Monday, September 20, 2010

TIFF (boo hoo), and The Last Station

TIFFed-off: Poor Torontonians. And – especially – poor Toronto media. They’ll have no “stars” to drool over at their local film festival, since TIFF bit the dust for another year Sunday. It is all quite hilarious the amount of ink and broadcast time devoted to the festival’s red carpet and star spotting reports. A sure sign of small town insecurity.

The Last Station – I had been wanting to see this film (d. Michael Hoffman), hearing one commentator go so far as to describe the movie as the best of 2009. There’s nothing particularly wrong with this tale of the last days of Russia’s Czarist-era and civil patron saint, writer Leo Tolstoy, played well by Christopher Plummer. Helen Mirren puts in a good performance as Tolstoy’s rather dismissed wife Sofya. There is also Paul Giamatti (a personal fave) as Vladimir Chertkov, guardian of Tolstoy’s organization known as the Tolstoyans and enemy of Sofya......But rather than the movie built around Tolstoy, as one might expect, it really circulates around James McAvoy’s character Valentin Bulgakov, a young Tolstoy secretary, and his seduction by free-love advocate Masha (Kerry Condon).....The film is nowhere as dramatic or multi-dimensional as I’d been led to believe, nor quite as funny. But it works as a straight ahead period piece and will appeal to those who like standard Merchant-Ivory fair or who are devotees of History Television.

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