Day 7 report from TIFF (inc Adam Mason's The Devil's Chair)
14th Sep 07
TIFF Day 7 (Wednesday)
A busy day ahead with five screenings to take in before TIFF starts to wind down. First on the agenda for me was Garth Jenning's Son Of Rambow showing over at the Cumberland.
Set in the mid-eighties, and full of the music and fashion of that era, it's a comic tale about two lads who set about making their very own Rambo home movie in an attempt to get onto BBC's Screen Test programme. Jennings - who made The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy movie - really captures how it was to be a kid back then, and there are numerous nods and references to things I'd long forgotten about, which I'm sure many will relate to.
The young cast embrace their roles with gusto and the actual film-within-a-film footage is splendid, especially Will's reckless stunt work and the use of some French exchange students. Support comes from well loved faces like Jessica Stevenson and Eric Sykes (his role as Rambo in the film is priceless) plus there are cameos from Adam Buxton and Edgar Wright as a couple of teachers. It's a very likeable film about growing up and friendship and gets the thumbs up from me.
After a quick visit to the Press room at the Sutton where I bumped into a weary-looking Ian, I headed off to the Varsity to see Wilson Yip's Flash Point. The film is playing on Thursday night at Midnight Madness, but since weve all been invited to a party that evening it seemed like a wise idea to catch the P&I screening - hence I met up with Paul, Johanna, Ant, Bruce and Darlene inside.
Flash Point, like all of the Hong Kong movies screened this year, was a little disappointing. Set prior to the HK takeover, it's a fairly standard thriller about an agent fighting against a Vietnamese gang. The fight scenes are well done, as you'd expect from Donnie Yen - one of the current masters of the genre - and feature mixed martial arts, heavily influenced by UFC style fighting. The narrative side though is severely lacking and you're left with an identikit picture which could have been made fifteen years ago - a major step backwards after the previous Yip/Yen collaborations S.P.L. and Dragon Tiger Gate.
Our little group reconvened again later in the afternoon for the screening of A l'interieur but since I'm planning to see it again with Saturday's Midnight Madness crowd I will hold back my thoughts on that one until then.
From there it was straight into Robert Cuffley's Walk All Over Me, with Ant and myself grabbing the last couple of seats in the thirty-seater VIP room. Admittedly the main appeal of this Canadian feature was the lure of seeing leading ladies Leelee Sobieski and Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) playing a pair of dominatrixes. And on that shallow level the film certainly delivered a number of eye-catching outfits which should guarantee healthy DVD rentals if they stick a suitably tittilating image on the cover.
As a comedy-thriller however the film was a bit lacking, never quite as comic or quite as thrilling as it needed to be, revolving around a routine plot involving stolen money. Average but watchable, mainly due to the two leads.
Lorry, Adam, Jake, Johanna and Paul at the Imperial Pub
In the evening we arranged to meet up in The Imperial Pub, one of regular hangouts prior to the Midnight Madness screenings. I got there to find it heaving with film folk already, with most of our regular gang all present along with Jake West's crowd and Adam Mason and his entourage, ahead of his film's premiere. I had a quick chat with Adam, then spent a long while dissecting the day's films with Bruce and Darlene, before it was time to stroll along to the Ryerson.
The Devil's Chair - Adam Mason on the red carpet
We all got the red carpet treatment and it was fun watching Adam and lead actor Andrew Howard doing all the Press and television interviews. Adam's parents were there too, so it was nice running into his Mum again who remembered me from the Broken screening at FrightFest last year!
The Devil's Chair - producer Patrick Ewald, director Adam Mason and actor Andrew Howard
I'd heard some negative buzz about The Devil's Chair from the P&I screening so was quite apprehensive about watching the film with a packed audience, but in fact it played fine. Nick West (Howard) loses his girlfriend after she encounters the titular chair in an abandoned asylum. Four years later West is released, but on the condition that he returns to the scene of the crime with his psychiatrist and several students in tow who are planning to write about his case.
It's a more ambitious film for Mason and succeeds on some levels - his directorial craft continues to improve with each feature, and the effects are good for a low budget film. Best of all is the effective score, mixing the industrial sounds of Mortiis with cellist Zoe Keating.
However the film does suffer from slow pacing and some variable performances, although Matt Berry as camera operator Brett is good value. My main issue comes from the constant use of voiceover and freeze-frame which saturates the picture; there is a reason for this, but by the time it's revealed it risks alienating the audience. Totally different from the intensity of Broken, The Devil's Chair is a parody of eighties monster movies and plays best as a comedy, but only really works if you're aware of this beforehand.
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