Women get a fair shake on screen from the
American directors Alexander Payne, in "The Descendants," and Whit Stillman,
in "Damsels in Distress." But to get a fair shake behind the camera it looks
like women need to go to some other country. Like Canada.
Sarah Polley, for example, the Canadian actress and
director, is one of several non-American women who have outstanding films in
Okay, maybe I'm being a little harsh about the diminished role of women in the studio films at this year's Toronto Film Festival. True, there aren't any Hollywood films by female directors this year. The Kathryn Bigelow effect apparently hasn't kicked in yet. And women in significant roles are pretty rare, too.
Like I said the other day, the innerworkings of the things that rule our lives are a dominant theme in the films at the Toronto Film Festival.
Not just the obvious powers that be like politics, as in "The Ides of March," or baseball, as in "Moneyball." But other endeavors whose impact is more subtle. Like the arts.
Another stirring exploration of the power, for good or
ill, of the religious sensibility is Michael Powell's Black Narcissus (1947). In it, a troubled nun played by Deborah
Kerr (stunning in a wimple), joins three other sisters, some of whom even
shakier than she is, in reviving a mission situated high in the Himalayas.
Back in 1922, with WWI fresh in everyone's minds, the
young film director Manfred Noa made the silent film Nathan The Wise, an adaptation of an 18th century Gotthold
Ephraim Lessing play about the title Jewish merchant who brokered a treaty
between belligerents during the Crusades. To acknowledge the 10th anniversary of 9/11, the
Goethe-Institut and the Coolidge Corner Theatre will screen this prescient and
passionate plea for tolerance and peace.
Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who died in 1979 at the age
of 37, made more than 40 films in 10 years, a body of work that continues to
impress with its audacity, originality, and skewed beauty. One work that got
lost in the shuffle is his sole foray into sci-fi, the recently restored 210-minute
TV movie World
On A Wire (1972), an adaptation of
the Daniel F.
Just one day before the 10th anniversary of the biggest intelligence
failure in US history is the
Frontline screening of Top
Secret America, a look at what the spy boys have done in the
meantime to compensate for that lapse and make America safe from terrorism. Or is
their War on Terror just an excuse to impose an oppressive, surveillance state?
If the film doesn't answer that question, or raises others, stick around for
the panel discussion that follows with producer Michael Kirk
and journalist Dana
Priest, who co-wrote the doc's tie-in book at the
Brattle Theatre, 40 Brattle St, Cambridge | Saturday, September 10 @ 2 pm | free | brattlefilm.org.
It doesn't take long at the Toronto International Film Festival, the biggest in the world in many ways and the one where the studios and independents showcase their Fall releases and put them through an Oscar trial run, to learn how the world works.To figure out how the ticketing system here works is another matter. Be that as it may, many of the films seem to have as their theme the inside story on how the really important things operate behind the scenes.
The soul-destroying grind of clerical drudgery has been part
of the American experience at least since "Bartleby the Scrivener." No offense
to Herman Melville, but the version of that theme depicted in Mike Judge's
first film, Office
Space (1999), is a lot funnier. Also, the vengeance that its
disaffected and downsized drones take on their ruthless masters is a lot more
For 29 years Montreal has held an International
Festival Of Films On Art and the MFA has taken advantage of this by screening
the prize winners. This year the series runs through September 15 and starts
today with two seemingly disparate documentaries. Marc Daniels's Comic Books Go to War
(2009; 11 am) explores how comic book artists use their imagination and skills
to make the horror of warfare comprehensible.