Posts Tagged 'Todd Solondz'

First TIFF 2012 Report From The MFF Programming Team

Toronto International Film Festival launched their 2012 edition Thursday afternoon with a classy touch, a free 35mm screening of the recently departed master filmmaker Chris Marker’s 1983 film essay Sans Soleil.

While the official opening night film came hours later with the Bruce Willis-starring sci-fi title Looper, the choice to open a festival featuring roughly 300 new titles from 70+ countries with this challenging, subtle repertory work signaled a confirmation of sorts that, amidst increasing celebrity and corporate presence, TIFF still holds “pure cinema” as one of its guiding principles. Indeed, in his moving introductory remarks, TIFF artistic director Cameron Bailey evoked the term “pure cinema” specifically, naming Sans Soleil as the single experience that made film central to his life and thanking an almost-capacity and very appreciative crowd for beginning their festival with this early screening.

THE BITTER ASH – (L to R) Director Larry Kent and TIFF Programmer Steve Gravestock.

So if one initially sensed a little friction between this exploratory, dissonant film and the supermodel-laden L’oreal ad that runs before each TIFF film this year, all of that dissipated quickly as Marker’s mesmerizing film took over. Set largely in Japan; featuring exhilarating bursts of synthesized visuals and sound; and tackling issues of technology, memory, and film culture (especially with its poignant revisiting of locations from Hitchcock’s Vertigo), Marker’s film reminds us that the artistic possibilities of film are limited only by personal imagination.

Not incidentally, later that afternoon TIFF also served up a free screening of Roman Polanski’s oft-neglected 1979 period piece Tess. Presumably included in TIFF as an accompaniment to Marina Zenovich’s second Polanski documentary, Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, the festival offered a stunning digital restoration of the film. Baltimore currently offers few opportunities to view vintage films presented in state-of-the-art digital, and this DCP presentation of Tess highlighted how far the technology has come. One wonders if every restoration will take such care and if every venue’s presentation standards will be this high. But for this one screening at least, a digital print of a title from the vault flickered and danced with the warm, living grain we expect from film.

As the first full day of programming hit us Friday, we jumped into a 10-day spree of 3-5 features apiece per day. Films we’ve seen so far that may be of particular note to MFF fans include:

FRANCES HANoah Baumbach’s new character study, co-written with star (and frequent MFF guest) Greta Gerwig and crafted in tribute to both the French New Wave and the Woody Allen films shot in black-and-white with Gordon Willis.

THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY – Slavoj Žižek speaks before the screening of PERVERT’S GUIDE at the Isabel Bader Theater.

THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGYSophie Fiennes’ epic documentary exploration of the philosophical insights of Slavoj Žižek,which uses film history to tackle issues of personal and political conformity, and began with insightful analysis of John Carpenter’s They Live (recently screened in our Gunky’s Basement series).

TIFF 2012: THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY– (L to R) Director Sophie Fiennes (sister of Ralph) and Slavoj Žižek in conversation about their newly completed film.

LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE – A surprising new work from Iranian master filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. It follows the story of a young student/call girl as she accidentally entangles a well-respected elderly client into the snare of her personal affairs. The film is set in Tokyo and features outstanding performances by an all-Japanese cast who will be largely unknown to western audiences. Endowed with such fresh and lively filmmaking and story telling, even the most hardened skeptic of Kiarostami’s films will find pleasures here.

PARADISE: LOVE – The latest work by Ulrich Seidl, perhaps best known to our audiences for Dog Days, which John Waters selected to present at MFF in 2004. Seidl’s films can be brutal both in their visual content and their emotional honesty, and he delivered a dark masterpiece of sorts with 2007’s Import/Export. Here, with this first film in a projected “Paradise” trilogy, he looks at middle-aged Austrian women who travel to Kenya to indulge in sexual tourism. Seidl’s eye remains as unflinching as ever, and certainly this film could come across as shocking to those not familiar with his work; but in the context of that body, Paradise: Love felt almost gentle in comparison, at times evoking the wit and humor we might expect from a Todd Solondz or Alexander Payne tackling this subject.

In short: TIFF’s presentation and curatorial skills remain exemplary. Stay tuned, as MFF’s programmers each take in another 40+ films apiece by the end of the week, and we continue to report back here and on the MFF’s Twitter.

MFF Programming Director Eric Allen Hatch and Programming Administrator Scott Braid

Last Round of Eric’s Festival Programming Highlights: DARK HORSE

Today is the final day of MFF 2012, and we have films running on all 5 screens of The Charles as well as MICA’s Brown Center and Windup Space. MFF Director of Programming Eric Hatch has been sharing “programmer’s picks” with us all week. Today, fittingly, he turns his attention to our closing-night film: DARK HORSE.

