How ready are we for August to loosen its grip and let September get on with it already? The Hollywood Reporter's Jay A Fernandez's making anxious guesses as to what'll screen at Telluride (September 3 through 6); the lineup for the New York Film Festival (September 24 through October 10), announced yesterday, has been met with general approval (and a few amusing assessments at Jeffrey Wells's Hollywood Elsewhere); and IFC's Matt Singer and Alison Willmore have presented close readings of the trailers for some of the upcoming fall season's major titles.
By staggering the rollout of its sprawling lineup, though, the Toronto International Film Festival (September 9 through 19) has done more than most to crank up the anticipation. The first round of titles was unveiled back in July, followed by the lineups for the Wavelengths and Real to Reel programs and a slew of Canadian titles. Today sees TIFF beginning to wrap up the roll out, announcing films slated for the Future Projects, Midnight Madness, City to City and Sprockets Family Zone programs, plus more Galas and Special Presentations
"Massy Tadjedin's Last Night [image above], a US-France co-production, will close down Toronto," reports indieWIRE's Peter Knegt. "Starring Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet, the film follows a married couple who each spent a night with a tempting other person. Its cast is a sort of TIFF 'all-stars,' well-represented throughout the festival. Knightley stars in both Never Let Me Go and London Boulevard; Worthington is in The Debt, and Canet's directorial effort Little White Lies is also debuting in Toronto."
The other Gala presentation is Gilles Paquet Brenner's Sarah's Key. From TIFF: "Based on Tatiana de Rosnay’s best-selling novel, Sarah’s Key tells the story of an American journalist on the brink of making big life decisions regarding her marriage and her unborn child. What starts off as research for an article about the Vel’d’Hiv Roundup in 1942 in France ends up as a journey towards self discovery as she stumbles upon a terrible secret. The film stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frédéric Pierrot, Michel Duchaussoy and Aidan Quinn."
Michael Nyman's NYman With A Movie Camera (2010). From TIFF: "Nyman revisits one of the high-points of his career: the composition of his now-famous score for Dziga Vertov's Man With A Movie Camera (1929), film #9 on the Essential 100 list. In a partial attempt to deconstruct the master's invention of montage, Nyman began videotaping things around him, substituting new images, shot-for-shot, for Vertov’s own, and then reapplying his score. The seemingly random images tease us into imagining a story, but in our frustration to fit the pieces together, we pay attention to Nyman’s original score — and through it, we come to feel the narrative connections between the two films."
Harun Farocki's Workers Leaving the Factory in Eleven Decades (2006). TIFF: "In this seminal work, celebrated film essayist, theorist and artist Harun Farocki presents a horizontal suite of twelve monitors depicting scenes of workers leaving factories, beginning with the Lumière Brothers’ iconic, late-19th-century footage of workers leaving their family photographic factory in Lyon, France. Delving into each decade of film history, Farocki selects similar scenes from Modern Times (1936) and Red Desert (1964), through to Dancer in the Dark (2000). With job losses at an all time high, especially in the industrial and manufacturing sectors, this installation is as much about cinema and its evolution as it is a reminder of the medium’s dialogue with a reality inextricable from its own representation."
Dustin Lance Black's What's Wrong With Virginia. From TIFF: "Jennifer Connelly stars as Virginia, a charming yet mentally ill mother whose greatest love is her protector and illegitimate son, Emmett (Harrison Gilbertson). Richard Tipton (Ed Harris), the local married Mormon sheriff, who is running for public office, might very well be Emmett’s father. Their boardwalk town’s peculiar secrets are threatened when Virginia’s son begins a romantic relationship with Tipton’s daughter (Emma Roberts) sending mother and son on a mad dash to seize their own brand of the American Dream — guns blazing."
Danny Boyle's 127 Hours. Viewing (2'50"): Empire has a clip of Boyle taking a few questions, noting that "the film tells the story of Aron Ralston (James Franco), adrenalin junkie and extreme climber, who gets trapped down a cliff-face with his arm wedged beneath a boulder for, well, 127 hours."
