Monday, November 8, 2010

WIFF - that's a wrap

I caught Another Year (Mike Leigh) for a second time (having seen it in Montreal earlier this fall) and it was as satisfying to watch as at the first go round. This character study of aging Baby Boomers focuses on Mary (Lesley Manville) as the frail, ditzy friend of rock solid and nurturing couple Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen) (and yes they joke about their cutesy names!) (picture left). In competition for the top prize at Cannes this year the film didn’t win anything, though it garnered the best reviews of any movie. Go figure. This picture unfolds slowly but absorbingly in a nuanced way that juxtaposes marital contentment with the desperation of those who have somehow not found meaningful lives, in a story both sombre and light, with realistic performances throughout.....The Concert (Radu Mihaileanu) is about a former conductor Andrei Simoniovich Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) of Russia’s Bolshoi orchestra who, 30 years earlier, was stripped of his title after hiring Jewish musicians and being declared an enemy of the people. Despite the serious topic this is mostly a light hearted, even zany, ensemble film characteristic of eastern European cinema.

WIFF notes & wrap: Here are some observations from others and myself about this year’s fest, the sixth annual.

- Yes, we all love the old Capitol Theatre. But, despite the building’s mid-Nineties renovation there are still obvious deficiencies. Take seating. These are the original seats and, yes, they’re uncomfortable. I heard numerous people complaining about their sore backsides. This was even truer in the smaller Kelly room (the theatre on the right) where people had to squeeze in to narrow rows. There likely are obvious reasons the Capitol was chosen. But a venue like the Palace complex around the corner - and with ownership that has embraced independent films – would have been a more comfortable venue. The WIFF did screen films at the Palace in the past, as it did at the even more comfortable Lakeshore, but last year consolidated all screenings at the Capitol. Also, the temporary seats in the Joy theatre - often used as a reception room - were even more uncomfortable.

- Another problem was sound, especially in the Kelly. It was all but impossible to make out dialogue during Saturday evening’s screening of Stephen Frears’s Tamara Drewe. I’ll admit to my own denseness. But the loud sound of the projector coupled with some kind of muffled audio from the movie itself (just my imagination?) and some heavy English dialect made watching it seem almost like a foreign movie without sub-titles.

- The marketing. Yes, we know the WIFF acts as an incentive to bring people downtown. That’s great. (And obviously many of the fest-goers were newbies judging by the number of comments along the lines of  “not being in this theatre since I can’t remember when” or “I remember coming here way back in high school!”) But why not promote the festival better? You would never know the WIFF was at the Capitol unless you were a pedestrian happening to take a hard look at the posters in the theatre’s window showcases. Motorists driving by looked puzzled by what was going on. How about next year putting a banner across University Ave. – and at other street locations downtown - advertising the festival big?

- On the plus side, it was good to see that the screens were raised from stage floor level, making them quite visible from pretty well all the seats.

- Finally, it seems unreasonable for some film goers – well, one woman in particular - to complain about others who were munching on snacks. After all, the festival sells popcorn expressly for the purpose of eating while watching the movie. It’s a time-honoured tradition. So to this woman - grossly annoyed about the people down the aisle who were only doing what moviegoers have done forever - I say, lighten up!

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