By Kim Voynar

TIFF Preview, Part Two

Previously, I wrote about what you might consider the more “indie” sections of the Toronto International film fest: Contemporary World Cinema, Discovery, and docs, plus Canada First!, which is always interesting.

Now let’s take a peek at the Galas and Special Presentations, plus everyone’s favorite late night, wild ‘n’ crazy section, Midnight Madness.


Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky, USA

A psychological thriller set in the world of New York City ballet, Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as Nina, a featured dancer who finds herself locked in a web of competitive intrigue with a new rival at the company. Black Swan takes a thrilling and at times terrifying journey through the psyche of a young ballerina whose starring role as the duplicitous swan queen turns out to be a part for which she becomes frighteningly perfect.
Black Swan also stars Vincent Cassel, Mila Kunis, Barbara Hershey and Winona Ryder.

Pedigree: Highly anticipated; Opening Night at Venice.

Comments: I was lukewarm on The Fountain, though I admired its vision and what Aronofsky was reaching for. Loved The Wrestler. Early mixed reports out of Venice indicate this may lean more toward Wrestler stylistically. Looking forward to seeing what Aronofsky does with a psychological thriller. I want to go into this one knowing nothing more than I do already, so deliberately avoiding reading or talking much about it.

Barney’s Version
Richard J. Lewis, USA

From producer Robert Lantos, Barney’s Version is a film based on Mordecai Richler’s prize-winning comic novel. Barney Panofsky (Paul Giamatti) is a seemingly ordinary man who lives an extraordinary life. Barney’s candid confessional spans four decades and two continents, and includes three wives (Rosamund Pike, Minnie Driver and Rachelle Lefevre), one outrageous father (Dustin Hoffman) and a charmingly dissolute best friend (Scott Speedman).

Pedigree: See above. Premiering at Venice before gracing TIFF.

Comments: Based on a comic novel, and with Paul Giamatti and Dustin Hoffman? Both of them tend to choose projects I find interesting, so looking forward to this one.

The Conspirator
Robert Redford, USA

While an angry nation seeks vengeance, a young union war hero must defend a mother accused of aiding her son in the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Directed by Robert Redford, the film stars James McAvoy, Robin Wright, Kevin Kline, Evan Rachel Wood and
Tom Wilkinson.

PEDIGREE:Toronto debutante with a solid cast.

COMMENTS:To be honest, I haven’t really liked anything Redford’s directed since A River Runs Through It. But I’m intrigued by the cast, and I keep hoping he’ll get
back in his “River” vibe again.

The Housemaid
Im Sang-soo, South Korea

In this erotic thriller, the housemaid of an upper-class family becomes entangled in a dangerous tryst. A satirical look at class structure, reminiscent of the work of Claude Chabrol, this sexy soap opera is a story of revenge and retribution.

PEDIGREE: Cannes baby. Mostly positive critical response.

COMMENTS: I’ve heard good things from people I trust who saw it at Cannes, so looking forward to finally getting a look at it myself.

François Ozon

A bourgeois housewife (Catherine Deneuve) takes on a rough union leader (Gerard Depardieu) in François Ozon’s sparkling comic war between the sexes, and the classes.

Pedigree: Premiering at Venice before heading to TIFF.

Comments: Anytime you see the words “French” and “farce” you could either see something really funny, or something that will have you staring blankly at the screen pondering the mysteries of French humor. This one has Deneuve and Depardieu, though, which gives it a boost going in, and a solid director in Ozon, so it’s definitely worth a check-out.

The Town
Ben Affleck

The Town is a dramatic thriller about robbers and cops, friendship and betrayal, love and hope, and escaping a past that has no future. In the Boston neighbourhood of Charlestown, Doug MacCray is the leader of a crew of ruthless bank robbers. But everything changed on the gang’s last job when they took bank manager Claire Keesey hostage. Questioning what she saw, Doug seeks out Claire. As their relationship deepens, Doug wants out of this life and the town, but now he must choose whether to betray his friends or lose the woman he loves.

Pedigree: Playing Venice first. Has Affleck at the helm, on the script and on the screen.

