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Sunday, September 7, 2008

Toronto: Goodbye Solo, $9.99, Patrik Age 1.5

The Toronto Film Festival is in full swing with lots of glitz and glamor, seemingly largely involving Brad Pitt during the first weekend of the festival, but I tend to like to focus on the other side of the festival - the side full of great foreign films and "smaller" works that may not have the high-wattage starpower but make up for that by sheer force of artistic conviction. So even though I'm very much looking forward to films like Burn After Reading, The Brothers Bloom, and Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist, I very specifically avoid any film scheduled for release before the end of the year and generally pass on higher profile films that seem likely to get a release relatively soon. Focusing on the unknown is a somewhat risky proposition, but it's also the thrill of a film festival where you never know when you're going to discover a new indie talent or perhaps a Hungarian director who quickly becomes one of your favorite directors.

So far the ratio of hits to misses has been pretty high at the 2008 Toronto Film Festival. I have only walked out on one film thus far (and taken an extended nap in another.) A few highlights from the first weekend: Ramin Bahrani has already made a name for himself with Man Push Cart and Chop Shop, and he continues to outdo himself with his latest feature, Goodbye Solo. Authenticity is always the keyword in Bahrani's films, and this character study of two men follows in that tradition. Solo is a Senegalese cab driver in Winston-Salem, North Carolina who receives an odd request one evening from William, a passenger in his cab. The outgoing Solo and the gruff William form an odd couple friendship (or at least tolerance) slightly reminiscent of the friendship in The Visitor from earlier this summer, and Souleymane Sy Savane and Red West give performances that would be attracting awards buzz if they were higher profile names in higher profile films. On the animated front, the stop-motion $9.99 follows the interconnecting lives of the residents of an apartment building over a few days as they do things such as search for the meaning of life. It plays like sort of a claymation Paul Thomas Anderson movie (at about half the running time), and though it is animated it is definitely not for kids as it features sex and full frontal clay nudity. From Sweden comes the crowd pleasing Patrik, Age 1.5 about a gay couple looking to adopt. It turns out that homophobia is alive and well even in the more liberal Scandinavia, but that's nothing compared to the difficulties that arise from a misplaced decimal point. The film takes a basically light-hearted approach to the situation but still manages to pack an emotional punch.


Anonymous said...

Goodbye Solo to me was the best film of the Toronto festival. No other performance that I've seen comes to the dept and range that I saw from Souleymane Sy Savane. I also enjoyed Red West very much too. Shit, the move was just great! Bravo to the whole cast!

the dude said...

Patrik Age 1.5 is a great movie! Go see it!