Friday, December 31, 2010

Radical Trash Cinema

Enter The Void (Gaspar Noé, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

So Enter The Void starts off in Tokyo following this low-level drug-dealer Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) as he is on his way to this bar The Void to give his friend Victor (Olly Alexander) the MDMA he owes him. Before he leaves, he is in his apartment. Across the street from his room, there is this bar called Enter (a beginning similar to most video-games start button), and Oscar’s sister Linda (Paz de la Huerta) is there and after she accuses him of being a drug addict and leaves, Oscar gets stoned, closes his eyes, and there is a drug-induced diversion of pure sight, color, shapes, and sound. His friend Alex (Cyril Roy), a neo-abstract-expressionist painter, joins him and they talk about The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and how some spirits are left adrift after their physical bodies die prematurely, waiting to be reincarnated. In a characteristic long-take, all the characters background and motivations are partly addressed. At the bar, there is a police bust and Oscar gets shot in the stomach as he is in single-unit washroom throwing the pills down a grimy toilet bowl. His spirit, which the premonition of the mystical book purports will float around after death, arises. Through multiple flashbacks Oscar recounts Linda’s and his personal background from their traumatic childhood (their parents were killed in a car crash as they sat in the back-seat and watched) where they were separated to different foster homes, even though they promised to each other, in their own blood from their index finger, that they would always be there for each other. Oscar, with his friend Victor, starts to earn a lot of money dealing drugs. He says that this guy Gaspar referred him to his drug dealer (and the director himself has a cameo as one of his customers in a club). With his extra dough he flies his sister to join him in Tokyo (as Oscar sees a plane from a window he wonders how it would be like to see the city from that perspective, which he would come to do). There is something incestuous about the two siblings Oscar and Linda as when she arrives and they are on a double-decker bus touring the city she kisses his neck and licks his ear, there is this sexual tension between them, and there is also this Freudian Oedipus complex going on, as in a flashback Oscar watches his parents have sex, and in a scene where he’s fucking his friend Victor’s milf, it cuts to shots of his own mother, and ends with a shot of himself as a baby embraced in his mothers arms. In Tokyo, Linda gets involved with the owner of the strip club Sex Money Power, starts to dance there, gets fucked, then pregnant, and then aborts the fetus. As Oscar’s spirit flies around this acid-neon green and magenta Tokyo (or maquette of Tokyo; one recalls the train-crash in The Greatest Show on Earth), with seamless transitions from one room, or building to the next, that gives the impression of a long-take. A similar feat achieved in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rope. There are also great use of the fish-eye lens, and like Philipe Grandieux, Gaspar’s filming techniques are not only psychological but cinematic as you are not only perceive what the character are going through, you feel it. There is also a focus on circular objects with an air of mysticism; similar to the round black-pipe that sucks up mist in Joe’s Syndromes of a Century, both which owe a lot to the visually magnetic black monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey (It is a good coincidence they are both playing at the Lightbox simultaneously). Finally, Oscar arrives at the infamous Love Hotel, Gaspar’s attempt at Kubricks’ Eyes Wide Shut’s orgy. Linda and Alex arrive to the hotel, where that little shit Victor is already giving some guy head, and then the two have sex, and then the spirit of Oscar enters into Linda’s vagina (!) as Alex’s cock thrust inwards and then with the semen as it fertilizes Linda’s egg. Oscar is reincarnated as Linda and Victor’s child.

In Jonathan Rosenbaum’s review of Irreversible he gave the film only one-star (i.e. has redeeming facets) and in the review he contrasts the film with Costa-Gavras’ Amen. that he preferred. His concerns are ethics; what for a filmmaker is ethically useful and ethically permissible to show? One reason JR prefers the latter is purely for its informative value “Amen. is worth seeing for its lucidity and for the historical information it imparts.” while “Irreversible is so formally and stylistically aggressive that this aspect overpowers what it has to say, which isn’t much.” Though JR considers I Stand Alone “a masterpiece because of what it suggests about the xenophobia and panic of some of the French people who voted for Jean-Marie Le Pen, and because it forces me to share some of their anguish and understand some of their rage.” JR uses these two films to mediate his own taste, and characteristically never one-sided, he brings up opposing views from Noah Cowan, from the 2002 summer issue of Cinema Scope, and an email correspondence with the German film critic Olaf Moller. JR who has consistently dealt with the relationship between history and film, champions Amen. over Irreversible to highlight the importance of remembering the Holocaust, as well, social criticism on the United States “where indifference to atrocities is arguably a more pressing issue.”

