Xavierpop Previews #TIFF12 – Part III Of Our Preview Of The Special Presentations Programme
With the final block of 18 Special Presentation films announced this week, let’s see…that brings the grand total to 63 for this programme, and that’s not counting 7 Canadian features that we’ll cover in a special Canuck preview all its own.
TIFF is so bursting at the seams with titles that we had to cut the baby in three!
Films in this programme typically find distribution in North America, tend to combine a pedigree of talent from directing to acting, win tons of awards, and can most often be seen premiering at either the Elgin or the Ryerson Theaters.
Here are the deets on the final 18:
Dante Ariola‘s feature directing debut stars Oscar winner Colin Firth (The King’s Speech) along with Emily Blunt as two people who have run away from their lives and who form a connection while they squat or break into other people’s homes. I stopped reading the synopsis when it got up to the part of them being “damaged souls”. Ya think? The director is an unknown quantity, but the leads are first-rate and Becky Johnston pens her first screenplay here since The Prince of Tides and Seven Years in Tibet back in the mid-90′s.
It’s a double dose of Spike Lee this summer, what with his indie pic Red Hook Summer opening in limited release and feat. Mookie delivering pizzas in a brief cameo. And then on the heels of that, his new Michael Jackson doc premieres at TIFF, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bad–the follow-up to the phenomenon which was Thriller, still the #1 bestselling album of all time. Bad hangs tough as the #5 bestseller around the world and although Thriller remains higher in sales, Bad continues to hold the record for most #1 singles (5) off one album with “I Just Can’t Stop Lovin’ You”, “Bad”, “The Way You Make Me Feel”, “Man in the Mirror” and “Dirty Diana“. The doc promises a “treasure trove” of new footage, some of which Jackson shot himself, and will no doubt be wall-to-wall with music. Totally hyped for this one. Shamon!
Henry Alex Rubin makes his long-awaited follow-up to Murderball (2005) which is one of the most exhilarating documentaries you’ll ever see, about paraplegics who take to specially-made wheelchairs to play their own Mad Max version of rugby. That was nominated for an Oscar that year. This marks his first fiction film in another of TIFF’s big hyperlink dramas featuring multiple storylines and characters who are seeking some kind of connection in their lives in this age of social technology. It stars Jason Bateman, Hope Davis, and Paula Patton (the teacher in Precious) among several others. I’m a sucker for hyperlink flicks and I hope this is great.
Do Not Disturb
Tel Aviv native Yvan Attal brings his third directing effort to TIFF since My Wife Is an Actress (2001) and …They Lived Happily Ever After (2004). As an actor, Attal has appeared in titles including Munich and The Interpreter. His new dramedy stars himself as a still free-spirited, wildflower type who barges into his old friend Ben’s place, played by France’s Dustin Hoffman, Francois Cluzet–who just appeared in the multiple Cesar-winning The Intouchables). Charlotte Gainsbourg (the ice queen mother in Melancholia) co-stars.
Greetings from Tim Buckley
It opened to mixed reviews, but I thought Daniel Algrant‘s People I Know (2002) was a delicious New York City drama with one of Al Pacino‘s best performances of the last decade. Now, after a long hiatus, Algrant returns with a musical drama about the late singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, one of my favorites from the 90′s. This story recounts the events leading up to his 1991 tribute performance to his late father Tim, at New York’s St. Ann’s Cathedral. The intense performance launched the young performer’s short career, which gave us Grace, one of the best records of the last couple decades. Penn Badgley (Margin Call) stars as Jeff Buckley, along with Imogen Poots (Blanche from last year’s Jane Eyre, also here with A Late Quartet). Finally, a movie about Jeff Buckley!
Lines of Wellington
Chilean native Valeria Sarmiento (frequent collaborator to Raoul Ruiz) returns to TIFF for the first time in a decade with her own film (she edited Ruiz’s Mysteries of Lisbon last year). It covers the 1810 invasion of Portugal by France. John Malkovich stars as the leader of the Anglo-Portuguese army, General Wellington.
Love is All You Need
And a good screenplay. Oscar-winner for foreign language pic In a Better World two years ago, Danish helmer Susanne Bier is back this with a dramedy starring Pierce Brosnan as an English widower in Denmark, along with Paprika Steen (Applause).
On the Road
Festival fave Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries, Linha de Passe) returns with another highly-anticipated travelogue, this one based of course on the Jack Kerouac novel about a young writer and the free-spirited couple he meets on the road while on an existential search for everything in post WWII, beat-generation America. Sam Riley (played Ian Curtis in Control) stars as Sal, Garrett Hedlund (Jeff Bridges‘ son in Tron: Legacy) as Dean, and Kristen Stewart as MaryLou. Do you suppose the TIFF audience will greet her politely after her recent philandering? We’ll see.
Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace are a corporate duo who face off against each other, with McAdams seeking revenge on her protege Rapace. Brian De Palma returns to TIFF for the first time since his indie Iraq drama Redacted in 2007, though this stuff thematically has more in common with Femme Fatale, which was a festival hit 10 years ago. Can’t wait.
Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi has brought virtually all of his films to Toronto since his incredible debut in 2000 with A Time for Drunken Horses. His 2004 drama Turtles Can Fly was nominated for the Oscar for best foreign film and told the story of kids who take money from both Iraqi and U.S. officials to go out and find landmines that haven’t done their thing yet. In 2006 he brought us Half Moon, another poetic neo-realism flick about an old Kurdish musician trying to get to a show he needs to perform at, travelling all the way around the U.S. occupied Iraq of the time. His films were the first on-the-ground efforts where we could feel the war in Iraq in the air from the perspective of the people over there, even if they were not war stories. His new one is another travelogue, this time about a freed Kurdish-Iranian poet from prison who sets out across Turkey in order to find the wife who must imagine him to be dead. Ghobadi is a treasure.
Harmony Korine. I really only need to type his name and if you’re any kind of indie movie lover of the last 15 years, that name just went in your eyes and set something off in your brain and now you either really need to see his new one or you really don’t. He’s sort of by himself over in the corner, an untamed indie writer-director that makes almost every other indie movie look a lot more mainstream. He wrote much of the screenplay for Kids (1995) as a teenager. That was one of the best films of the 90′s. On his own as a director, he is even more surreal and free-spirited. Part of the wonder is that his movies even got made, like with Mister Lonely (2004) which tells of characters who live as impersonators of famous people like Michael Jackson and the Pope, or Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) told from the viewpoint of a young schizophrenic and also featuring that mesmerizing performance by Werner Herzog. His new one appears to have a budget to go with stars James Franco and Selena Gomez, in this spring break comedy that I’m betting won’t be just another vanilla one.
One of the last movies I saw at the old Uptown Theater at Yonge and Bloor streets in Toronto was the premiere of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Punch-Drunk Love (2002). That was an event. It was the 6th film playing that day in the large #1 theater that was famous for its expansive front row where you could put your coat and book-bag up on that stage in front of you instead of under your seat or in your lap. It got going closer to midnight when it had been scheduled for about 10:30 as I recall, and it didn’t matter because we were going to see a PTA movie on a screen we knew it would never show on again. All of his movies are like that for me; I remember the day, the weather, where I saw it, who with, what we ate after. PTA is this generation’s humble heavyweight director and a student of the game, his work recalling heavyweights such as Scorsese, Altman, Kubrick and Ophuls. His new one stars Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in a drama soaked in dogmatic themes in McCarthy-era America.
Matthew McConaughey‘s on fire this year. This will be his fourth movie in four months and the second deep-fried gothic thriller in a row following Killer Joe, Bernie, and Magic Mike. He’s been very good in all of ‘em so far, with Bernie being one of the most unfairly neglected movies of the year. Here he stars in Lee Daniels‘ highly-anticipated follow-up to the 2009 TIFF Audience Award winner, Precious. Zac Efron (also here with At Any Price) plays a journalist who goes back home to Florida in order to involve himself with a death row inmate. That’s about as far as I got in the synopsis of this 60′s-set drama, which I can’t wait to see, but want to see cold. Looks Oscary. Hope it’s more Dead Man Walking than Life of David Gale.
The Son Did It
Italian director Daniele Cipri makes his long-awaited TIFF debut with this crime-drama detailing the mistaken killing by the Mafia of a young peasant family’s daughter. Remarkably–and I love stumbling across this kind of stuff–Cipri’s bio on the IMDB shows him being nominated wearing four different hats, from his writing and directing, to his editing and cinematography work on movies like Marco Bellocchio‘s Vincere and Dormant Beauty, which also premieres at TIFF this year.
The Suicide Shop
I went and saw Patrice Leconte‘s haunting Monsieur Hire after Siskel & Ebert raved about it in 1990, and I was hooked after that. At his best, he explores the obsessions of his characters with a singular focus and fascination with them. The Hairdresser’s Husband (1992) was about a young boy who vowed he’d marry a hairdresser, and finally in middle-age, he does just that. That was one of the best films of the 90′s along with Hire and the wondrous black & white Girl on the Bridge (1999), with that unforgettable Vanessa Paradis performance. This marks his first foray into animation, with the bleak story of an even bleaker family who run a little shop specializing in euthanasia. I’m totally there. Every single Leconte film that has been brought to TIFF has been very good at the least and a masterpiece at best.
French director Claude Miller‘s (A Secret) posthumous last film stars Audrey Tautou in a study of what it might have been like to be a Catholic landowner’s wife in rural France in the 1920′s, except for the part where she poisons her husband with arsenic of course. Tautou plays a woman stifled by an arranged marriage and differing values that clash with her time in this adaptation of one of French author Francois Mauriac‘s most famous novels.
French actor Jeremie Renier (L’Enfant, In Bruges) stars as a young priest who’s been brought on by an older Argentinian one played by Richardo Darin (earning amazing reviews for his current Chinese Takeaway) to work on a housing project in the slums of Buenos Aires. Writer-director Pablo Trapero was last at TIFF with the good crime-dram Carancho in 2010 and his new one earned very good reviews out of competition at Cannes.
Remarkably, this is Nick Cassavetes first return to TIFF since his first film, 1996′s Unhook the Stars. In that time he has tackled more indie-flavored fare with the gritty She’s So Lovely (1997) and helped to catapult Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams into bonafide stardom after 2004′s The Notebook. Those were good films while his more recent My Sister’s Keeper (2009) is my favorite. Yellow appears to mark a return back to a grittier feel with Sienna Miller as a young woman with drug and other problems. He’s always got a great cast all the way down the line and here is no exception, with the likes of Gena Rowlands, David Morse, Ray Liotta and Melanie Griffith.