the failure of reason. Whether you believe
McNamara is being truthful about history or mainly protecting his own
legacy, it is clear that he has learned from the past. The question is,
|Errol Morris and Robert McNamara in "The Fog of War."|| |
Another movie with distribution (Lions Gate) and a big push behind it is
"Girl with a Pearl Earring," the second Toronto entry starring this year's
Festival "It" girl, Scarlett Johansson (also enjoying delirious buzz for
"Lost in Translation"). Having admired the painterly visuals of "The Tulse
Luper Suitcases" the day before, I wanted to see how director Peter Webber
would handle Johannes Vermeer and the subject of one of his most celebrated
portraits. Based on the novel by Tracy Chevalier, the film opens with a
well-mannered but poor and illiterate young Protestant named Griet
(Johansson) being readied for service in the master artist's household.
Griet's mother warns her to close her ears to the family's Catholic
prayers the least of her worries, as it turns out.
Many hazards await the lovely Griet, including Vermeer's wife, pregnant and
resentful (she was to bear him 15 children). A spiteful, thieving daughter,
a sharp-eyed mother-in-law, gossiping servants and a lecherous patron add to
the hothouse atmosphere, which gets steamier when Vermeer (Colin Firth)
becomes enamored of the virginal maid. Struggling with her feelings for him,
Griet agrees to be his model, but in the process finds something more
fulfilling than romantic love. In his efforts to involve her more in his
life, Vermeer teaches her about painting, and it is here that the
movie which otherwise wouldn't be more than a Dutch "Upstairs,
Downstairs" finds its way. Through the skill of cinematographer Eduardo
Serra the cramped, darkened rooms of the townhouse below recede behind the
pale yellow light suffusing Vermeer's studio. Chunks of raw minerals
glitter like jewels; ground and mixed with oil, their luminosity will
capture the soul of a girl evolving into a person. Vermeer was a slow and
methodical painter; the pace of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" is quicker, but
not by much.
Stephen Fry is a multitalent, a gifted actor, comedian and writer. He makes
his directorial debut with "Bright Young Things," and also wrote the
screenplay, based on Evelyn Waugh's novel "Vile Bodies." The BYTs are
London's smart set of vivacious aristocrats, circa the late 1920s-30s. Like
struggling author Adam Symes (newcomer Stephen Campbell Moore), some of them
may be broke but are no less hedonistic than their well-connected chums who
spirit them to one fabulous party after another. Adam's poverty and his
misadventures overcoming it so that he may marry his beloved Nina (Emily
Mortimer) provide the plot's through-line, but the antics of this giddy
bunch do not generate sufficient momentum to engage our sympathy when their
world comes crashing down around them. Like a champagne cocktail, "Bright
Young Things" should effervesce for a while before it falls flat, but alas,
there isn't a bubbly moment in it.
| ||Scarlett Johansson and Colin Firth in "Girl with a Pearl Earring."|
The best Fest movie so far is one I hadn't planned to see, but a ticket to a
public screening came my way, so off I went to take in Kim Ki-duk's "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter . . . and Spring." The South Korean director is perhaps
best known in the West for his intense psychosexual drama "The Isle" (think,
fishhooks and hookers). "Spring, Summer . . ." is not as graphic, and the
violence mostly takes place off-screen. It is a marvel, an exquisite
contemplation of natural beauty and the Buddhist cycle of life, death and
rebirth. What's astonishing, at least to these Western eyes, is how kinetic
and funny these ruminations can be. Through the changing of the seasons, the
life of a man is traced from his childhood as the apprentice of a hermit
monk, to his own maturity and evolution as a holy man.
The story unfolds entirely in a house in the middle of a lake, and in the
surrounding hills. Supporting characters include a languorous, fetching
young woman who will spell big trouble, two city cops who find their
Buddhist within, and an assortment of pets dog, cat, rooster, even a snake.
The presence of the animal actors illustrates that violence toward lower
life forms is also violence toward ourselves, whether or not you believe in
reincarnation. In the first segment, after maltreating some tiny creatures,
the young boy must carry around a rock strapped to his back in an effort
toward achieving insight and harmony. Later, still struggling to
internalize the lessons of his mentor, the monk will haul a much heavier
stone all the way to the top of a nearby summit. After the movie ended, the
friendly young Torontonian next to me remarked how much he liked it,
"although it did take a while to get up that hill." Oh yes, I thought: it
can take a lifetime.
On tap for Toronto, Day 4: Manoel de Oliviera's "A Talking Picture," Amos
Gitai's "Alila," Joel Schumacher's "Veronica Guerin," and Roger Michell's
|| Mayor of the Sunset Strip
Diminutive Rodney Bingenheimer hangs out with a lot of big-time musical icons in "Mayor of the Sunset Strip," a documentary that overrelies on his pixie-ish proximity to fame and his quizzical personality.
|| Memories of Murder
A constantly deceptive detective story in which bad cops who think they're doing good work look for a serial killer in all the wrong places.
|SEPTEMBER 14, 2003|
OFFOFFOFF.COM THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK
Reader comments on Toronto Film Festival, Day 3:
Post a comment on "Toronto Film Festival, Day 3"