The big, big surprise in the first round of titles headed for the Toronto International Film Festival, as reported by Jennie Punter in Variety and parsed for us by Oliver Lyttelton at the Playlist, is the number of highly anticipated films that will not make the Venice lineup (though, as I’ve been reminded via Twitter, they may well show up at Telluride, where screenings don’t “‘count’ as ‘premiere'”; thanks again, CinemaScopeMag!). Just for the sake of clarity: Venice opens the fall festival season on August 29 and runs through September 8, while Toronto runs from September 6 through 16. Granted, it’s possible that a film might see its world premiere on the first day or two of Toronto and then pop up for a European premiere at the tail end of the Venice Film Festival. But that’s not too likely.
On to the films! Starting with the world premieres. Rian Johnson’s Looper, a sci-fi time-travel thriller featuring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt, will open Toronto. The trailer:
Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski’s Cloud Atlas, adapted from the novel by David Mitchell and featuring Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, and Susan Sarandon, many of them playing multiples roles. This most expensive German production yet is, according to the synopsis, “an epic story of humankind in which the actions and consequences of our lives impact one another throughout the past, present and future as one soul is shaped from a murderer into a savior and a single act of kindness ripples out for centuries to inspire a revolution.”
David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, based on the novel by Matthew Quick, a “riotous and poignant story of how one man regains his memory and comes to terms with the magnitude of his wife’s betrayal,” features Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Anupam Kher, Chris Tucker, Taylor Schilling, Shea Whigham, Julia Stiles, Jacki Weaver, and John Ortiz. We posted the trailer last month.
Ben Affleck’s Argo stars himself, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, and John Goodman in a based-on-a-true-story tale of a C.I.A. operative creating a fake sci-fi flick in order to rescue six Americans held hostage in Iran in the late 70s. The trailer:
Deepa Mehta’s long-gestating adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s award-winning novel Midnight’s Children (1980). Over a year ago now, Stephanie Nolan filed a report from the set to the Globe and Mail: “Because of that potent combination [Mehta and Rushdie], the filming had to be kept ultrasecret, hidden away in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in an effort (only partly successful) to keep the fundamentalists at bay. ‘He’s got the Muslims,’ says Mehta, wryly assessing the field of people who might want to stop this film. ‘And I’ve got the Hindus.’ The book is set in India and Pakistan—but it would have been a huge risk for Mehta to try to shoot the film in either country.” The site‘s just gone up.
Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha with Greta Gerwig. Anybody? Update: Ah, here we go. Brian Brooks has the official synopsis from TIFF: “An aspiring dancer (co-writer Greta Gerwig) moves to New York City and becomes caught up in a whirlwind of flighty fair-weather friends, diminishing fortunes and career setbacks.”
Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing, “a modern version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy… Filmed in just 12 days entirely on location in exotic Santa Monica, the film features a stellar cast of beloved (or soon to be beloved) actors—some of them veterans of Shakespearean theater, some completely new to the form…. Shot in glorious black and white by Jay Hunter.”
Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines, “the multi-generational story of a motorcycle stunt rider (Ryan Gosling), who considers committing a crime in order to provide for his newborn child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician (Bradley Cooper),” according to Wikipedia. Rose Byrne, Eva Mendes, and Ray Liotta are also featured.
Laurent Cantet’s English-language debut, Foxfire, an adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates’s 1993 novel, Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang, “the story of a group of headstrong, adolescent girls who grow up amidst violence and frustration in 1950’s upstate New York and go onto form the titular Firefox gang; a female-only society recognized by the flame tattooed on the back of member’s shoulders.” (Simon Dang, Playlist)
François Ozon’s In the House, based on the play The Boy in the Last Row by Juan Mayorga. With Fabrice Luchini, Kristin Scott Thomas, Emmanuelle Seigner, Denis Ménochet, Ernst Umhauer and Bastien Ughetto. Wild Bunch has the trailer. Synopsis: “A sixteen-year-old boy insinuates himself into the house of a fellow student from his literature class and writes about it in essays for his French teacher. Faced with this gifted and unusual pupil, the teacher rediscovers his enthusiasm for his work, but the boy’s intrusion will unleash a series of uncontrollable events.”
