Showing posts with label TIFF. Show all posts
Showing posts with label TIFF. Show all posts

Monday, September 13, 2021

TIFF: Bergman Island (2021)


Filmmaking couple Chris (Vicky Krieps) and Tony (Tim Roth) head to Fårö Island, Sweden to take up residency while Chris works on her latest screenplay. Fårö (i.e. Bergman Island) is where Swedish director Ingmar Bergman lived and worked. The house the couple are staying at was used in the making of Scenes from a Marriage (1973). They talk to locals about Bergman, watch Cries and Whispers (1972) on 35 mm and explore the island to find different spots important to Bergman and his work. The hope is that being in this space will inspire Chris to write her screenplay. The movie shifts then to a movie within a movie where Chris is dictating her script to Tony. In that story, Amy (Mia Wasikowska) and her former lover Joseph (Anders Danielsen Lie) reunite on Fårö Island to attend a mutual friends wedding where they rekindle their secret affair.

Directed by Mia Hansen-Løve, Bergman Island is steeped in appreciation for Ingmar Bergman. It is also a tad pretentious. While the film-within-a-film format works quite well, the stories get muddled. There is also a plot point in the screenplay that is never revealed leaving the audience hanging. And it's unclear what truly motivates these characters. Chris and Tony are both supposed to be Bergman fans but don't really demonstrate much knowledge about the filmmaker. However, that actually works in their favor because their curiosity helps deliver a lot of information to the viewer about Fårö and Bergman. Krieps and Roth are terrific in the story and the film boasts plenty of shots of Fårö Island including a peek inside Bergman's home, shots of various filming locations and a visit to Bergman's grave. The quiet, bucolic nature of Fårö really comes through.

A must for Ingmar Bergman fans or anyone who enjoys stories about the creative process. If you don't fit into either category, you may want to skip this one.

Bergman Island is part of the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival Gala Presentation slate. It also screened at the Cannes Film Festival. It's distributed by IFC Films.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

TIFF: Judy (2019)

Image courtesy of TIFF

Directed by Rupert Goold, Judy avoids the cradle-to-grave story and focuses on two of the most difficult periods in the life of Judy Garland. The story flashes back to 1939 when a teenage Judy Garland (Darci Shaw) is on the MGM lot making The Wizard of Oz (1939). It's there that she faces long working hours, an overbearing mother and a temperamental Louis B. Mayer. To maintain her weight she's restricted from eating the foods a teenager would typically indulge in and is put on a regimen of pills to reduce her appetite and to help her sleep. It's clear that Judy loves the spotlight but seeks the happiness that comes with living a normal life. As the years pass her two desires seems to be mutually exclusive.

Present day is the last months of Judy Garland's (Renee Zellweger) life. It's 1969 and Garland is struggling to make ends meet. She's forced to come to the decision to leave her children Lorna (Bella Ramsey) and Joey with their father Sidney Luft (Rufus Sewell) and take a job in London. It's there that she finds a welcoming audience of devoted fans. But she's struggling with anxiety, sleepless nights, anorexia and a dependency on pills and alcohol. Her new assistant, the strait laced Rosalyn (Jessie Buckley) is her rock, helping her get on to that stage when no one else seems to be able to. Mickey Deans (Finn Wittrock), a young man she met at her daughter Liza's (Gemma-Leah Devereux) party comes to London to sweep her off her feet. Their whirlwind romance is over as soon as it started. As Garland starts to decline, she must leave London but not without making one last splash, with the help of some good friends.

Image courtesy of TIFF

Judy was adapted by Tom Edge and Peter Quilter from the stage play End of the Rainbow. Zellweger really gives her all to play the part of Judy Garland. She hones the voice, the mannerisms and the presence which is no small task. Zellweger sings in the film and while she's no Judy Garland in the voice department it does add a layer of authenticity to her performance. This depiction of Judy gave me a real appreciation for the legend and why we love her and continue to love her as we do. She was just so genuine. She had an amazing talent, one that superseded anything us mere mortals could ever dream of. But at heart she was just a woman who wanted happiness and love. The story includes her time with her children and we see the pain she feels being away from them. They also added a plot line where she befriends two fans, a gay couple, to drive home the point that she was not only a gay icon but felt deeply for others.

By the end of the film I was really emotional. I found myself swept into this world and deeply moved by the legend of Judy Garland. I did feel the story was overly simplistic especially in how it depicted old Hollywood. Everything was presented as good or bad with very little in between. Mickey Rooney shows up in those early scenes as Judy's first crush and her MGM co-star but we don't see much about their lifelong friendship.

Does a Hollywood biopic have to be factually accurate to capture the true essence of a movie star? With so many biopics coming out we have to wonder if telling the truth is even the point. Or is it necessary to have a blend of fiction and reality to make magic on screen? I'm no Judy Garland expert so I can't speak to the inaccuracies but I do think die-hard Garland fans will take issues with the fictional parts and the focus on Garland's darkest days. I hope they see beyond that and give the film a shot.

This film did remind me of Stan & Ollie, the Laurel and Hardy biopic which also travels to the other side of the Atlantic and tells the story of the legends' last hurrah. I reviewed that film here and also discussed the film and the inherent problems with biopics in my discussion with Carl Sweeney over on The Movie Palace Podcast.

Judy explores the darkest days of Judy Garland's life while also capturing what made her such a beloved legend. Zellweger shines despite the film's flaws.

Judy had its Canadian premiere at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.

Popular Posts

 Twitter   Instagram   Facebook