Friday, August 31, 2007

Chacun son Cinema (Various, 2007)

Thirty-three directors contributed three-minute shorts to create Chacun son Cinema, a better than average omnibus film that was commissioned to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival. Given its roots, it might seem somewhat awkward to have it presented in Toronto. I'd disagree, though, as there are several good reasons to see it at TIFF:

  • It’s just as much as celebration of cinema in general as it is of Cannes as a phenomenon. Youssef Chahine’s contribution excepted, these shorts see cinema as a global, collective experience, and celebrate the experience of watching movies worldwide. Given the international nature of TIFF, the vibe is entirely appropriate.

  • Many of the directors who participated (nine by my count), also have a feature showing in Toronto this year. This tally is actually higher than the five directors who had features playing at Cannes this year. (It could be higher still, if TIFF programmers were able to secure Assays’ Boarding Gate or Wong’s My Blueberry Nights. Alas, that was not in the cards.)

  • Unquestionably, two of the strongest entries come from Canadians. Atom Egoyan’s strangely eerie Artaud Double Bill presents a possible vision of a future cinema, in which the primacy of the theater can be overcome with technology. David Cronenberg’s dark At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World is exactly as described, but funnier than one would expect, given the title.

  • Beyond those Canadian shorts, there are several others that I would classify as excellent. The Coen Brothers (who bring No Country For Old Men to Toronto this year) deliver what’s probably the most obvious crowd-pleaser of the bunch with their uproarious, but dead-on, World Cinema, featuring Josh Brolin as a cowboy who’s trying to decide whether he should see Renoir’s The Rules of the Game or Ceylan’s Climates. The Dardennes Brothers, longtime devotees of Robert Bresson, effectively pay tribute to that master with their microcosmic morality play In the Darkness. Taiwanese master Hou Hsiao-hsien (also presenting The Voyage of the Red Balloon this year) doesn’t disappoint with The Electric Princess House, which feels entirely in step with his work in its examination of film’s relationship to time.

  • Ultimately, everyone who sees this collection of shorts seems to have a different set of favorites. Just because I found the Salles to be too cute by half, the Gonzalez-Inarritu to be hilariously clich├ęd, the Van Sant to be self-parodic, or the Cimino to be intolerable, doesn’t mean that you will. The experience of watching a few dozen shorts in quick succession, and discussing which ones you liked best with friends, is pretty close to the ideal TIFF experience. Don’t be surprised if a consensus never emerges from those debates, though. To Each His Own Cinema, indeed.

Rating: 56/100

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