It was perhaps indicative of the demographic of tonight's Midnight Madness premiere screening of hotly buzzed JCVD that before the show, the line for the men's' room outnumbered the line for the ladies' considerably. But you didn't have to be a guy to enjoy the film, and especially the vibe of the screening.
Before the show we attended the Pre-screening party for JCVD at Century Club; the party, like most of the parties at big film festivals, was packed with folks vying for the free booze, but unlike a lot of fest parties I've attended, many of the people tonight were enthusiastically pumped up for the screening of a film that most of us knew little about, other than it played the market at Cannes, and garnered considerable buzz at that prestigious fest off its screening there.
As for the screening, the queue to get in seemed to stretch for miles, and as is usual for the Midnight Madness crowds, folks were excited to be there. I'm not sure how many of them fully appreciated the irony of this size of crowd turning out to see a film about and starring Jean-Claude Van Damme at a major fest like TIFF, but they were sure having a good time being there. James took a few pictures at the party tonight and even some video of the JCVD crowd while we were waiting in line, and we hope to have those up for you tomorrow.
The house at the Ryerson, home of the Midnight Madness series, was fully packed, and the crowd whooped and hollered when Colin Geddes, Master of all things Midnight here at Toronto, appeared on stage to intro the movie. He ran down the Midnight Slate for the crowd, lauding a slate of films that are filled with blood and car crashes, zombies, boobs and chainsaws. And whereas at most screenings the obligatory pre-show reminder of piracy screenings is merely something for people to ignore while they frantically finish sending that one last urgent text message, at Midnight Madness it's responded to with a hearty "Aaargh!"
James will have a full review of the film up soon, but for now I can tell you that it was way better -- and way different -- than I expected. JCVD is cleverly written, beautifully shot, sharply directed and edited, and humanizes the Muscles from Brussels to a degree I hadn't anticipated. The pacing is fast, it's frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and Van Damme is both engaging and self-deprecating. Overall, the film works far better than you'd expect, and it was actually quite better than a few of the films I saw actually playing in competition at Cannes.
And truth be told, the midnight premiere crowd is the kind of crowd with whom you want to see a film like JCVD; not a bunch of bored, often cynical film journalists, but with a slew of average folks who stayed up late to see a Jean-Claude Van Damme flick at Toronto. Those are the folks who would pay to see the film in theatrical release, and it could go on to be a surprise mainstream hit; crowd response was very strong.
More from Toronto tomorrow, with screenings of the Coen brothers' hotly anticipated Burn After Reading and Peter Sollett's Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.