In Toronto, September isn’t merely the month when kids go back to school, bars are flooded with drunken frosh, and the breeze gets blissfully cool. It’s the month when the world of celebrity and cinema combine for the Toronto International Film Festival, otherwise known as TIFF.
This year, the festival kicks off with From the Sky Down, Davis Guggenheim’s U2 pic, but don’t be fooled -- TIFF might not be kicking off with maple leaf fare, but this year’s roster is overflowing with noted names in the Canadian Film world, just an Egoyan, Arcand, and McKellar away from a full set. This year we’ve got leading directorial talent like Cronenberg, Polley, and Maddin offering new feature films, Bruce McDonald is revisiting his classic cult film with Hard Core Logo 2, and there’s lots of thematic fare – multiple looks at hockey, war, history, social issues, and explorations of Toronto and Montreal.
And if a bunch of Canadiana isn’t enough to pique your interest, how about names like Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley, Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel, and more? Or Glee’s Cory Monteith arguing with ex-90210er Dustin Milligan? Read on…
See Also: TIFF 2011: The Most Anticipated Festival Films, by Alonso Duralde
A Dangerous Method
David Cronenberg has grabbed Viggo Mortensen for the third consecutive time to dig into the relationship between mentor, Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), and novice, Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender). Just before the first World War, each are developing their own theories when they meet a sick Russian woman played by Keira Knightley. Jung is attracted to the troubled Sabina, and the closer he gets to her, the more he begins to question his mentor’s methodology. It’s a delicious mix for the Canadian director, intermingling his predilection for mixing chills and desire with the world of period pieces.
Take This Waltz
Sarah Polley immediately made herself a commanding presence of the Canadian filmmaking scene with the award-winning Away From Her. After a long hiatus, she returns with a much younger – but equally problematic – romantic drama. This time, Michelle Williams stars as Margot, a girl torn between her loving but practically asexual husband (Seth Rogen) and an intense artist (Luke Kirby). Comedienne Sarah Silverman co-stars as Margot’s friend and sister-in-law, a deeply wry and damaged Geraldine, who is struggling to stay sober and clean for her young daughter and loving husband.
Café de Flore
Jean-Marc Vallee returns to form with his latest offering, moving beyond the world of retro British royalty and returning to his music-centric Montreal roots. In C.R.A.Z.Y., he followed the life of a gay man coming of age with Ziggy Stardust in a religious family. In Flore, he contrasts modern-day with the past to tell two stories. The first follows a mother (Vanessa Paradis) who cares for her son with Down syndrome in 1969 Paris, and often plays the jazz album from which the film is titled. The other details a present-day DJ in Montreal torn between his new girlfriend and his ex-wife, and the torment he experiences as his elder daughter plays her parents’ love song whenever she can.
Score! wasn’t received so well when it hit the festival last year, but expectations are higher for this hockey tale since FUBAR helmer Michael Dowse is behind the camera. With a cast boasting the likes of Jay Baruchel, Liev Schrieber, Allison Pill, Eugene Levy, and C.R.A.Z.Y. star Marc-Andre Grondin, Goon is positioned as the modern-day Slap Shot. Scott plays a tough guy who gets scouted by a minor-league team after beating up a bigot. He can barely skate, but they want him for one simple reason: to beat up anyone who gets near Grondin, a player who is reluctant to touch the puck after suffering a terrible hit from Schreiber. In other words, he’s the Goon.
After a stretch of short films, Canada’s beloved avant-garde filmmaker Guy Maddin returns to feature narratives with Keyhole. Jason Patric is perfectly cast as a gangster returning to his home to reinvigorate his memory and find his wife (Isabella Rossellini). With help from a young, water-logged girl and bound young man, he moves from room to room uncovering familial memories and secrets while also contending with the whims of his fellow gangsters holed up inside. It’s Maddin’s classic aesthetic and humor intermingled with a more Lynchianly eerie journey where there is no barrier between the real and supernatural. It also features a new Kids in the Hall alum, Kevin McDonald.
The Moth Diaries
It’s been 6 years since Mary Harron last made a feature film (and visited TIFF) with The Notorious Bettie Page. Now she’s back with The Moth Diaries, which jumps on the vamp bandwagon to tell the story of a girl in her last year of boarding school, who loses her best friend to a new girl she suspects to be a vampire. Focusing on an all-girl domain, Harron can wipe the sparkles and romantic triangles away and showcase some straightforward bloodlust. The cast includes the new Snow White, Lily Cole, and ex-Felicity heartthrob and Canadian actor Scott Speedman.
