Toronto has made a significant move in the jostling for position at the festival season’s crowded end where Telluride stole the limelight last year with a surprise screening of eventual Oscar winner, ’12 Years a Slave’. With pressure growing on festival directors to generate anticipation, Toronto will no longer screen any film that has previously played in North America during its crucial first four days. It’s a risky strategy, which left some distributors forced to change direction; particularly those who have traditionally favoured the Telluride/Toronto double punch for the launch of an award season campaign.
But if this year’s line-up was anything to go by, the rule change has not impacted significantly on its pulling power. There is a strong block of first screenings from leading North American filmmakers, including Noah Baumbach, Thomas McCarthy and Jason Reitman, and a day three listing for David Gordon Green’s ‘Manglehorn’, which followed his previous feature, ‘Joe’ in debuting at Venice. Arguably, Jean-Marc Vallée’s ‘Wild’, starring Reese Witherspoon and Ramin Bahrani’s Venice title ’99 Homes’, are the only significant new films with later screenings arising from appearances at Telluride during the Labour Day weekend.
Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t have Venice’s depth of world premieres from overseas filmmakers but there are enough on the programme to provide a nice balance. They include new features from Mia Hansen-Love, Christian Petzold, François Ozon – his fourth to premiere at Toronto – and two best foreign language film Oscar winners, Susanne Bier and Danis Tanović.
Latest films from David Dobkin and Alan Rickman bookend the festival as surprise selections.
Selected world premieres:
While We’re Young
Noah Baumbach, USA, World Premiere
Noah Baumbach’s latest feature, ‘While We’re Young’, looked odds-on for a Toronto world premiere after ‘Frances Ha’, ‘Margot at the Wedding’ and ‘The Squid and the Whale’ all screened at the festival. It’s a comedy drama starring Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried and has a young couple transforming the lives of a tetchy middle-aged filmmaker and his wife. Former LCD Soundsystem’s frontman, James Murphy, provides the soundtrack after working on Baumbach’s ‘Greenberg’, which also starred Stiller.
A Second Chance (En chance til)
Susanne Bier, Denmark, World Premiere
Susanne Bier, who won a best foreign language film Oscar with ‘In a Better World’, re-teams with regular screenwriter, Anders Thomas Jensen, for her latest feature, ‘A Second Chance’ (‘En chance til’). Starring Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Ulrich Thomsen, it has a hard drinking cynical detective confronting his demons after making a grim discovery during a junkie couple’s domestic dispute. Bier has continued her collaboration with Jensen on the filmmaker’s Depression-era drama, ‘Serena’, which is currently in post production.
The Judge OPENING FILM
David Dobkin, USA, World Premiere
David Dobkin’s latest feature, ‘The Judge’, starring Robert Downey Jr, Robert Duvall and Vera Farmiga, is his second to appear at Toronto and will be this year’s opener. It has a potentially interesting twist on the court drama theme with a high powered lawyer returning home when his estranged father, the judge of the film’s title, becomes a murder suspect. The film arrives in North American theatres shortly afterwards on October 10.
Mia Hansen-Love, France, World Premiere
Mia Hansen-Love’s latest feature, Eden, marks her third appearance at Toronto but it’s the first to receive a world premiere. U.S. indie favourites, Greta Gerwig and Brady Corbet, play two DJ’s strutting their stuff within Paris’ 1990′s electronic music scene. It also screens at the New York Film Festival before starting a theatrical roll out in France on November, 19.
Hal Hartley, USA, World Premiere
Hal Hartley won best screenplay at Cannes in 1997 for ‘Henry Fool’, the first part of his tragicomic Queens family trilogy, which continued with ‘Fay Grim’ ten years later. The concluding part, ‘Ned Rifle’, has the son of the title characters from the previous two instalments setting out to kill his father for selfish behaviour. Liam Aiken, Thomas Jay Ryan, James Urbaniak and Parker Posey all return alongside trilogy newcomer, Aubrey Plaza.
The Theory of Everything
James Marsh, United Kingdom/USA, World Premiere
James Marsh, who won a documentary Oscar for ‘Man on Wire’, retains the dramatic format for his follow up to the IRA thriller, ‘Shadow Dancer’. Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis and Emily Watson star in the appropriately titled, ‘The Theory of Everything’, a biopic of genius, Stephen Hawking. Marsh’s next feature, ‘Hold on to Me’, is in pre-production.
