Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Film Exhibition in Toronto (August 2009)

No, that's not a typo...

As I have just spent a week in Toronto, I thought it would be interesting to document my impressions of the film exhibition landscape there, especially since the landscape back home has had only one troubling proposed addition to its fragile ecosystem and is otherwise the same. In my time up north, I had the opportunity to see six films at five different theaters (and yes, I did other things as well).

I caught Amelie and Bicycle Thieves at the Bloor Cinema, a single-screen older theater that ran arthouse and second-run films, varying what was shown each day. There was something nice and comfortable about the Bloor, and I felt right at home. I didn't go and watch a film from the balcony, perhaps due to my culture shock over the Canadian candy situation (I kept defaulting to Coffee Crisp since the Kit-Kats looked different and the other choices seemed exotic... European). It was sort of like if the Senator was run like the Charles.

After reviewing all their impressive screening options, I settled on seeing In Praise of Love at the Cinemateque Ontario. This hard-to-see Godard film's screening was packed. To read the chapter about the film later that evening as I finished up my summer reading added a nice rejoinder to this rare opportunity. The theater's screening room, which is attached to the Art Gallery of Ontario, was nothing amazing, but the quality of the films they were offering (thorough retrospectives of European filmmakers and movements via rare, restored, and archival prints) was extremely impressive. Apparently, the Cinemateque is slated to move to some sort of movie-themed luxury condo site and to become the official home of the Toronto International Film Festival in the future.

I had great hopes that seeing GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra in Canada would offer some difference from seeing it at a multiplex stateside, but there wasn't one that I could detect in the crowd at the AMC Younge. The decor of this multiplex was focused on "great" films and directors (like Steven Speilberg and Ron Howard), which made me wonder if it is used for TIFF screenings.

The oddest experience for certain was a digital screening of Zatoichi meets Yojimbo at the Cineforum, which is located in Reg Hartt's house. Reg is a long standing film buff and archivist, and he held forth before the screening in a scattershot but welcoming matter before a videotaped introduction to the film by a "guest lecturer." Warm sake was offered as well.

As was also the case at the Bloor, you paid more for your first screening at Cineforum in order to become a member of "the club." Future screenings are then offered at a reduced rate. Was this some sort of Canadian scam or a viable model for a film club in Baltimore? In the case of myself and my traveling companion, we did not have a chance to truly utilize our memberships.

I got to view a film I missed at the 2009 Maryland Film Festival, Nollywood Babylon, which was engaging on several levels. The screening was held at the National Film Board of Canada's Mediatheque, which offered private screening rooms in which you could watch thousands of films (the catch: they were all NFBC-affiliated ventures). Something about the whole experience felt like the efforts of the uncool kids to be cooler, but this could be based on an inferiority complex that Canadians sometimes regretably possess in regard to certain aspects of their home culture.

All in all, I left Toronto very impressed with the diversity of their film exhibition landscape, and can only imagine what the same landscape looks like in the grips of TIFF. To be in a city that looks at things through a more European prisim was a welcome break from things back home, and allowed me to return to a familar landscape with a fresh perspective.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Films Viewed (July 2009)

Sex and Lucia
Food Inc.
(500) Days of Summer
Connor Kizer's Cosmology
Margot at the Wedding
Une Femme Mariee (A Married Woman)
Chungking Express
Il Divo

The Charles
The Senator
The Landmark Harbor East
The Rotunda
Other (On Demand, Video Americain, suburban multiplex)
Total: 15 films (9 in theaters)

Notes: It is interesting to envision a time when this blog will nothing more than my report of what I saw at the Charles this month. It seems to be the case in Baltimore that if you wait long enough, any non-mall-skewing film you want to see at the Landmark Harbor East will make it to the Charles (Up and Away We Go being recent examples). Will (500) Days of Summer be the next print to be passed from downtown to mid-town? We shall see.

This month I have been doing my usual summer homework at Video Americain, Von Trier and Godard and Wong Kar-Wai being some subjects covered. A Charles theater patron asked more than a few questions about my between-shift reading of Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, her topper being "And this is the kind of thing that is summer reading for you?"

Well, the answer is yes. Sorry, lady.

One film off the beaten path that should be noted would be Connor Kizer's Cosmology, a free rental at Video Americain. His theories and musings on various topics relating to Cosmology were engagingly presented. I found especially useful his explanation of time travel, which places a very important franchise re-boot trick in a more understandable context for me.

Otherwise, it was disapointing comedies, animated films everybody saw two months ago, and crazy Italian movies that deserved more that a six day bow. Up next, a trip to Toronto. Perhaps I will have reports to make on the state of film exhibiton in Canada.