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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

TIFF’11 Preview: Galas and Masters

Next week the Toronto International Film Festival will kick off, and cinephiles, film critics and industry folks will be running amok all over downtown Toronto, rushing to get to screenings and saying things like, “Hey, I’d love to chat, but I’m rushing to get to the new Cronenberg! Catch you for drinks later?” And sometimes the drinks happen, but often they don’t because you’re just tired from seeing four or five films and you still need to write about them.

Every year, I try my darnedest to carefully plot and plan my schedule, only to have this or that throw it awry. So this year, I’ve decided to try something different. I’m using the TIFF preview as a way of narrowing down a list of the films I really want to see, and then I’ll look at the press schedule each day and catch as many of them as I can. If there’s two playing opposite each other (usually the case), maybe I’ll coin flip or something.

To kick things off, here’s a look at the films I’m most interested in seeing from the Gala, Masters and Special Presentation sections of the fest; more previews of the other sections will be coming shortly.


Albert Nobbs
Rodrigo Garcia, Ireland

Award winning actress Glenn Close (Albert Nobbs) plays a woman caught in an unusual love triangle. Passing as a man in order to work and survive in 19th century Ireland, some thirty years after donning men’s clothing, she finds herself lost in a prison of her own making. Mia Wasikowska (Helen), Aaron Johnson (Joe) and Brendan Gleeson (Dr. Holloran) also join a prestigious, international cast that includes Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Janet McTeer, Brenda Fricker and Pauline Collins.

Pedigree: Close previously played the title role in a stage production. Garcia, among other things, previously directed the excellent 2009 TIFF debut Mother and Child.

Comments: Close worked for something like 15 years to get this film made, which ought to get her some kind of perseverance award, if nothing else. She co-wrote the script with Booker Prize-winner John Banville. Looking forward to seeing what this film’s TIFF debut portends for awards season.

Beloved (Les Bien-Aimés)
Christophe Honoré, France

Starring beloved French actresses Catherine Deneuve and (her real-life daughter) Chiara Mastroianni, this sly and lovely new work from writer/director Christophe Honoré takes us from Paris in the sixties to 21st century London as it follows a mother and daughter’s twin adventures in love.

Pedigree: Cannes closer.

Comments: Pedigreed cast, and the director previously made the interesting Love Songs. (He also made Man at Bath, which I kind of hated, but since this film has Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni, I’m willing to overlook that one.)

A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg, Germany/Canada

For his third consecutive collaboration with Viggo Mortensen, David Cronenberg adapts Christopher Hampton’s 2002 stage play concerning the turbulent relationship between Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) and his mentor Sigmund Freud (Mortensen) as they struggle to treat a troubled patient (Keira Knightley).

Pedigree: Playing Venice before TIFF. Third collaboration between Cronenberg and Mortensen (following A History of Violence and Eastern Promises).

Comments: Viggo Mortensen, Michael Fassbender and Keira Knightley, directed by Cronenberg in a “brooding, dark” historical period piece about desire? Yes, please.

A Happy Event
Rémi Bezançon, France

Rémi Bezançon’s A Happy Event explores one of the most thrilling, painful, joyful, terrifying and altogether life-changing expe­riences of any woman’s life: the birth of her first child.

Pedigree: Toronto debutante

Comments: At first glance, the idea of yet another film about a couple adjusting to the birth of a baby might seem trite. However, the synopsis of this film indicates that it’s exploring ideas around a mother finding it hard to connect to her pregnancy and baby, which could make it a more interesting exploration of motherhood than a lot of what we’ve seen. Worth a look.

The Ides of March
George Clooney, USA

George Clooney is back in the director’s chair for this edgy political drama set in the days leading up to a fictional presidential primary. Clooney also stars as a Democratic candidate who schools his idealistic campaign press secretary (Ryan Gosling) in the dubious machinations of modern politics.

Pedigree: Venice opener before heading to TIFF.

Comments. I liked Clooney as a director with both Good Night, and Good Luck and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and the supporting cast is solid. As a director, he seems to be gravitating toward the kind of interesting movies that we don’t see enough of out of Hollywood. Early reviews of out Venice make this one I don’t want to miss. Get in line early, P&I folks.

Ken Scott, Canada

Ken Scott’s colourful Québécois comedy follows a middle-aged slacker (Patrick Huard) who’s just been informed that the sperm he once donated has fathered no less than 533 children, many of whom are now suing the clinic to meet their maker.

