Thursday, September 9, 2010

TIFF 2010 Reviews: Day 1 September 9, 2010

Film Socialism, Rating: One * out of Five ***** (for the TIFF experience, otherwise likely a ***)
dir. Jean-Luc Godard (not present)
French with some German, Russian, English, Italian - No subtitles
4 word review: Fragmentary glimpses cruise-ship families

Ryerson Theatre, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2010, 1st screening of 3 at TIFF
Advertised as a 6pm start, began about 6:40pm.

This was a bad TIFF 2010 start, with the audience already bitter and cranky as we stood outside for an unnecessary extra 30 minutes or so, past the advertised start time.
When I asked staff what the problem was, they said there was none.
I instead imagine a backstage scramble when they realized that they had a print with no English subtitles on it. Maybe Godard thought since it was Canada there was no need? "Ils parlent français là-bas, n'est-ce pas?"
Even at the Cannes premiere they had his subtitled version with what he had described as his "Navajo English" subtitles where sentences were stripped of verbs, adverbs and adjectives, but at least something showed on screen.
Here in Toronto there was none of that, so when the dialogue did come through clearly (often it was obscured by the wind conditions on board the cruise ship deck where most of the first half takes place) you were left to decipher and translate what you could.
Piers Handling's piece in the programme book made no mention of the lack of subtitles, the TIFF announcer at the start said nothing about the film whatsoever and seemed she was just stopping off at Ryerson on the way to a gala party somewhere else.

So we were left to our own devices. The walkouts started about 20 minutes into the film when people realized a) there was no plot and b) sub-titles were not going to appear. I counted about 30 walkouts from my side of the balcony but couldn't see the far side or the floor from where i was sitting. Many held out for about 45 minutes when they finally accepted that there was not going to be a story for them to follow and the sub-titles really were not going to come. Probably the floor had more invested in the film as they had probably stood in line for 60 to 90 minutes. Also, there is more self-consciousness about walking out when you are in full view on the floor. The balcony types had no such fear.

On screen, there were random fragmentary views of different people on a cruise-ship, some families, some musicians (Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye, yeah!), some making conversation, some quoting from literature, often these scenes were just 5 or 10 seconds and would cut abruptly even in the middle of a sentence. Some of the high-def camera shots of the ocean and the ship were visually beautiful. Sound was choppy with wind blowing straight into the camera microphone with no attempt to filter it out. Occasionally fragments from the ECM Records catalogue could be heard on the soundtrack. Giya Kancheli's "Abii ne viderem" and Arvo Pärt's "In principio" amongst others.
Then we are at some sort of gas station where a llama and a donkey are kept as pets by the owner-operator family. The family's blond kid here was at least fun to watch in parts such as when he phantom conducted a music piece. The donkey's stoicism was also a treat (an "Au hasard Balthazar" symbol perhaps - certainly Godard had plenty of other film clips and references contained in here). At one point the kid could be heard to say (in English): "No Comment".
The final section had clips from mostly archival documentary footage or other films (e.g. Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin", someone's "Alexander the Great") about Egypt, Greece, Palestine, Odessa, Napoli, and Barcelona. It all ends with Godard's final screen images of text that also end with the words "No Comment". The end. Black screen. No credits (although some had appeared at the beginning). Mild scattered applause and everyone dashes to the exits headed for Inside Job, Legend of the Fist or Score A Hockey Musical and maybe a late night Midnight Madness Fubar 2. In any case, something with a story and communication and passion and drama to it.

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