Thomas McCarthy, USA World Premiere
Thomas McCarthy has assembled an intriguing cast for his idiosyncratic comedy drama, ‘The Cobbler’ with Adam Sandler starring alongside Ellen Barkin, Steve Buscemi and Dustin Hoffman. It follows his indie hit, ‘Win Win’ and has the cobbler of the film’s title possessing metaphysical powers that allow him to step into other people’s lives. McCarthy is already working on his next feature, the child molestation cover-up drama, ‘Spotlight’.
Time Out of Mind
Oren Moverman, USA, World Premiere
Oren Moverman has adapted a story from acclaimed screenwriter, Jeffrey Caine (‘The Constant Gardener’), for his third feature, ‘Time Out Of Mind’. Richard Gere leads a cast including Ben Vereen and Jena Malone and plays a New York homeless man looking to establish contact with his estranged daughter as part of a new life. Moverman has built a solid reputation in the director’s chair for ‘The Messenger’ and ‘Rampart’ but remains as well known for co-writing ‘I’m Not There’ with Todd Haynes.
The New Girlfriend (Une nouvelle amie)
François Ozon, France, World Premiere
François Ozon’s latest film, ‘The New Girlfriend’ (‘Une nouvelle amie’), starring Romain Duris and Anais Demoustier, is his fourth to have a world premiere at Toronto. Based on a Ruth Rendell short story, a young woman’s life changes dramatically after discovering that her recently deceased best friend’s husband had an intriguing secret. It receives a theatrical release in France on November, 5.
Christian Petzold, Germany, World Premiere
Christian Petzold’s follow up to ‘Barbara’ is one of the most keenly anticipated world premieres at this year’s Toronto and, arguably, the whole festival season. Approaching some of Petzold’s dominant themes from a new angle, a concentration camp victim privately investigates her unsuspecting husband after undergoing complete facial reconstruction surgery to conceal Nazi mutilations. Petzold regular, Nina Hoss, plays the lead.
Men, Women and Children
Jason Reitman, USA, World Premiere
Jason Reitman continues a long association with Toronto, where all his features have screened, except for ‘Up in the Air’. Adapted from Chad Kultgen’s bestseller, ‘Men, Women & Children’, Reitman’s latest film explores social media’s alienating impact on different generations’ private lives and stars Judy Greer, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Garner. It receives a limited U.S. release on October 1 before expanding.
A Little Chaos CLOSING FILM
Alan Rickman, United Kingdom, World Premiere
When actor, Alan Rickman, made his directing debut with the acclaimed Venice title, ‘The Winter Guest’, he seemed to be heading for a distinguished alternative career behind the camera. As things turned out, we have had to wait a full seventeen years for his follow up, ‘A Little Chaos’, and it now receives a prestigious screening as Toronto’s closing film. Kate Winslet stars alongside Stanley Tucci, Matthias Schoenaerts and Rickman himself and plays an unconventional landscape gardener frustrated by the limitations of working for Louis XIV’s court at Versailles.
The Riot Club
Lone Scherfig, United Kingdom, World Premiere
Lone Scherfig follows her romantic drama, ‘One Day’, with an adaptation of Laura Wade’s political play ‘Posh, a veracious attack on the British upper classes. The film’s title is the play’s ‘Riot Club’, an obnoxious Oxford student exclusive society sharing some similarities with the David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson attended Bullingdon Club, which spirals dangerously out of control when its members vie for power. Scherfig remains best known for her Oscar nominated ‘An Eduction’.
Danis Tanović, India/France/United Kingdom World Premiere
Bosnian filmmaker, Danis Tanović, looks at the ethics of the pharmaceutical industry in his topical new feature, ‘Tigers’, starring Emraan Hashmi. It’s the follow up to Tanović’s Berlin hit, ‘An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker’, and follows an ambitious young pharmaceutical salesman who makes a devastating discovery. Tanović remains best known for ‘No Man’s Land’, which won an Oscar and Golden Globe for best foreign language film.
Miss Julie Liv Ullmann, Norway/United Kingdom/Ireland, World Premiere
Liv Ullmann’s fourth film in the director’s chair is her first since the Ingmar Bergman scripted ‘Faithless’ fourteen years ago. Moving from one Swedish giant to another, Ullmann becomes the latest filmmaker to adapt August Strindberg’s classic play ‘Miss Julie’, which she transports to Ireland. Jessica Chastain and Colin Farrell play the aristocratic woman and family valet in their battle of the sexes and classes during a heated midsummer night.
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