I had a terrific time at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month – I first attended the fest back in ’82, and then after going to the New York Film Festival in ’83 and ’84, I returned to Toronto in 1985 and have been there every September since. How truly amazing to see this event morph over the years into such an essential event for film makers and film lovers — it is now second only to the Cannes festival in terms of importance.
Independent cinema is going through wrenching changes right now, with fewer films finding distribution and audiences dwindling for art house fair. But there were numerous high quality films to be seen in Toronto, the two best being The Wrestler and Slumdog Millionaire. The first is directed by Darren Aronofsky, whose previous work (Pi, Requiem for a Dream) I have not been a fan of at all, but here he drops the arty pretensions and tells an intimate, straightforward story about a professional wrestler who has to give up his career due to a serious health issue. Starring Mickey Rourke in a sensational comeback role, the film avoids all the ‘Rocky’-style cliches and is extremely powerful.
Much more epic in scale is Slumdog, directed by Danny Boyle, best known for the film Trainspotting. This one is about a young man from the slums of Mumbai, India who find himself on the verge of winning the top prize on the Indian version of Who Wants To Be a Millionaire. The plot probably sounds pretty lightweight, but there is so much more to this enjoyable work — an engrossing story, incredible music, tons of action, insightful social commentary, brilliant cinematography and compelling performances by the cast, just for starters.
Two music documentaries were real standouts as well. The first is called Soul Power, directed by former U of M student Jeff Levy-Hinte, which captures the star-studded 1974 music festival in Zaire, Africa that was the companion event to the Muhammad Ali – George Foreman ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight. The previously unseen footage includes blistering performances by James Brown, BB King, Bill Withers & Celia Cruz and is a total blast.
The other cool doc in Toronto was It Might Get Loud. which focuses on guitarists Jack White, Jimmy Page and The Edge. Directed by Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth), the film includes a ton of archival footage as well as contemporary interviews with the 3 guitarists, who hang out together to play some tunes and discuss their work.
A couple of other flicks to watch for soon include Jonathan Demme’s Rachel Getting Married, with a breakaway performance by Anne Hathaway, and two nice films from France: Un Conte de Noel, starring Catherine Deneuve, and L’Heure d’ete, featuring Juliette Binoche.
I’ve been back to work for the last two weeks and am now looking forward to taping a performance soon with singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell for broadcast on the Oct. 12 edition of Fine Tuning. Also be on the lookout for upcoming performances on my morning show by two great Ann Arbor bands: My Dear Disco (Thursday, Oct 9) and the Macpodz (Friday, Oct. 10). Both of these will happen around 9am.
Will also be taking part in the 2nd annual Ypsilanti Songwriting Festival on Saturday, Oct. 18, when I’ll talk to Jon Langford of the Mekons. The event is free and open to the public — Info at ypsilibrary.org.