Pedigree: Opened in Quebec in June.

Comments: This comedy might just be better than your average sperm-donor film, based on reviews I’ve seen since it opened in Quebec in June. Definitely worth checking out, if nothing else to see it before someone in Hollywood decides to do a remake starring Adam Sandler.

Take This Waltz
Sarah Polley, Canada

When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint.

Pedigree: TIFF World Premiere

Comments: Sarah Polley’s excellent 2006 film Away from Her was one of my favorite films of that year, but for its assured direction and spectacular cinematography by Luc Montpellier, who also shot Take This Waltz. The stills from the film look luscious, and Michelle Williams hasn’t made a bad script choice in a long time. This is one of my must-sees of this year’s TIFF.

Darrell J. Roodt

Starring Academy Award®-winner Jennifer Hudson and Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard, this intimate, in-depth and unbiased film will take the audience on a remarkable journey of understanding Winnie Mandela, exploring both her personal and political life.

Pedigree: Toronto debutante.

Comments: Roodt previously made the excellent film Cry, the Beloved Country, and the cast is solid. “Epic biopics” can be tricky to pull off, but with what the director and cast bring to the table, this one should be worth checking out.



I Wish
Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Japan

In his latest film, Japanese master filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-Eda returns to familiar ground, crafting a lighthearted tale of childhood desires and imaginative adventures. Both playful and perceptive, I Wish is bursting with quick, stylish montages, an energetic score and memorable performances from its young stars.

Pedigree: A director with a strong track record (Nobody Knows, Still Walking). Making its North American debut at TIFF after opening in June in Japan.

Comments: This tale of two brothers looks to be potentially engaging and charming. Hirokazu Kore-Eda has a knack with child actors (film buffs may recall the 14-year-old star of Nobody Knows won the Best Actor award at Cannes in 2004). Definitely worth a check-out.

The Kid with a Bike
Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne ,France/Belgium/Italy

The Kid with a Bike is about a feisty eleven year- old who refuses to accept his abandonment by his parents. The film opens at the home of Cyril (Thomas Doret), who is about to take flight after his young and irresponsible father, Guy (Jérémie Renier, star of the Dardennes’ La promesse and L’enfant), fails to answer the phone. What Cyril doesn’t know is that his father has taken a flight of his own — the kind with no forwarding address.

Pedigree: Debuted at Cannes to strong reviews.

Comments: It’s by the Dardenne brothers. What else do you need to want to see this one?

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey/Bosnia and Herzegovina

Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan has made a film that demands great patience, but that patience is magnificently rewarded as the narrative moves toward its conclu­sion. Although the title is a nod to Sergio Leone, Ceylan is very much his own man, determined to create a mythology around a subject that defines an era and a country.
The plot follows the outline of a routine police procedural, but as one would expect from this distinctive filmmaker, Once Upon A Time in Anatolia is far from routine.

Pedigree: Debuted at Cannes to overall strong reviews.

Comment: Its 157-minute running time seems a little (okay, maybe a lot) daunting, but Ceylan is a marvelous, insightful storyteller, and the meticulously paced Three Monkeys was one of my favorite films at Cannes in 2008. I have to make room in my TIFF schedule for this one.

The Turin Horse
Bela Tarr, Hungary

While travelling in Turin, Italy, in 1889, German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche witnessed a horse being whipped. He tossed his arms around the horse’s neck to protect it, and then collapsed. Less than a month later, Nietzsche would be diagnosed with a mental illness that left him bedridden and mute for the next eleven years, until his death at age sixty-five. But whatever hap­pened to the horse? After opening with this ingenious set-up, The Turin Horse, the latest and reportedly last film from Hungarian maestro Béla Tarr, plunges us into a feat of speechless, spellbinding storytelling.

Pedigree: Won the Silver Bear at the 2011 Berlinale.

Reportedly the Hungarian master’s last film, this black-and-white, nearly dialog-free film is a must catch for cinephiles at TIFF.

*(All film descriptions are from the TIFF catalog.)

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One Response to “TIFF’11 Preview: Galas and Masters”

  1. Hester says:

    Check out the new ‘A Dangerous Method’ website, a sort of group dream analysis theme:

    It ‘harvests’ dreams from tweets, and so seeing them pop up you get a sense of what the world has on its mind. You can also find clips from the film floating about that I haven’t seen anywhere else, kind of cool…

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