Saturday, December 7, 2013

The 31st Annual Torino Film Festival - Bird's Eye View

31st Annual Torino Film Festival
The latest edition of the acclaimed Torino Film Festival was handcrafted by the new boss in town, filmmaker and fan, the larger than life Paolo Virzì.  
                                                       Paolo Virzì
He appears to have revived the festival which had faced problems in recent years, with magnanimous optimism and flashes of brilliance. The festival is all about a new spirit, and reports record ticket sales.

TFF was founded in 1982 to help prop up a city whose main industry – cars – including Maserati and Fiat – was in decline.  Problematic seasons came and went, two of the most difficult under filmmaker Nanni Moretti.  Virzì, charming, outgoing and accessible, comes off as TFF’s hero.
                                   Emanuela Martini, Elliott Gould and Paolo Virzi
Virzì was spotted daily on the red carpets, walking with Elliott Gould or leading Italian and European stars and directors, the man of the hour.  He walked through the festival village, meeting and greeting festival goers.  Virzì and fest veteran Emanuela Martini oversaw the inventive and challenging 31TFF programmes, ranging from its documentary programme to a retrospective of films from the “golden age" of American film, of the 60’s and 70s’.  

                                                The  Parallax View

 “Suicide is Painless: the New Hollywood” offered such titles as Bonnie and Clyde, The Swimmer, Easy Rider, Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, The Rain People, The Parallax View, Medium Cool  and Five Easy Pieces,  Midnight Cowboy, They Shoot Horses Don’t They? And 24 other classic films.
                                            The Reposi Prepares for of Film Fans
Ironically, a noisy demonstration outside the Reposi Theatre where the series ran brought to mind the youth rebellion of the 60’s and 70s reflected in many of the series’ films.  Police in riot gear faced off against mostly young people protesting previous festival hiring practices.  The night before riot police were called out across town to prevent a visiting soccer team from overtaking the city’s main thoroughfares.  A tank sat nearby just in case.  And the night before that Berlusconi was thrown out of the Senate.  What a week!
Festival programmes included TorinoFilmLab for film experimentation, E Intanto in Italy (Meanwhile in Italy) focused on homegrown film, Spazio Torino on the local region, the trends programme Italiana Corti, Onde / Waves the documentary programme TFF Doc, the genre friendly After Hours, Festa Mobile / A Moveable Feast and the Feature Film Competition series.
                                 Le Démantèlement - FIPRESCI Award Winner
Several juries including mine - FIPRESCI – the International Federation of Film Critics – chose prizes that covered the waterfront of interests and styles and textures of film.  The selections were varied, surprising and international, a sophisticated mix to appeal to adventurous moviegoers.   The FIPRESCI Prize went to the Quebec film Le démantèlement directed by Sébastien Pilote and starring Denys' brother Gabriel Arcand.  I accepted the award for Pilote in his absence during award ceremonies last Saturday.  Arcand won Best Actor!  -  Canada's Torino Twofer.
My fellow jury members Franco La Magna from Sicily and Demetrios Matheuo from the UK and I saw 14 films for our section but we all saw plenty of non-assigned films because the lineups were so tempting.   
                                         Jane Campion's Top of the Lake
A brilliant TFF series Big Bang TV was one of my favourite series, reflecting the current “golden age” of television.  Uniquely formatted police procedurals like New Zealand’s Top of the Lake, England’s creepy murder mystery Southcliffe and the US political series House of Cards represented new ways of thinking about television and using its properties to compete with films.

Turin is a unique place, the town was crushed by Hannibal and his elephants in 230 B.C. and by the 19th century was the jewel in Italy’s crown.  Today it’s called the “Paris of Italy”, the centre of style and finance.  But how anyone, let alone elephants got over those Alps is a total mystery.  I flew over them and they look impenetrable. 

                                                 Gothic Architecture

Turin and the surrounding areas are saturated with history.   That’s part of its charm. 
                                                     Massimo Cinema
Even its festival theatres are retro beautiful.

                                                  The Shroud of Turin

The Shroud of Turin is rarely displayed, but a replica takes the place of the Christian artifact which may or may not have been the robe wrapped around the body of Jesus Christ.  
History buffs will thrill to the sights inside the Royal Palace of the Savoy house in one of the many plazas.

Museums are everywhere including the breathtaking immersive National Museum of Cinema, a showplace like nothing I’ve seen. 
You can lie in individual chaise pods in the darkened centre rotunda and watch multiple full sized movie screens, or watch people take a glass elevator to the impossibly high interior top of the spire. 
Real dressed sets are on display ranging from a western bar after a brawl, a screenwriter’s desk, walls of portraits, costumes from well-known films, beautifully curated exhibits showing the Camera Obscura origins of cinema and ways of tricking the eye into seeing an image.
Typical Turin Chocolate
Incidentally, the people of Turin love chocolate and there was indeed a chocolate festival running concurrently with the film festival.  Great food and wine, Piemontese, thank you very much; glorious ancient architecture and the constant buzz of stylishly dressed citizens make Turin a visitor’s dream.   The greatest cinema museum you could imagine and every November, a feast of films that draws people for all over the globe, film nirvana.



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