Movie Habit’s Marty Mapes was in Toronto for the film festival this year. After the waters subsided in Boulder, Colorado, we were able to catch up with him for a quick little Q&A.
How was Toronto?
Good! I didn’t catch my international cold until my second-to-last day, so I was able to stay alert through most of my movies. It was a little strange to watch the Colorado floods from afar, but we made it home all right.
Did you see any good films we should look for this fall?
Well, Toronto does show lots of fall previews such as Gravity and August: Osage County. But they also show between 300 and 400 films from around the world, so the big fall films are just a small part.
In fact, I have a mission in Toronto, and it’s to find good smaller films that may not yet have distribution. I’m doing what the Denver Post critic called “discovery,” which seems an apt term.
Still, I saw a few name-brand crowd pleasers that are sure to show up this fall. The F Word is romantic comedy starring Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan. It’s a by-the-numbers conventional romantic comedy, but it works really well. Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director who has been officially banned from filmmaking has managed to create another film; Closed Curtain is about a filmmaker living in constant fear from unseen authorities. The great Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki has said he’s retiring, so The Wind Rises will be his last feature. And How I Live Now stars Saoirse Ronan; it’s a drama set in rural England about a group of young cousins. The parents are away when a not-completely-explained nuclear attack hits London, and the kids must try to survive after the collapse of civil society.
But probably most of my films will not be on the average moviegoer’s radar.
So tell us some of your favorite “discoveries”
Well, the first one that comes to mind is We Are the Best! by Swedish filmmaker Lukas Moodysson. He’s a director who in the past has made very dark, horrific films about adolescence. This time, it’s all fun. It’s the 1980s and two 13-year-old girls are inspired to rebel against their gym teacher and the metalheads at the youth center. They form a punk band — having no musical instruments and no musical training. Somehow, punk music seems a natural outlet for 13-year-olds. There is a quiet Christian girl who gets teased by the other kids, and she plays classical guitar. Punks and Christians don’t generally mix, but an outcast is an outcast, and soon all three of them are good friends, working on their sound, and their anti-sports lyrics.
Another one that’s fresh on my mind — I heard a BBC interview with the director, so maybe this isn’t such a “discovery” after all — anyway, it’s called InRealLife. It’s a documentary about teenagers and the Internet. I got angry watching the film — not because of bad filmmaking, but because as an Internet professional, I know all too well the traps people fall into without even realizing it. One of my pet peeves about social networking sites is given voice in the film — the assumption that anything I might want to say should get broadcast to everyone who knows me — my wife, my boss, my parents, my coworkers, even casual acquaintances. Another scene shows a teenage pornography user eloquently explaining how free internet porn has basically ruined love for him — yet he doesn’t want to stop; it’s an addiction. Another teenager explained she was so dependent on her cell phone that she was willing to essentially be raped in order to get it back from the bullies who stole it. I’m not sure the movie offers any answers, but it’s good to know that some people are thinking about the generation that grew up on the Internet, and it’s probably time we started talking about it.
Did you see anything that disappointed you?
I don’t think so. At Toronto, there are press and industry screenings that the public doesn’t attend, and the unwritten etiquette says it’s okay to walk out of a film that isn’t going to work for you. So there were a few I ditched; but not many. There was a drug-lord movie from the Caribbean with mediocre acting that was following the Hollywood formula really closely — it didn’t interest me at all. There was a “twisted” animated feature that looked even cheaper than South Park, but without the fast pace or approachable humor. I couldn’t believe something that low-budget had gotten a slot at the prestigious TIFF. But on the whole, I think I lucked out in attending mostly watchable films.
And what’s the strangest or most memorable film you saw?
There’s a Korean director whose work I admire. I did like his latest film — if “like” is the right word — but it’s practically impossible to think of someone I can recommend it to. In the Greek myth, Medea killed her own children to spite her husband. In this new Korean film, a mother takes revenge on her cheating husband by castrating their son. And that’s just the setup. There is an ugly rape. There are more castrations, including a chase scene involving a severed penis. There is a penile transplant. There is a lot of masochism, which takes the place of sexual pleasure for all the dickless characters. There is devastating incest. And — to top it all off, there is no spoken dialogue; there are sound effects and music, but it is essentially a silent film. It is tragic, grim, and horrible, yet it’s so strange and at times absurdly over-the-top that you don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or simply marvel.
Did you count how many movies you saw?
I saw 38 — if you count the ones I walked out of, in basically 8 days.
Yes, but also exhilarating. I feel like I’ve recharged my movie batteries.