This week, we’re learning just when and where some of the year’s most anticipated films will be seeing their premieres. The Toronto International Film Festival has presented a first round of Gala and Special Presentations today, and tomorrow, Venice will unveil its main lineup.
Let’s begin first, though, with the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s announcement that the new film by Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, The Lobster) will open the fifty-sixth New York Film Festival on September 28. Set in the English court of the early eighteenth century, The Favourite pits the Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) against a new servant (Emma Stone) in a battle for the affections of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman).
According to NYFF director Kent Jones, The Favourite is “a lot of things at once, each of them perfectly meshed: a historical epic; a visual feast; a wild, wild ride . . . it’s a blast.”
TIFF organizers had planned to announce its first batch of titles in a press conference today, but in the wake of a shooting in the city on Sunday night that left two dead and thirteen injured, the festival announced yesterday that it was cancelling the event “out of respect for those affected.” The list of titles may have been sent out to the press quietly, but it’s already rousing considerable excitement among cinephiles. What began in 1976 as the Toronto Festival of Festivals, a showcase for the greatest hits from other events around the world, has since grown to become a major launching platform for world and North American premieres.
Among this year’s red carpet events will be a handful of films that will have seen their world premieres elsewhere. Asghar Farhadi’s Everybody Knows, for example, opened the Cannes Film Festival in May and was met with so-so reviews. Last week, we learned that Damien Chazelle’s First Man, with Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, will open Venice on August 29. Soon after, it was announced that Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, a contemporary retelling of a story told in the 1930s, ’50s, and ’70s, will screen out of competition in Venice. Other titles having their world premieres elsewhere are new works by Jiang Wen, Sara Colangelo, Elizabeth Chomko, and Mélanie Laurent.
Nine of this year’s Gala Presentations, though, are world premieres, and surely one of the most intriguing is Claire Denis’s High Life with Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, and André Benjamin. Set on a spaceship barreling toward a black hole, High Life is not only Denis’s first film in English, but also her first work of science fiction.
Anticipation runs high, too, for Widows, Steve McQueen’s first feature since 12 Years a Slave (2013). Viola Davis leads a group of four wives who aim complete a heist that got their husbands killed.
The other world premieres at a glance:
- Steve Carell plays a father who yearns to help his son (Timothée Chalamet) overcome his meth addiction in Felix Van Groeningen’s Beautiful Boy.
- Nicole Holofcener’s The Land of Steady Habits sees Ben Mendelsohn as a well-to-do man in his midfifties who leaves his wife (Edie Falco)—and learns to regret it.
- Dan Fogelman’s Life Itself features Oscar Isaac, Olivia Wilde, Mandy Patinkin, Olivia Cooke, Laia Costa, Annette Bening, and Antonio Banderas in intertwining stories that stretch from New York to Spain.
- Anurag Kashyap’s Husband Material finds a young woman (Vicky Kaushal) entangled in a love triangle.
- Emilio Estevez’s The Public depicts a standoff at a library, where a group of homeless patrons refuse to leave at closing time.
- In George Tillman, Jr.’s The Hate U Give, a black teen witnesses the murder of her best friend at the hands of a police officer.
- Judi Dench and Sophie Cookson play the KGB’s longest-serving British spy at different stages of her life in Trevor Nunn’s Red Joan.
The remaining international premiere seems like a prime suspect for Venice. Zhang Yimou’s Shadow, set in the Three Kingdoms period in China (220–280), centers on a king and his people fighting expulsion from their homeland.
Of the twelve world premieres designated Special Presentations—just a shade less glamorous than a Gala—Barry Jenkins’s adaptation of James Baldwin’s novel If Beale Street Could Talk is definitely a headliner, and not just because Moonlight won three Oscars, including best picture. In April, Jenkins told Vulture’s Trupti Rami that “the rumble of New York City is in my film.” In Beale Street, a nineteen-year-old pregnant girl fights to have her fiancé released from prison after he’s been framed for murder.
More world premieres:
- Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing) will open the program with MOUTHPIECE, in which a feminist writer tries to come to terms with her recently deceased mother’s worldview.
- Mia Hansen-Løve’s Maya tracks a young war photographer from captivity in Syria to Paris, where he fails to resume his normal life, and then to India, where he hopes to start anew.
- Peter Hedges’s Ben Is Back stars his son, Lucas, as a young man who brings trouble home for Christmas. Julia Roberts plays his mother.
- In Amma Asante’s Where Hands Touch, a Black German teenager falls in love with a member of the Hitler Youth.
- Kyle MacLachlan and Maria Bello play the divorced parents of a teenage boy whose life is upended after a birthday party in Keith Behrman’s Giant Little Ones.
- Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project has Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård as cousins with a bizarre plan to give themselves an edge on the stock exchange.
- In Michael Winterbottom’s The Wedding Guest, Dev Patel plays a British Muslim traveling across Pakistan and India.
- Anthony Maras’s Hotel Mumbai centers on the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and its survivors.
- In John Butler’s Papi Chulo, a weatherman in Los Angeles hires a migrant worker to be his friend.
- Don McKellar’s Through Black Spruce hinges on the disappearance of a young Cree woman.
- Stella Meghie’s The Weekend traces a tangle of romances that spring up during a brief getaway.
The international premieres that seem to be slated for Venice or Telluride, which opens and closes before TIFF’s first day this year, are Olivier Assayas’s Non Fiction, a comedy about the world of publishing with Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet; David Lowery’s The Old Man & the Gun, with Robert Redford as a charming bank robber; Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which will be the Centerpiece presentation at the NYFF; Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?, in which Melissa McCarthy plays a real-life writer who resorted to forgery to make ends meet; László Nemes’s Sunset, in which a young woman in Budapest in 1913 discovers secrets about her past; Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, which tracks the rise and fall of senator and 1988 presidential candidate Gary Hart; Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers, a western with Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed; and Yann Demange’s White Boy Rick, which is based on the true story of a fourteen-year-old who became the youngest FBI informant ever in the 1980s.
The Special Presentations that premiered in Cannes are Lee Chang-dong’s Burning, Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, Nadine Labaki’s Capernaum, Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, Eva Husson’s Girls of the Sun, Nandita Das’s Manto, and the program’s closing film, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, winner of the Palme d’Or.
Paul Dano’s Wildlife, with Carey Mulligan as a wife and mother who falls for another man, Wash Westmoreland’s Colette, with Keira Knightley as the famous French novelist, and Reinaldo Marcus Green’s Monsters and Men all premiered at Sundance.
The forty-third Toronto International Film Festival will open on September 6 and run through September 16.
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