TIFF Day 08: big day at the office!

Time to get busy with the screenings,  I have come all this way to see films so time to get busy!

Kamui (2009), Japan, tells the story of fugitive ninja who is hunted by other ninja's for breaking their code. It sounds like the perfect recipe for ripper of a martial film.  The story takes place in the 17th century Japan in rural fishing village.  The film opens with narration bringing the audience up to date with a very young Kamui observing a battle between the ninja clan and female fugitive ninja who is killed in battle.  The story fast forwards to 14 years with Kamui now in his early twenties and being chased by hordes of ninjas trying to bring him down. Obviously being a film about ninja's makes this a perfect vehicle for many complex fight sequences with our hero always coming out on top. He seems to have grasped extra powers that the ordinary ninja's hasn’t.  The film tries to add some complexity and depth of the characters with the introduction of Hanebi, a crazy fisherman, who is saved by Kamui but returns the favour by trying to kill him by pushing in overboard in heavy seas.  Kamui survives and washes up on shore in the fishing village were Hanebi lives. Kamui discovers Hanebi wife is actually the missing female ninja. After initially tension, they all settle into fishing life, but soon things go haywire with ship of ninja pirates arriving. They are greeted as friends but soon become foes. A long with the potential to be an epic martial arts film but falls flat and the fight choreography lacks any real brilliance.

Life During Wartime (2009), USA, Todd Solondz has been a filmmaker that has made audience uncomfortable with his characters that have inhabited his film. Palindromes failed to live up to Solondz previous efforts and this time around he delivers but without completely weirding out audiences. Life During Wartime is a quasi sequel to Happiness with some of the same characters (being played by different actors) reprise a number characters. The universe has moved on from Happiness but the welcome isn’t straight forward either with quirky unique characters that make you laugh and cringe as they simply move through their life. Family is a strong theme that under pins Solondz, you can pick your friends but not your family and you have to indulge them in your life no matter how uncomfortable or strange they are. A return to form, but will the audience of this decade embrace Solondz work this time round.

Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel (2009), Canada, this celebratory documentary about Hugh chronicles his life from the beginning to present. It features interviews with celebrities and close personal friends from within the Playboy paying tribute to the man. But the film also features several of his biggest critics like Pat Boone and several prominent feminists pouring cold water on the man. Most importantly the film tries to convey Hefner achievements are more than just a dirty magazine but he has been a campaigner for women and African American rights. A lot of the screen time is devoted to clips from Playboy TV variety shows that feature Hugh holding parties with celebrity guest entertaining his party guest for the television audience which aired in the 60’s. It’s warm and fuzzy celebrating his life without tackling anything too conversational or risky.

Trash Humpers (2009), USA, this is a strange film which I simply didn’t enjoy after seeing so many strong films in the festival so far the stinker was lurking in the form of Trash Humpers. The film follows two men and female wearing prosthetic old people mask s at they wandered around have stimulated sex with bins, trees any fixed object they can find. They smash up property and socialise with a strange collection of characters. The film is shot like it was made with dirty 80’s VHS video cameras with the in camera titles. This isn’t an art house film, it’s just a collection of rubbish that will try must peoples patience. I suspect that there’ll be an audience out their that will embrace this film as a incredible piece of experimental cutting edge auteur cinema but don’t be fooled this film is rubbish - the symbolise is in the title trash. You know what they say - trash by name trash by nature. Harmony Korine has written and directed some very moving and controversial films that have been worthy of viewing but this film has no redeeming elements.

Air Doll (2009), Japan, the experience of watching Trash Humpers was quickly washed away by this amazing and beautiful film about an inflatable sex doll that suddenly comes to life. The doll (Nizomno) is in an unforfilling relationship with her owner but magic happens and she finds away to take the form of real life person with a real heart. The only person who doesn’t see her for her new form is her owner. Nizomno suddenly finds herself a child in an adult world and she possess child like inquisitive outlook for life. She lands herself a the local video store forms a close friendship with one of her co-workers. But she discovers were there is beauty there is an emptiness. Her adventures bring her into contact with a variety of people from the neighbourhood which touches her life and theirs. She returns to the factory where she was made and her meets the person that created her. This a touching and beautiful film that is wonderfully directed by Hirokazu Koreeda who pulls together a film that on reading a synopsis sounds incredibly unbelievable. Instead we experience an awaking of beautiful person who discovers that air means more to her than most.

Symbol (2009), Japan, is crazy film that effectively is just an elaborate gag film which has long been the realm of the short film, the films act as a long set up for a big funny ending. While Symbol actually does the same thing! Directed and starring Hitoshi Matsumoto delivers a sometimes funny but ultimately a long gag film. The film crosses between somewhere in Mexico - a wrestler is preparing for fight day and a man who wakes up in his pj’s in a completely white room with some strange characteristics. Hitoshi constantly screaming will grate on some viewers while others will find it amusing. The film has some very funny moments but the conclusion will be a WTF moment. Symbol probably plays best in front of midnight screening audience and if you get a chance to see it at your local film festival see with the midnight screening!