FRIDAY, 7:30 p.m.
The directors Reitman, father Ivan and son Jason, mixed a little business with pleasure at TIFF this year.
The pleasure, of course, was seeing the positive reception given to the three films at the festival they're involved with: Up in the Air (Jason directed and Ivan produced), Chloe (Jason executive produced and Ivan produced) and Jennifer's Body (Jason produced).
But Friday night they also turned up for an hour or so at the Toronto Board of Trade to address the future tenants of TIFF's future home - the Bell Lightbox. More than 90 per cent of the residential condos in the King St. building have been sold. Scheduled to open next fall, the condos will sit atop TIFF's new headquarters.
The Reitman family owns a major equity stake in the development, since it was on that site that Ivan's father owned and operated a car wash in the 1950s and 60s.
In an interview, both Reitmans lavished praise on the Toronto film festival, calling it the greatest such event in the world. "Venice, Cannes and Berlin all have their charm," said Jason, "but Toronto is both a real people's festival and an industry festival." Staff
Saturday, 12:05 a.m.
Just a couple of hours after Beautiful Kate had its inaugural TIFF screening, the film's director and screenwriter was breaking out the champagne and cake. Not only was Rachel Ward marking the international debut of her first feature film here, Saturday was her 52nd birthday.
The film, a tale of forbidden love, tortuous memories and forgiveness set in the Oz outback, has been playing in Australian theatres for the last six weeks. And now Ward is hoping she can score several rights deals at TIFF. "It was a great birthday present last night, just to screen it in Toronto," she said early Saturday morning. "Toronto's audiences are very much like Sydney audiences because it's not just a marketplace. There are punters out there, film lovers going to things. You get a really warm and attentive audience."
Ward, you may recall, was the Megan Fox of her generation, thanks to appearances in such feature films as Sharkey's Machine and Against All Odds and, most famously, as Meggie Cleary, Richard Chamberlain's forbidden love interest in The Thorn Birds miniseries of 1983. "The face was the fortune," she laughed, claiming her looks had "faded" by her late thirties. But that certainly wasn't the case Saturday; she looked "mahvelous."
Sam Neill, who celebrates his 62nd birthday at TIFF today, was looking a little rumpled Saturday morning as he sat down to talk about his new film, Daybreakers, and warned that, despite the allotted 15 minutes, he doubts he has three minutes worth of things to say.
He has never done a vampire movie before his role in Daybreakers, and he says in general, he doesn't care for the genre. It reminds him too much of his kids' friends: "To be honest, I don't particularly like them."
"For vampire, read 'emo' - the disaffected boring youths that I've put up with because I have teenagers at home and these people are trampling through my door and I don't care for them. Then they hit 21 and they're fine, but in the meantime they're like vampires and boring vampires."
But two pages into the script of Daybreakers, he changed his mind: "When I reached the scene of the vampires, before going to work in the morning, lining up for their double shot of blood in their morning at Starbucks, I said, 'Fantastic. This is kind of thing I want to do'."
Staff 12 p.m.
Michael Douglas has no use for technology. He doesn't tweet. He's not on Facebook. And he, frankly, can't figure out how people these days have the time to chronicle every minute detail of their lives. But he told the media at a press conference for his film, Solitary Man - about an aging philanderer facing his own mortality - that his 92-year-old dad, Kirk, has embraced the movement. "My father is the oldest person on MySpace," he says. "He called me up the other day and said, "Hey Michael, I've got 800 new friends." The Academy Award winning actor, who turns 65 shortly, also shared the fact that he and his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, don't critique each other's work. "I've learned that unsolicited advice can be seen as a hostile gesture," he says. Staff
The sweetest words to a journalist's ear are sentences that begin with "I'm probably going to get into trouble here..." Which were the exact words from the unguarded mouth of documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, in town to talk up his latest release, Capitalism: A Love Story. "I'm probably going to get into trouble here," Moore told the Globe and Mail, when asked about the current drama of the National Hockey League, "but the Toronto Maple Leafs should concentrate more on trying to have the best team possible instead of trying to shut out the competition."
Moore, a native of Flint, Mich., sister city of Hamilton, was commenting on the speculation that the Maple Leafs were employing some sort of veto power to disallow the bankrupt Phoenix Coyote franchise to relocate to hockey-mad Southern Ontario. "[The Leafs]should believe in democracy, and they should believe in fair play and competition - it's about sports for Christ's sake."
The latest documentary from the hurly burly provocateur rails against the "evils" of capitalism, which is a popular economic system he suspects has wrecked the "national sport of Canada" as well. "You've allowed a piece of your soul to be ripped out and made into a commodity," the left-winger Moore said, referring to the 1996 relocation of the Winnipeg Jets to Phoenix. "I can't believe you've allowed any Canadian hockey team to be bought and taken to a place where there's palm trees." Staff 2 p.m.
Tom Ford's film A Single Man, which is also screening at TIFF, picked up two awards at the Venice Film Festival: the best actor award (for Colin Firth) and the Queer Golden Lion (an unofficial award, independent of the festival, for the best gay-themed movie). The film's writer, David Scearce, from Burlington, Ont., reacted to the news in an e-mail from Italy: "Seeing the film premiere at Venice was an incredible experience," he wrote. "When you're close to the material, it can be difficult to see it objectively. Yet, when the end credits began to roll, the crowd gave it a very sincere and long standing ovation. To now return for the North American premiere of my first film feels like quite a homecoming, indeed." Also in Venice, Lebanon, an Israeli film that recounts Israel's 1982 invasion of the Middle East country through the eyes of four soldiers in a tank, picked up the Golden Lion (for best film). It is also screening during TIFF. Iranian filmmaker and photographer Shirin Neshat snared the Silver Lion for best director for her feature debut Zanan Bedone Mardan ( Women Without Men), also a part of TIFF. Staff 3 p.m.
