Category Archives: tiff

"Is that Benedict Cumberbatch?"

Sitting in a screening of Atonement last night, Dorothy leans over to me and whispers those words. It had been a while since I’d seen the film and, sure enough, there he is in the role of soon-to-be-known as bad-boy  Peter Marshall, chocolate tycoon. I’m terrible at recognizing faces and, with the little reddish moustache, it probably would have taken me a while to figure out why he looked familiar.

But the entire screening was like seeing the film for the first time. We were at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for the Books on Film series and I had dutifully read Ian McEwen’s novel in the days before the screening. I guess that’s the point of the series: to understand how books are made into films.

To assist the audience, the screenwriter for the film Christopher Hampton had been invited to join interviewer Eleanor Wachtel on stage after the screening. As you may be aware, it is not obvious who the narrator is until the end of the novel, where there is a surprise regarding the veracity of certain scenes near the end. Hampton’s first draft of the screenplay began with this end. When the director was switched out and Joe Wright took over, he asked Hampton why he had chosen to do this, and on subsequent rewrites, the screenplay switched back to follow the narrative line of the novel more closely.

One other large change between the novel and the film was that final scene. Originally set in the the Tallis home, which has been turned into a hotel, the narrator returns there for a birthday party and upon retiring for the evening, she writes the final section of the book and the truth is revealed. It’s a very interior scene and likely would have been difficult to film without the use of voice-over, which Hampton was dead set against. Instead, the scene is shot with the narrator being interviewed on a television talk show, permitting the final revelation to happen more naturally.

I am trying not to give away too much about the novel which, if you haven’t read it, would make an excellent summer read. The first half is set in an English country home in a hot, sultry season. Kiera Knightly should get an award for best scene in a bathing cap.

The final novels in this series are The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitzby Moredecai Richler, with guest director Ted Kotcheff (June 3. I’m hoping it will present a print of the restored master) and Midnight’s Childrenby Salman Rushdie, with guest director Deepa Mehta (June 24).

Sunday choral report

Circumstances only permitted a half hour rehearsal this morning, but our music went reasonably well.

During the Offertory we sang Josquin’s Ave Maria, presented below by the Tallis Scholars. (My email subscribers may not be getting the embedded video. If you’d like to see it, go to the link to my blog at the end of the email.)

During Communion, we presented Jesu Dulcis Memoria, sung here by the Cambridge Singers.

We were rather short of male singers this morning, with only one bass and two tenors, one of them a substitute for our cantor, but I think we managed to pull it off with our organist singing whichever male part needed him.

I spent a lazy afternoon, finishing up another read-through of Atonementby Ian McEwan in preparation for the screening tomorrow at TIFF, part of the Books on Film series. Playwright and screenwriter Christopher Hampton will be there for an interview with Eleanor Wachtel after the screening. The novel is so layered with emotion (or lack thereof) that it was perfect for a sunny Sunday afternoon on the porch.

It will be a busy week. Besides the screening, we are seeing two operas at the COC (Tuesday and Wednesday evenings) and then Michael’s final music concert of high school on Thursday,where he will be featured playing a tuba concerto composed by another student at the school.

Toronto International Film Festival starts this week….

…and I’m getting ready.

After a bit of a bumpy ticket-purchasing ride, with a lot of my top picks off-sale due to my cheapness is buying a discounted Daytime Pack, I still have a pretty awesome schedule over the 10-day Festival. Zouheir is taking a few days off so that he can get to more of the screenings this year.

This Thursday, I’m seeing a live reading of American Beauty, to be directed by Jason Reitman. Actors are being announced by Reitman on Twitter and so far, we have  (as reported by Toronto Life):  

  • Adam Driver (Lena Dunham’s creepy boyfriend from Girls) as the neighbour’s son Ricky Fitts (played by Wes Bentley in the film)
  • Toronto’s Sarah Gadon as Angela, the teenage object of Lester Burnham’s (Kevin Spacey) lust (played by Mena Suvari in the film)
  • Nick Kroll as Buddy (played by Peter Gallagher in the film)

Gadon is probably best known in her role of Emma Jung in A Dangerous Method.

On Friday we’ll see a couple of documentaries:

In an unprecedented and candid series of interviews, six former heads of the Shin Bet — Israel’s intelligence and security agency — speak about their role in Israel’s decades-long counterterrorism campaign, discussing their controversial methods and whether the ends ultimately justify the means.

Apparently, there will be two (former?) generals in attendance.

On Saturday, we’re looking forward to screenings of Hotel Transylvania, Inch’Allah, and The Attack. The first is an animated feature with a star-studded cast. The second two examine the Palestinian question in the West Bank. There are quite a few films set in the Middle East at this years festival and we’re hoping to see most of them.

More to come.

    TIFF roundup: Tuesday and Wednesday

    The Lonliest Planet (Dir. Julia Loktev, USA/Germany)

    This quiet, emotional film follows an engaged 30-something couple as they trek through the Caucausus mountains of Georgia with a local guide. Very little dialogue or real action in many parts, the film hangs on the relationships within this triangle and an event that happens half-way through that disrupts them. There was a lot of negative buzz around me as I was leaving the theatre: “no dialogue”, “nothing happened”, “I don’t get the point”, but it completely worked for me. Not a date movie. (5/5)

    (Screening Saturday Sept 17)


    The Oranges (Dir. Julian Farino, USA)

    Fantastic ensemble is much of what makes this film terrific. Hugh Laurie, Catherine Keener, Allison Janney, Oliver Platt star as two couples who live across the street from each other. The daughter of one couple has an affair with the husband of the other, and everyone’s life is changed. A sort of anti-morality play wherein the end justifies the means makes it less than satisfying. (4/5)

    (Screening Friday September 16)


    W.E. (Dir. Madonna, UK)

    A dsappointing look at the Wallis and Edward story, this is Madonna’s attempt to tell the story from Simpson’s point of view. Running parallel to this arc is a modern day tale of a Wally Winthrop who is trapped in an unhappy marriage and obsessed with the Wallis/Edward tale. The story lines alternate frequently, and the historical story is also split into glimpses into Wallis’ first marriage as well as that with Edward. Great fashion and sets/props, but the music was leaden. Not recommended (2/5)

    Damsels in Distress (Dir. Whit Stillman, USA)

    Entertaining and smart, this movie looks at a posse of fashionable women at a just-gone-coed private college. It’s quirky and wierd, with stellar performances particularly from Greta Gerwig as the alpha-female, Analeigh Tipton as the transfer student taken under her wing, and a bunch of frat boys who are just incredibly funny. (4/5)

    Café de Flore (Dir. Jean-Marc Vallée, Canada)

    A beautiful film from the director of C.R.A.Z.Y., it tells two stories, one set in Paris in the 60s in which a mother (Vanessa Paradis) is raising her Down syndrome child on her own. The other story is set in modern day Montreal and involves a divorce and remarriage of a successful DJ/electronica musician (Kevin Parent). We don’t find out how these stories are related until the very end of the movie. Moving with strong performances. As in C.R.A.Z.Y., music is a strong force that ties people together. See it if you get a chance. (5/5) (official site)

    Americano (Dir. Mathieu Demy, France)

    Son of filmakers Agnes Varda and Jacques Demy, this is Mathieu Demy’s directorial debut. With a stellar cast including Geraldine Chaplin, Selma Hayak, Carlos Bardem, and Chiara Mastroianni, Demy plays a restless 30-something who travels from Paris to Los Angeles to settle the estate of his mother, who has lived in the US for most of his life. Demy integrates footage taken by his mother when they lived in LA in the 80s and incorporates it into this work as flashbacks. He discovers things about his mother, and himself, that affect him profoundly.  Well worth seeing. (5/5)

    (Screening Friday September 16)

    TIFF roundup: Weekend 1

    Well, things are off to a great start.  I saw four films this weekend and here are my thoughts.

    Friday afternoon:  Urbanized (Director: Gary Hustwit, USA/UK)

    This was the world premiere for this film and the Ryerson Theatre was filled with Jane Jacobites and other #TorontoElite (to use a hashtag favoured by Spacing editor Shawn Micallef.) Inspiring and uplifting, this is a film that should be seen by anyone interested in the future of our cities, how to make them more liveable and sustainable, and how to improve the lives of even the poorest of slumdwellers by thoughtful, citizen-centric design. A survey of cities from around the world, this film calls us to action, even in the face of a city government that seems intent on turning the clock back. Official website.  (5/5) 

    Saturday Morning: Ides of March (Director: George Clooney, USA)

    We attended the second (and last) screening of this film at the festival.  Clooney plays a presidential candidate during the Ohio primary and Ryan Gosling is his media guy. The story is good, well-paced, and interesting, and the film was very enjoyable. Clooney was fine, but I thought Gosling was slightly miscast for the part. His character didn’t come across as bright enough for the role, but I’m not sure whether it was the casting or the writing. The big buzz should go to Paul Giamatti, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Marisa Tomei for their supporting roles as campaign managers for the opposing candidates and a NY Times reporter. It was their performances that really carried the film. Official website. (4/5)

    Saturday afternoon: House of Tolerance (Director: Bertrand Bonello, France)

    A languid, sensual, two-hour film about a fin de siecle brothel in Paris, this film was carefully researched and brought to being with great care. It’s a frank look at the lives of these women, at the same time enslaved and surrounded by opulence, at the risks they encountered and the friendships they formed. There was a good Q&A with the director after the film and I asked about the use of music behind some key scenes. The opening credits have a kind of 60s blues thing (see trailer), and a climactic scene close to the end is scored with The Moody Blues’ Nights in White Satin. Bonello did not see this as any more anachronistic than using opera music not coming from a gramaphone. This was also a subject of great discussion after the premiere at Cannes. (4/5)


    Sunday noon:  Take this Waltz (Director: Sarah Polley, Canada)

    This was a stunner of a film. What hits you right from the beginning is the warm, vivid, palette she has chosen for the film, representing female desire (as Polley remarked in the Q&A after the screening.) Very well cast with Michelle Williams as a twenty-something woman Margot, married for five years to Lou (Seth Rogen). When Daniel (Luke Kirby) enters her life in one of the many comedic scenes in the film), her previously domestic situation starts to unravel. This is a film with both intense drama and high humour, handled deftly by Polley and woven into a dreamy yet realistic portrayal of what happens when the gleam starts to go off a relationship. Sarah Silverman plays Lou’s sister, a recovering alcoholic, and had vocal coaching for the film to “speak Canadian”. See this movie! Official site. (5/5)

    Here’s a shot from the Q&A after the screening.  From L to R: Sarah Polley, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen.


    TIFF is coming: my first weekend lineup.

    The Toronto International Film Festival, that is.

    This year, I’m jumping in with both feet, seeing 5 films with my spouse when he’s not at work, and ….ahem… 20 on my own during the day. Because we’re “castmembers” at TIFF, we got our order processed early and got 23 out of 25 of our first picks, 1 second pick, and one voucher.  I’m hoping to get another ticket (with my voucher) to Habibi so that Z can come with me to that screening (it’s a Saturday morning at 9 am.) It’s a recasting of a classical 9th century Arabic tragic love epic, Mad for Layla (Majnoun Layla), set in modern day Gaza.

    On the first weekend (Sep 9-11), this is my lineup:

    Friday afternoon:  Urbanized – Documentary on Urban Design

    Saturday morning: Ides of March – George Clooney and Ryan Gosling star in this polical drama about a presidential primary.

    Saturday afternoon: House of Tolerance – A look at a fin-de-siecle brothel in Paris. 

    Sunday noon: Take This Waltz – Sarah Polley directs (and wrote) this romantic drama.

    My fears about having to run from venue to venue have been allayed as I have at least 45 minutes between any two films, so with my TTC pass and comfy shoes, I’m good to go!