Today I’m giving away the program for TIFF 1993. This year was also very rich. It has been almost twenty years since I saw these movies but I still have vivid memories of most. Also, three of my top picks were Canadian, that doesn’t happen very often.
Short descriptions because there were so many good ones, and a favourite…
Love and Human Remains – Denys Arcand’s well told story of three young people trying to start their lives successfully in Montreal. I remember thinking the script was as cutting as Thomas Gibson’s cheekbones (I also remember Janet and I passed him on Bloor street the day after seeing the movie and he’s really tall). I also remember the line that got the greatest laughs in the movie was a withering insult to Toronto.
The Piano – I loved this movie. I love Jane Campion and Holly Hunter, I wish they both did more. I loved the music – although I know it was polarizing and a musician friend hated it. This movie changed how I saw Harvey Keitel (honestly, had you ever thought of him as sexy before that seen in his hut?).
Belle Epoque – Maybe not as artful as Almodovar, but funny, lush, beautiful film-making. One of Penelope Cruz’s first movies and it came out the same year as Jamon Jamon which wasn’t in the festival but was funny and sexy and was the first time she worked with Javier Bardem.
Trois Coleurs – Bleu – I wrote last week about Kieslowski. This was my favourite of the Trois Couleurs, his trilogy based on the French flag colours and the representation of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Bleu is about freedom, kind of. Juliette Binoche plays a woman coping with a shattering loss and finding a path away from it. Beautiful.
The Wedding Banquet – It’s probably obvious to you now that I have some favourite directors. Ang Lee is one of them. This movie was very funny, and like Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, found clever laughs in the foibles of family, generations and tradition vs. progress.
The Hawk – This movie has stayed with me. Helen Mirren plays a wife and mother of two in an unhappy marriage to a bit of a rotter. What transpires as the story is unveiled is very haunting. She is so ordinary and believable in this role, it will deck you. No spoilers though, hopefully it will come to Netflixand you’ll get a chance to see it.
Temptation of a Monk – To be honest, I don’t have that strong a memory of this movie but I love the director, Clara Law, and I remember that I thought it was pretty racy for a Hong Kong festival movie.
Mustard Bath – A great story about a young Canadian man who grew up in colonial Guyana and is now studying to be a Doctor in Toronto. He returns home to Guyana following the death of his mother. Michael Riley played the lead and told a funny story at the Q&A about having to take a prosthetic penis in his suitcase for a scene in the movie (I won’t say what happens there), and getting caught up in security having to explain things.
Cold Comfort – A Canadian movie from 1989 but featured in a special series on Canada in this festival. Ten programmers each chose a Canadian movie they thought was under-appreciated and deserved another look. Cameron Bailey was the programmer who chose Cold Comfort. It’s a very oddball story, made believable because of Maury Chaykin.
My favourite –
Naked by Mike Leigh. This movie was raw and sharp. The amazing David Thewlis makes the film. His eyes and physical presence do a lot of the work but he also gives monologues that kind of rip your heart out. It’s also funny and empathetic that is unique to Mike Leigh movies. He has a very signature approach to film making. He’s a realist, his characters are very flawed, not very attractive, and often very cranky. He’s an experimental director too and I’ve read that he often works without a script or other conventional things like that. This is a great example of why you go to a film festival. Naked probably didn’t last long in distribution, assuming that it got a deal at all, but everyone who did see it loved it.