*Please note that tonight’s 7pm screening of DARK HORSE at the Charles Theater has been placed on STANDBY.  If you want to see the film and don’t have a ticket or All-Access pass, a standby line will form outside the Charles Theater 30 minutes prior to the screening.  Once ticketed patrons and pass holders are seated, we will sell the remaining seats to patrons in standby.  We promise to do our best to get as many standby patrons seated as possible!


Todd Solondz’s films have always felt very, well, Baltimore to me. When I moved here in 1996, Solondz’s breakthrough “sad comedy” (the director’s preferred term for his genre) WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE was enjoying an extended run at The Charles Theater. I saw it more than once, and was blown away. Even more of an impression was made by his 1998 masterpiece, HAPPINESS, which I took in at least three times at The Charles and The Orpheum (R.I.P.).  Yes, his films are sometimes a little sick, dark, and twisted—but how appropriate for the city that produced John Waters, not to mention the festival that has adopted Bobcat Goldthwait as an honorary citizen of sorts.

DARK HORSE is Solondz’s best film since those early sad-comedy masterpieces, as well as his most accessible film yet. Abe (Jordan Gelber) is a petulant and selfish man-child who, firmly on the far side of 30, still lives at home, working for his father and collecting toys. Deeply lonely yet full of blustery delusions of grandeur, Abe aggressively pursues troubled beauty Miranda (Selma Blair). In a moment of weakness, she goes along with his advances, built around his grandiose vision of a life together in his room full of collectibles. This stroke of good fortune surprises no one more than Abe’s long-suffering parents (a note-perfect pairing of Mia Farrow and Christopher Walken)—until, that is, things begin to unravel.

I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing Solondz once (a memorable phoner for Baltimore City Paper circa STORYTELLING) as well as seeing him introduce many a film at the Toronto International Film Festival. His films are a gift, and so is his charming public presence, comparable only to the pleasure of seeing John Waters introduce a film. We couldn’t be more proud to have both Solondz and star Jordan Gelber here for our Closing Night!

A ticket to this film also gets you into our always-fun Closing Night Party (across the street in our tent village) directly after the screening. I hope you enjoy our 2012 Closing Night selection. If I were a festival-goer instead of a festival-maker, I’d be first in line for this one!

Thanks for reading these programmer’s picks this week. I hope you all had a fantastic festival, and discovered a lot of great new films.

-Eric Hatch, Director of Programming

Maryland Film Festival 2012 Announces Todd Solondz’s DARK HORSE For Closing Night!

Maryland Film Festival (May 3-6 in beautiful downtown Baltimore) is thrilled to announce DARK HORSE, the latest “sad comedy” by master filmmaker Todd Solondz, as its 2012 Closing Night selection. The film, starring Jordan Gelber, will be presented the evening of Sunday, May 6th in the historic Charles Theater, with Solondz and members of his cast presenting.

“With two back-to-back masterpieces, Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995) and Happiness (1998), Todd Solondz established himself as the new standard-bearer for American dark comedies-or, as he calls them, sad comedies,” writes MFF director of programming Eric Allen Hatch in the festival’s closing-night program notes. “With DARK HORSE, Solondz has delivered not only his greatest film since those twin ’90s classics, but his most accessible work yet.”

Co-starring Selma Blair, Justin Bartha, Mia Farrow, and Christopher Walken, and coming on the heels of such provocative Solondz features as STORYTELLING, PALINDROMES, and LIFE DURING WARTIME, DARK HORSE is a groundbreaking, all-star work by a major American director.

Also announced for Maryland Film Festival 2012 is its Opening Night program, which each year since 2004 the festival has dedicated to a program of short films. The MFF 2012 Opening Night Shorts will take place the evening of Thursday, May 3rd in the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Brown Center, with each film presented by its director.

The MFF 2012 Opening Night Shorts are:
I Am John Wayne (Christina Choe)
The Kook (Nat Livingston Johnson and Gregory Mitnick)
Modern Man (Kerri Lendo and John Merriman)
Cork’s Cattlebaron (Eric Steele)
Fishing Without Nets (Cutter Hodierne)

This announcement of DARK HORSE and the five Opening Night Short Films come in addition to over 100 films already announced for MFF 2012: 40+ new feature films and 70+ new short films from around the world; a favorite film (Barbara Loden‘s WANDA) presented by legendary filmmaker and MFF board member John Waters; and vintage 3D and silent titles.

All of these MFF 2012 titles and tickets can be found here:

For more information, please contact Megan Downey ( )