The best repertory and art-house screenings, special presentations, lectures, and limited engagements in Toronto.
At rep cinemas this week: a new restoration of a long-lost Orson Welles film, a Romanian comedy-of-errors, and a cult classic about a ninja rock band.
Too Much Johnson
Directed by Orson Welles
TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King Street West)
In 2012, Orson Welles aficionados and cinephiles at large were treated to the good news that the American filmmaking giant’s long-lost and never screened Too Much Johnson had been recovered via a print that had been stowed away in an Italian film archive. Thought to have been destroyed in a house fire in Madrid in the early 1970s, the film was at last found, restored, and screened for the first time over the past year. It was meant to form part of a mixed-media stage production of a farce by William Gilette—and it provides a rare glimpse into the director’s work before Citizen Kane.
A slapstick comedy starring Citizen Kane’s Joseph Cotten as a philanderer chased through New York City by his mistress’s cuckolded husband, the film will receive its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF Cinematheque’s programme “Orson Welles: Lost & Found.” The afternoon screening will feature live piano accompaniment from William O’Meara and commentary by Caroline Yeager, assistant curator at George Eastman House, who will give a sense of the work that goes into film preservation and restoration.
A Month in Thailand
Directed by Paul Negoescu
Double Double Land (209 Augusta Avenue)
“You talk like the sun is spinning around your thoughts,” a woman tells her self-absorbed ex-lover late in Paul Negoescu’s impeccably observed and very funny A Month in Thailand, a comedy of errors that orbits around its sad-sack hero’s misadventures. Andrei Mateiu plays Radu, a soft-spoken thirtysomething who’s perpetually falling in and out of love with young women. We meet him on New Year’s Eve, caught between paying cursory attention to his current girlfriend, with whom he’s about to take the titular trip in the new year, and longing for his former one, who seems to shadow him at every party.
Negoescu is a relatively underrated talent of the Romanian New Wave, but there’s evidence of careful insight into a certain kind of middle-class white male ennui here that should get him more attention. Radu’s twilight odyssey through chintzy buffet-style restaurants with bad karaoke and clubs pumping out dance remixes of “The Power of Love” works as both a warm portrayal of contemporary Romanian nightlife and a satire of the kinds of circular romantic paths man-children like Radu tend to find themselves treading.
The films screens for free courtesy of MDFF.
Directed by Woo-sang Park and Y.K. Kim
The Royal (608 College Street)
You could argue that Miami Connection owes its status as a cult phenomenon mostly to the efforts of Alamo Drafthouse programmer Zack Carlson, who in 2009 first brought the 1987-made martial arts curio to the genre-hungry audience it always deserved. It would be a crime, though, to downplay the efforts of directors Woo-sang Park and Y.K. Kim in bringing this moony-eyed baby to life. Tempting as it is to celebrate the strange fruit of their labour as transcendentally bad storytelling, only the worst cynic could deny their good spirit and their savant-like genius for comic set pieces.
A martial-arts musical about a showdown between Orlando-based Taekwondo-fighting musical artists and some motorcycle-riding ninjas with a grip on the city’s cocaine trade, Miami Connection feels like a bizarre mirror image of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Kim, credited as a grandmaster, stars as the nigh-incomprehensible leader of the good-guy pack, a multiracial synth-rock troupe known as Dragon Sound, whose members devote their off-nights to cleaning up the streets in the name of of nonviolence.
Of course, one might wonder how that message squares with Dragon Sound’s preferred method of peacekeeping: systematically maiming their enemies. But it’s a testament to the directors’ and stars’ guilelessness and lightness of tone that you never really ask the question. More than anything, this is a sweet movie with a sublime soundtrack, including the standout cut, a mind-numbingly repetitive but infectious anthem about the protagonists’ abiding friendship, which sticks “through thick and thin”—and presumably also through ninja offensives. It’s a song about loyalty, which is all too fitting given the kind of sincere devotion the film inspires among its followers.
The film screens as part of Canadian Music Week. CMW wristband and badge holders will be admitted for free.