Reviews from the TO Film Fest

Stardom

Directed by Denys Arcand.

Starring Jessica Pare, Dan Aykroyd, Frank Langella, Charles Berling and Robert Lepage.

Stardom, the official opening film of the 2000 Toronto Film Festival, left me in awe Thursday night with its brilliant camera work, smart dialogue and unconventional storyline. Director Denys Arcand takes the fairytale of a model’s life and looks at the impact of fame, beauty, and money on one’s heart and mind.

On the surface, Stardom is the story of a gorgeous hockey player who is discovered and becomes a supermodel overnight. It looks at her tumble in and out of the spotlight, but on another level, the film is really about the cult of celebrity.

The movie shows Tina’s (Jessica Paré) career mostly through public appearances, TV coverage, and talk shows. We chart Tina’s life through wardrobes and hairstyles rather than dialogue. The newcomer Paré, in her debut, is a marvel. She is a cross between Liv Tyler and Mila Jovovich and is flawless.

The most interesting and creative part of the film is when the views are changed from a camera that shows the glamour and turns to a camera (handheld black and white) that shows the frailty of a young girl who has stumbled into stardom.

The idea Arcand tries to convey is that there’s a story within a story. Throughout, we watch the camera become her best friend as it tears the truth away from the glamour. Familiar faces to watch for in the film include Dan Aykroyd as well as Thomas Gibson from television’s Dharma and Greg. This year’s American Beauty will be Stardom. Baise-moi

Directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi.

Starring Raffaela Anderson, Karen Lancaume, Herve P. Gustave and Marc Riofoul.

Kiss me, rape me, kill me.

What more is there to say about this warped, soft-porn French film, directed by Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi? Except to say that it’s hard to review a film that will never appear in most of North America.

The movie, entitled Baise-moi, is based on the novel written by Despentes. The plot first begins to unfold twenty minutes into the film as most critics were walking out in dismay. The film tells the story of Manu (Raffaela Anderson) and Nadine (Karen Lancaume) are running from their pasts in search of a better life when they cross paths at a bus station. Instead of a new life, they find each other and a death wish.

The storyline slightly resembles Thelma and Louise — adventurous, reckless and out of control. But despite the few similarities that made Thelma and Louise so unique and memorable, this fugitive tale is filled with excessive violence, sex, and scarcely witty dialogue. In fact, when Luna and a friend get raped one afternoon, she finds humour in the assault and advises her friend to “...never leave any cum for them.” And who can forget Luna’s ludicrous trademark — ripping open the crotch section of her pantyhose to have sex quicker. What a riot.

While this film is intended to capture feelings of desperation, loss and self pity, the continual shift between graphic, irrelevant sex scenes and gory, blood-filled killings prevents and limits any further development of the characters.

Unless you’re horny and without Internet access, this is a film you can do without seeing. State and Main

Directed by David Mamet.

Starring William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, Alec Baldwin, Phillip Seymour Hoffman and David Paymer.

State and Main writer/director David Mamet mocks Hollywood with bottled water, breasts, and sex scandals with minors. With exceptional performances by a high-caliber cast, Mamet’s work is unique and shows an accurate behind-the-scenes look at the making of a film.

According to comments made at a press conference during the Toronto Film Festival, Rebecca Pidgeon, one of the film’s leads and Mamet’s significant other, revealed that he wrote the script based on his treatment in Hollywood.

The heart of the film looks at the impact of a big-budget movie shot in a small town. Like a tornado that tears things apart, “the movie people,” as they are referred to by the citizens of a fictional Massachusetts town, have interfered and disrupted their quiet little lives. Politics, love, and sex are central themes of the film, but Mamet puts the most emphasis on the power of money. He displays this through a series of events that shows what people can do for a few greenbacks and how they change once they have them. From the whining of a no name actress (Sarah Jessica Parker) who won’t show her breasts to the writer (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) who won’t type without his special typewriter to the movie star who sees his child molesting as a hobby (Alec Baldwin), Mamet truly captures the essence of film making and the Hollywood celebrity machine at its worst.

With notable performances from Parker, Baldwin, and youngster Julia Stiles, it is the innocent Philip Seymour Hoffman, underrated David Paymer, and wise-cracking William H. Macy who steal the show. This film will change your perspective on Hollywood and what lies behind the camera. Chill Out

Directed by Andreas Struck.

Starring Tatjana Blacher, Sebastien Blomberg, and Barnaby Metschurat.

Chill Out is a German movie directed by Andreas Struck. The film explores the concepts of identity, sexual tendencies, and the meaning of life. The story centres around Anna (Tatjana Blacher) who devotes her life to establishing the identity of unknown heirs. She lives alone, without friends, in search of a man to share her life with.

Johann (Sebastian Blomberg), her new love interest, is a thief who survives on people’s credit cards and is constantly on the move to avoid paying his debts. Two drifters in the night, she discovers him bleeding to death on a street and takes him to a hospital. As she quickly falls in love with the mysterious, good-looking man, her heart breaks when she learns he is gay.

Still, they remain friends and move in together. She works, he cooks, they play house.

But just when things begin to get comfortable and you’re picturing a My Best Friend’s Wedding type of ending, we meet Max (Barnaby Metschurat), a young man in his early twenties who moves in with them and essentially becomes their play toy. While they never actually have a threesome, Anna does consider it.

In brief, lots of sex and good chemistry between all three actors adds to the reality of the film, and captures the diversity of emotions you feel when you love someone you can’t have. It’s a great flick

Almost Famous

Directed by Cameron Crowe.

Starring Patrick Fugit, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Billy Crudup, Kate Hudson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Almost Famous, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, reminds you of the first time you discovered rock and roll, when it was a revelation or a dirty secret someone whispered in your ear. Crowe’s loosely autobiographical film centres on fifteen year old William Miller (Patrick Fugit) who takes us into the world of rock and roll in the mid-1970s as seen through the wide eyes of a young, impressionable fan. Miller gets the opportunity to go on the road with the fictional band Stillwater and write an exposé for Rolling Stone magazine. What makes Miller’s character great is that he is able to see that the only real moments for the band members are those onstage and that their lives are otherwise fairly self-involved.

William’s excitement, fear, and judgement of the band, coupled with journalistic ethics, is central to understanding the dilemma that Crowe creates. He is torn between being a kid, a fan, and a writer. His accuracy and integrity is challenged when he gets too close to Stillwater and becomes a friend rather than a critic. Phillip Seymour Hoffman has a brief yet noteworthy role as William’s mentor, rock critic Lester Bangs, who tries to guide him into the field of rock journalism.

Frances McDormand provides the comic relief in the film. As William’s mother, she humourously dictates strict rules about life, drugs, and rock and roll.

Aside from McDormand, the almost famous, but talented Jason Lee and Billy Crudup, take on the role of being rock stars realistically, showing both the up and downside to show business. Kate Hudson also gives a surprisingly radiant performance, with her spiritual, poetic, and free character. If you’re a music lover, artist or fan, you’ll enjoy this smart, creative piece of film.

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