In James Quandt’s 2004 ArtForum essay Flesh & blood: sex and violence in recent French Cinema” (which Wikipedia truncates in their overview) he labels the trend of “the growing vogue for shock tactics in French cinema over the past decade” as the New French Extremity. The willfully transgressive directors, he highlights, are Francois Ozon, Claire Denis, Patrice Chereau, Bertrand Bonello, Marina de Van, Gaspar Noe, Catherine Breillat, Virginie Despentes and Coralie Trinh Thi, Philippe Grandrieux, and Bruno Dumont. All right, how do these directors fit into the New French Extremity mold seven-years after the original essay? Are they all so violent and sex obsessed? First off, Francois Ozon, who James refers to as “an ourider of French extremity”, new movie, is Potiche, a Deneuve-Depardieu-Luchini vehicle that looks very funny, it’s a comedy (I love Ozon by the way). Claire Denis’ two latest films are an Ozu-like family drama 35 Shots of Rum and an Isablle Huppert period film set in an African coffee plantation, White Material. Marina de Van, whose first film is Dans ma peau and who co-scripted and starred in Ozon’s See the Sea, new film Ne te retourne pas, stars Sophie Marceau and Monica Bellucci, as the same woman, who is trying to write an autobiographical memoir of her childhood that she can no longer remember, the two women as young girls (played by children actresses) were together in a car crash (these filmmakers are fascinated with car crashes; see the repetition of the car crash in Enter the Void) and the former took on the identity of the latter. Now they sit beside each other smiling as they busily type away. What truly separates de Van from Noé is how her characters easily fall in the mold of the articulate and cultured, while Noé reacts to this cerebral tendency in French cinema that focuses on linguistic expressiveness. His characters owe more to the kids in those Larry Clark movies, which the Cinematheque Francaise just had a retrospective with the musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (Serge Toubiana mentioned to me that screenings were very successful). One of the articles subject is also a speculation of the place of Robert Bresson (a director who James Quandt edited a monograph for the Cinematheque Ontario) in contemporary French cinema (I mentioned to James after a screening of Godard’s Film Socialisme if he noticed the Balthazar donkey in the film, he did), he posits that at a time some people viewed Bruno Dumont as the true heir to Bresson. Catherine Breillat’s 2007 film Une Vieille Maitresse (the prolific director made three movies in the last three years), shot by renowned cinematographer Yorgos Arvanitis, is a classical film in style with long- and medium-shots, slight camera movements, heavy themes, and a look that seems meticulously pre-planned. Philippe Grandrieux has been gaining momentum for pushing narrative full-length features closer to the realm of experimental cinema. In the 1990s Cahiers du Cinema championed his films, in 2005 Nicole Brenez, from the experimental and avant-garde film programme at the Cinematheque Francaise, edited the book La Vie Nouvelle/nouvelle vison: a propos un film de Philippe Grandrieux, and with his new feature Un Lac, 2008, he has been gaining more international press, the November/December 2010 issue of Film Comment has a good article on him by Haden Guest, from the Harvard Film Archive. I would add Jacques Audiard as a new participant in the New French Extreme as A Prophet definitively has its extreme violent moments like the razor-blade neck slashing. Also what is interesting of James’ essay is how it makes it appear as if all the filmmaker’s content and style are reverberating off of one another.