Ramin Bahrani’s At Any Price, with Zac Efron and Dennis Quaid. The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth: “Shot last year in Illinois, the intriguing story follows rebellious Dean Whipple (Efron), who wants nothing more than to pursue his dream of becoming a professional race car driver, while trying to avoid the obligations to his family’s farming empire. But Dean’s ambitious father Henry (Quaid), whose manic pursuit of expansion has alienated the whole family, sets his sights on Dean’s succession. When a high-stakes investigation into their business is exposed, father and son are pushed into an unexpected situation that threatens the family’s entire livelihood.”
Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible, based on a family’s experience of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. With Naomi Watts, Ewan McGregor, Geraldine Chaplin, and Tom Holland. So far, the only trailer available, it seems, is in Spanish.
Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt, with Barbara Sukowa. Interview.
Costa-Gavras’s Capital, with Gad Elmaleh as Marc Tourneuil, “a banking head who is set to be taken over by US investors,” according to Joshua Brunsting at Criterion Cast. “Based on a novel from Jean Peyrelevade, himself a former banker.”
Roger Michell’s Hyde Park on Hudson features Bill Murray as FDR, Olivia Williams as Eleanor Roosevelt, and Laura Linney as FDR’s mistress, Margaret Suckley. The trailer:
Mike Newell’s Great Expectations is, of course, another adaptation of the Dickens novel, this one featuring Jeremy Irvine as Pip and Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham as well as Ralph Fiennes, Sally Hawkins, and Robbie Coltrane.
Neil Jordan’s Byzantium, with Gemma Arteron, Saoirse Ronan, Jonny Lee Miller, Sam Riley, and Tom Hollander, sees the director of Interview with the Vampire returning to familiar territory. A mother and daughter—yet they’re only a few years apart in age—have been feeding on clients at a dilapidated seaside resort. The Playlist‘s Kevin Jagernauth has a fresh batch of images.
Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet, with Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Pauline Collins, Tom Courtenay, and Sheridan Smith. Each year, to raise funds for Beecham House, a home for retired opera singers, a concert is staged to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. The trailer:
Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa. “London, 1962. Two teenage girls… are inseparable; they play truant together, discuss religion, politics and hairstyles, and dream of lives bigger than their mothers’ frustrated domesticity. But, as the Cold War meets the sexual revolution, and the threat of nuclear holocaust escalates, the lifelong friendship of the two girls is shattered—by the clash of desire and the determination to survive.” With Elle Fanning, Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Jodhi May, Annette Bening, and Alice Englert.
Lu Chuan’s The Last Supper is “based on events in the Chu–Han Contention period of Chinese history, such as the Feast at Hong Gate, Battle of Gaixia and Han Xin‘s downfall,” according to Wikipedia. The trailer:
Liz Garbus’s Love, Marilyn features Uma Thurman, Viola Davis, Lindsay Lohan, Ellen Burstyn, and Evan Rachel Wood. Garth Franklin at Dark Horizons: “The cast will bring voice to an array of Marilyn related material gathered from the Arthur Miller estate, Truman Capote estate and poems, letters and diary entries written by and about the icon. For example Paul Giamatti will read as director George Cukor, F. Murray Abraham will read as the actress’s psychiatrist. Lili Taylor, Zoe Saldana, David Strathairn, Jennifer Ehle, Vanessa Shaw, Michelle Monaghan and Gretchen Mol are also involved.”
Sergio Castellitto’s Twice Born, with Penélope Cruz, Emile Hirsch, Jane Birkin and Castellitto himself. Wild Bunch has a synopsis, a poster and several images.
Eran Riklis’s Zaytoun, “the story of David and Fahed, two exiles from a divided land,” according to Bedlam Productions. “When David—an Israeli fighter pilot—is shot down over Lebanon, he must enlist the help of Fahed—an angry young Palestinian—in his attempt to reach safety. Together they travel through a hostile country, struggling with their mutual hate and dependency, as they both search for their own idea of home.”
Baltasar Kormákur’s The Deep, “the story of a young fisherman who swam in the icy waters for over five hours to reach the Southern Icelandic shores of Vestmann Islands while his four comrades perished at sea,” according to the Nordisk Film & TV Fond.
