Thursday, September 12, 2013

TIFF Day 6

The Grand Seduction
Yet another Canadian feature, this time from Don McKellar (and, unknown to me at the time, co-written, or at least anglicized, by Michael Dowse, of The F Word and Goon fame). An English remake of a popular Quebecois film, it tells a universally comic tale with a ton of heart.

Set in the Newfoundland fishing harbour of Ticklehead, this is a story of people coming together to regain their hope and dignity. The fishing has long dried up, and with it the jobs and independence the townsfolk once knew. Their welfare cheques arrive, and everybody lines up before dispersing to do... well, not much.

But a petrochemical company is looking to build factory somewhere in the province, and Ticklehead is in the running. There's just one problem, they need a permanent doctor - something they haven't had in eight years - or the company won't even consider them. The Mayor is useless, so generational fisherman Murray (Brendan Gleeson) takes control and rallies the town. A young city doctor (Taylor Kitsch) is convinced to spend a month in the harbour through perhaps less than wholesome means, and the townsfolk have that month to convince him that Ticklehead is the greatest place on Earth to convince him to stay. This involves faking a love of Cricket, providing his favourite meals, and whatever else it will take for them to get their man.

I suppose one could say there's commentary on the surveillance state, corporate greenwashing, fishing regulation, social programs, or civic action, but that would be looking far too deeply into a warm-hearted comedy. Newfoundland is shot gorgeously, and the performances are all spot on. From riled up fishermen to their frustrated wives to spineless company men to the fish-out-of-water doctor. The comedy lies in the efforts of the community, without ever turning sincerity to mockery, which is a fine line to walk. And casting Mary Walsh and Gordon Pinsent as a couple was genius.

This isn't a laugh-a-minute broad comedy, but one that gets chuckles and smiles and the occasional guffaw, with an underlying sentimentality that keeps it grounded as the audience wonders if all this effort will be for naught.

Jodorowsky's Dune
This is the story of possibly the greatest science fiction movie never made. After 2001, but before Star Wars, Alejandro Jodorowsky was going to make Dune. He had had a series of cult films that had performed very well in Europe and midnight showings in the States - El Topo and The Holy Mountain - avant garde mind fucks from a surrealist's mind. But their success lead to him getting a carte blanche for his next movie, and he chose Dune.

This doc covers the story of how it all came together, and ultimately failed. Jodorowsky gathered Dan O'Bannon, H.R. Giger, French artist MÅ“bius, and sci-fi artist Chris Foss to design the film. Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvadore Dali were signed on to act. His son underwent years of fight training to play Paul. Pink Floyd was doing music for the film. A scene-by-scene storyboard was created and assembled into a massive tome that told the entire story. Then it was rejected by every studio in Hollywood.

Jodorowsky, even at 84, is a magnetic and enthusiastic personality. Right away he has you believing in his vision, and it's easy to see how he was able to assemble whatever talent he wanted. Getting them to abandon their lives and homes to work with him in Paris on the most ambitious film of its time. His Dune would have been violent and spectacular and ultimately uplifting. A surrealist hippy vision of what could be. Jodorowsky saw it not as a film, but a means to change the world. His cast and crew were "spiritual warriors", and he only wanted those who exuded passion and genius. It could have been phenomenal.

Granted, it could have also been a disaster, as it was easily a decade ahead of its time in terms of what could be achieved. But that's never really considered, because Jodorowsky's personality doesn't allow it. Regardless, it's influence cannot be denied, as a montage of later films shows.

This film is carried on the obvious love everyone involved still has for the film that never was. Many of the artists consider it their best work. The critics see it was tremendously influential. Everyone laments that it could have changed the blockbuster model before it started. Jodorowsky still thinks it could change the world.

This made me 3/3 on docs at this year's fest - another great piece that has the audience leaving feeling inspired and creative and joining the chorus of those who wish this Dune could be seen.

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