What makes Gaspar such an outlier, even within this group, is how now he is no longer even making French movies, Enter the Void, is set in Tokyo and it is an English-language film, and like the butcher (Philippe Nahon) from Carne, I Stand Alone, and Irreversible, who proclaims he wants to make a porno, Gaspar, in an interview with Bruce LaBruce for Bad Day magazine, says “Yeah I’m planning to do an arty porn, but I’m talking about [wanting to make] real porn” and “I just want to do a movie like normal life where people have sex. Have you ever seen a porn movie with feelings?” (I would answer, yes, Gilles Carle’s La tête de Normande St-Onge (a.k.a. Normande), 1975). Gaspar and his friends Bruce LaBruce and Harmony Korine, I will posit to be at the forefront of the radical trash movement, where the subject is usually trashy, dumb or odious and that they use that as a way to aggressively radicalize and stylize form to show you a world that has been unseen cinematically. It presents a new strand of filmmaking that can create moments of fascinating effect, like in Enter the Void there is the first person perspective, with eye-blinks and psychedelic shape-and-color shifting scenes, and a strobe-lighting black-and-white screen. Though there are some filmmakers that try to achieve this trashy playfulness and just fall flat, like Darren Aronofsky, whose new movie Black Swan is cheap and manipulative and its only redeeming facet is the performance by the great Vincent Cassel, the star of the chef-d'oeuvre Irreversible.

In the November 2010 (N.661) issue of Cahiers du Cinema, Demain Ils Feront le Cinema Francais, the editor Stephane Delorme talks about the new wave of young French filmmakers and uses the issue as a way to support not only what they are trying to change of the countries national output, a reaction to (my translation) “The chronology-scenario restrains the forces of cinema: the mise-en-scene submits to the imperatives of situations, the montage submits to the imperatives of fluidity, the story submits to linearity.”, but as a way, I assume, to help them with theatrical reception, distribution and funding. The filmmakers they highlight are Rebecca Zltotowoski (Belle Epine, which stars Lea Seydoux), Quentin Dupieux (Rubber), Ilan Kliper and Virgil Verrnier (Commissariat), Mikhael Hers (Memory Lane), Sophier Letourneur (La Vie au ranch), Riad Sattouf (Beaux Gosses), Djinn Carrenard (Donoma); and five directors of short-films (“On croit en eux”): Antonin Peretjatko, Arthur Harari, Philippe Parreno, Thomas Salvador, and Yann Gonzalez. I find this to be a brave feat, and unlike the whiny Nick James from Sight & Sound who is always complaining about funding for British cinema, I actually care what Stephane Delorme has to say because French cinema is actually interesting and the comments are not so repetitive that they become monotonous. My only problem with such uninhibited support is that it comes at the cost of denigrating the old-timers, in particular Bertrand Tavernier, like how in the same issue Nicolas Azalbert in his critique of La Princesse de Montpensier, he writes that the film (my translation) “resembles then a representational theater play interpreted by a bad company of clowns on a 17th century public stage.” Ouch! I much prefer Michel Ciment at Positif that champions the man, Bertrand Tavernier, who made some great films and wrote some important film-criticism, like the book 30 Years of American Cinema with Jean-Pierre Coursodon and Amis americans: entretiens avec les grand auters d’Hollywood. In the magazine there is also a good article by Serge Bozon, Le Cinema Francais est-il darwinien?, which it would be interesting to see where he places Gaspar Noe.

I like Enter the Void and, yeah, I think it is a good movie even though I can agree with its detractors that, yes, the movie seems too long. I hope this article conveys this as well as the context around Gaspar Noe in contemporary French cinema and his place within the realm of the radical trash. When Gaspar was asked if his movies were ever censored, he responded “Never to the point where the movie wouldn’t be shown, I guess I missed a point in my career because most good directors always have a movie banned.” Here he is being self-depreciative, so to make him happy, I hope his next movie does get banned.

