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TIFF: Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Genova

By Paul Fischer Monday September 8th 2008 12:19AM
TIFF: Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Genova

Zack and Miri Make a Porno Iconic director Kevin Smith returns behind the feature film camera for the first time since Clerks II in Zack and Miri Make a Porno, and this could be his best film in a decade.

Lifelong platonic friends Zack (Seth Rogen) and Miri (Elizabeth Banks) look to solve their respective cashflow problems by making an amateur porn film together. As the cameras roll, however, the duo begins to sense that they may have more feelings for each other than they previously thought.

Smith's latest script crackles with verbal and visual hilarity, taking risks in some areas, yet showing his sensitive side as well. In essence, Zack and Miri is a film about relationships, sex, love, the way we depend on each other, and amidst the film's often raw, unbridled comedy, this is a very emotive love story.

While some fans of the writer/director may not really approve of this sensitive filmmaker, it would be somewhat weary to have a film full of visual and verbal sexual humour, without it ever attaining an emotional core, and Zack and Miri achieves that to sublime perfection.

Rogen is perfectly cast as Zack, but it's the luminous Ms Banks who brings an earthy reality to the piece. She is beautiful to watch and delivers a finely nuanced performance. Music plays an important role in Smith's work, and the combination of James L. Venable's original score and a punchy pop soundtrack both enhance mood and tone, as done the beautiful work of cinematographer David Klein, who has shot much of Smith's work from the beginning.

Ferociously sexual, hilarious and quite moving, Zack and Miri Make a Porno is wonderfully entertaining and marks a return to a gifted director. It's sad and absurd the film scored an NC-17 rating in the US. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail by the time the movie opens on October 31.

Genova British director Michael Winterbottom returns to Toronto with a stunning new film, Genova. Colin Firth plays Joe, a university lecturer, who moves his two daughters to Italy after their mother dies in a car accident, in order to revitalize their lives. Genova changes all three of them as the youngest daughter starts to see the ghost of her mother, while the older one discovers her sexuality.

Winterbottom's films arte a disparate bunch, all of which use various methods to tell very distinctive narratives. His latest film is a work that delves into loss and family and does so with minimalist narrative cohesion. His cameras probe into the thoughts and longs of two girls and their emotional growth, without resorting to a conventional Hollywood treatment.

The film offers no pap solutions, telling us that life indeed goes on even with the burden of death and memory inside of us. His is a hauntingly eloquent, beautiful film that superbly uses the Italian landscape to add to the emotional journeys of his characters.

Colin Firth proves what an extraordinary actor he is, both emotionally real yet completely accessible. It's a delicate, subtle performance that ranks amongst his best. But Genova belongs to the young women who play his daughters, in particular Perla Haney-Jardine whose portrayal of the emotionally fragile Mary is truly extraordinary.

Genova is a gentle, exquisite gem of a film, beautifully crafted and a stunning work from the always-accomplished Winterbottom.

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