The Toronto International Film Festival may have defied tradition by programming a non-Canadian film for opening night (that film is Jon Amiel's CREATION starring Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly) but that doesn't mean the Canadian powerhouses won't be represented. I'm very happy to see Atom Egoyan, Don McKellar and Sarah Polley all have new films at this year's fest according to the The Toronto Star.
Atom Egoyan's CHLOE is an erotic thriller starring Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson, based on a French film called NATHALIE from 2003. Moore stars as a suspicious wife who hires a prostitute to test her husband's fidelity.
Don McKellar plays a diplomat living in India in Dilip Mehta's WHAT'S COOKING, STELLA? And if that name sounds familiar, it's because his sister is Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta, director of WATER, EARTH and FIRE, not to mention BOLLYWOOD HOLLYWOOD. Deepa co-produced and co-wrote WHAT'S COOKING, STELLA?
And in perhaps the most intriguing news, Sarah Polley co-stars with Jared Leto in MR. NOBODY, a Belgian science fiction movie that spans centuries. Check out the trailer below.
Cinematical reports that Chlotrudis Hall-of-Famer Philip Seymour Hoffman will be stepping behind the camera for the first time with JACK GOES BOATING, an adaptation of an Off-Broadway play by Bob Glaudini. Phil will also star in this quirky, romantic comedy opposite GONE BABY GONE'S Amy Ryan. With "cooking classes, swimming lessons, and illegal drugs" involved in the plot, it's sure to be quirky and fun. Given Phil's thoughtful film choices as an actor, and his experience directing for the stage, it's a safe bet that he will make a fine film director.
Next up for Phil as an actor is the intriguing-sounding Richard Curtis film, THE BOAT THAT ROCKED. Phil will co-star opposite Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy and Kenneth Brannagh among others, and Curtis is responsible for the Mr. Bean films and the Bridget Jones films among others. Sounds like fun to me!
For those of you wondering how Taiwan-based director Tsai Ming-Liang plans to top THE WAYWARD CLOUD and I DON'T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE, here's news about his next film. Of course the cast includes Lee Kang-sheng, but it will be interesting to see if former model Laetitia Casta can hold her own, and make viewers forget what could have been with the now-retired-from-acting Maggie Cheung in the role.
With the prestigious fall movie season almost underway, here are but ten (and in a few cases, relatively) independent films I’m looking forward to. Release dates are New York ones (so we might not see a few of the December releases in Boston until Jan. or beyond) and as always, subject to change.
Since I’ve missed it at two local film festivals, will some daring programmer in Boston please book a run of Lance Hammer’s acclaimed, purportedly visually stunning, self-distributed debut feature? If not, I’ll attempt to make a one-off screening with the director in person on September 29 at the Harvard Film Archive. (Oct. 1)
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED
The plot sounds like a retread of last year’s MARGOT AT THE WEDDING, but great reviews from Toronto say otherwise—a long awaited return-to-form (and return to relatively low-budget filmmaking) from Jonathan Demme? A great role for Anne Hathaway? The triumphant return of Debra Winger? (Oct. 3)
Mike Leigh’s last two features haven’t exactly been a barrel of laughs, so I anticipate his upbeat tale of a relentlessly optimistic London schoolteacher (Sally Hawkins), and also approach it with a little caution, for Leigh’s sharpest work has only the faintest rays of hope struggling through all the gloom and dysfunction. (Oct. 10)
LET THE RIGHT ONE IN
I missed this supposedly sweet, Swedish, coming-of-age vampire film when it played Provincetown this year, and I don’t intend to do so if it plays here again—after all the lurid, sexed-up stuff we’ve seen on the subject, this alternative take sounds refreshing. (Oct. 24)
SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK
In his directorial debut (and first film since ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND), Charlie Kaufman gives us Philip Seymour Hoffman as a theatre director building a life-sized replica of New York City inside a warehouse. Sounds like it’ll be either mind-blowing or completely inscrutable, but not boring. (Oct. 24)
