With the addition of 115 films, the lineup for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival is now truly daunting, if not outright overwhelming. You can scan the full list right here; links from the titles will take you to that film’s page, where’ll you’ll find a brief synopsis. What follows is a glance at the standouts—with links, when available, to early reviews.
Among the four newly added Galas is the opening night film, Outlaw King. David Mackenzie (Starred Up, Hell or High Water) directs Chris Pine as Robert the Bruce, the king who led Scotland during its first war of independence against England. Justin Kelly’s Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy, the closing night film, features Kristen Stewart as the controversial literary persona created in the 1990s by her sister-in-law, Laura Albert (Laura Dern).
TIFF has also added twenty-two Special Presentations, including the world premieres of Louis Garrel’s A Faithful Man, lined up for the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate; Jeremy Saulnier’s Hold the Dark, an adaptation of William Giraldi’s dark thriller widely believed to have been pulled by Netflix from this year’s Cannes lineup; and Jonah Hill’s directorial debut, Mid90s. But our interest is drawn for the moment to three of the festival’s other sections.
Eleven new works by “acclaimed and established auteurs” make up this year’s Masters program, including four that premiered in competition at Cannes in May (click the titles for overviews of the initial critical response): Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces, Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White, Jean-Luc Godard’s The Image Book, and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s The Wild Pear Tree. Three other films are set to premiere in Venice: Mike Leigh’s Peterloo, depicting the 1819 massacre of peaceful demonstrators in Manchester; Shinya Tsukamoto’s Killing, a samurai film set during the Edo period; and Carlos Reygadas’s Our Time, in which a husband in an open relationship discovers that he can’t handle it.
Ki Joobong won the best actor award this past weekend for his performance as a revered poet who believes he’s about to die in Hong Sangsoo’s Hotel by the River. And Christian Petzold’s Transit, a drama about refugees fleeing fascists on the march, premiered in Berlin in February. Writing for Sight & Sound, Giovanni Marchini Camia found it “ambitious in its treatment of history, conflating past and present to articulate a mournful, urgent appraisal of the contemporary European psyche.”
That leaves two world premieres. In Algerian director Merzak Allouache’s Divine Wind, a man and a woman, strangers to each other, are tasked with launching an armed attack on an oil-refinery in the North African desert. The attack does not go as planned. Paolo Sorrentino’s Loro, with Toni Servillo as former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, was actually released in Italy earlier this year in two feature-length installments; this will be the 150-minute cut intended for international release. “It aims to peer not just into Berlusconi’s monomaniacal soul,” wrote Jay Weissberg in his review of the first part for Variety, “but to expose, as with The Great Beauty, the apotheosis of vulgarity and craving for attention that’s been the canny politician and media magnate’s lasting imprint on Italian society.”
Wavelengths is TIFF’s rough equivalent of the NYFF’s Projections program or the New Frontier section of Sundance. “While the term ‘avant-garde’ may hold less meaning today or ring suspicious,” says Wavelengths curator Andréa Picard, “it is nevertheless clear that filmmakers and artists continue to expand cinema’s aesthetic and expressive possibilities and are willing to take great risks, ensuring vibrancy in the artform.” This year will see international and world premieres of short works by Nathaniel Dorsky, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Kevin Jerome Everson, Jodie Mack, Sky Hopinka, Ben Rivers, and Laida Lertxundi, among many others.
And here, too, a few features have been harvested from Cannes: Wang Bing’s Dead Souls, Ulrich Köhler’s In My Room, and Bi Gan’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night. Three more titles have just premiered in Locarno: Andrea Bussmann’s Fausto, Mariano Llinás’s La flor, and Richard Billingham’s Ray & Liz. Roberto Minervini’s What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?, which interweaves four stories set in a black community in the South during the summer of 2017, and Sergei Loznitsa’s The Trial, a documentary about the Moscow trials of Trotskyists and critics of Stalin from the right, are both headed to Venice. When Eric Hynes spoke with Loznitsa in May for Film Comment about the archival material he was using, the director noted that “the length of the takes in the trial footage is like six minutes, static camera. . . . They say film is truth twenty-four times per second, but this is a lie twenty-four frames per second.”
Contemporary World Cinema
Loznitsa’s Donbass, which premiered in Cannes, is one of forty-seven titles lined up in the section that delivers what its title promises: Contemporary World Cinema. Also heading to Toronto by way of Cannes are Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Asako I & II, Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego’s Birds of Passage, Ali Abassi’s Border, and Luis Ortega’s The Angel. CWC will also present three of the top award-winners from Karlovy Vary, Radu Jude’s “I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,” Ana Katz’s Florianópolis Dream, and Olmo Omerzu’s Winter Flies.
Of the twenty-seven world premieres, two immediately catch the eye. Belmonte, focusing on an artist struggling to balance the demands of his work with the responsibilities of raising a ten-year-old daughter as a single dad, is the fourth feature from Federico Veiroj, the Uruguayan-Spanish director of A Useful Life (2010) and The Apostate (2015). And The Black Book, tracking the adventures of a young French orphan and his Italian nurse as they travel through Europe at the tail end of the eighteenth century, is latest feature from Valeria Sarmiento, known to many as the widow of Raúl Ruiz, though she’s also an award-winning director, screenwriter, and editor in her own right.
TIFF’s forty-third edition will run from September 6 through 16.
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