Festival Spotlight Friday: Toronto International Film Festival Diary, Part 1
This is Jeff Meyers, reporting from the Toronto International Film Festival for MovieMaker Magazine. I’m a film writer and critic based out of Detroit, which makes TIFF right in my backyard… if my backyard were 250 miles long.
Second only to Cannes, this year’s TIFF will be presenting 356 feature and short films from all over the globe. The festival runs for 11 days and attracts people from pretty much every nook and cranny of the industry. And the “I” in TIFF really does mean International, with some 70 countries contributing movies to the fest. Last year the festival included all five contenders for the Best Foreign language film Oscar.
There are, of course, the big studio releases here, like Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, The Fifth Estate starring Benedict Cumberbatch in a brilliant performance as Wikileaks’ founder Julian Assange, and Meryl Streep leading an all-star cast in August: Osage County. Personally, I’m here for more of the outside-the-box stuff.
One of the films I’m keen to see is Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. With his recent announcment that he is retiring the director of Spirited Away, Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro is making his North American premiere here.
Also on my list is Mad Men creator Matthew Weiner’s first feature, You Are Here, and Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer’s alien creepfest Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson.
Actors Daniel Radcliffe and Mia Wasikowska are all over TIFF’s schedule with multiple films playing at the fest. Probably most notable is Radcliffe’s turn as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings. Wasikowska, on the other hand is getting good buzz for her performance in Tracks. It’s based on the true story of Robyn Davidson, who trekked nearly 3000 miles across the Australian outback on foot.
Wasikowska also makes an appearance in Jim Jarmusch’s take on vampires, called Only Lovers Left Alive. I caught the movie this afternoon and it boasts terrific performances from Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. The two play a pair of alienated bloodsuckers. Jarmusch has deconstructed the western, the gangster flick, the romantic comedy, and the spy genre in the past, and here he continues with his deadpan, narratively defiant style, depicting vampires as exhausted hipsters who scorn humanity but love its artistic and scientific achievements. Like jaded rock stars they crave their next blood fix and seem unsure as to whether they should burn out or fade away. If you like Jarmusch, you’ll like this movie. And as a metro Detroiter I can appreciated the film’s view of the Motor City as a gorgeous wreck that may once again rise from the dead.
Along with the screenings and numerous filmmaker and celebrity talk backs at TIFF, there are of course parties, red carpet runs and industry panel discussions. Probably best are the cool side events like Jason Reitman’s popular “Live Read” series, where surprise Hollywood stars will perform a one-take, full script read-through of Boogie Nights — without any rehearsal — before a live audience.
This year, TIFF is also celebrating the 30 anniversary of The Big Chill, with screenings and appearances from some of the cast.
And never letting audiences forget the impact of Canadian filmmakers, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art has a showcase tied to TIFF’s upcoming exhibition on filmmaker David Cronenberg. That, unfortunately, kicks off the week after the festival which means I won’t be able to revel in the “New Flesh.”
If you haven’t been to the Toronto International Film Festival, you really are missing a world-class event. The city is both lovely and easy to get around, the people are hospitable, and the festival runs like clockwork. In those moments where I’m not dashing from one screening to the next, I’ll post brief reviews of my fest selections. There are always some real gems in the mix – and usually one or two stinkers. I saw four films today and I’ve got another five film screenings tomorrow!
Watch Jeff’s video recording of his TIFF diary here:
The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5-15. For more information about the Canadian fest, click here.
To subscribe to MovieMaker Magazine, click here.