Mitch Glazer's Passion Play. From TIFF: "When a jazz trumpeter is taken to the desert and a gun held to his head, we are at the beginning of a delightful fable about romance and dreams. When he meets a beautiful woman who works as the Bird Woman in a circus, he falls madly in love and persuades her to run away with him only to find that life is a little more complicated than simply living one's fantasies."
Stefano Incerti's Gorbaciòf: The Cashier Who Like Gambling. Screening Out of Competition in Venice. From TIFF: "A compulsive gambler who works in the petty-cash office of the Poggioreale prison falls in love with Lily, an illegal immigrant, and tries to free both of them from their dead-end lives. The film stars Toni Servillo, Mi Yang and Nello Mascia."
Álex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus. Surely this is A Sad Trumpet Ballad, set to compete in Venice. The description matches: A "parody about the Spanish Civil War. Two clowns attack and disfigure one another in jealous rages over a beautiful dancer. In the name of love, they destroy the very object of their affection."
Chris Kraus's The Poll Diaries. From TIFF: "On the eve of World War I, a 14-year-old German girl returns to her home on the Baltic coast, a place uneasily shared by Germans, Russians and Estonians. While her morbid scientist father controls the family with a cruel hand, the passionate young girl secretly nurses a wounded Estonian anarchist back to health — an act of curiosity and then of defiance that could set off an uncontrollable chain reaction."
Jeanne Labrune's Special Treatment. From TIFF: "A high class prostitute and an eminent psychoanalyst discover that they share many things in common. A high class prostitute and an eminent psychoanalyst discover that they share many things in common. They are both unhappy with their professions, seeking a way out that involves unique contact with each other's worlds."
Milcho Manchevski's Mothers. From TIFF: "Three stories about mothers, set in different cities, portray contemporary Macedonian society. A child's friend is 'flashed' so she decides to go to the police, a film crew sets out to find the old traditions and discovers a grandmother living alone in an abandoned village, and in the final documentary section we follow the murders of a group of middle-aged mothers."
Guillem Morales's Julia's Eyes. From TIFF: "Julia, a woman suffering from a degenerative eye disease, finds her blind twin sister Sara hanged in the basement of her house. Julia decides to investigate what she feels is a murder case, entering a dark world that seems to hide a mysterious presence. As Julia begins to uncover the terrifying truth about her sister's death, her sight deteriorates, until a series of unexplained deaths and disappearances cross her path. The film stars Belén Rueda and Lluís Homar."
Jonathan Nossiter's Rio Sex Comedy. From TIFF: "Charting the misadventures of expatriates in Rio and their bungled search for both personal pleasure and social justice, the film is a deliriously insolent romp that explores the bizarre contradictions that are a fact of daily life in this pulsing metropolis. A plastic surgeon arrives in Rio, the new US ambassador to Brazil slips his guards and disappears into Rio's infamous favelas, and a French couple arrive to make a film."
Dan Rush's Everything Must Go. Eric Lavallee has a few pix at Ioncinema as well as this synopsis: "After 16 years devising motivational speeches that promise certain success, Nick Porter (Will Ferrell) is abruptly fired. He returns home to discover his wife has left him, changed the locks on their home and dumped all his possessions on the front yard. Nick puts it all on the line – or, more properly, on the lawn – with an absurdly escalating garage sale that becomes a unique strategy for survival. Nick comes face-to-face with a life turned inside out and discovers in total exposure an unexpected path to renewal."
John Sayles's Amigo. From TIFF: "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." Update, 8/22: TIFFReviews has a trailer.
Pasquale Scimeca's The House by the Medlar Tree. Premiering in Venice. From TIFF: "Based on Giannni Verga's novel that Visconti used for La terra trema, the film follows the ups and downs of a family of fishermen whose livelihood centres around their boat. While the older generation is married to the sea the younger members of the family question this future."