Scott Speedman also stars in the true story of Edwin Boyd, the notorious Toronto post-war bank robber. Spanning seven years, the film details a man who comes back from World War 2 shocked at the treatment of veterans, and when he can’t provide for his family, he comes a bank robber and head of the Boyd Gang. Speedman excelled as the charismatic thorn to Paul Giamatti in last year’s Barney’s Version, and Boyd should give him the chance to apply his charisma in a deeper, more dramatic fashion.
Hard Core Logo 2
Prolific filmmaker Bruce McDonald (of last year’s stunning Trigger) revisits faux-doc music with a sequel to his cult classic. This time he’s living in Laurel Canyon on top of the world until his series is cancelled. He has to take a job filming a documentary for Wiccan TV about a singer claiming to be possessed by the spirit of Joe Dick (lead in the first film). The singer, Care Failure, is played by the real Care Failure, lead of Toronto punk rock band Die Mannequin.
Sisters & Brothers
Director Carl Bessai comes back to TIFF with last year’s Repeaters lead Dustin Milligan to offer up the third installment of his family trilogy (along with Mothers and Daughters and Fathers and Sons). There’s no science fiction this time around. The film follows four sets of siblings as they struggle to relate to each other. Milligan plays the struggling actor opposite his super-successful brother (played by Glee’s Cory Monteith), and the other scenarios showcase a sister caring for her schizophrenic brother, another sister resenting her stepsister, and finally a young teen girl who must contend with the sudden appearance of a long-lost sister.
In Mike Clattenberg’s (Trailer Park Boys) latest, Nick Stahl plays a journalist who hears that a Canadian sniper is taking trophies from his victims. He heads to Afghanistan to investigate, setting up an exploration of the nature of frontline journalism and Canada’s self-image in the larger world.
Mighty Ducks helmer Robert Lieberman returns to the world of hockey to tell the story of a Sikh-Canadian eager to become a hockey player. He battles between cultural tradition and his Canadian desires, in the Bend it Like Beckham vein. The cast includes Russell Peters and Rob Lowe.
The producers of Incendies now offer up a character study about an Algerian immigrant who fills in for a teacher who committed suicide and bonds with two particular students, his methods starkly contrasting Quebec’s educational methodology.
388 Arletta Avenue
Another Nick Stahl-starring film, this one is a unique thriller about a couple (Stahl and Mia Kirshner) who start to experience strange things, not realizing that they’re being watched 24 hours a day. The theme infers how the film was made -- a mix of shots from the vantage point of surveillance and handheld cameras.
Mark Ruffalo might have had a shock when he was confronted by his two sperm-donated children in The Kids Are All Right, but that’s nothing compared to Starbuck. Patrick Huard (of Bon Cop Bad Cop fame) plays a middle-aged slacker who sells so much sperm that he’s fathered at least 533 children, over a hundred of which are suing the clinic to find out who he is.
Filmmaker Guy Edoin travels to the Eastern Townships of Quebec to relay the coming-of-age story of a teen who lives on a farm, and struggles with the death of his father and ill feelings towards his mother.
TV, phones, and other media are stripped away in Amy George, where a young teen named Jesse goes on a hunt to make love to a woman and become a “true artist,” which proves difficult in his media-free house, forcing him to consider a classmate and neighbor he spies through his window.
The TIFF screens get saucy with Anne Emond’s debut feature, which reveals a one-night stand between two people. They meet at a rave, have sex, and when one tries to slip out the next day, they open up and have a discussion about themselves and their experience.
Described as a mix between Rounders and Brick, The Odds follows a teen boy who becomes embroiled in a world of backroom gambling after discovering the body of his friend, who seems to have committed suicide.
The Patron Saints
Black humor and disability clash in Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky’s documentary about a home for the aged and disabled.
Looking into the Lebanese community in Montreal, Onze focuses on a physically disabled man who escapes his family’s pestering about romance by going online and creating a super-successful alter-ego called Romeo 11.
In this strange story, Tygh Runyan plays a writer who believes that last man he saw before a near-death experience is his doppelganger (though he’s nowhere near it) and trusts him to look over a manuscript. When a curiously similar book appears on the scene, he demands this his “doppelganger” help him hunt down the plaigarists.
i am a good person/i am a bad person
Director Ingrid Veninger’s latest details the relationship of a mother and daughter as they head off to a film festival and clash instead of bonding. Veninger and her daughter play the lead roles.
Billy Bishop Goes to War
Writer/composer John Gray and actor Eric Peterson reunite to bring their two-man musical to the big screen. The story follows Billy Bishop, a flying ace from World War I, as he evolves from a boy who makes experimental planes out of cardboard and wood to a flying legend.
Keifer’s half-brother Rossif Sutherland stars in I’m Yours as a New York stockbroker who, while out with his friend (Don McKellar) one night, meets a girl, has a wild night, and wakes up in his car, heading to a northern Canadian town he’s never heard of. As they travel north, each are greeted with the other’s heavy personal baggage.