A CHRISTMAS TALE
Arnaud Despelchin follows KINGS AND QUEEN with this holiday-set ensemble piece that received more than a few raves when it premiered in Cannes last May. Promisingly, the cast reprises a few faces from the earlier film, including Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Devos and Catherine Deneuve. (Nov. 14)
High expectations for this biopic to be the next BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN—it just might work if Sean Penn (as slain gay elected official Harvey Milk) proves his mettle while not overacting, and if director Gus Van Sant transforms the instinctual feel of his last few films into a more approachable (but not too conventional) narrative. (Nov. 26)
WENDY AND LUCY
Kelly Reichardt’s OLD JOY suggested a lot of potential I hope her new film fulfills. It sounds like another deceptively simple but carefully constructed story, involving a woman (Michelle Williams), her dog and an impoverished economic milieu most American movies overlook or ignore. (Dec. 10)
Winning the top prize at Cannes doesn’t necessarily equate a great film. Laurent Cantet’s (HEADING SOUTH) French classroom drama will hopefully be a worthy successor to last year’s winner. (Dec. 12)
WALTZ WITH BASHIR
Unusual, innovative animated features that manage to find an audience always intrigue me. This Israeli film, which straddles the line between fiction and documentary and looks like a cross between WAKING LIFE and PERSEPOLIS, may be the next. (Dec. 26)
Okay, so Ellen Page seems to get an inordinate amount of attention on Mewsings, but after all, Chlotrudis did kind of discover her back in 2005 awarding her with a Beakthrough Award... and the rest is history. Besides, she's just so good! Case in point: the other day I blogged about a film at Sundance called SMART PEOPLE, starring Dennis Quaid, Ellen Page, Thomas Haden Church and Sarah Jessica Parker. This will probably be Ellen's next film to hit the big screen (unless U.S. distribution wises up and picks up on THE TRACEY FRAGMENTS... or better yet, it plays at the Independent Film Festival of Boston) and I've gotta say, judging by this clip Miramax has released, Ellen's in fine form as usual, and the rest of the film looks pretty good as well. It's director Noam Murro's first feature, but I'm excited about his next project, an adaptation of Alice Munro's Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, with Julianne Moore in talks to star.
I missed a trailer in my round-up of movies of Chlotrudis interest opening this year. This weekend, in fact, in New York City, people can enjoy STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, a literary look at an aging professor and the young woman writing her thesis on him. It features terrific performances from Lauren Ambrose and Lili Taylor, but this film belongs to the sublime Frank Langella. Definitely worth a look.
The end of the year is always stuffed to the gills with new film releases deemed "award contenders," albeit the award most people think of involves a naked gold man rather than a cat on a stick. Still many of the releases are films that spark a lot of Chlotrudis interest. Here is a list of some of the films that Chlotrudis members will want to take note of in the waning weeks of Chlotrudis eligibility.
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING is director Noah Baumbach's follow-up to THE SQUID AND THE WHALE starring Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jack Black. Chlotrudis honoree Tracy Wright gave this film high marks in Toronto, and that's enough for me! MARGOT AT THE WEDDING opens in Boston on November 21.
SMILEY FACE is director Gregg Araki's follow-up to MYSTERIOUS SKIN. Switching gears rom the intense drama from his Chlotrudis Award nominated film, SMILEY FACE is a light-hearted, stoner comedy starring Anna Farris.
I'M NOT THERE is Todd Haynes follow-up to the Chlotrudis Award winning FAR FROM HEAVEN. This one has gotten a lot of buzz, with six different actors playing aspects of the legendary Bob Dylan. I saw this on in Toronto, and I highly recommend it. Don't worry if you're not a huge Dylan fan, I'M NOT THERE is more about Todd Haynes than it is about Bob Dylan. And I will echo the other critics when I say you have got to see Cate Blanchett's performance to believe it. This one comes out next week in Boston as well.
