Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Pre-festival Regrets

One of the byproducts of being fairly (i.e. obsessively) aware of new films in the works has to be that when a festival like Toronto announces its 300-plus film line-up, you can’t help but be a bit disappointed by the dozens of hopefuls that didn’t make the list. It’s a silly stance, to be sure, not only because I live in New York City and am bound to see everything that I want to see eventually, but also because with the massive number of films available at the festival, there’s no way I’ll be able to cover all of my bases as is.

Nonetheless, before the public screening schedule goes live later this morning, and I come to terms with the crushing realization that I can’t see all 300 films at this year’s festival, I figured I’d exorcise some demons and mention a few of the films that I had hoped to include while taking in my 50-odd films at TIFF in September.

To be sure, there are some movies that I had been anticipating that were unlikely to be announced since they probably aren’t yet in anything resembling a finished state. For example, things like Terrance Malick’s The New World, Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly and Robert Altman’s A Prairie Home Companion never had a chance of surfacing at the fest, but I have to admit that I frantically searched for each of them as soon as I first saw the list.

More realistically “absent” were the major films that made a splash at the festivals earlier in the year (specifically Berlin, Sundance and Cannes). For example, Match Point, Woody Allen’s supposed return to form, was all that anyone could talk about this May. It’s not on the TIFF slate nor, more surprisingly, on the New York Film Festival’s. Dreamworks apparently has it scheduled for a December 25th release, but the awesome buzz (which has admittedly drifted a bit closer to Earth since Cannes) has an Allen fan like me salivating already.

Perhaps not the biggest omission, but the strangest one, has to be the elimination of the new Wim Wenders film from the festival selection. Previously announced, but somehow stricken from the lineup, Don’t Come Knocking is now in limbo, it seems. Originally scheduled for an October stateside release, it seems it’s now been bumped to February ‘06. I can only assume that SPC has abandoned all hope for an Oscar campaign for the film (which might not be a mistake, given the Cannes reports), and will be trying to re-launch the movie at Sundance.

I have to suppose that a Sundance premiere is similarly planned for Terry Zwigoff’s Art School Confidential, which hasn’t screened anywhere that I know of. I remember seeing a September release scheduled for the film, but now I understand that it’s not coming our way until next April.

Also missing from the Cannes line-up is Johnny To’s Yakuza thriller Election, which I imagine I’ll end up seeing, like many of the Asian films on this list, on a cheap import DVD (I’ve already picked up Shanghai Dreams, for example). The most disappointing absence from the festival’s sidebars would have to be Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ Odete. That’s the follow-up to his somewhat impenetrable but clearly personal debut feature O Fantasma, which was precisely the sort of movie that makes you want to see what’s coming next.

Three particular films would tale honors as my most distressing Sundance no-shows. Rodrigo Garcia’s Nine Lives combines a single-take formal strategy and a bevy of reportedly solid female performances in an anthology of short films. Brick offers Joseph Gordon-Levitt (excellent in Mysterious Skin) in what has been irresistibly been described as Dashiell Hammett in high school. Those two have distributors in place, but Steve Buscemi’s Lonesome Jim doesn’t seem to, which is disappointing because every movie starring Mary Kay Place (who incidentally turns up in Nine Lives) deserves to be seen.

Even though it was held back in February, there are still many films from Berlin that have yet to filter their way down to New York. Two that are especially missed from the TIFF lineup are Yoji Yamada’s successor to The Twilight Samurai, The Hidden Blade and Andre Techine’s Changing Times (which seems to have gone everywhere but North America at this point).

That’s a hefty list already, and it totally ignores fare that didn’t make a big splash on the festival circuit. Take Cedric Kahn’s The Airplane, for example, which is apparently a kiddie film, totally unlike the psychological thrillers that have made the man’s reputation to date. It seems to have bypassed the festival route, already opening in France, with domestic distribution an unlikely prospect.

As news from Venice and Telluride, which occur almost concurrently with the Toronto Festival, filters in I’m sure more frustrating no-shows will be become apparent, but I suppose that’s the nature of the game. The plus side to the absence so many films that are already on my radar from the TIFF list is that I’m more likely to make new discoveries. After all, looking at the notes I made after researching the films at this year’s festival, I see that there are still nearly a hundred films that I still know too about to guess whether or not I should give them one of my precious festival slots.

All things considered, it could be worse…


md'a said...

Changing Times played at Rendez-vous, bud. I know; I saw it there. You didn't miss much.

Jeremy Heilman said...

Ahhh... I didn't even realize.

I also noticed today that Shanghai Dreams was actually selected by TIFF.

Not that I wouldn't watch it on DVD anyhow.

DanO said...

Don't worry too much about The Hidden Blade, either. It's pretty much a re-working of Twilight Samurai.

Lee Walker said...

Koch Lorber is going to be releasing CHANGING TIMES in the winter. (They've also grabbed NATHALIE... from Wellspring's clutches - but that one's definitely skippable.)