John Turturro's Passione. Premiering Out of Competition in Venice. From TIFF: "Turturro takes us on a voyage through the robust and diverse musical culture of Naples, combining archival footage with performances set in the streets, alleys, studios and labyrinths of the city."
Brad Anderson's Vanishing on 7th Street. From TIFF: "When a massive power blackout causes the population to inexplicably vanish, a small handful of survivors (Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton, John Leguizamo) band together inside a desolate tavern, struggling to survive as the darkness hones in on them. From director Brad Anderson (The Machinist, Transsiberian) comes an apocalyptic thriller with a terrifying vision of our world's end and a story that wrestles with the nature of existence itself." Update, 8/18: The Playlist has the trailer.
Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud's Red Nights. From TIFF: "This shocking debut by director duo Carbon and Courtiaud is a seductive cat-and-mouse thriller set in Hong Kong, about a woman's obsessive desire to own a rare object that hides a deadly and perverse secret." Update, 8/18: Twitch has the trailer.
John Carpenter's The Ward. From Wikipedia: "The story revolves around a young institutionalized woman named Kristen (Amber Heard) who is haunted by a mysterious and deadly ghost. As danger creeps closer, she comes to realize that this ghost might be darker than anything she ever could have imagined." If you've got 2'40", here's a sort of behind-the-scenes montage.
Wu Ershan's The Butcher, The Chef and the Swordsman. From TIFF: "A group of misfits become mixed up in the struggle to own a deadly kitchen cleaver made from the top five swords of the martial arts world in this wild and brash action comedy that is sure to have audiences running to Chinatown after the film for a late night snack." Here's the Chinese trailer.
James Gunn's Super. With Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion and Linda Cardellini. Ioncinema's Eric Lavallee on the Ted Hope-produced action comedy: "Wilson plays Frank, a seemingly average Joe who is madly in love with his troubled wife Sarah (Tyler). But when Sarah leaves Frank for Jacques (Bacon), a smooth-talking drug dealer, Frank transforms into pseudo superhero The Crimson Bolt, stakes out Jacques sleazy hideaway, and wages a one-man war on crime. What he lacks in superpowers, he makes up for with a trusty pipe wrench. Every superhero needs a sidekick and so enters Libby (Page), a cute sociopathic teen working at the local comic book store, who morphs into 'Boltie' and teams with Frank to take Jacques down."
Dante Lam's Fire of Conscience. From TIFF: "Dante Lam proves himself to be a talent to look out for in this slam bang action film where robbers and gunrunners battle with cops on the busy urban streets of Hong Kong. Starring Leon Lai, Fire of Conscience is easily one of loudest action films from Hong Kong in recent memory, with an orchestra of exploding grenades and machine gun rounds."
Jim Mickle's Stake Land. From TIFF: "In the aftermath of a vampire epidemic, a teen is taken in by a grizzled vampire hunter on a road trip through a post-apocalyptic America, battling both the bloodsuckers and a fundamentalist militia that interprets the plague as the Lord’s work."
Guy Moshe's Bunraku. Twitch has a synopsis: "A mysterious drifter (Josh Hartnett) and an ardent young Japanese warrior on a mission both arrive in a town that is totally terrorized by outrageous and virulent criminals. Each obsessed with his separate mission; the two eventually join forces to bring down the corrupt and contemptuous reign of Nicola, the awesomely evil 'woodcutter.' This classic tale is re-vitalized and re-imagined in an entirely fresh visual context, set in a unique world that mixes skewed reality with shadow-play fantasy, a place where even the landscape can betray you. Heroes triumph here only because the force of their will transforms and transcends both space and time. The world of Bunraku is past and present, fantasy and reality, Samurai and Western all combined. Resonating with any number of cultures, and showcasing a mind-blowing array of martial arts disciplines, Bunraku presents a totally fresh arena for breathtaking fight action."