THE SAVAGES is Tamara Jenkins' long-awaited follow-up to THE SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS and it should be of particular interest to Chlotrudis members as it stars Chlotrudis multiple award winning Philip Seymour Hoffman and multiple-nominee Laura Linney. THE SAVAGES opens in limited release at the end of November
THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY is director Julian Schnabel's follow-up to BEFORE NIGHT FALLS, and in addition to the positive reviews it has received on the festival circuit, it stars Chlotrudis nominee Mathieu Almaric, Emmanuelle Seigner most recently in LA VIE EN ROSE, and Marie-Josée Croze from ARARAT and THE BARBARIAN INVASIONS. THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY gets a limited release on November 30.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD is the much-anticipated new film from director Paul Thomas Anderson starring Daniel Day Lewis and Paul Dano. It squeaks in at the end of December with a NY/LA release, and hopefully will follow soon in Boston.
Cinematical reports that WAITRESS wasn't Adrienne Shelly's last project after her tragic and untimely death just over one year ago in November 2006. Shelly had a finished script that is now heading into production. SERIOUS MOONLIGHT is a dark comedy about a "high-powered female attorney who learns that her husband is about to leave her for another woman, then prevents him from doing so by binding him to the toilet with duct tape." Okay, it sounds a little like an episode of "Desperate Housewives," but with Shelley's quirky sensibilities, it's bound to be something more.
Cheryl Hines, who co-starred with Keri Russell and Shelley in WAITRESS is attached to direct SERIOUS MOONLIGHT. It will be her directorial debut. Shelly's husband, Andy Ostroy, will co-produce along with Michael Roiff. Casting is currently underway, and Ostroy has expressed his desire to put together the team that was part of the WAITRESS family for this film, so expect Keri Russell to get involved as well.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Apicatpong "Joe" Weeasethakul's new film SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY. Apparently there's quite a story brewing around this film by the director of Buried Treasure nominee TROPICAL MALADY. After Thailand's Censorship Board demanded Joe cut four "sensitive scenes" from his film, he decided not to release the film in his home country unless the laws were changed to allow it to be screened in its intended form. Joe has started a petition of have those laws changed called the "Free Thai Cinema Movement" where he says, ""We're petitioning not only for a just decision for Syndromes and a Century, but also for a long-needed modernization of Thai legislation concerning movie censorship." GreenCine Daily reports that the movement is receiving some serious backing from political and cultural heavyweights. Chlotrudis members, especially those that voted for this year's Best Documentary winner THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, should take a look at the petition and consider signing it. I did.
Incidentally, according to Limitless Cinema, the four "sensitive scenes" that the Thai Censorship Board demanded cut showed:
- a young monk playing a guitar
- a group of doctors drinking whisky in a hospital basement
- a doctor kissing his girlfriend in a hospital locker room
- two monks playing with a radio-controlled flying saucer
Now don't you really want to sign the petition?
posted on behalf of Gil Cordova by Michael Colford at the O'Hare Airport in Chicago!
While some may associate the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin only with music, SXSW is actually a ten-day festival in mid-March that also includes an interactive media conference in addition to one of the top film festivals and film conferences in the country. As some of you know, Amanda and I lived in Austin before moving to Boston and we’ve been able to attend SXSW on and off for the last ten years. So this year, we were fortunate enough to travel south for a steady diet of good films interspersed with margaritas, barbecue, and warm weather.
With all that in mind, here’s a quick rundown of the films that we saw:
RUNNING WITH ARNOLD – Half-baked political doc about the action star turned California governor. Despite some great footage, the film only brushed the surface as to why California voters thought Arnold was their best option to govern the state. Due to scheduling, the film didn’t include his recent re-election which would have provided another interesting chapter of the Arnold saga. (2 ½ cats)
THE UNFORESEEN – In this documentary produced by Robert Redford and Terence Malick, Austin filmmaker Laura Dunn profiles the life of real estate developer Gary Bradley and his battles with local Austin environmentalists. The film, which includes some of the most gorgeous cinematography that you are likely to see, presents a thorough analysis of the types of sacrifices that come with economic progress. (4 ½ cats) Will be screened at IFFB.