"Did you see Brian De Palma in the audience for my film?" The question bubbles up in a boyishly excited rush, which both charms and surprises me. That's because the questioner is French director Gaspar Noé, the last guy you'd expect to give a tinker's damn about the audience or anybody in it. His approach to filmmaking, in Irreversible and now again in Enter the Void, is, well, combative, assaulting us with triple-barrelled bursts of brutal imagery and fractured time-frames and kaleidoscopic effects. All sighted through his talented eye, the result is riveting to some and revolting to others. People get mesmerized by his movies, people walk out of his movies, and Noé has always seemed delighted with either reaction. Clearly, though, this is an exception: He wants Brian De Palma to have been there, and he really wants Brian De Palma to have stayed.
So Noé continues in the same bubbly rush: "Someone told me he was in the audience yesterday. At the press and industry screening. So I rushed over and looked at the seats but I couldn't see him." A pause, then he repeats: "Did you see Brian De Palma in the audience for my film?"
Okay, I was there, the theatre was maybe half-filled, and, since poor Noé seems on the cusp of imploring, I'd love to give him the right answer. But. "Um, sorry, I did not see Brian De Palma in the audience. But I was looking up, not around, and I've heard that De Palma, even when he doesn't have a film at the fest, has a history of coming to Toronto anyway just to watch lots of movies, so, you know, maybe he was there."
Noé, who spent several years raising the money for Enter the Void and two more years shooting and editing it and who doesn't yet have a North American distributor for his prodigious labour of love, tries to take heart from that "maybe." And who can blame him?
8:45 p.m. Saturday
Elgin Theatre. Flashes light up the red carpet as the Coen brothers arrive for the premiere of their film A Serious Man, but they bypass the press and zoom inside, followed soon after by the actress Tilda Swinton, looking soigné in a sheer black dress and cropped blonde hair. TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey reminds the audience that the Coens brought their first film, Blood Simple, to TIFF 25 years ago, and that last year they were here with Burn After Reading, which co-starred Swinton. (Their next picture reportedly will be a remake of True Grit starring Jeff Bridges, who played the title character in their 1998 cult classic The Big Lebowski.) Joel Coen (the hairier one) mumbles into the mike, "We do have a long association with TIFF and we're happy about that." Ethan (the shorter one) whispers introductions to the cast, including Richard Kind and the appealing new star Michael Stuhlbarg. Someone in the audience shouts out, "Louder!" but it's too late - the elusive Coens have evaporated. True to form, they do not return for a Q&A. Staff Sunday, 11:30 a.m.
Not too many people have the chance to know what it's like to see a film festival from two sides - both as critic and filmmaker. One exception is Montreal's Denis Côté who has made four films in the past four years. But for a half-dozen years before that, he was one of Montreal's more contentious critics working for Ici Weekly.
Now, he says, "I never go to movies I don't want to see any more ... That was after five or six years of seeing five movies a week, whatever they were."
He hasn't looked back. His current film, Carcasses, combines a documentary about a man who lives among his field full of car wrecks with a fable about four young people with Down syndrome. Though he's held in high-esteem in France, some reviewers have given him as good as he gave. One of those was documentary filmmaker, Pierre Falardeau, writing last June in Côté's old publication, who enthusiastically trashed the film. The column was entitled "Vengeance."
"Of course I don't like it," Cote says. But I know the game. Most filmmakers hate critics. I don't. I understand the job." Staff
One of the strongest on-screen performances at this year's TIFF comes from Amanda Seyfried playing the titular character in Atom Egoyan's Chloe. Interviewed at the Hotel Intercontinental just a few hours before Chloe had its gala premiere at Roy Thomson Hall, the 23-year-old actress confessed she wasn't nervous about its bow, in part because "it's some quality work from Atom once again ... He's way original," and in part because her biggest jitters came early on, preparing for the role and during the film's actual production in Toronto in February-March this year.
"I was scared out of my mind to do it," she said. Indeed, Chloe ain't no Mamma Mia! Seyfried plays a high-priced escort who thinks she's in control of whatever situation she's in, but finds herself ambushed by her own intense feelings for Catherine Stewart (Julianne Moore), a Yorkville gynecologist who's hired Chloe to test the loyalty of her husband of 25 years (Liam Neeson).
And because she's an escort, there's sex. And because there's sex, there's nudity. Seyfried said having to take off her clothes "was a bit of an issue" going into her audition last year. But talking with her handlers, "we felt it was something we could talk about if I got the job."
Luckily, Egoyan himself "is uncomfortable ... with nudity," Seyfried said with a smile, so when it came time, for instance, to shoot a lesbian love scene with Moore the director's relative unease "somehow made it more comfortable for me." " Staff
Bill Murray was conspicuously absent from a Sunday press conference for Get Low, the feature-film directorial debut of cinematographer and Oscar-winning short film director Aaron Schneider, which also stars Robert Duvall, Sissy Spacek and Lucas Black.
Murray is well known for keeping his own schedule, and even the film's publicists admitted to having no idea whether he would turn up. "Where is he right now?" a reporter asked. "Golfing?" Spacek replied.
This and several other accounts of Murray's roguish lifestyle provided lighter moments amid a press conference that offered one memento mori after another. The film, spun out from real events, chronicles the attempts by Felix Bush (Duvall), a recluse in 1930s Tennessee, to stage a well-attended funeral party during which he will give the defining speech of his life.
"It's pretty terrific. ... The guy sets up and goes to his own funeral, to get things off his chest, to clear his conscience, to make himself right with his maker before he really dies. I think it's a great idea," Duvall said. "I personally thought it was odd," Spacek chimed in a moment later. "Myself, I want to be cremated and I'm going to get things straight before I die."