TIFF 2007 Day 1

The Toronto International Film Festival kicked off last night.  For the next 10 days, I will be in festival mode spending most of my time in theatres.  Transit won’t disappear completely from this site, but my focus will shift as it does each year.

I will be posting reviews of the films I see, although keeping up on a day to day basis may be a challenge.

Reviewed here:

Fados by Carlos Saura 

Opening Titles

Usually, there’s lots worth writing about for the trailers at the start of each screening.  Considering that serious festival goers like me will see them 30 times and more, trailers that can survive repeat viewing are gems.

This year has the most uninspiring collection of trailers I have ever seen.  TIFF is pre-occupied with their new development, the “Bell Lightbox” to rise at King and John and that’s what we see first.  Yawn.  The poster this year shows a view of the Wintergarden Theatre (open this year for a handful of screenings) and usually the poster and the TIFF trailer share a common theme.  However, instead of loving views of the hidden gem of Toronto theatres, we have an insipid presentation of TIFF’s new home.

TIFF needs to remember that this is a film festival, not an opportunity for corporate back-patting.  Inspire us!

(Addendum September 10):  I received a comment from “Matt” as follows:

I could swear the anti-piracy warning screen during the trailers uses the TTC “subway” font. I’m no expert, and I know there are a lot of similar fonts, but the top-heavy R is usually a giveaway. Apparently this wasn’t enough, either conciously or subconciously, to win your support for the trailers…

Yes, I noticed that font too.  All we need now is a few lightning bolts and a signs warning of possible eletrocution.

Fados: Directed by Carlos Saura (Spain/Portugal) ****

My very first festival screening, 25 years ago, was Carlos Saura’s Carmen, a brilliant combination of flamenco with Bizet’s much-loved opera.  Over the years, Saura’s dance and song films stood high on my list of “must see” festival events.  Fados continues this line with a beautiful, haunting presentation of the heart of Portuguese music, Fado.

In Flamenco (1995), Saura staged a concert film in an abandoned railway station using the simplest of devices, large white screens and mirrors, to divide the space and dramatic lighting to set the visual mood for each performance.  The camera, as in many Saura films, actively participated in the action, but never moved just for movement’s sake.

This style returns in Fados with simple backgrounds, lighting and projections that serve the music with a changing visual pallette.  Some sequences are almost sepia monochromes, others use bright colours, some are shot close in for quiet intimacy, some are wide emphasizing the space around the performers.  The film is a textbook showing that concerts can be presented without effects taking over the screen.

The music, of course, is the heart of Fados.  During the post-screening Q&A, Saura observed that Fado, Flamenco, Tango and early Jazz were all born of 19th century lower class origins, music of the ports and bordellos.  After an opening street march and dance of Cape Verde, Saura takes us through fados both traditional and modern showing this is a live, evolving music.  In three sections, Saura uses historical footage of revered past fadistas, but these homages include modern sung and danced interpretations of the music.  There is no sense of a “patched on” quality and the old scenes are one with the new performances.

Saura is best known for his love of dance, and he adds dancers to the fado sequences blending the Spanish and Portuguese cultures.  Indeed, Saura spoke of a dream that there could simply be an Iberia with the capital moving from Lisbon to Madrid to Barcelona year by year.

The Q&A included one of those magical festival moments when Mariza, a great star of the modern fado, put down her microphone and just sang, her huge voice filling the Ryerson Theatre.  She will be back in Toronto at Massey Hall on October 3.

Fados screens again today (September 7) at 4:30 pm at the Scotiabank Theatre and on September 14 at 10:00 am at the Varsity.  Watch the trailer on YouTube.

With this superb opening, my festival is off to a great start for 2007!