Toronto International Film Festival: Errol Morris's Tabloid, John Carpenter's The Ward
Even a minor Errol Morris film would be a highlight in what at least so far has been a pretty uninspiring festival—I'm still holding out hope for Vincent Gallo to shake things up—and Tabloid is very much a companion piece to Standard Operating Procedure, exploring media notoriety in a lighter key. Anyone who's read Morris's New York Times posts knows his fascination with mitigation and the complexity of truth, and this time his subject is Joyce McKinney, who in 1977 caused a brief sensation in England when she tied allegedly tied a Mormon missionary to a bed and forced him to have sex with her. Morris toys with the idea that the relationship had at least an element of consent, but the real subject is McKinney's own evolving relationship with the media; she had another 15 minutes much later in life, and I'd rather not say too much because it's more fun if the revelation comes as a surprise. (If you don't plan to see the film you can easily Google her.) Morris is working in an unusually waggish and insubstantial mode here, apparently just pleased to have found a subject who's such a piece of work.
Last night John Carpenter became probably the first director in TIFF history to bail on his world premiere because of jury duty (and on his first film in nine years, no less). Set in a '60s mental hospital, The Ward—well, John Carpenter's The Ward, as it's called in his signature style—follows a new patient (Amber Heard) who fears the halls may be haunted by a killer ghost. Her new friends are harboring some sort of secret. Is it possible that the doctor's unusual treatments are to blame? (There's a bit of Titicut Follies here.) Here's another one where spoilers abound; let me just say I was surprised to see a particular gimmick used again, albeit more effectively than in the film it most recalls. That said, after the lead-footedness of what I saw of Vanishing on 7th Street the night before, it's a small pleasure to be in the hands a director who still knows how to build atmosphere and fill a frame.
More later, after new films by Kelly Reichardt and—if I don't get shut out after a close call—Werner Herzog. Also: Gallo!