David Davidson

Thursday, December 23, 2010

January Film Listing

In the latest issue of Cinema Scope (N. 45) Adam Nayman has his first cover article and it is on Athina Rachel Tsangari’s Attenberg (for his review, go here), which opens January 21st at The Royal (608 College St. West). While his class In Nayman’s terms recommences Monday January 17th at 7PM and that is at the Miles Nadal JCC (750 Spadina Avenue). I recommend to go to both. This is the second time, at least since I moved to Toronto, that Cinema Scope used its cover article to feature a film distributed by filmswelike, the first being Uncle Boonmee, while I now anticipate their most recent acquisition Thom Andersen’s Get Out of the Car. One thing that I like about the magazine are the movies Mark Peranson highlights, whether it is Andrei Ujica’s Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu that premiered at Cannes, Gianfranco Rosi’s El Sicario Room 164 that premiered at Venice, or Tony Scott’s Unstoppable that is now playing at the multiplexes. I eagerly anticipate seeing them at the first chance I get. Anyways, great issue (thanks Andrew for hooking me up with a copy).

Just to reiterate, the raison d'être of Toronto Film Review is as an outlet for me to take a movie or book and to use the post as an excuse to watch more movies and do a literature review for the purpose to have a better understanding of the subject at hand as well as improving my capability to articulate myself on that subject. I also want to provide something new and highlight a film that might go under-the-radar especially in the context of the Toronto film community. The 180° has a couple of good writers, and to name two: Noah Cowan and Andrea Picard. While I look towards the big film criticism magazines for contemporary movie reviews, so magazines like 24 Images, Cinema Scope, Cineaste, Film Comment, Cahiers du Cinema and Positif. Whichever one I have at hand. So I try to avoid writing about whatever is already adequately covered. Now that I work at the shop, I will use that as an opportunity to focus more on book reviews in the format of The New York Review of Books and two projects that are currently in the works is a film review of Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void and, hopefully, a book review of James Quandt’s Apichatpong (hey Film Reference Library, how about you open your screening rooms so that I can finally watch Joe's The Adventure of Iron Pussy). After that, I would really like to write something on the new Catherine Martin film, which is part of Canada’s Top Ten.

What else is there to see? Godard’s Film Socialisme, Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light, the Bertolucci movies, the Spanish experimental cinema, Chaplin and Pickford, whatever Essential Cinema is left, and, of course, James Quandt’s Hollywood classics. Non-Lightbox movies includes Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, Mike Leigh’s Another Year, and Sylvain Chomet’s The Illusionist. Also, the Bloor is playing The Mouth of the Wolf. And for a very special treat on December 28th there will be a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition at the Olga Korper Gallery (17 Morrow Avenue), which is running until January 15th.
City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)
**** (Masterpiece)

Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, 2010)
**** (Masterpiece)

Limelight (Charles Chaplin, 1952)
**** (Masterpiece)

The Mouth of the Wolf (Pietro Marcello, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

True Grit (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2010)
** (Worth Seeing)

Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin, 1947)
**** (Masterpiece)

Little Buddha (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1993)
** (Worth-Seeing)

Somewhere (Sofia Coppola, 2010)
*** (A Must-See)

Sparrows (William Beaudine, 1926)
*** (A Must-See)

The Last Emperor (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987)
*** (A Must-See)

Breathless (Yang Ik-Joon, 2009)
**** (Masterpiece)

Partner (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1968)
*** (A Must-See)

Incendies (Denis Villeneuve, 2010) * Director in attendance
*** (A Must-See)

Curling (Denis Côté, 2010) * Director in attendance
**** (Masterpiece)

Culloden (Peter Watkins, 1964)
**** (Masterpiece) Early Monthly Segments

Trois temps après la mort d'Anna (Catherine Martin, 2010)
*** (A Must-See) Director in attendance

Nostalgia for the light (Patricio Guzmán, 2010)
*** (A Must See)

ATTENBERG (Athina Rachel Tsangari, 2010)
** (Worth Seeing)

The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector (Vikram Jayanti, 2009)
**** (Masterpiece)

The Robber (Benjamin Heisenberg, 2010)
** (Worth-Seeing)

Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos, 2009)
*** (A Must-See)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Toronto's Current Film Climate

Here are three Toronto-based end-of-the-year film surveys. -D.D.

