Tuesday, September 04, 2007

toronto again!

This is the eighth year I've attended the festival, and everything is routine, except of course for the bedbugs, and even then I've had them before once up here, so without further adoo, here's the first batch of reviews:

My Kid Could Paint That
Sony Classics, 82mins, TBA

A Documentary by
Amir Bar-Lev

There's a story I heard about a famous abstract artist who sold a piece to the Museum of Modern Art in New York somewhere between a half and a quarter century ago: It seems that years after he sold the thing, he was visiting the museum and noticed the work. He complained the thing was hanging upside down. One of my earliest memories was of my mother taking us to the selfsame museum and commenting that one of the pieces hanging looked exactly like the thing I had brought home from kindergarten some weeks before. How's that for a segue?

Abstract art has always to some extent been a fraud. It's more about marketing than anything else, or at least since about 1950. The famous “white on White” where someone with a puts up a blank canvas and everyone ooo's and ahh's isn't over by any means. There's just an alternative by people with real talent at painting and drawing. Sometimes it appears that this stuff is sooo bad that it might have been done by a slightly challenged child, someone like little Marla Olmstead.

Marla was two when her father began exhibiting her work at a local coffee shop. The stuff seemed so good that gallery owner and artist
Anthony Brunelli, offered to have a formal show at his gallery in mid-2004. This caught the attention of the editors of the local paper and they sent journalist Elizabeth Cohen to have a look. She wrote a piece, which was picked up by the wire services and then all hell broke loose. Little Marla was getting up to twenty five grand for her work, and everybody who was anybody wanted one.

Now Mark and Laura Olmstead were, and are rather protective of their kids, and Mom seems very wary of the term “prodigy”, something that the documentarian demonstrates by briefly showing old footage of little children playing violins and such in front of rapt audiences. But while everyone in the world seemed to agree that Marla was adorable, whether or not she was actually painting those so-called masterpieces was another question, and here, we get into problems. Was Mark Olmstead perpetrating a hoax on the artistic intelligentsia by painting the works himself and signing it with his daughter's name?

No less than Charlie Rose tries to debunk little Marla and does a pretty good job at it. The film switches gears as the Olmsteads and their entourage go on the defensive, and while there's a happy ending of sorts, it's still kind of fishy.

The film is really fun to watch and makes you wonder, which is what a good doc is supposed to do.


A documentary by
Neil Ortenberg and
Daniel O'Connor

Have you ever wondered why there are R-rated movies? Well, once upon a time, the definition of smut was a lot broader than it is today. What would now be considered PG-13 would be pornographic, you know the song: “in olden days a glimpse of stocking was looked on as something shocking…”
Well that was the way it was as late as the 1950s and '60s, and then a hero arose to change it all. His name is Barney Rosset, and around 1948 he bought a tiny, failing publishing house called Grove Press and with it changed the world. I think for the better, but not everyone agrees with me on that account.

Rosset fought titanic battles in court so he could put out some of the most forbidden works of the explosive post-war decades, including Lady Chatterley's Lover, Tropic of Cancer and Naked Lunch, all of which are considered today to be classics. The documentarians interview Rossit and a bunch of literati from both past and present, to tell the story of the rise and fall of one of the unsung heroes of free speech, because, after all, the term “banned in Boston” actually was true. Along the way, Rossit and his magazine, the Evergreen Review, introduced the wider world to underground comics and Allen Ginsburg, Waiting for Godot and I am Curious (Yellow). America is a different place because of Rossit.

This is one riveting documentary, and it should be seen by pretty much anyone who's the least bit interested in American history.


Written and Directed by
Lawrence Johnston

Night is dark. I bet you didn't know that, right? Oh you did. Well, then I've spoiled the movie for you. That IS after all the great revelation of this turkey. Every filmfest needs a stinker and that's why they invited this.

Award winning director Lawrence Johnston should be ashamed of himself and so should composer Cezary Skubiszewski, while the cinematography is okay and the score isn't horrible, the film is. It starts well, with an explosion of sorts, reminding one of “Koyaniskiatsi”, but then the narration starts and the film begins to lose it's way. As was said before, the main revelation is that night, unlike the day, is generally dark and most people actually don't work at their professions, but go out to the local pub or the movies, or even-¬GASP!-go to sleep! Who knew?

The thing starts getting old in the first fifteen minutes and gets lamer and lamer, with the possible exception of some pictures of the moon. The same pictures of people walking around Sydney and Melbourne is boring, and near the hour mark becomes well nigh impossible. Even the part where someone describes a murder she witnessed is tedious as can be, and well, why would anyone want to see this thing? That's the real mystery. Stay far away.


A Documentary
by Parvez Sharma

Yes, folks, there are homosexuals in the Moslem world, and they don't have pleasant lives, that is unless they live in India or Pakistan. If you happen to play for that team, this may be interesting in a kind of “National Geographic” kind of way, but for the most part, there is no there there. We know that most religious fanatics aren't particularly gay friendly, but that's not any real news. The same thing happens in the Christian world, and the reactions and situations are surprisingly the same, and this despite the fact that the Christian world is currently the far more tolerant of the two.

So we follow a gay imam in South Africa, some lovers escaping Iran in turkey, some Algerians in France, and some Lesibians doing research on exactly what the Koran has to say about THEM (apparently nothing).

It's all very nice, but there's not actually anything to write home about. Don't bother.

No comments: