The festival gets started on Thursday, but it’s not exactly a full day of movies. There aren’t any afternoon screenings and a relative paucity of evening ones. I suspect a lack of available theaters is to blame, but what it means is that the few available films are hot tickets. Since I always seem to have bad luck in the lottery, the result is that I rarely get an opening day ticket. On the first try, that is.
One of the things I love about TIFF is that the festival organizers usually set aside a certain number of tickets for each film’s rush line. This is where you can wait as long as you want, if you get there early enough, for however many rush tickets become available. A few minutes before the show’s about to start, the people in charge figure out how many empty seats there are, and then give that many people a chance to purchase a ticket. The first people in line obviously get the first tickets available. So if you really want to see something and you can’t get a ticket the regular way, you just have to be willing to wait in the rush line for a second chance.
I didn’t have much to do today, so I didn’t mind getting to the theater a couple hours early. I’ve also had wonderful experiences in past rush lines, as I got to know the people around me. People quickly find out I’m from Chicago, and then we start swapping stories of how Chicago and Toronto are alike, what movies we’ve seen, and whatever other details we care to share.
The same thing happened today, as I met a guy named Eli who’s actually applying to the same grad school I went to, so we talked about that, his interest in experimental cinema, our mutual background in modern literature, and on and on. The time flew by, and it was capped off by getting a ticket to my first movie of TIFF ’08.
Acne is a coming-of-age story from Uruguay about a boy and sexual desire. But in a twist, thirteen-year-old Rafa has had plenty of sex (with prostitutes at a local brothel, with his family’s maid) but hasn’t ever kissed a girl. And there’s nothing he’d rather do. Oh, he’d also like to clear up his hideous acne.
Other than that, Rafa doesn’t have a lot of interests. He sleepwalks through school, spending his time drawing pictures of the cute little Nicole. He gambles and smokes with his friends. And he plays the piano and tennis, but not at the same time. Though if he did, it probably wouldn’t make a difference; he’s horrible at both.
The movie has a very funny first 30 minutes, with Rafa’s deadpan sexual adventures (masturbation, porn, hookers) providing most of the comedy. Writer and director Federico Veiroj frames his simple but elegant compositions to highlight the banality of Rafa’s life, which emphasizes the humor. Furthermore, the development of secondary characters, such as Rafa’s friends, parents and siblings, provide a sweet context for his longings, allowing Veiroj to set up his story in effective ways.
The problem is that the next hour doesn’t do much with that. More sex and porn, more frustration from Rafa, more deadpan humor. Except that the same joke over and over quickly loses its freshness. It also doesn’t help that Alejandro Tocar, who plays Rafa, is something of a dud. Yes, he’s acting as a depressed teenager, but does that have to be so boring? Fortunately, the movie comes through in the end, interestingly by focusing not on the girl but on how boys interact with each other, how male friendships involve a strange combination of closeness and distance. Acne certainly won’t be the best film I see this fest, but it was a cute, if raunchy, way to kick things off.
Tomorrow is a five-film day with movies ranging from a huge blockbuster to experimental shorts. Look for a post on Monday (or Sunday, if I get inspired).