I am on my way to the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). This is the 30th anniversary of my first visit there (and also of my marriage, since the 1984 TIFF was where my wife and I went for our honeymoon)!
I’ve returned nearly every year. The highly intelligent, cinephilic audience is what impressed me from the start; I actually make a point of eavesdropping on people’s movie conversations on line, since I’ve gathered great tips from these. The programming is excellent, and it’s vast. Some complain that the festival has been overtaken by too much glitz; this Friday, for example, has been dubbed Bill Murray Day. In fact, there is so much new and classic international, documentary, and experimental work to choose from, cinephiles’ griping about all the movie star coverage and gawking seems to me churlish. Having been a festival director for many years, I know the glitz generates attention and festivity, and helps raise the visibility of the film art that is a film festival’s true raison d’etre. Plus, I’ve had many star encounters there myself, including memorable Q&A’s with James Franco, Gael Garcia Bernal, and Philip Glass, lunches with Tilda Swinton and Roger Ebert when I was recruiting them for my festivals, and even elevator rides with Raul Julia and Gabriel Byrne, that I won’t deny were thrilling.
A big part of what I’m doing here is scouting some of the major new releases that can fill some of the prime evening slots I’ve held open in our schedule. I call them the “icing,” because the cake itself is mostly baked. Several of the most renowned and important independent filmmakers in the U.S., with some extraordinary films, live performances, and media installations, have already signed up to come to our festival November 12-16. Through a series of announcements you’ll find here and in the press, beginning September 10 and building towards our October 21 full program unveiling, you’ll get to judge whether the cake is as tasty and substantial as I believe it to be.
The “icing” will be drawn from an array of upcoming releases previewing here that relate to our arts theme, are made by accomplished directors, and feature well-known and respected actors. I’ll be checking out the second William Faulkner adaptation James Franco has directed, Sound and the Fury, having been impressed by his As I Lay Dying. I hope to get in to Mike Leigh’s Cannes sensation Mr. Turner on the great English painter, Julie Taymor’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Reese Witherspoon’s performance as writer Cheryl Strayed in Wild, and much more. I’ve already seen and loved Olivier Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, showing in Toronto and featuring a stunning performance by Kristen Stewart as the assistant to a movie star played by Juliette Binoche. When I like the films, I pursue them, and hope that their distributors are not holding them back for Sundance in January or later release, as is, sadly, often the case.
I’ve made great catches out of Toronto every year, including I Am Love with Swinton, Black Swan, and last year’s Nebraska, so I think the familiar optimism I’m feeling, en route to Toronto, is entirely justified.