Comments: Affleck has proven himself as a worthy director, writer and actor, and this one looks to be solid. Jeremy Renner and Rebecca Hall in the cast don’t hurt any. Planning to catch this one at TIFF even though it opens 9/17, because I’ll be missing the Seattle press screening.

For the most part, the directors in this “crowd-pleasing” category don’t need a “pedigree” section to remind you of why their films might be worth catching. Here are the Special Presentation films I’m most interested in catching at TIFF.

127 Hours
Danny Boyle

127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston’s (James Franco) remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary. The film also stars Clémence Poésy, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara.

Comments: The Oscar-winning director follows up the sweet, light-hearted Slumdog Millionaire with a subject that looks to be darker and heavier. James Franco is always excellent, and I am really looking forward to this one.

John Sayles

The US occupation of the Philippines in 1900 provides the backdrop to this story of squad of American soldiers who occupy a village and learn how to live and negotiate with the natives. They focus on the local head man who finds himself torn between loyalty to his family and the Americans.

Comments: My knowledge of Sayles’ body of work is sadly lacking, but as a few folks I respect greatly admire him tremendously, I intend to remedy that — starting with this film and then revisiting his earlier films in the near future.

Another Year
Mike Leigh

A happily married, middle-aged couple are visited by a number of unhappy and lonely friends who use them as confidantes. When an unmarried friend falls for their young son, they watch as events unfold. The film stars Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, Peter Wight, Oliver Maltman, David Bradley, Karina Fernandez and Martin Savage.

Comments: Mike Leigh had me with Secrets and Lies, captivated me further with Vera Drake, and won me over completely with Happy-Go-Lucky. The full catalog description calls Another Year a “departure” for Leigh stylistically, which intrigues me all the more.

Alejandro González Iñárritu

This is a story of a man in free fall. On the road to redemption, darkness lights his way. Connected with the afterlife, Uxbal is a tragic hero and father of two who’s sensing the danger of death. He struggles with a tainted reality and a fate that works against him in order to forgive, for love, and forever. The film stars Javier Bardem.

Comments: I was very much in the “pro” camp for Iñárritu’s Amores Perros and Babel; this one got such mixed reviews out of Cannes that I’m not s sure what to think. On the one hand, Bardem won (tied) for best actor at that lofty fest for this role; on the other, the film overall is supposed to be relentlessly dark and depressing. But still, you want to see it for yourself, don’t you? Yeah, so do I.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Woody Allen
Woody Allen‘s latest comic ensemble piece follows a group of Londoners struggling with failing marriages, restless libidos, the perils of aging and desires that drive a series of decisions with unforeseen consequences. The film stars Antonio Banderas, Josh Brolin, Anthony Hopkins, Gemma Jones, Lucy Punch and Naomi Watts.

Comments: When Woody Allen is good, he’s very, very good. When he misses, not so much. Here’s hoping for the former.

A Screaming Man
Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
One of Africa’s preeminent film artists, Haroun returns to themes of family and loyalty in war-torn Chad. A father and son work together at the pool of five-star hotel, but the civil war forces life-and-death choices upon them.

Comments: My wild card pick for this category; I’m completely unfamiliar with this filmmaker, but I looking forward to this film.


Horror, as you might know, is not a genre about which I know a great deal. Nontheless, here are my top five Midnight Madness pics, based solely on the catalog descriptions and recommendations from friends who are horror buffs (no comments for these):

John Carpenter’s The Ward
USA, John Carpenter

Acclaimed director John Carpenter makes his long awaited return to the screen with a thriller about a young woman in a 1960s mental institution who becomes terrorized by malevolant unseen forces.

Fubar 2
Canada, Michael Dowse

In the sequel to the 2002 cult comedy Fubar, hoser headbangers Terry and Dean are back and hit the road to find wealth, happiness and recomand more beer in the oil fields of Alberta. Special appearance by Tron.

USA Guy Moshe

In a world with no guns, a mysterious drifter (Josh Hartnett), a young samurai and a bartender (Woody Harrelson) plot revenge against a ruthless leader (Ron Perlman) and his army of thugs, headed by nine diverse and deadly assass…

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One Response to “TIFF Preview, Part Two”

  1. Thanks for your insight on this topic. It’s been laborious to uncover facts it seems.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon