40th anniversary Toronto International Film Festival features a cornucopia of new movies
The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, running in the great Canadian capital city from Sept. 10-20. It’s 11 days and nights of nonstop movies, ranging from high-profile Hollywood fare and international offerings that will be released in theaters in the coming weeks and months, to offbeat, eclectic features that will get a shot on the big screens here, and might never again see the light of day.
Here’s an example of each, picked from the roster of 366 films (that includes a bundle of shorts) that are in this year’s lineup.
Hollywood: “The Martian,” directed by Ridley Scott, and starring Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, and Kristen Wiig, telling the story of an astronaut trying to survive on Mars after mistakenly being abandoned by his crew, has its world premiere.
International: “Belles Familles” (“Families”) from French director Jean-Paul Rappeneau, also a world premiere, is a comedy about a French businessman (Mathieu Almaric) in Shanghai who returns to his small childhood home and finds he must straighten out a family mess.
Offbeat and eclectic (or should it be eccentric?): Made in Japan, and having its North American premiere, “Yakuza Apocalypse” features a mobster boss-turned-vampire who refuses to return to his former syndicate, and before being killed, bites (and turns into a vampire) one of his young, loyal followers, who must then go against the syndicate.
Yes, TIFF has always been for all tastes. Dramas, comedies, documentaries, animation, horror and science-fiction films – you name it – usually start screening around 9 a.m., and play on approximately 25 screens around the city throughout the day, ending with the festival’s infamous “Midnight Madness” series (home of “Yakuza Apocalypse”) each night at 11:59.
TIFF may be all about seeing movies, but it’s no “normal” movie-going experience. Folks come from around the world, lots of them putting aside vacation time for these dates in September. Some buy single tickets, others get blocks of them for multiple screenings. And they do a lot more than just WATCH movies. Going to certain screenings at TIFF can become events. Just standing in line at a theater can easily turn into a major conversation with the film-lover in front of or behind you. When the festival has Galas and Special Presentations at some of the larger venues in town, there are often appearances by the films’ stars and directors and some impromptu question-and-answer sessions. And those stars and directors (and producers and writers, etc.) might be sitting next to you in a restaurant or be crushed up beside you in an elevator.
Among this year’s attendees will be: Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Jason Bateman, Anna Kendrick, Rob Reiner, Susan Sarandon, Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, Jake Gylenhaal, Julianne Moore, Benedict Cumberbatch and plenty more.
My visit to TIFF (this will be my 11th) is always a balancing act, as I’m there to see films as well as write about them and do interviews. There’s a lot to cram into a short time. But I’ll continue my annual tradition of picking and hoping to see at least 15 of the ones that really jump out at me. Here they are, in alphabetical order.
“Anomalisa” – The first stop-action animated film from writer-director Charlie Kaufman (“Synecdoche, New York”). The comedy-fantasy is co-directed by Duke Johnson.
“Black Mass” – Johnny Depp plays Boston mobster-hitman Whitey Bulger; Joel Edgerton is John Connolly, the FBI agent that might have been in cahoots with him.
“Born to Be Blue” – A fictionalized account of an attempted comeback by once-popular jazz trumpeter-singer Chet Baker (Ethan Hawke) in the 1960s.
“Forsaken” – Kiefer Sutherland plays a gunslinger in the Old West who must return home and hope that his estranged father – a man of the cloth – (Donald Sutherland) will help him clean up the town from land-grabbers. Directed by John Cassar (“24”).
“Green Room” – A young punk band is in the wrong place at the wrong time when a horrific crime is committed. The horror-thriller stars Anton Yelchin, Imogen Poots, and Patrick Stewart.
“Hardcore” – An amnesiac cyborg, through whose eyes the whole film is seen (so we never see him), and his friend (Sharlto Copley) try to rescue the cyborg’s kidnapped wife in Moscow.
“Hitchcock/Truffaut” – Alfred Hitchcock and Francois Truffaut got together for a lengthy chat in 1962. This documentary, which features Martin Scorsese, David Fincher, and Richard Linklater, is based on the recordings made of the two filmmakers’ discussion.
“I Saw the Light” – Brit actor Tom Hiddleston plays legendary American country western singer-songwriter Hank Williams (“Hey Good Lookin’,” “Move It on Over”), who died in the back seat of a Cadillac at age 29.
“Legend” – A new look at the notorious gangster twins Reggie and Ron Kray, who terrorized London in the 1960s. Both brothers are played by Tom Hardy.
“The Lobster” – Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly star in a futuristic story about single people who must find a mate in 45 days, or will be turned into animals and let loose in the woods (On paper, this is my Number 1 choice!)
“The Martian” – See above.
“Trumbo” – Oscar-winning screenwriter Dalton Trumbo’s (Bryan Cranston) career came to a halt when he became a target of the blacklisting trials in the 1950s. Jay Roach directs the story of how Trumbo tried to fight back.
“Un plus une” – Celebrated French director Claude Lelouch stars Jean Dujardin as a film composer who goes to India to work on a Bollywood version of “Romeo and Juliet” and meets the love of his life.
“Where to Invade Next” – Documentarian Michael Moore lets the Pentagon know that they’re doing it all wrong.
“Youth” – Lifelong friends played by Michael Caine and Harvey Keitel, both successes in the arts, vacation together in the Alps to think about retiring or not retiring. With Jane Fonda and Paul Dano.
TIFF 2015 runs from Sept. 10-20. For schedule and ticket information, call 1-888-599-8433 or visit www.tiff.net.
Ed Symkus covers movies for More Content Now.