TORONTO - When John Ewing left his home Wednesday for his 18th Toronto International Film Festival, the distinguished director of the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque and curator of film for the Cleveland Museum of Art was hoping to see a couple of acclaimed films while catching up with friends in the business.
"I've been there every year since 1998, with the exception of last year," Ewing wrote via e-mail last week. "And that's because I was too busy trying to get the Cinematheque's new theater up and running smoothly (in its beautiful new digs on Euclid Avenue in the University Circle area).
"I started attending the fest in order to meet programmer colleagues and film distributors from around the U.S. and Canada, and that's still the main motivation. But, I generally stay only four days (one long weekend) early in the fest.
"Nevertheless," Ewing concluded then. "I do look forward to catching some films, especially movies that were acclaimed at Cannes, like (Akron boy) Jim Jarmusch's "Paterson"; Paul Verhoeven's "Elle," with Isabelle Huppert; the German film "Toni Erdmann"; and Paul Schrader's shot-in-Cleveland "Dog Eat Dog."
"I also enjoy walking around Toronto. It's a beautiful city and the weather is almost always perfect in early September."
Well, counting the weather, which has been relatively hot and sticky since the 41st annual fest opened Thursday, maybe three out of five isn't so bad.
Ewing, who actually is back home by now, still managed viewing six films, but only two of the Cannes favorites he sought out.
"I did see 'Dog Eat Dog'," he said very late yesterday in another e-mail. "It's gritty and violent and in-your-face. Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe really chew the scenery, and it has some ghoulish laughs" (which could make it potential Cinematheque fare if no one else in Cleveland is interested).
Ewing also saw Cannes favorite "Toni Erdmann" but didn't sound too impressed.
"It is widely overpraised, in my opinion," he said. "This crowd-pleasing, 162-minute German comedy is easily 40 minutes too long."
The Terrence Malick documentary, "Voyage of Time: Life's Journey," is not a Ewing favorite, either. "It's even more rarefied than his most recent 'narrative' features. I don't know who the audience is for this 90-minute, non-narrative film."
So did the Cleveland movie man see anything special?
" 'Manchester by the Sea' (with Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams), for the most part, lived up to the acclaim it received at Sundance," he said. "Then I left early because I prefer to spread out great movies, rather than watch five or six of them on the same day.
"Besides, the best films at Toronto will play subsequently at the Cinematheque, Cedar Lee, Cleveland International Film Festival, Capitol, or Cleveland Museum of Art, and I'd rather space out my viewings of them.
"Many Cleveland film buffs don't know how fortunate they are to have so many strong year-round options for 'art' films and film festival fare," Ewing ended. "People in other big cities can't say the same."
(Toronto's film festival is now running through Sunday, Sept. 18. Return here Monday for more festival movie talk and visit http://www.tiff.net/tiff/ for more info.)