Shola Lynch‘s Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, a “documentary about Angela Davis and the high stakes crime, political movement, and trial that catapults the 26 year-old newly appointed philosophy professor at the University of California at Los Angeles into a 70’s revolutionary political icon. Nearly forty years later, and for the first time, Angela Davis speaks frankly about the actions that branded her as a terrorist and simultaneously spurred a worldwide political movement for her freedom.”
Rubba Nadda’s Inescapable is “set in January of 2011, on the eve of the Arab Spring revolution,” reported Anthony Kaufman in March, “and follows a Syrian-Canadian man, played by British actor Alexander Siddig, who returns to Damascus after 30 years ito search for his missing daughter. Nadda, 39, who lived in Damascus for four years as a teenager, told the paper that the movie is more of a thriller than a political treatise, but would shed light on the climate of fear and repression that triggered the uprising in Syria.”
Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson, and Ben Timlett’s A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman.
David Ayer’s End of Watch with Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña. Michael Cieply for the New York Times: “For Mr. Ayer the streets of Los Angeles are something of an addiction. He lived on them for a time, having been thrown out of the house by his parents, he said. Later he began to write his experiences into stories during service on an attack submarine in the Navy.” The trailer:
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s Imogene. Kristen Wiig stars as “a moderately successful New York playwright who fakes a suicide attempt in order to win back her ex-boyfriend, only to be under the custory of her mother, a gambler,” according to Philiana Ng in the Hollywood Reporter.
Stuart Blumberg’s Thanks for Sharing with Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow, Tim Robbins, and Carol Kane. The Playlist‘s Oliver Lyttelton: “The plot deals with a trio of characters in New York City undergoing the 12-step program to help them recover from sex addiction.”
Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation of his own novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, set in a suburb of Pittsburgh during the early 1990s. With Logan Lerman as the teenage narrator and Emma Watson and Ezra Miller.
Yaron Zilberman’s A Late Quartet. From West End Films: “The four members of a world-renowned string quartet struggle to stay together in the face of death, competing egos and insuppressible lust.” With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Christopher Walken, Mark Ivanir, and Imogen Poots.
Nenad Cicin-Sain’s The Time Being with Frank Langella. Deadline‘s Mike Fleming: “Out of cash and a bit desperate, struggling artist Daniel accepts a series of bizarre commissions from Warner, a dying, eccentric millionaire who may not be what he seems. But Daniel can’t quite ascertain whether his new ‘mentor’ is a monster who is intent on destroying Daniel’s life and marriage, or a savior who will teach him the true meaning of art.”
Josh Boone’s Writers with Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, and Logan Lerman. From Wikipedia: “The film will focus on the complicated relationships between a successful novelist, played by Kinnear, his ex-wife (Connelly) and their collegiate daughter and teenage son.”
Andrew Adamson’s Mr. Pip, an adaptation of Lloyd Jones’s bestselling novel with Hugh Laurie. Jay A. Fernandez for the Hollywood Reporter: “Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Mr. Pip tells the story of the last white man left on the war-torn island of Bougainville, Papua New Guinea, who reopens a school and reads his favorite novel, Great Expectations, to the students, inspiring a gifted 14-year-old named Matilda.”
Ziad Doueriri‘s The Attack. From Wikipedia: “An Arab surgeon in Tel Aviv discovers something about his wife after a suicide bombing; based on a novel by Yasmina Khadra.”
Miwa Nishikawa’s Dreams for Sale, about “a married couple who live a happy life together running their small Tokyo eatery until they lose everything in a fire,” writes Kevin Ouellette, who has the trailer at Nippon Cinema. “When Kanya spends the night with a regular customer, Satoko immediately comes up with a plan: she’ll have her husband commit marriage fraud to earn enough money to get back on their feet financially. Together, they take advantage of lonely women and swindle each out of large sums of money, but their activities soon begin to cast a shadow on their own relationship.”
Gauri Shinde’s first feature, English Vinglish, features the comeback of Sridevi and a guest appearance by Amitabh Bachchan.
Maiken Baird’s Venus and Serena, a documentary about the Williams sisters. You know, the tennis stars.
On to the international and North American premieres. First, as noted just yesterday, Mira Nair’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist will open Venice. And that’s all Venice announced yesterday. With today’s announcement, Toronto seems to be trying to attract any potential attendees who can afford to get to just one festival this fall.
