Soulmining at TIFF '09, Day Six - A Town Called Panic, The Hole and Rec 2
11th Oct 09
Iíve gone to all of the trouble of getting a ticket for the 9.15am screening of The Joneses Ė in the hope that stars David Duchovny, Demi Moore and Amber Heard would be attending this second public screening Ė but itís all for nothing; thereís no way Iím getting out of bed and down to the Scotiabank in time for that one having only got home at 5am after my night of partying with the Bitch Slap crowd.
So, a lie in it is. Or at least thatís the plan until my phone beeps repeatedly at 8.15am waking me up. Itís Chris, relaying an important email from our contact at Filmax who is trying to schedule an interview slot for me with the directors of [REC] 2 for later that morning. Iíd better get up then. Telling Chris to reply with an affirmative I drag myself out of bed and try and get my head together. Several emails later Ė down at the Sutton Place Hotel Ė and Iíve managed to secure a slightly later time slot for our interview in the afternoon.
Filling the remainder of the morning drafting some questions I find I have enough time to take in a film before my interview. Meeting up with Bruce at the Varsity Ė his last screening before flying home later that afternoon Ė we decide to check out one of the stranger Midnight Madness selections for this year, A Town Called Panic.
A Town Called Panic
A feature-length version of a popular television show in Belgium, A Town Called Panic is a stop-motion animated film using plastic toy figures Ė think Robot Chicken and youíre in the right ball park. Yet this is no potty-mouthed adult film, quite the opposite, itís actually a riotous comedy aimed at all ages following the characters of Cowboy, Indian and Horse who share a house together. When Horseís birthday arrives Cowboy and Indian decide to order their friend a DIY barbecue kit. Alas an online calamity results in fifty million bricks being delivered to their home, which subsequently sinks into a parallel underwater universe populated by menacing sea creatures! And with all this drama carrying on Horse canít get away for his piano lesson with the lovely Madame Longray...
Trying to give A Town Called Panic some kind of synopsis is not an easy task as itís clearly bonkers, and I think Colin probably sums it up best in his programme write up Ė "As though Jacques Tati led the crew of Monty Pythonís Flying Circus to hijack the world of Pingu".
The first five minutes will tell you if youíre going to like this or not Ė for me I was chuckling away the moment the characters opened their mouths, especially Indian with his high-pitched squeal. Laugh out loud funny without the need for any vulgarity, this film is a breath of fresh air full of joyous imagination. Credit to the directors Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar who must have had such patience to create 75mins of stop-motion activity, and for creating a world full of such wacky and wonderful characters. Original and fun for all the family, A Town Called Panic comes as the perfect tonic to all the serious, bleak pieces of cinema Iíve been watching lately.
Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero
After saying goodbye to Bruce Iím back at the Sutton Place Hotel where I bump into Gerald from the Press Office who advises me that the location for my interview has changed and itís now taking place in one of the rooms way up near the summit of the hotel. I wait in the corridor outside while a couple of other journalists complete their alloted time slots and then Iím ushered inside to meet Jaume Balageuro and Paco Plaza. Unassuming and affable chaps, the three of us sit around a table for a relaxed discussion about [REC] 2 and the success of its predecessor. Weíll be putting that out in full on one of our future podcasts, but until then hereís a little taster to whet the appetite:
Soulmining: What was the motivation to go back and do a sequel?
Jaume Balaguero: We decided to make the sequel after the release of [REC] in Spain and around the world and we received the enthusiastic reactions of the audiences. People were asking us how could we continue the story and they had their own theories, and that enthusiasm, I think that inspired us for the sequel.
Soulmining: Was it always the intention to follow on directly from the ending of the first film?
Paco Plaza: We had different ideas; we thought of telling a whole different story using the same style, we thought about a prequel, we thought about telling a story in a more conventional cinematic way, but from the question Ďwhat happens nextí that so many people were asking us we decided that we needed to tell what was going on next, absolutely. At the end of the first film there was this seed for this supernatural explanation and this story with the Portuguese girl and we felt there was a whole universe to explore in that, and thatís why we picked up the story from there.
Fifteen minutes later and Iím all done. Thanking the guys for their time I tell them that Iíll be there at the Midnight Madness screening later to experience the film again with a Ďproperí audience and then Iím away and back to my apartment.
Phil (Soulmining), downtown Toronto
Back home I wolf down a bagel and then have a long phone conversation with Chris back in the UK. The plan is to record a live podcast about TIFF 09 over the telephone, but the connection is so poor it just proves fruitless and a complete waste of time. We eventually decide to abandon that idea and just record a normal podcast when I get home so I promise to get a few soundbites on the festival which we can use in that instead.
My next appointment is down at the AMC where I bump into James for whatís to be the first 3D film ever to be screened at TIFF, or so Iím told. The Hole is Joe Danteís return to the family adventure genre that made him a household name, this being the man who gave us the likes of Gremlins and Small Soldiers.
Heís back on familiar territory with his latest film in which two young brothers discover a trap door in their basement which seemingly contains a never-ending chasm right to the depths of the earth. The hole has the power to manifest each personís greatest fears, and so the pair are forced to team up with the girl next door, and their single mom (Teri Polo) to combat the dark forces that theyíve unwittingly unleashed.
Iíll be honest, I canít really give The Hole a fair review as truth be told I slept through a large chunk of the film Ė no reflection on the quality of what was on screen, more a symptom of my tiredness and lack of sleep the night before. However what I can do is praise the use of 3D technology in the film which is the most natural application of the process Iíve seen to date.
Dante is one of those filmmakers who uses the technology to enhance the storytelling rather than as a gimmick to poke the audience with, and itís all the better for that. Itís certainly a film that Iíll make an effort to revisit when it gets a theatrical release in cinemas in the near future.
Film over, and wide awake again after my little snooze, I walk up the street with James discussing the latest news and the death of Patrick Swayze which has just been reported in the media. After another stop off at the Sutton Place Hotel I then go and grab some food at the New York Diner, surf the net for an hour and then get ready for tonightís late screening.
Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero
I hear a great story from Colin as Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza talk to the Midnight Madness bloggers outside the Ryerson; apparently earlier in the day [REC] 2 was accidentally cued up in one of the AMC screens, so instead of some highbrow period drama unspooling, the slightly elderly audience were treated to the opening couple of minutes of the Spanish shocker, which of course begins with reporter Angela being dragged away screaming by unseen hands even before the credits roll. I wish Iíd been there to see the reaction!
Itís good to enjoy the film again with the midnight crowd and it seems to play well. Afterwards thereís another Q&A from the directors where again the pair confirm that theyíre planning to work on separate projects next and certainly have no plans to direct a mooted third installment. A quick chat outside and then I share a cab with Paul back to our apartment block ready for a good nightís sleep.
For further information on TIFF 09 visit the festival website: www.tiff.net/.
4th Oct 04 With its fine blend of dark humour and shock horror, you will barely be able to avert your gaze from the screen; from the opening sequence on the desolate moors, to the thrilling finale in Piccadilly Circus.