James Wan's Insidious. From TIFF: "When proud parents take possession of an old house, an accident results in one of their sons falling into a coma. The tragedy doesn't stop there when they are beset by vengeful spirits from another realm in this new chiller by the director and writer of Saw and by the producers of Paranormal Activity. The film stars Rose Byrne, Barbara Hershey and Patrick Wilson." Twitch's Todd Brown has the first image.
SPROCKETS FAMILY ZONE
Charlotte Sachs Bostrup's Karla and Jonas. TIFF tells us that these 13-year-olds "search for Jonas's birth mother in this intelligent and well acted coming of age story based on the book series by Renée Toft Simonsen."
Richard Bowen's Little Sister. From TIFF: "Based on one of the earliest versions of the beloved story of Cinderella comes a beautifully crafted film filled with wonder and magic that reveals the Chinese origins of this widely known fairy tale."
Ben Stassen's Sammy's Adventures: The Secret Passage. So Sammy's a sea turtle and he's off on a "fun and exciting 50-year journey through the oceans in this wonderfully crafted 3D animation that combines entertainment with an environmental message."
CITY TO CITY
TIFF Co-Director Cameron Bailey announcing this year's selection in the press release: "This has been a hard secret to keep! When we began discussions about a short list of possible cities back in January, Istanbul quickly emerged as a leading candidate. Most people know Istanbul as a dynamic city with a rich history, but its film scene is less well-known. Over the past five years, filmmakers from this vibrant metropolis have been winning awards at Cannes and Berlin. Now, some are making the leap to festivals outside of Europe. We’re so pleased to feature films from Istanbul this year: audiences will have access to strong emerging filmmakers, at the moment just before they're sure to be discovered somewhere else." The features:
Zeki Demirkubuz's Block-C (1994). From Acquarello: "Something like an unpolished Michelangelo Antonioni film in its interpenetration of alienating landscapes and interior turmoil, Block-C is a flawed, yet seminal film in Demirkubuz's body of work — a complex character study that provides the psychological and visceral paradigm for his subsequent films."
Reha Erdem's My Only Sunshine (2008). From Mutt: "Celebrated Turkish filmmaker Reha Erdem (Beş Vakit & Kaç Para Kaç) continues his international success with this elegy to alienated urban Turkish teenage life which took home awards at both the 58th Berlin International Film Festival and the 3rd Yeşilçam Awards and secured international distribution."
Pelin Esmer's 10 to 11 (2009). Again, Mutt: "Pelin Esmer (Oyun) follows up on her début documentary short Koleksiyoncu: The Collector with this full-length feature loosely based on the story of her obsessive collector uncle which has picked up awards at the Istanbul, Altın Koza and Ankara international film festivals as well as a number of foreign awards."
Theron Patterson's Dark Cloud. From TIFF: "A black comedy with the style of a lucid dream, Dark Cloud looks at a middle-aged man who can't move on from the death of his wife, and the teenaged son who needs him to wake up."
Özlem Sulak's September 12. From TIFF: "In this meditative and monumental examination of the legacy of Turkey’s 1980 military coup, individual narrations of the tumultuous event are juxtaposed with quotidian routines, thirty years on."
IN OTHER NEWS
For the National Post, Brendan Kelly reports on the revived rivalry between TIFF and the Montreal World Film Festival (August 26 through September 6), noting that "the hostilities were reignited last week when the Toronto fest decided to announce its Canadian films the same day [MWFF president Serge] Losique was unveiling his lineup at a press conference in Montreal. If you think that's a coincidence, you're remarkably naïve. This was a deliberate shot across the bow at the World Film Festival, an attempt to underline that Toronto does more for Québécois cinema than Montreal does." Via Movie City News.
"David Cronenberg, Isabella Rossellini and Peter Bogdanovich are among the cinematic luminaries set to visit the new home of the Toronto International Film Festival this fall," reports the Globe and Mail. They'll be presenting and discussing films at the Bell Lightbox weeks after the festival wraps.