At any rate, then there’s the big one: Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder, with Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Rachel Weisz, and Olga Kurylenko. Anne Thompson quoted Weisz in May: “Unorthodox would be a massive understatement. There isn’t really a script, you don’t know what the story is, you don’t know who the other characters are. I knew I was Ben Affleck’s sister and that he was in love with two different women but otherwise I didn’t know what was going on.”
Joe Wright’s Anna Karenina, an adaptation of the Tolstoy novel with Keira Knightley, Jude Law, and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. A six-minute clip appeared just yesterday, but here’s the trailer:
Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep. Wikipedia: “The story centers on widower Jim Grant, a former Weather Underground militant, wanted for a bank robbery and murder, who hid from the FBI for over thirty years, posing as an Albany attorney. He becomes a fugitive when his identity is exposed by an aggressive young reporter. He must find the one person who can clear his name before the FBI catches him, while protecting his 11-year-old daughter.” With Redford, Shia LaBeouf, Susan Sarandon, and Julie Christie. The Playlist‘s Oliver Lyttelton‘s got images.
Updates: Marco Bellocchio’s Dormant Beauty. Synopsis: “Italy is cleaved by Eluana Englaro’s drama, who will die after 17 years spent in a vegetative state. This national tragedy will touch and transform various characters, each of them with their own ideology and beliefs. A senator is struggling with his vote on a law he profoundly disagrees with, torn between his conscience and his loyalty towards the leaders of his party. His daughter Maria, a pro-life activist, is protesting in front of the clinic where Eluana is hospitalized. Roberto and his brother are there in opposition, demonstrating for stronger secular values—yet it is with Roberto, the ‘enemy’ that Maria falls in love. These and other converging stories are connected by a unique emotional thread: a reflection on the meaning of life. Starring Isabelle Huppert, Toni Servillo, Alba Rohrwacher, Michele Riondino, Maya Sansa, Pier Giorgio Bellocchio, Brenno Placido, Fabrizio Falco, Gian Marco Tognazzi, Roberto Herlitzka.”
Cate Shortland’s Lore. Synopsis: “After her Nazi parents are imprisoned, Lore leads her younger siblings across a war-torn Germany in 1945. Amidst the chaos, she encounters mysterious Jewish refugee Thomas, who shatters her fragile reality with hatred and desire. To live, she must trust someone she was taught to hate and face the darkness within herself. Starring Saskia Rosendahl and Kai Malina.”
Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Beyond. Synopsis: “As the police launch a full-scale crackdown on organized crime, it ignites a national yakuza struggle between the Sanno of the East and Hanabishi of the West. What started as an internal strife in Outrage has now become a nationwide war in Outrage Beyond.”
Ana Piterbarg’s Everybody Has a Plan, “the story of Agustín (Viggo Mortensen), a man desperate to abandon what he has gradually come to feel is an unfulfilling existence after years of living in Buenos Aires. Following the death of his identical twin brother Pedro, Agustín sets out to begin his life anew by assuming Pedro’s identity and returning to the mysterious Tigre Delta region where the brothers had spent their childhood. Soon after his homecoming, however, Agustín finds himself unwittingly embroiled in the deadly criminal underworld that his brother had been part of.”
Nikolai Arcel’s A Royal Affair premiered in Berlin in February. “A gripping chapter of European history is recounted with elegance, intelligence and clarity,” wrote David Rooney in the Hollywood Reporter. The film “examines the clash between liberal idealism and reactionary self-interest in a meaty tale of romance, tragedy and court intrigue. Conventional in style and structure without being too starchy, the intimately focused epic has been presold to most major territories, including to Magnolia in the U.S.”
Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car also premiered in Berlin. In Contention‘s Guy Lodge: “Ostensibly a sun-baked, Southern-fried bit of good-natured Americana covering a lot of daddy issues, brotherly bonding, Cadillac-gazing and sanctified masturbation – a Tim McGraw album set to celluloid, in other words – Thornton’s first venture behind the camera since 2001’s Daddy and Them is nonetheless so wilfully random in structure and elusive in subtext that it’s easy to project the influence of anyone from Wes Anderson to Wim Wenders onto it. A long time in the making, and seemingly scarred by wildly capricious script cuts, it’s as genuinely inscrutable a curio as any bit of world-cinema esoterica in the Berlin lineup. With all that said, it’s still not very good.”
