I wish that I had the gift of prose and language like the late, great Roger Ebert, especially when I have seen a remarkably bad film. He would have a way with words that would put a film in its rightful place.
Last night was such a film with the premiere of Under the Skin with Scarlett Johansson. It was billed as a “sci fi thriller” with the director and star attending live at the performance last night. They gave away free McDonalds coffee in the street as we lined up waiting to go in. It’s a good thing. The audience would have fallen asleep from boredom during this debacle.
This is a movie where I am glad that the Director before it was viewed stated “this is a film from the perspective of an alien and how they would see us”. Helpful because I would be unaware (virtually) without that context. Here we have visual images that mirror 2001, and some in Tree of Life and even Prometheus of Scotland (an opening sequence shows a lake which becomes a kaleidocope). There is distracting music throughout. Then the basic storyline has an alien (Scarlett) who is anxious to reveal herself to the camera but then does very little. She hunts unsuspecting locals who happen to walk around Edinburgh at the wrong time and meet the wrong woman, who is driving a van that we are uncertain how she obtained. She chats them up and is pleasant. This carries on for quite some time. Then something happens and she has a change of heart, and also goes mysteriously silent. The rest is a strange and convoluted mess of very little action and confusing situations.
I wonder how this was positioned to Scarlett by her agent? “Do this Star. It’ll show people you are bold and willing to be naked. It’ll bump up your status like it helped Jeff Bridges in Starman (he got a nomination for his role)”. She was sold a bill of goods. Starman is an infinitely better film about an alien visiting the planet. Bridges is infinitely better. Damn, even Keanu Reeves (Woah) is better in The Man Who Fell to Earth. There are just so many unanswered questions. Why does she do what she does? What purpose does she have here? Where does she get the money for clothes and a van? Why the change of heart? What happened to the men early on and what was the purpose? Why did I sit through until the end of this film? Why did people clap at the end? I can only suggest on the last question that those who clapped along to the music for the L’Oreal cosmetic commercial and clapped for that are the same ones who clapped at the end.
Young and Beautiful was a Belgian film, in French with subtitles. It was well reviewed by Now Magazine. It is a coming of age story about a good looking 17yo who has her first sexual encounter on vacation in the summer near her birthday. She then returns to the city (Paris) and begins turning tricks as a prostitute. Why again is not answered. For a 17yo, in some ways this makes sense. I enjoyed this film more. It will likely not be in your local Cineplex. The principal actress attended the film. She was painfully shy at the microphone on the stage but on film takes her clothes off without issue.
My history with TIFF as far as quality movies goes is not very good. I enjoy the experience and the vibe in the city – you can feel the excitement with the crowds. It is a good crowd too. Intelligent, good looking, patient and interesting. There should be a TIFF Speed dating event where you get free admission if you show a film ticket. People chat easily in line and are not all Torontonians obviously!!
Third Person. Yesterday’s film experience was much more satisfying for me. It was the new film from Paul Haggis (Canadian) who won the Oscar for Best Picture for Crash. Ironically this is a much maligned choice now, like Ordinary People winning and not Raging Bull or Shakespeare in Love rather than Saving Private Ryan. But I digress.
This movies has many stars with Liam Neeson, Kim Basinger, Mila Kunis, James Franco, Adrian Brody and Olivia Wilde. Brody was present at the Festival as was Haggis both before and after. This story had multiple stories running simultaneously (as with Crash) and then they come together at the end. It is a long film (over 2 hours) and by the end I was feeling the time. Basically it is a story about trust. Haggis himself called it a story about love, in all of its forms, but for me I see more issues about trust in it. That being said, the storyline has various characters and you must pay attention as to what is happening. Neeson is a writer who is working on his next novel. He sits in a hotel room. Typing away. There are various people and interactions here with a theme of trust. There is heartache and joy. There is pain. I will not delve further into the plot.
I enjoyed this movie, especially given Under the Skin two nights ago. Alison found it long and the payoff not as satisfying. I could relate heavily to the Neeson story and that helped me with the understanding and enjoyment. In my previous relationship with a woman from Texas, I had been lied to, and manipulated and deceived on numerous occasions and here on screen was a similar personality (played by Wilde). So that added to the familiarity.
I do not need to rush out and see this again, but I am glad that I saw it.