Festival Express


A trailer for the New York Film Festival and the studios’ fall prestige pix, Toronto also serves to amplify the buzz around the movies finished too late for Cannes. These are three:

The opening weekend’s hottest ticket, Pawel Pawlikowski’s My Summer of Love seems destined for art-house glory. The British filmmaker further develops the intelligently understated, performance-driven style of Last Resort to recount the passionate friendship between a pretentious rich girl and a spunky poor one burdened with a belligerently born-again older brother. The movie slides between the funny, the menacing, and the enchanted to conclude with an unexpected political dimension.

The modest, bighearted Harvest Time is another sort of dark idyll, imagining childhood on a Cold War kolkhoz. Mother drives a tractor and Dad, a jolly rake disabled in the war, drinks himself to death. The strong style verges on magic realism—no less than Dovzhenko’s Earth, Harvest Time is a movie about the persistence of Russian paganism. It’s also smart, sad, and pithy, ready-made for “New Directors”—although writer-director Marina Razbezhkina is actually a documentarian of considerable experience.

Programmers packed the screening of Agnès Varda’s charming Cinévardaphoto. A triptych of shorts, the movie allows Varda to explicate—largely through juxtaposition—the relationship among photography, memory, and artistic impulse. Ydessa, the Bears and Etc. . . . , the first (and only new) piece, concerns a Toronto artist-curator who collects vintage photographs of people clutching teddy bears. The middle panel, Ulysse, is a 1982 short in which the filmmaker turns her attention to a photograph she made in the summer of 1954. That the backstory involves both personal and public history sets up the final short. Salut les Cubains (1963) is fashioned from stills Varda shot in revolutionary Cuba—it’s a dance film of frozen moments and needs no comment to seem the excavation of a lost romantic world.