Sometimes to know where we’re going in cinematic history, we have to know where we have been. Nobody holds this fact closer to their hearts then the programming team at the TIFF Cinematheque who are launching a springtime series of special screenings at the TIFF Bell Lightbox from April 8th through May 20th with 16 uniquely original and classic films. Some are in the form of brand new digital restorations. Others are brand new or archival 35mm prints. Almost all are making very rare big screen appearances in Toronto, and in some cases being screened for the first time ever in the city in a new format.
The series kicks off with an undisputed masterpiece and its subsequent, equally exceptional, and vastly underrated remake: an archival print of director Henri-Georges Clouzot Wages of Fear and a director approved digital restoration of William Friedkin’s Sorcerer. Both are classic, grimy thrillers set in Latin America where desperate men are forced to transport some dangerous explosives without the proper safety gear.
Based on the novel by Georges Arnaud, Wages of Fear is widely regarded as one of the most iconic and most influential thrillers of all time. It’s often mentioned as not only one of the best films of the 1950’s but also as one of the best films the world has ever seen. It’s subsequent remake released in 1977 at the end of Hollywood’s greatest auteurist period and just as Star Wars was about to change the face of cinema, Sorcerer has been an unjustly forgotten and rarely seen entry in the canon of director William Friedkin that served as his follow up to his biggest commercial success, The Exorcist.
I got the chance to take in this brand new print of Sorcerer and it’s a sight to behold. Friedkin captures the spirit of the original film, and just because the restoration is digital, that doesn’t mean that the frenetic energy of the rain and the mud and the bumps on the road are lost at all. Friedkin commits to some brave filmmaking; the type of big screen experience that washes over you with darkness and desperation that demands to be seen on the big screen.
Aside from the general centrepieces of the spring line-up, there’s plenty to offer. Genre fans get to go back in time with Robin Hardy’s occult classic, The Wicker Man. Fritz Lang and Joseph Losey’s take on M leads nicely into Losey’s collaboration with writer Harold Pinter in The Servant. Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura, Humberto Solas’ Lucia and Robert Bresson’s A Man Escaped are some of the greatest films of all time in any genre.
Boy, by the brilliant Nagisa Oshima, is highly stylized film inspired by the true story of a family who trained their ten year old son to get hit by cars so they could collect on the damages. It is an absolute stunner. The Great Escape is another true to life story about the real life break out from a German POW camp that holds up as one of the best examples of ensemble cast populist cinema. Director Nobuhiko Obayashi takes us to his vision of Hausu (House) is one of the most surreal movie going experiences of my life. Finally (although there are several other films we haven’t mentioned) there’s the complete 4 hr version of Cleopatra which you might only need to see once, but you’ll unquestionably remember it.
It’s a stacked line-up of films that demand to be seen on the big screen for complete appreciation, and thankfully many of them have more than one screening. But to check out a full list of titles and screenings throughout the spring, be sure to check out the TIFF website.