Ben Lewin’s The Sessions. Synopsis: “Based on the poignantly optimistic autobiographical writings of California-based journalist and poet Mark O’Brien, The Sessions tells the story of a man confined to an iron lung, who at age 38 is determined to lose his virginity. With the help of his therapists and the guidance of his priest, he sets out to make his dream a reality. Starring John Hawkes, Helen Hunt and William H. Macy.” The trailer:
Chen Kaige’s Caught in the Web. Synopsis: “The story of three women whose worlds collide […and] a social commentary about the ‘sound bite’ society we are becoming, where perception becomes reality and judgments based on limited facts quickly spread, without regard for the truth or the damage they could cause. Starring Mark Chao, Chen Hong and Gao Yuanyuan.”
Stephen Fung’s Tai Chi 0. Synopsis: “Young genius Yang Luchan travels to Chen Village to learn the forbidden secrets of martial arts, but quickly learns that the village is menaced by a formidable battalion of Steampunk soldiers. The villagers realize that in order to save their home, they must trust this strange outsider with their knowledge of Tai Chi.”
Stéphane Brizé’s A Few Hours of Spring. Synopsis: “Forty-eight-year-old Alain Evrard is obliged to return home to live with his mother. This situation causes all the violence of their past relationship to rise to the surface. Alain then discovers that his mother has a fatal illness. In the last months of her life, will they finally be capable of taking a step toward each other?”
Hur Jin-ho’s Dangerous Liaisons. Synopsis: “As war looms in Shanghai, glamorous libertine Mo Jietu (Cecilia Cheung) runs into playboy Xie Yifan (Dong-gun Jang), an ex-boyfriend who’s never stopped loving her. She persuades him to play a treacherous game: Xie must seduce the innocent and naïve Du Fenyu (Zhang Ziyi) and then dump her. But the game becomes increasingly dangerous as Xie falls in love with Du, leading them all to tragic and shocking consequences.”
Hideki Takeuchi’s Thermae Romae. Synopsis: “Ancient Roman architect Lucius (Hiroshi Abe) is too serious. His inability to keep up with the fast-moving times costs him his job. When a friend takes the dejected Lucius to the public bathhouse to cheer him up, Lucius accidentally slips through time and resurfaces in a modern-day public bath in Japan. There, he meets aspiring young manga artist Mami (Aya Ueto), along with others of the ‘flat-faced clan.’ Shocked by the many inventive aspects of Japan’s bathing culture, Lucius returns to ancient Rome and garners tremendous attention when he implements these novel ideas back in Rome. As he time-slips back and forth between ancient Rome and modern-day Japan, Lucius’ reputation as the ingenious, new bath architect begins to grow.”
Ariel Vromen’s The Iceman, “the true story of Richard Kuklinski: loving husband, devoted father, ruthless killer. He is believed to have killed more than 250 people between 1954 and 1985. Starring Winona Ryder, Chris Evans, David Schwimmer, Michael Shannon and Ray Liotta.”
Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg’s Kon-Tiki. Synopsis: “Thor Heyerdahl is a restless spirit. His radical idea kick-starts an impossible mission. Along with five loyal crew, Thor follows an ancient path 4,300 miles across the Pacific on the fragile Kon-Tiki raft. Attacked by tidal waves, sharks and every danger the Ocean can muster, it’s six men battling nature as Kon-Tiki strives to reach land. Having sacrificed everything, even his marriage, Thor must succeed. A true story.”
Wayne Blair’s The Sapphires. Synopsis: “They’re sexy, black, young, talented, and have never set foot outside of Australia. Until, in the chaos of 1968, they’re plucked from the obscurity of a remote Aboriginal mission, branded as the answer to The Supremes—grasping the chance of a life time — and shipped off to Vietnam to entertain the troops. Starring Chris O’Dowd, Deborah Mailman, Jessica Mauboy, Shari Sebbens and Miranda Tapsell.”
And from Cannes (click the titles for the roundups): Jacques Audiard’s