Yesterday was the first day of classes. I had two, one big lecture class and a small seminar, which is often even more tiring than the big lecture because it's sometimes a lot of work to pull talk out of students (that said, I think I may be lucky this year--so far, I seem to have some good talkers).
This means it was a tiring day, because I do a lot of class prep on the day of my classes. This is not out of procrastination, or anything, it's because I already have existing lecture notes and outlines written up, and I think I lecture best when my tweaking of those notes is very fresh in my mind. I've got a good enough memory that I can look through everything before the lecture, and then spend most of the lecture away from my written notes (powerpoint helps this, of course, because it keeps me on schedule).
So, anyway, yesterday was tiring, and so was the weekend, with its four movies, plus some class prep, plus work putting my freaking tenure file together, which this weekend involved photocopying all my student evaluations and getting my teaching portfolio in order. And looking through class evaluations is always draining, too, I find, because even though mine are generally quite good, its the couple of bad ones that always stick with me. So, for example, the ones that say I'm awesome (a generally used term of approval among university students across cultures, it turns out) make me smile, but the one that says I hate Russia and trivialize suffering is the one that I keep thinking about, to the point that I get quite upset about it. (Incidentally, it's now making me worry about the way that I talk about Russia--for example, I certainly hope that all my writings from Russia last year didn't give the impression that I hate the place... I was going for loving bemusement, more often than not [with, of course, as always, as about any place, some exceptions].)
This means that last night I was not really looking forward to my 9:15 PM showing of a more than two hour long French family drama. I didn't bother to make a real dinner, because something I wanted to cook turned out to have gone bad in the refrigerator. And by the time I got to the screening, I was tired and a little wet, since it started to rain right before I left the apartment.
And yet? Once the film started I barely felt tired until the very end of the showing, but given that it was then approaching midnight, I think that's justified. And then, I totally was happy to stay until well after midnight for the director Q&A. In other words, my good TIFF streak continues.
The film is about a big family based in Roubaix, a small town up by the Belgian border (I looked that up later). The patriarch and matriarch (Catherine Deneuve!) live there in a big house, and their three kids, nephew, plus assorted spouses/partners and kids all come to visit for Christmas. Complicating the story is a series of rifts within the family, and the matriarch's recent diagnosis with a form of leukemia that might be partially cured by bone marrow donation by someone with a particular blood match. So there's the drama of who's a match, and what that means.
It's again a very funny film in places, and a very sad one in others--at the very beginning we learn that the family had an older son who died of leukemia at age six (and we learn this in an unusual and visually arresting way). It's big and sprawling, almost messy, and yet somehow pulls together. The visuals are dramatic and unusual, as was the score. I found some of the performances really touching--and I particularly adored the patriarch, played by Jean-Paul Roussillon, a roly-poly, gravel voiced charmer. I could have sworn I've seen him in something, but based on his imdb page, I don't seem to have.
And, you know, it's funny. This film also kind of just stopped rather than ended (though with a Shakespeare quote that gave a bit more finality), but this time I didn't mind. The film had earned that kind of ending for me, while I don't think Linha de Passe did, somehow. Maybe it's because the individual stories in Linha de Passe were so much more dramatic that just stopping felt like cheating. Here everything was just toned down enough that the stopping worked fine.