Tuesday’s king of the Toronto International Film Festival may have actually been a Boss instead, but the day wasn’t all about Bruce Springsteen.
Indie icon John Sayles, after all, premiered his new movie “Amigo” at the Isabel Bader Theatre at the same time that the Springsteen doc “The Promise” was screening at the Roy Thomson Hall. Danish director Susanne Bier, whose “After the Wedding” received a Foreign-Language Oscar nomination in 2007, also unveiled her new film, “In a Better World,” for the first time.
Neither film has received many reviews yet, but Brad Brevet gives the Bier film an “A” grade and calls it “a fascinating look at the difference between revenge, pacifism and forgiveness.” Reel Film Reviews goes a couple of steps further: “a dramatic masterpiece that surely stands as the crowning achievement in Bier's consistently enthralling filmography.”
As for the Sayles film, The Playlist approves, and compares the film favorably with Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator”: “Sayles' film is a complex and organically built work that coaxes meaning out of the situations it builds rather than putting the politics first and constructing a story around it.” Others aren’t quite so enthusiastic: tweets after the first press screening range from “earnest, obvious” to “very good, not great.”
Reminiscent of the days when, say, Parker Posey seemed to be in every other movie at Sundance, TIFF has its own indie actress-of-the-moment: Brit Andrea Riseborough, who’s in “Never Let Me Go,” “Made in Dagenham” and “Brighton Rock.” Gregg Kilday profiles the 28-year-old actress, who seems unruffled by her newfound ubiquity – though she does admit that her promotional schedule doesn’t really leave her “time for a wee.”
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Many of the biggest stars have left town, but parties are still going on. Lionsgate threw a shindig on Tuesday night, while Visa Infinite sponsored a “performance party” tied to “Janie Jones,” at which cast members Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola were among the musical performers.
In addition, In Style magazine and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association teamed up for their 11th annual TIFF soiree, with guests that included Riseborough (naturally), Bill Pullman, Ed Norton, Jill Hennessy, Ryan Reynolds, Jim Broadbent, Sam Worthington, Ryan Phillippe and Zach Braff.
But Richard Ouzounian, theater critic for the Toronto Star, wants you to know that none of them can party as hard as 70-year-old Martin Sheen, who stars in his son Emilio Estevez’s TIFF film “The Way,” and who, says Ouzounian, is “carrying on a level of 24/7 activity that would tire out a man half his age.”
Plus, Sheen also found the time to walk the picket line outside the Fairmont Royal York hotel, where workers have gone on strike to force a new contract.
Toronto screenings are separated into two different programs: public, and press & industry. One big difference: the audience generally applauds at the end of public screenings, and almost never does so during P&I screenings.
Another difference comes during the long string of ads that precede every Toronto movie. The ads are short, but audiences sit through a brief films on behalf of the new TIFF Bell Lightbox, BlackBerry, Cadillac, Dolby, Christie, AMC, Bell and a couple for TIFF itself.
The sequence also includes a brief anti-piracy warning, which is greeted with silence at P&I screenings. At public showings, though, the warning is always accompanied by a chorus of pirate noises: “aaarrrrrr!”
At Tuesday night’s Springsteen gala, festival co-director Cameron Bailey made a piracy announcement himself – but with Bruce in the building, the audience seemed completely disinterested in making any noises that didn’t sound like “Bruuuuuuuuuuuce!” After one half-hearded “aarrrrr,” Bailey shrugged.
“You don’t know what noises to make tonight, do you?” asked Bailey with a grin.
Over at Thompson on Hollywood, meanwhile, TOH correspondent Meredith Brody reports on the kind of day that could only happen at a film festival, and that illustrates the perils of trying to see everything. She tried to see “The Big Picture” at 9 a.m. but couldn’t get there in time; saw “Beginners” instead, which she calls “a charming trifle”; went into the Greek film “Attenberg” but only stayed for the first half; caught all of “Incendies,” which she thinks is old-fashioned and satisfying; arrived 20 minutes late for “The Trip,” but “didn’t feel like I missed a thing”; and then fell asleep during “Amigo.”
That’s two full movies and three partials, which I suppose helps with the festival checklist but doesn’t seem terribly satisfying. Me, I gave up trying to check everything off my wish list; I started Tuesday chatting with Werner Herzog and ended it saying hi to Springsteen after a Bruce doubleheader, and in between only found time for a paltry two movies. But I ate three actual meals, which felt like a significant (and unprecedented) indulgence.