Saoirse Ronan in Greta Gerwig's Lady Bird

TIFF17 Day Seven

A Look At Lady Bird, Kodachrome, The Day After, and Let the Corpses Tan

Sep 14, 2017 By Jason Wilson Web Exclusive
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We're a week in, and I finally caught up with Greta Gerwig's directorial debut, Lady Bird. This garnered a massive amount of fanfare following its premiere, and I wish I had managed to get into that. It was sold out and the rush line (where you go in case people with tickets don't show up) was very long. Gerwig was apparently in attendance and gave a heartfelt talk following the screening. I am not surprised, especially given the nature of her film.

The coming-of-age tale is a well-worn path, but it's one that continues to work because it's such a personal genre of storytelling. Everyone has their own coming-of-age experience, so when these movies are done well and told with truth and honestyand a little comedythey sing. Lady Bird sings.

Lady Bird will be familiar to adults of a certain age, particularly in their early to mid-30s who graduated high school in the early 2000s. That doesn't mean it's exclusive to that age-set, only that certain textures are going to feel lifted directly from their lives. It's a sense of time and place. Having graduated high school, myself, in 2001 the music cues are especially familiar.

The themes of struggling with identity, sexuality, hopes, and dreams, and being stuck in a hometown you despise (but secretly love) are all handled with blunt honesty and a deft sense of humor. There are certain films that strike a personal chord, and Lady Bird is one of those despite the fact that I am both male and Canadian and this is set in Sacramento featuring Saoirse Ronan as the lead. When I was going through high school, I wanted desperately to leave my hometown of 5,000 people. I refused to even consider schools close to home. I felt like my parents were smothering me, even though hindsight has revealed that they were simply concerned and trying to look out for me. Like Lady Bird (Ronan), I was often unable to convey my appreciation of their struggles as they were unable to convey their aims and hopes for me...or maybe I just refused to listen.

Sure, the specifics to Lady Bird's life in 2002-Sacramento won't perfectly mirror anyone else's, but the textures of high school, looming graduation, sexual frustration will ring true.

Someone who would love Lady Bird is probably Elizabeth Olsen's Zooey from Kodachrome. There is a scene where Matt (Jason Sudeikis) tries to guess Zooey's musical tastes based on her age. During this conversation, it's revealed that Zooey would have graduated high school in the early '00s, right around the time Lady Bird is set. They don't dive deeply enough into her backstory, but she alludes to being a bit of a misfit and a big fan of The Smiths and Pixies.

But, this is Matt's story. Estranged from his photographer father Ben (Ed Harris) for over a decade, he is confronted with the fact that his dad is dying of liver cancer. Reluctant, and downright hostile, to reconnect, he eventually acquiesces. A struggling music label rep, Matt agrees to take his father on a road trip to develop an old roll of Kodachrome film before the process is kaput. Matt's only doing it because of a promise from Ben's manager that he can get face time with a band he's pursuing for the indie label he represents.

Kodachrome shares a theme with Ruben Ostlund's The Square, an otherwise polar opposite film. It's highly critical of the commodification of art, specifically music and photography, and often recedes into nostalgia for the old days when everything was supposedly better. It does teeter quite often into "old-man-yells-at-cloud" territory when it comes to sanctifying the "pure" way of pursuing artistic integrity, and there's a scene where Matt nearly gets sacked in the beginning when his boss rants about how the old way of doing things is over. Basically, get with the times, Matt!

The emotional resonance is there, even if it's cloying and manipulative. Kodachrome is often funny, and the cast plays off one another with comfortable ease. Kodachrome may wind up being a crowd-pleasing dramedy that inspires a little bit of weeping even if it struggles to rise above its sentimentality.

My introduction to Hong Sang-soo, The Day After, was fine? It's a quiet, contemplative, discussion-heavy film about a book publisher who is cheating on his wife with his employee. The employee leaves, he hires a new one, the wife finds out about the former, and hijinks ensues. It's kind of the most low-key screwball comedy of errors. Shot in black-and-white, the film has a bit of a preserved feel to it, like it's a long-ago memory just lingering in the back of someone's mind.

The Day After is very slight, which isn't a problem, just an observation that it's incredibly slice-of-life. The dialogue is very circular as well, and some of the scenes are funny when folding inward, but otherwise it can be fairly redundant. It's a film I wish I had more to say, and part of this can probably be chalked up to being 28 films deepthis may require another, more focused viewing.

On a different spectrum, Let the Corpses Tan is so overwhelming to the senses that it was a good idea to have The Day After as a bit of a palette cleanser. This thing is sensory overload from the opening frame and it doesn't let up until the closing credits. It's exhausting. If you're looking for a sensible, well-built plot, you've come to the wrong place. A group of sleazy criminals steal some gold and hide with their artist friend in the hills. The cops come and the rest of the movie is a hallucinatory shootout.

The film's biggest strength is its commitment to insanity and amplifying the surrealism through a broad color palette and sound design. Every step echoes, every gunshot blasts with reverb, and the leather stretches taut (I never knew leather could have such a distinct sound). This is a quintessential Midnight Madnessemphasis on the "madness"experience. It may not hold together, and it may be style over substance to the nth degree, but it's a unique and singular vision that you can't help but raise a toast to directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani for being wholly uncompromising.

Next, I'm combining Day 8 and 9 as I wrap up TIFF 2017 heading into the weekend. The schedule is a bit up in the air, but I'm hoping to see Brie Larson's directorial debut, Unicorn Store, and possibly the documentary about former Toronto Raptors' legend Vince Carter, The Carter Effect.

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