1. 2010 Toronto Film Critics Award winners
- The Social Network for Best Picture, Best Director (David Fincher), Best Actor (Jesse Eisenberg) and Best Supporting Actor (Armie Hammer).
- Exit Through the Gift Shop for Best First Feature and Documentary.
- Jennifer Lawrence for Best Actress (Winter's Bone).
- Hailee Steinfeld for Best Supporting Actress (True Grit)
- How to Train Your Dragon for Best Animated Feature.
- Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives for Best Foreign Film.
- You Are Here by Daniel Cockburn received the Jay Scott Prize for emerging talent.
- A Special Citation for Bruce McDonald.

2. TIFF Canada's Top Ten 2010

Canada’s Top Ten feature film selections for 2010:
- Les Amours imaginaires by Xavier Dolan (Alliance Films).
- Barney’s Version by Richard J. Lewis (Entertainment One). December 2010
- Curling – Denis Côté (Mongrel Media). March 2011
- The High Cost of Living by Deborah Chow (Filmoption). Spring 2011
- Incendies by Denis Villeneuve (Entertainment One). January 2011
- Last Train Home by Lixin Fan (Kinosmith).
- MODRA by Ingrid Veninger (Mongrel Media). February 2011
- Splice by Vincenzo Natali (Entertainment One).
- Trigger by Bruce McDonald (Entertainment One).
- Trois temps après la mort d’Anna by Catherine Martin (K Films).

Canada’s Top Ten short film selections for 2010:
- Above the Knee by Greg Atkins.
- Les Fleurs de l'Age by Vincent Biron.
- I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors by Ann Marie Fleming (NFB).
- The Legend of Beaver Dam by Jerome Sable.
- The Little White Cloud That Cried by Guy Maddin.
- Lipsett Diaries by Theodore Ushev (NFB).
- Marius Borodine by Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais (Travelling Distribution).
- Mokhtar by Halima Ouardiri (EyesteelFilm).
- On the Way to the Sea by Tao Gu.
- Vapor by Kaveh Nabatian (Locomotion).

3. James Quandt, senior programmer at the TIFF Cinematheque, best of 2010.
1. Rite of Spring & The Strange Case of Angelica (Manoel de Oliveira)
2. Mysteries of Lisbon (Raul Ruiz)
3. Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
4. Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard)
5. Aurora (Christi Puiu)
6. Carlos (Olivier Assayas)
7. Four Times (Michelango Frammartino)
8. The Mouth of the Wolf (Pietro Marcello)
9. The Wanderer (Avishai Sivan)
10. Static (Steve McQueen)
Also, this just in, Mark Peranson in the Editor's Note of the latest issue of Cinema Scope (N.45) writes "So because I have nothing else to do, it’s time for an about face: starting this winter, check out for a weekly supplement, reviews and reports of the same quality you’ll find in the printed issues (and quarterly web postings) of the magazine from some of our frequent contributors" and "as well as articles on retrospectives and the like taking place in our immediate and general global jurisdiction. This is a Canadian film magazine based in Toronto, and that’s an important part of the mandate."

I guess that means that my own website will be getting some more competition.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Books on Tim Burton
Book Title: Tim Burton
Authors: Ron Magliozzi, Jenny He, & Jesse Wente.
Editor: Andrew Tracy
Publisher: Toronto International Film Festival
Price: 14.00$

Book Title: Burton on Burton, 2nd Revised Edition
Editor: Mark Salisbury
Publisher: Faber on Faber
Price: 30.00$

Book Title: Tim Burton
Author: Aurélien Ferenczi.
Publisher: Masters of Cinema, Cahiers du Cinéma Sarl
Price: 12.55$

“Burton remains a filmmaker whose modus operandi is based entirely on his innermost feelings.” – Mark Salisbury

