Even as we wait for the first reviews to roll in from the Locarno Festival—this year’s edition opened just last night—the fall film festivals carry on announcing new additions to their 2018 lineups. The Film Society of Lincoln Center has sent out word that Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate will close the fifty-sixth New York Film Festival, and the Toronto International Film Festival has unveiled a round of Canadian titles, the headliner here being the world premiere of Xavier Dolan’s The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.
At Eternity’s Gate, which will see its world premiere in Venice, is cowritten by painter and filmmaker Schnabel (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), the legendary Jean-Claude Carrière (he’s collaborated with Buñuel, Wajda, Schlöndorff, Milos Forman, Nagisa Oshima, and Jonathan Glazer, among so many others), and editor Louise Kugelberg. The cast features Willem Dafoe as Vincent van Gogh, Oscar Isaac as Paul Gauguin, and Rupert Friend as Vincent’s brother Theo, plus Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Mads Mikkelsen. NYFF director Kent Jones says that Schnabel “grounds the film in the very action of painting, the intense contact between an artist and the world of forms and textures colored by light.” And as for Dafoe, “acting this pure is endlessly surprising.”
Dolan, who’s won the Grand Prix in Cannes for It’s Only the End of the World (2016) and shared a Prix du Jury with Jean-Luc Godard (his Mommy tied with Godard’s Goodbye to Language in 2014), is making his English-language debut with John F. Donovan. And it’s been a long time coming. The project was first announced in 2014 with Jessica Chastain cast as a journalist who plays a role in the publication of the ten-year-old correspondence between a young actor (Kit Harington) and an American television star. This February, Dolan announced that, for the sake of pacing, he was cutting Chastain’s role. And Chastain graciously responded, noting that the matter had been “handled with the utmost respect and love.” Currently, besides Harington, the cast features Natalie Portman, Ben Schnetzer, Susan Sarandon, Kathy Bates, Thandie Newton, and Sarah Gadon.
Among the nineteen other Canadian features added to TIFF’s forty-third edition is Denys Arcand’s The Fall of the American Empire, a “thematic successor” to The Decline of the American Empire (1986) and The Barbarian Invasions (2003). The new film centers on a young man who discovers two bags of cash in the wake of an armed robbery. What Is Democracy?, a new documentary by Astra Taylor (Zizek!), certainly addresses a pertinent question, and Anthropocene, a followup to Manufactured Landscapes (2006) from Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, and Edward Burtynsky, considers our species’ impact on the planet. TIFF 2018 will also present twenty-four Canadian short films, including new work from Guy Maddin and Sofia Bohdanowicz.