While ”Food Inc” won’t turn you into a fasting monk subsiding on homegrown sprouts, this film will certainly, at a bare minimum, have you reconsidering the source of your meals. The world premiere of Food, Inc was well attended and well received by a diverse audience. On hand for a Q&A after the screening was the director Robert Kenner and Eric Schlosser, author of infamous Fast Food Nation, who is heavily featured in this searing new documentary exploring how modern developments in food production pose grave risks to our health and environment. Director Kenner spoke about how when he started off making this film, the intention was to investigate how we eat in America, but when most of the major American food producers refused to participate, the direction turned to more of a crusade in exposing problems and naming monopolizing big business offenders.
”Valentino: The Last Emperor” is a gorgeous, emotionally rich and surprisingly touching and funny look at one of the greatest arbiters of taste and 20th Century design, Italian designer Valentino Clemente Ludovico Garavani. Focusing on the period between Valentino’s seventieth birthday and his final couture show, this engrossing documentary takes us into his lavish world and the beautifully complex relationship with his business partner, lover, best friend and confidante of 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. At the helm is director Matt Tyrnauer is a New York-based writer and filmmaker. He has worked for Spy magazine and The New York Observer, and is currently Special Correspondent of Vanity Fair. For Valentino: The Last Emperor, his first feature documentary, he was granted liberal access to the couple and the business dealings of a rapidly changing fashion empire. The elegant Valentino and his partner Giammetti where on hand for the special presentation, bringing the crowd at Toronto’s historic Wintergarden to its feet with cheers of Bravo. It was a memorable night, even if you aren’t a follower of fashion.
Iconic director Kevin Smith returns behind the feature film camera for the first time since ”Clerks II” in ”Zack and Miri Make a Porno”, and this could be his best film in a decade. Lifelong platonic friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) look to solve their respective cashflow problems by making an amateur porn film together. As the cameras roll, however, the duo begins to sense that they may have more feelings for each other than they previously thought. Smith’s latest script crackles with verbal and visual hilarity, taking risks in some areas, yet showing his sensitive side as well. In essence, Zack and Miri is a film about relationships, sex, love, the way we depend on each other, and amidst the film’s often raw, unbridled comedy, this is a very emotive love story. While some fans of the writer/director may not really approve of this sensitive filmmaker, it would be somewhat weary to have a film full of visual and verbal sexual humour, without it ever attaining an emotional core, and Zack and Miri achieves that to sublime perfection. Rogan is perfectly cast as Zack, but it’s the luminous Ms Banks who brings an earthy reality to the piece. She is beautiful to watch and delivers a finely nuanced performance. Music plays an important role in Smith’s work, and the combination of James L. Venable’s original score and a punchy pop soundtrack both enhance mood and tone, as done the beautiful work of cinematographer David Klein, who has shot much of Smith’s work from the beginning. Ferociously sexual, hilarious and quite moving, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is wonderfully entertaining and marks a return to a gifted director. It’s sad and absurd the film scored an NC-17 rating in the US. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail by the time the movie opens on October 31.
British director Michael Winterbottom returns to Toronto with a stunning new film, ”Genova”. Colin Firth plays Joe, a university lecturer, who moves his two daughters to Italy after their mother dies in a car accident, in order to revitalize their lives. Genova changes all three of them as the youngest daughter starts to see the ghost of her mother, while the older one discovers her sexuality. Winterbottom’s films arte a disparate bunch, all of which use various methods to tell very distinctive narratives. His latest film is a work that delves into loss and family and does so with minimalist narrative cohesion. His cameras probe into the thoughts and longs of two girls and their emotional growth, without resorting to a conventional Hollywood treatment. The film offers no pap solutions, telling us that life indeed goes on even with the burden of death and memory inside of us. His is a hauntingly eloquent, beautiful film that superbly uses the Italian landscape to add to the emotional journeys of his characters. Colin Firth proves what an extraordinary actor he is, both emotionally real yet completely accessible. It’s a delicate, subtle performance that ranks amongst his best. But Genova belongs to the young women who play his daughters, in particular Perla Haney-Jardine whose portrayal of the emotionally fragile Mary is truly extraordinary. Genova is a gentle, exquisite gem of a film, beautifully crafted and a stunning work from the always-accomplished Winterbottom
– Paul Fischer and Melissa Algaze