Timothy William Burton was born on August 25th, 1958 and grew up with his parents in the suburbs of Burbank, Los Angeles, before he moved in with grandmother. As a child he is described as being an introvert and a joker. He made short films with friends in backyards and he spent free time in graveyards and watching horror films. His outsider illustrations even at a young age seemed to be publicly recognized by an audience at large as his sketches were on local papers and city vehicles. He received a scholarship to attend the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) and his graduation project, The Stalk of the Celery Monster (1979), caught the attention of the Walt Disney Studio who hired him on as an in-betweener and assistant animator. He did drawings for The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985). He hated it and his macabre illustrations were consistently turned down. Later he would use these sketches for inspirations for some of his other work, like the poetry and drawing collection The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories and the MoMA career-spanning exhibition. Tim Burton's first short films were made with the help of his CalArts collaborator, Rick Heinrichs, who turned his sketches into three-dimensional maquettes. The first three short-films were Vincent, Hansel & Gretel (both 1982), and Frankenweenie (1984) for the Disney cable channel. Since then he has made fourteen full-length feature films, the first being Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985) and his latest is a re-working of the classic Lewis Carroll story Alice in Wonderland (2010). Other side projects include a series of collectible figures Tragic Toys for Girls and Boys from Dark Horse Comics that were designed in 2003, and a large format collection of artwork, The Art of Tim Burton, in a standard and deluxe edition, that gathers his drawings and paintings in thirteen sections with quaint titles like Misunderstood Monsters, Freaks, Friends & Foes, Love, and The End. There is also the six-video web-series The World of Stainboy (2000) that follows the titular anti-hero, whose superpower is that he leaves stains, as the police captain of Burbank sends him out to round up the cities social outcasts, in an animation style similar to the official Tim Burton interactive website. These videos are a mixture of comedic punch lines and blunt social criticism. Tim Burton now resides in London, England with his wife Helena Bonham Carter and their young son.

This is the official story of the man that can be disseminated by reading the three books: Masters of Cinema: Tim Burton, TIFF: Tim Burton, and Burton on Burton. Each of the books offers a perspective and emphasis that is different then the other. There is an art critic, a film critic and the man himself. Though they all have a biases and flaws what they do highlight is insightful to better understand the context and depth of Tim Burton’s art.

Ron Magliozzi's, who is an assistant curator in the department of film at the Museum of Modern Art, essay Tim Burton; Exercising the Imagination focuses on Tim Burton’s biography and place within art history. He gathers diverse elements of Tim Burton’s childhood and traces his transition to adolescence and to adulthood. He does this consciously and vocal of Tim Burton intrinsic contradictions, like how Mr. Burton wants to frighten and be comic, as well as how he is an outsider who wants be accepted. Ron Magliozzi’s essay also contextualizes Tim Burton within art history. He posits that Tim Burton is an appropriation artist whose influences come from the American pop culture, so things like television, cartoons, B movies, comic strips, advertising and toys. As well as with other dark and macabre illustrators (Maurice Sendak, Charles Addams, and Edward Gorey), mainstream cartoonist (Henry Syverson, Angelo Torres, Gahan Wilson), the Carnivalesque, Pop Cubism, and Pop Surrealism (Robert Williams and Mark Ryden).

Jesse Wente’s, TIFF head of film programmes, essay Beautiful Outsider; Tim Burton and Hollywood emphasizes Tim Burton in the history of cinematic stop-motion animation. Jesse Wente traces the history back to the animation pioneer Willis O’Brien, who did the special effects on the 1933 King Kong then to the inspiring Ray Harryhausen (Jason and the Argonauts). Jesse Wente writes “Even more importantly, Burton has occasioned a greater recognition and respect for the supposedly “outdated” medium of stop-motion animation, restoring a vital part of film history to pride of place in a film world ever hungry for novelty.” Jesse Wente highlights the turning point in making Tim Burton a brand with his-name-above-the-marquee in the film The Nightmare Before Christmas that his fellow animator and collaborator Henry Selick directed. As well because Tim Burton has proved that it is viable to create these offbeat and gothic films, Jesse Wente posits that it has inspired studios to entrust into similar visions by up-and-coming directors.

Similar to the first TIFF Bell Lightbox publication, Essential Cinema by Michael Connor and Noah Cowan, where in a published conversation between the two in a casual tone they evoke personal responses to the video-art that was in the TIFF exhibtion Wunderkammer and around the city during the 2010 festival. These personal reactions are similar to the essays in the new TIFF Tim Burton monograph as they are both meditations on art and personal receptions to it.

