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The Auteurs Daily: Toronto. Index: Gala Presentations

The Auteurs Daily

Max Manus

As with the Contemporary World Cinema index, a few films with entries of their own are listed here. A few more will appear shortly in conjunction with coverage of the coverage of the New York Film Festival. What follows are notes on several more.

"Sumptuously realized, blessed with a sterling cast and neatly balancing action with dramatic elements, Alejandro Amenábar's Agora is an epic in every sense of the word," writes Todd Brown at Twitch. "A huge story set in a time long, long ago shot largely on location on huge scale, authentically detailed sets with a high profile international cast Agora hits all of its marks with precision and grace, succeeding both as education, social commentary and entertainment." More from Monika Bartyzel (Cinematical), Kenneth Morefield (Christianity Today) and Nicolas Rapold (L). Reviews from Cannes.

"Unlike The Importance of Being Earnest or An Ideal Husband, whose Wildean theories are buried deeper beneath their stories, Dorian Gray is a book of more explicit, often difficult ideas," writes Time Out London's Dave Calhoun. "So it's no surprise that Oliver Parker (St Trinians), in his third Wilde film adaptation, has stripped out some of the more heady debates about art, beauty and the like, not least because he's aiming for the sort of younger audience attracted by the casting of Ben Barnes (from the recent Narnia films) as Gray." His three stars out of five pretty well reflect other critics' grades whose reviews ran when Dorian Gray opened in the UK on 9/11. More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Peter Brunette (Hollywood Reporter), Allan Hunter (Screen), Todd McCarthy (Variety), Tim Robey (Telegraph) and Mark Simpson (London Times). Will Lawrence interviews Ben Barnes for the Telegraph. Empire revisits "Oscar Wilde On Film," while back in the Guardian, Simon Callow revisits the book itself.

Get Low is "just freakin' great," declares Scott Weinberg at Cinematical. "Like most movie fans of a certain age and attitude, I'll see anything that Bill Murray shows up in. Anything. I also knew that Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black, two very fine actors, were also involved, and that just raised my interest a little more. But the reason I skipped over the Ellen Page roller-derby film and the new Ricky Gervais satire can be summed up in one name: Mr Robert Duvall." More from Kurt Halfyard (Twitch), Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter), Joe Leydon (Variety), Drew McWeeney (Hitfix) and Noel Murray (AV Club). Betsy Sharkey talks with director Aaron Schneider for the Los Angeles Times. John Foote interviews Duvall for In Contention.

"The first collaboration between Carlos Saura and cinematographer Vittorio Storaro since Goya in Bordeaux a decade ago, I, Don Giovanni is decorative but dullish historical fluff about the creation of Mozart's opera," writes Dennis Harvey in Variety. "Aiming closer to Shakespeare in Love than Amadeus - though the script lacks Shakespeare's intricacy and wit, let alone depth enough to be taken seriously - this doughy pastry never quite rises, despite generous musical excerpts." More from Dan Fainaru (Screen) and Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter).

Fernando F Croce at Slant on Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus: "Cluttered with shifting CG canvases, Monty Pythonish revues, and cameos patching up [Heath] Ledger's absence, the film's sideshow illusionism is often ungainly but rarely less than deeply felt." More from Todd Brown (Twitch), Scott Tobias (AV Club) and Scott Weinberg (Cinematical). Nick Gazin interviews Gilliam for the Vice's Film Issue; Mekado Murphy has a word with him for the New York Times. Via Movie City News: Richard Ouzounian's profile of Christopher Plummer for the Toronto Star.

"Natalie Portman impresses mightily in Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, playing a second wife and grieving first-time mother grappling with the thorny complexity of family dynamics," writes Michael Rechtshaffen in the Hollywood Reporter. "The Don Roos vehicle that showcases the accomplished performance is somewhat less so, hampered by a structure that initially makes the proceedings tricky to follow. It ultimately finds its footing, but it's Portman's skillfully executed turn that deserves pursuit by a distributor who knows its way around an awards campaign." More from Allan Hunter (Screen) and Rob Nelson (Variety).

"Norway weighs in with its version of World War II in Max Manus, finally getting to honor its own resistance heroes," writes Peter Brunette in the Hollywood Reporter. It's been a huge hit at home and Twitch's Todd Brown finds it "a layered and intricate character study. It is a lesson in a forgotten piece of history that effectively throws light on to an area that we have almost completely ignored in North America. It is also one rollicking piece of entertainment that deserves full mention with the very best war films ever made."

"In his new film, Mother and Child, [Rodrigo] Garcia continues his mission to dramatize intersecting lives of women, yet here his three main characters are figures in a single, elegantly unfolding narrative," writes Michael Koresky at indieWIRE. "While not without its stilted moments and easy sentiments, Mother and Child is lucid, engaging, and novelistic in the best sense - even if it could have used that little extra aesthetic push that made Nine Lives so remarkable." More from Monika Bartyzel (Cinematical), Tim Grierson (Screen), Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter) and Todd McCarthy (Variety).

"Phantom Pain sports some evocative, poetic narration; and some gorgeous cinematography, full of golden light diffused through foliage," writes Noel Murray at the AV Club. "But once it slams headlong into its own plot - which has [Til] Schweiger reevaluating his life after an accident leaves him physically impaired - the movie slows to a crawl, a turn of events made all the more unfortunate since it's so easy to see where the story is headed." More from Justin Chang (Variety), Kirk Honeycutt (Hollywood Reporter) and Jan Stuart (Screen).

When all was said and done, Lee Daniels's Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire became "the first film in history to win audience awards at both Toronto and Sundance," Peter Knegt reports at indieWIRE. Interviews with Daniels: Jason Guerrasio (Filmmaker) and Betsy Sharkey (Los Angeles Times).

Rebecca Lee Miller has adapted her own novel and for the AV Club's Noel Murray, "The end result is a movie that all-but-squanders its poignant consideration of how people change (sometimes from moment-to-moment) by delivering a fussy, contrived indie drama, with a recognizable face in every role. For a movie about the unpredictability of life, [The Private Lives of Pippa Lee] plays it awfully safe." More from Josef Braun.

"For an hour," begins Rob Nelson in Variety, "What's Your Raashee? - the first romantic comedy from director Ashutosh Gowariker (Jodhaa Akbar) - zips along on a silly premise: Returning home to Mumbai, a young and handsome Chicagoan (Harman Baweja) has 10 days to find a wife and earn Grandpa's inheritance, lest his brother's gambling debt bring the family down. But as Baweja's sweet Yogesh proceeds to 'interview' each of a dozen ladies (all played by Priyanka Chopra), and the film stretches to a whopping 211 minutes, even Bollywood aficionados will consider breaking the engagement."

"It seemed appropriate that The Young Victoria closed out Toronto this year, considering that the festival turned out to be a coronation for women in film," and Stephen Saito lays out the evidence at IFC, where I gathered reviews of the film at hand back in June. Hard to beat Wendy Ide's opening line in hers for the London Times: "This is the kind of flouncy historical drama that Britain just can't seem to shake the habit of making."

Image: Max Manus.

TIFF 09: Index; full coverage; lineup.

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