STEAL A PENCIL FOR ME (www.stealapencil.com)–Director Michele Ohayon (Cowboy del Amor) profiles the life of Jack Polak, a young accountant who was sent to a concentration camp in 1943 with both his wife and girlfriend. Adapted from the novel by the same name, the film is both a tragedy and a love story and also noteworthy for condensing a large amount of history and personal narrative in an informative and engaging manner. (4 ½ cats)
SCRAMBLED BEER (MALTA CON HUEVO) – Odd-couple comedy from Chile about a slob who is trying to get along with his neat freak roommate. Formulaic at first, the film has some nice twists that prove original and entertaining. (3 ½ cats)
EAGLE VS. SHARK – Certain to appeal to fans of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE and MURIEL'S WEDDING. A funny little comedy from New Zealand about two relationship-challenged twentysomethings. (4 cats) Will be screened at IFFB.
KNOCKED UP – the latest comedy by one of my favorite writers/directors, Judd Apatow, who directed THE FORTY YEAR-OLD VIRGIN and the cult TV shows "Freaks and Greeks" and "Undeclared." In this film, Seth Rogan plays Ben, an aimless slacker who is forced to make some mature decisions when he “knocks up” Katherine Heigl after a drunken one-night stand. As with Virgin, Apatow brings some heart and depth to a one-note premise and it is certain to be one of the better studio films that will be released this summer. (4 ½ cats)
638 WAYS TO KILL CASTRO – British filmmaker Dollan Cannell looks into the countless attempts by the CIA and Cuban exiles to kill Fidel Castro. Without doubt, the film includes some unbelievable footage, yet I couldn’t help but think that the parts were better than the whole. Still worth checking out for those thought-provoking parts. (3 ½ cats)
RUN GRANNY RUN – Documentary about 90-year-old Doris “Granny D” Haddock who was the Democratic nominee for the New Hampshire US Senate seat. Underestimated by both her opponents and allies, Granny D struck a chord with voters as she campaigned against politicians who caved in to special interests. One of the better political docs that I’ve seen and another example of the difference that one person can make. (4 cats)
MONKEY WARFARE – In this Canadian feature starring Chlotrudis faves Don McKellar and Tracy Wright, the two actors play former revolutionaries who are keeping a low profile from the authorities. As a result they are forced to work low-income office jobs and sell garage sales purchases on the Internet. When the two encounter a young woman intent on taking on the establishment, an interesting conflict develops. While McKellar is great as usual, the film is a true showcase for Wright. (4 cats) Will be screened at IFFBoston AND CO-SPONSORED BY CHLOTRUDIS.
As is the case with festivals, we could not see everything that we wanted to see. Fortunately, the Independent Film Festival of Boston (IFFB) will be screening many of the most buzzed-about films that were shown at SXSW. IFFB starts next Wednesday, April 25 and continues through Monday, April 30th. Some of the films include:
FAY GRIM - the IFFB opening night film and a follow-up to Hal Hartley’s Henry Fool
AUDIENCE OF ONE – Special Jury Award Doc Winner at SXSW about a minister who believes that God told him to make the next blockbuster biblical film
BLACK SHEEP – Peter Jackson-produced horror/comedy about genetically-mutated killer sheep
HANNAH TAKES THE STAIRS – the new film from “mumblecore” filmmaker Joe Swanberg (LOL) and starring fellow “mumblecore” filmmakers Andrew Bujalski (MUTUAL APPRECIATION), Mark Duplass (THE PUFFY CHAIR) and Todd Rohal (THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE)
THE KING OF KONG – Documentary about competitors looking to break the world record score on video game classic Donkey Kong
A LAWYER WALKS INTO A BAR – Documentary about the legal world and five law school graduates studying for the bar exam
Many festival films now have their own websites and MySpace pages where you can view trailers which is the best way to get an idea as to whether you might want to see the film. If you haven’t already checked out the IFFBoston lineup (www.iffboston.org), I encourage you to check it out so you’ll be all set for next week.