TIFF 2012: A Near Perfect Festival Day - Four Films & Two Interviews
by Alex Billington
September 8, 2012
It's my 6th year back at the Toronto Film Festival (aka TIFF), my 5th at Telluride, 4th year in Cannes, and earlier in the year, my 7th back to Sundance. I love film festivals, and as long as I can continue to cover them, I'll be back to these four every single year. The ludicrous precedent I set for myself, years ago back in January of 2007, was an insane day at Sundance. Somehow I caught 6 films, did 2 interviews, and survived to live another day. Anyone who attends film fests knows that, even with a perfect schedule, squeezing in 4 or 5 films in one day is the limit. But if I can pull that off, and do some interviews, it's a perfect festival day.
That just happened here at TIFF 2012. By some miracle, I pulled off a perfect day, and honestly that rarely happens in Toronto. The schedule here and press screening overlaps (and 289 films programmed) usually brings me closer to about 2 to 3 films per day, especially during the second half. But on Friday, September 7th, everything turned out amazing. I saw four films, two back-to-back in the evening, and did two interviews, one for Looper which I had seen the day before, and one for Dredd (which is playing Midnight Madness here at TIFF even though I originally saw it back at Comic-Con). If only every day was this good.
My day began by seeing my very first Harmony Korine film - Spring Breakers. Yea, this is the one that stars Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens and James Franco as wild Floridian spring breakers gone nuts. And it's just that - wild. This is one big party film that descends into chaos, presented as the ideal American dream. Who doesn't want all the money, guns, power and girls (or guys)? That can be achieved if you go down to celebrate spring break in Florida. I had a blast watching it. Some say it isn't a comedy - but I was laughing almost the entire time. Fun way to start the day with some subversive cinematic entertainment.
Next up, I caught The Perks of a Wallflower, an indie high school dramedy starring Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller. I enjoyed it, it's good. But the thing I'll say - in the film festival context, it just doesn't stand out. I pretty much forgot about it a few hours later. Maybe because my mind was elsewhere, on the other films that do stand out, and what was coming up next. From there I went straight to my two interviews - the first with writer/director Rian Johnson of Looper. I've seen the film twice and we decided to talk about full spoilers, so I'm saving that one. My other interview was writer Alex Garland of Dredd - just wait until you hear what he has to say about those (totally bullshit) The Raid comparisons.
At this point, I had about an hour free to catch my breath, grab a quick dinner, and continue on to begin one of the best evenings of film I've had at a fest in a while. The first premiere that I nabbed tickets to was The Place Beyond the Pines, the third feature from filmmaker Derek Cianfrance, whose last film was Blue Valentine, which we fell for hard at Sundance 2010. This was the world premiere - no one had seen the film before and not many knew what to expect. I'm formulating a solo review for that right now, so I'll get into it more there, but I can say it was a very interesting and oddly, an epic, experience. One that I'll never forget.
Finally, to end my day, after seeing Pines at the "Princess of Wales" theatre venue in Toronto (seen above), my next screening was The Master in the exact same theatre. This was the highly-touted 70mm screening of Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film, and it started about an hour or more late, due to scheduling (mostly Pines) running behind. That said, this was the moment I was waiting for. One of my most anticipated films to see this entire year, hoping to be as blown away as I was by There Will Be Blood. But expectations get the best of you. I didn't love it, and I'm still trying to process why. Maybe I just need to see it again to get into it.
The Master is unquestionably a cinematic experience and the next step in the evolution of Paul Thomas Anderson as a director, delivering his sixth film. I loved the first half of The Master, and the technical elements and performances are spectacular, but the story starts to dwindle in the second half. It offers a lot of different strings to pull, but none of them connect to anything, the second half just winds out without leading anywhere. As Ben Kenigsberg tweeted after the screening: "Uh, yeah. Those rules about how movies are supposed to work? I think someone threw those out, did something new." Exactly as PTA can deliver.
I caught both of these evening screenings with my very good friend Eric Lavallee of IONCinema.com, who I love seeing films with. Afterward, I met up with Cory Everett of PTA site Cigarettes & Red Vines and talked with him for about an hour on the streets of Toronto. We covered The Master, PTA and more films. Nothing better than invigorating discussion after a stunning film. I was also planning to catch the midnight of Seven Psychopaths, but The Master let out too late. Five films would've been an achievement, but I'm still satisfied with my Friday at TIFF 2012. One of the best festivals days I've had in a quite while.
This was only Day 2 of the seven I'm here in Toronto. My coverage is just now starting up, as on Day 1 two of the films I saw I'd already seen before (Looper, Rust & Bone) and the other one was instantly forgettable (plus I had a horrible phone-use-in-theater experience). As always, I'm posting my reactions and coverage on twitter @firstshowing and will be bringing you reviews, interviews and more as TIFF 2012 continues.