Wednesday, September 10, 2008

TIFF 2008: Adoration

Adoration by Atom Egoyan (Canada, 2008) 101 minutes (Scotiabank Theatre #1)

May I say up front that Cameron Bailey, TIFF's newest Co-Director, is a ninny? A bright, articulate ninny but a ninny nonetheless. Here is how he describes this film in the program book: "a fugue for our age of terror and shifting identities". What does that mean? This is the kind of description that drives genuine film lovers away from more complicated material which is the category that I would put this film in.

This is the best film I've seen at the festival. I don't love all of Egoyan's films (vide Where the Truth Lies) but I do find Egoyan intriguing. I will watch pretty much anything he makes. He was a few years ahead me at the University of Toronto (we have never met) and I remember how the morons on the school paper would tear him to shreds for being an "artsie" - remember that tired old insult from university? He showed them all a hundred times over. Occasionally now, I see him walking around University College at UofT where he now teaches a course periodically. It's one of those "I know you - you don't know me - aren't you very interesting to observe up close" moments.

Speak truth to power Atom - he gave a short speech before the film exhorting us to express our views regarding funding for the arts and the upcoming federal election. But on to the film ...

Simon (Devon Bostick) shares a story with his French class in highschool which initially the class thinks is a piece of fiction and then he reveals to be a "true" story. Encouraged by his teacher Sabine (Arsinée Khanjian) he expands and embellishes the details of the story which starts a firestorm of discussion on the Internet in a chat room with his friends and then much further to academics, kooks, interested and not so disinterested parties.

The story involves his father Sami (the very hot Noam Jenkins), a repairer of violins, and his possible involvement in a terrorist plot which put Sami's mother, a talented violinist, in peril during her pregnancy when she was on a trip to Israel. Fed by his grandfather's assertion that Sami may have been responsible for the death of Simon's mother Rachel (Rachel Blanchard), Simon vacillates between hatred of his father and support for his beliefs.

Sabine engages Simon's uncle Tom (terrifically played by Scott Speedman) in a bizarre cat and mouse game to determine how much he knows of the story. Her motives are not made known to us until the very end of the film. Her presence is actually quite threatening as we have no idea what she is up to in her desire to encourage Simon's revelations.

It's a film about manufactured identities and truths in the absence of truth and facts. It's about memory, about the construction and twisting of historical truth.

To say more would spoil the plot and I will begin to spout nonsense like Mr. Bailey. As is usual with an Egoyan film, the truth is elusive and not easily determined. I may even be able to drag R, a frequent detractor of Mr. Egoyan, to see this one.

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