Burton on Burton consist of a series of interviews with Tim Burton shortly after he made each of his films, though with a prolific director like Tim Burton the 2006 book already feels dated as the last interview is for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). There are synopsis of each film, production background and biographical context. Tim Burton provides shooting anecdotes, like the hardships of location shooting, and personal anecdotes, like how when he was making Big Fish his father recently passed away, he says “It was an amazing catharsis… because you’re able to work through those feelings without having to talk to a therapist about it.” As well there is much discussion on the role of casting and being able to get the right actors who can bring exactly what the role demands of them, a balance of emotional commitment and human exaggeration to visually translate Tim Burton’s original sketches and conceptions. The emphasis is on honesty of feelings and a focus on character psychology and background, but not necessarily on any historical accuracy, which gives the impression that his films are in a world of their own. The Burtonesque. He also laments CGI-laziness to the detriment of the stronger emotional resonance of the more human handmade quality special effects, which Nicolas Saada elaborates in an extract from his review of Beetlejuice, “Scare Me”, in the Masters of Cinema: Tim Burton book.

Masters of Cinema: Tim Burton by Aurélien Ferenczi is a general introduction to Tim Burton’s films with reviews, criticism and an industry perspective. The book is full of glossy larger format illustrations and the writing is concise and astute, though some times the choices are problematic. I disagreed on a couple of assessments. Aurélien Ferenczi writes on Mars Attack “But at best it remains a rather slack and pointless parody.” while, I think, it is one of his stronger films for its critique of society as the Martians destroy the American military and politicians. It has this anger and social critic element, which to me, is where Tim Burton truly excels, like the devastating flashback at the end of The World of Stainboy and the barber knife throat slashing in the masterpiece Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007). There is just something so honest, no matter how impolite, about these moments. Aurélien is not always generous towards the director, on the MoMA show he quotes the art critic Ken Johnson who writes “Amalgamating the styles of Edward Gorey, Ralph Steadman, Edward Sorel and other cartoon expressionists into his own less-than-original Victorian-Gothic-Grotesques, Mr Burton has created countless cartoons resembling illustrations for cutely perverse greeting cards.” I wonder how Positif’s French-language book on Tim Burton differs as that magazine has always been more generous. The Masters of Cinema series is a Cahiers du Cinema publication. Though Aurélien’s final comments seems apt “It seems he [Tim Burton] has opted to alternate very dark – and no doubt more personal – films like Sweeney Todd with works like Alice that are aimed at a more general audience”.

The Tim Burton exhibition that was organized by the Museum of Modern Art in New York recently arrived at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on November 26th 2010. It consists of drawings, sculptures, maquettes, costumes, props, and videos. Though not all of the work from the original MoMA exhibition made it due to a space limitation and apparently the additional work showed how he refined his initial characters to be able to transplant the vision for the live-action counterparts. The storyboard etchings place him alongside other cinematic draftsmen like Sergei Eisenstein and Federico Fellini. While his gothic antecedents are the likes of Edgar Allen Poe and Vincent Price. Cinematically speaking, the shots (medium), camera movements (crane shots, pans, punch-line shots), and editing (shot-reverseshot) are very standardized and his films usually have an engrossing score by his regular film composer Danny Elfman. But how Tim Burton truly distinguishes himself, is not by thinking out-of-the-box, but by taking scissorfingers to that box(!), and using it to create his own unique vision. In his most recent films there seems to be something new going on, a youthful rejuvenation. As Tim Burton’s is now working with a new generation of younger actors, people like Mia Wasikowska as Alice in Alice in Wonderland and Jamie Cambell Bower as Anthony Hope and Jayne Wisener as Johanna in Sweeney Todd, which achieves a new relevancy. Finally, Tim Burton’s explores the subject of the transition from adolescence to the world of adulthood and its accompanying loss of innocence with a remaining feeling of melancholy. He uses the folkloric as a guise to explore this subject, that of making sense of the chaos of existence, in a heightened way, and over and over again and with each new film, the breath of his imagination has grown and so is his personal philosophy. - David Davidson