Saturday, September 18, 2010

TIFF '10: Life after cinema


Over the course of the picture, Jorge Jellinek loses his job, gets a haircut, abandons his luggage, and impersonates a law professor—and that’s only in the movie’s second half. By the end a sort of transformation has taken place, a change has come over his face, and he seems lighter, like a new man, or at lest trying to be. It’s a wonderful performance, among the finest I’ve seen at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival, one that's unassuming yet rippling with comic grace. Jellinek is just a pleasure to watch. He walks as though trying not to move his torso. Before the haircut he seems to be wearing a wig. Without his nerd-to-the-marrow glasses he could perhaps be Alfred Molina. His character has spent 25 years working at a Montevideo cinematheque, which is now dying. Cracked vinyl covers the seats, each of which Jellinek personally inspects. The key to the vault of reels is secreted away in the DVD case for
Ikiru. A donation campaign is underway yet it’s hard to imagine anyone’s pocketbooks being pried open from hearing a flamboyantly dull radio lecture on the finer points of developing one’s knowledge of cinema history—I wish they’d pitch in for no other reason than the promise of a Manoel de Oliveira retrospective. Shot in black and white, in 1.33 aspect ratio, with all it’s credits at the top, Federico Veiroj’s A Useful Life is nostalgically clothed and promises to be an homage to vanishing chambers of cherished cinematic discovery, something along the lines of Goodbye Dragon Inn. As far as that goes, it’s affectionate yet not all that sentimental. It’s actually about something else, and it’s very funny. At one point Jellinek is weeping on a bus when he spots someone looking at him, someone who looks suspiciously like a younger version of himself. That’s the turning point, I think. As Jellinek says in one of his recorded pleas for support, “You are both a witness and a participant…” That goes for life and the movies. I only hope that more people see this movie, in cinematheques, multiplexes, or otherwise. (Oddly enough I saw it at Jackman Hall, the theatre in the Art Gallery of Ontario, which the TIFF cinematheque called home until only a few weeks ago when they moved into their new digs.)

2 comments:

rakuscat said...
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wuliinge said...
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