Friday, September 07, 2007

Toronto International Film Festival Journal - Part Two


The best thing I can say about CAPTAIN MIKE is that it looked incredibly sharp on the digital projection system here at the Toronto International Film Festival. Sadly, it was crisper and clearer than anything I have yet to see projected on film here at the festival. The lettering on the Alliance logo animation almost felt like it was being projected in 3-D.

CAPTAIN MIKE ACROSS AMERICA is the other Michael Moore film of the summer; the first being SICKO. This film—also known by the better title UPRISING—is something of a half-hearted sequel to Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 9/11, documenting Moore’s “Slacker Uprising” tour of 2004 in which the filmmaker attempted to lessen the number of “red states” on the political map of the U.S. by encouraging voter registration and turnout. That the film is coming out three years after the fact seems merely to serve as a pre-election year prod for folks to get off their lazy butts yet again.

Unfortunately, seeing all of the folks in CAPTAIN MIKE serves as a reminder to just how close we came to dethroning our unelected president and how much this failure has hurt us in the years hence. It’s a bit like seeing interviews with the geeks in line for STAR WARS: THE PHANTOM MENACE who have no idea about the world of hurt they’re about to enter or if there had been an “Our Levies Are Indestructible” party in New Orleans in 2005.

Very much a concert film, CAPTAIN MIKE has musical performances scattered amongst its myriad shots of Moore shambling onto various stages across the country and begging the question, “Just how many baseball caps does this guy have, anyway?” After a while, the film feels too sad to stand. Additionally, there are times when the “Slacker Uprising” tour seems as though it should be called “Michael Moore’s Ego Trip Across America.” It seems that the less of Moore on screen the better. When he stays off screen (as he did in a lot of SICKO), his films seem more poignant. With that equation in mind, CAPTAIN MIKE has Moore on screen one way or another through approximately 95% of the film. You do the math.


Based on the novel Un Reglement de Comptes by Jose Giovanni on which legendary auteur Jean-Pierre Melville based his classic 1966 film, one has to admire the balls on Alain Corneau for tackling the same source material. A more colorful adaptation of the Giovanni novel, SECOND BREATH rejects all things black and white. Headlamps are amber and there’s even a jaundiced light over black and white crime scene photos. In fact, Corneau’s SECOND BREATH isn’t just colorful; it’s garish. Hues are saturated to stratospheric levels.

Apart from the color and some intensified violence, Corneau’s version of SECOND BREATH is an exercise in redundancy for fans of the original Melville film. It’s not to say that Corneau’s film is bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s simply just not necessary.

MY WINNIPEG (Guy Maddin, 2007, Canada)

A love poem to Canadian auteur Guy Maddin’s soon-to-be-former home, MY WINNIPEG feels like a fever dream that brings together past, present, and future. Repeated words and phrases form a hypnotic cadence as Maddin’s cinematic stand-in (Darcy Fehr) chugs through the snowy darkness. “Winnipeg, Winnipeg, Winnipeg,” is the chant, rising and falling like the locomotive drone of the night train carrying its somnambulistic fares through Manitoba’s premiere city.

Winnipeg; heart of the heart of Canada, the place that raised Maddin. With a hockey arena for a father and a hair salon for a mother (for more hockey and hairdressing see Maddin’s earlier COWARD BENDS THE KNEE), Madding explores the structural arteries of his home town and revisits the history of himself and his city. Narrated by the filmmaker, the prose of the film (courtesy of long-time Maddin crony George Toles) is an overwrought poem of maniacal hyperbole and enthusiastic linguistic gymnastics; a perfect pitch for the fractured visuals of Maddin’s multimedia pastiche. Looking like a daguerreotype picture postcard of this snowbound wonderland, MY WINNIPEG typifies Maddin’s mad genius and captures his sordid relationship with his home.

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