September 20, 2006
A thought by James Berardinelli

Film festivals generate two types of fatigue. The first is the kind everyone is familiar with: not enough sleep. For me, a typical day at the Toronto Film Festival begins with the alarm going off at 7:00 am (or earlier) and doesn't end until about 1:30 or 2:00 am, when I turn off my computer and crawl under the sheets. I can easily withstand five hours of sleep for a day or two at a time (provided I am allowed a morning cup of caffeine), but when it goes on for over a week, it becomes draining. To make matters worse, I developed a cold mid-way through the festival. When I'm sick, I don't sleep much (and when I do sleep, it's a fitful slumber), so I was working on about four hours' sleep for the last three days when I was in Toronto.

The second kind of weariness is what I call "movie fatigue." It comes from highly concentrated film viewing. In this case, that means more than 30 films in a little over a week. (Plus a stretch of 13 consecutive days in which I saw at least one theatrical movie - not a record, but close.) When it's all over, the last thing I want to do is trudge out to a multiplex and "catch up" on stuff I have missed, especially since so much of it looks unpromising. After seeing the likes of Babel, Little Children, and Black Book, who wants to endure Feast and The Guardian?

Returning from a film festival requires a short period of adjustment. This typically means taking a few days to not do anything (except maybe cutting the lawn), then "easing" back into my normal routine. For those who are there to see movies and write about them, a festival becomes an intense experience. There's always a sense of falling behind and rushing to catch up. If I get a write-up of a film on-line less than 48 hours after seeing it, I'm in good shape. That doesn't always happen, and the longer it takes to write something up, the less clear it will be in my memory. Normally, I can go about a week between seeing a movie and writing the review if circumstances dictate it. During a festival, that luxury doesn't exist. I can start the day "caught up" and finish it five movies behind.

There are few Toronto-related topics I plan to address in the next few ReelThoughts. One is movie related (why a mediocre film like Death of a President can generate so much discussion) and one is not (the agony of air travel). Then I'll get back to my usual rants about piracy, the MPAA, why Americans fear female breasts, and whether the high def DVD format war is killing the golden goose.