8 must-see Galas and Special Presentations at TIFF 2013
TIFF is not a competitive festival. Places like Cannes, Berlin, Venice, and Sundance all have a main selection headed by big-name juries, to which all of the other sections are essentially adjuncts. Sure, there is a prestigious audience award that all feature films vie for when they come to Toronto, but the jury duty essentially ends at the submissions stage; once your film is in, you've won. But if there's anything in TIFF that feels like the Main Event, it's the Gala and Special Presentations programmes.
Typically reserved for the more anticipated, star-studded, and/or expensive films, these programs tend to pull in the biggest audiences and require less risk-taking on the part of the festival-goer. Unlike in Discovery, Contemporary World Cinema, or even City to City, you've probably heard of these guys before, so you know what you're getting. (For better and worse; some of the biggest fun to be had at a film festival is in the surprise revelation from an unknown filmmaker.)
Comprising more than a third of the entire festival line-up, there's a lot to pilfer through here, so I've spotlighted below some of the obvious and not-so-obvious best bets spread out in these two sections.
Having already received a retrospective at TIFF Bell Lightbox to correspond with their release of her stunningly haunting Meek's Cutoff, the only thing director Kelly Reichardt has left to prove as a filmmaker is that she's susceptible to failing once in a while. Chances are this won't break any new ground in that regard, though, as this is, on paper, another gem. Headed by a cast of recognizable actors (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Saarsgard), the film is about the moral dilemma a group of terrorists face as they scheme to blow up a dam. [Insert Bob Seger joke here]
If you've had a chance to take a look at the superb police thriller Drug War, which is still playing at the Lightbox, you've probably already penciled this one into your must-see list. This is yet another inventive investigation film, but with a clever conceit and a lighter tone than the narcotics picture. Literally, the film is about a detective who happens to be blind, and Johnnie To has a lot of fun with that premise.
Love is the Perfect Crime
The French are responsible for a lot of singularly fluffy movies, but they also crank out a lot of indescribably weird shit, too. The Larrieu brothers are masters of the latter. Their last film, 2009's Les derniers jours du monde, played TIFF and baffled viewers who went in expecting a run-of-the-mill apocalypse movie. We really had never seen the world end so idiosyncratically, nor were we sure we wanted to. For that, they are truly invaluable. I'm not even going to bother describing what this one is ostensibly about, because it likely won't do a bit of good in preparing anyone for what's in store. Best to just be surprised, I guess.
Only Lovers Left Alive
After his droll yet audience-friendly quirkfest Broken Flowers, prince of cool Jim Jarmusch returns with another quintessentially Jarmuschian affair - this time about vampires. Typically shapeless, loquacious, and deeply concerned with artifacts of yester-generations' hip kids (viz., wicked guitars and an eclectic record collection), this notably un-horrific take on the genre comes on the heels of Amy Heckerling's under-appreciated comedy Vamps to form a unique diptych of films more concerned with certain basic ideas of immortality than in generating jump scares. The result is sublime.
The closest thing we currently have to Jacques Tati or Charlie Chaplin is a French director who had only made animated movies...until now. Sylvain Chomet got a lifetime subscription to the 'Filmmakers I Will Always See New Films From' Club with The Triplets of Belleville, and his follow-up, The Illusionist (based on a Tati script, naturally), wasn't too shabby either. In between those films he contributed a short to the Paris, je t'aime omnibus, which is the closest indicator to what we'll get from this third film, because they're both live action.
TIFF is getting into the habit of programming TV miniseries as feature films, it seems. This year there are films like Southcliffe (BBC) and Burning Bush (HBO Europe), and last year we got the five-hour Japanese series, Penance, which is by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, who returns a year later with this sci-fi curiosity. Real tells "the story of a man who uses an advanced neurological technology to enter the frightening mindscape of his comatose lover," which apparently goes all The Tree of Life at some point by inserting dinosaurs.
Many cinephiles were hoping that Jewish Russian American auteur James Gray's new Marion Cotillard-vehicle The Immigrant would show up somewhere in the festival. These people are probably very disappointed right now, but they shouldn't be too bummed, because this here Guillaume Canet film was co-scripted by Gray, which is a nice consolation prize in my opinion. The film alleges to "take us back to the mean streets of mid-seventies New York, a world of harried cops, addled hustlers, and high-rolling criminals." Yep, sounds like Gray all right.
Kill Your Darlings
It's amazing how prolific Daniel Radcliffe is now that Harry Potter is finished. Anyway, this was a hit at Sundance, and has the potentially ridiculous characteristic of being a movie that contains Radcliffe performing as a young Allen Ginsberg, not to mention Ben Foster as William S. Burroughs. This year's On the Road?
Lead still from Real.