OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS
If cinema is an art, festivals are marketing, so what does it really mean when the Toronto International Film Festival puts certain filmmakers into the Masters program?
It doesn't mean they're living in undersized apartments finishing their theses. It's part of the canon-forming process that festivals take part in. In a way, it's like the conversation in High Fidelity when Rob lists Massive Attack's Radiation Rules The Nation as one of his "top-five all-time side-one cut-ones" and Barry dismisses it as "granting new classic status by admitting an apparently radical choice to a list of otherwise safe, old choices."
Jean-Luc Godard, Shohei Imamura, Carlos Saura, Manoel de Oliveira -- these guys are automatic. Noah Cross's observation in Chinatown, "Politicians, whores and ugly buildings all get respectable if they last long enough," applies to filmmakers as well. If Ed Wood were working today, he'd be in this program because he'd be really old.
This year they've added Kiyoshi Kurosawa, the only genre filmmaker on the list, and Nanni Moretti, the youngest director on it and a "master" only because he's won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.
David Lynch? I may be the biggest Lynch fan in town, but he's got such a confoundingly erratic career that I'm not sure I'd elevate him to the pantheon just yet.
It's a moderately reliable list -- Eric Rohmer, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Ken Loach, Mohsen Makhmalbaf -- but the films being screened aren't necessarily their best work.
Wait a minute. Lynch, Loach, Moretti.... Is the festival just putting on a program of Most Famous Directors to make things easier for the patrons, so they won't waste their time on obscure nonentities from Burkina Faso? Without this festival-certified list of "great" filmmakers, they might risk eye strain sorting through the catalogue.