Ford sounds a triumph
The difference in tone between Venice and Toronto is palpable; the Canadian largest city feels like film doing business, the Lido feels like film doing art. The Varsity screening rooms may be thronged and the action has certainly switched here, but Venice isn’t going down without a fight – last out of the box was former Gucci creative genius Tom Ford with A Single Man, his adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s 1962-set drama about a gay man (Colin Firth) suffering the loss of his partner (it plays in Toronto on Monday night).
Amidst talk of awards and standing ovations at press conferences for Ford (he co-wrote and directed and “gets it spectacularly right” according to Screendaily’s Lee Marshall) and Firth (who “gives his most nuanced, compelling performance to date”), Venice said goodbye on a triumphant creative note - even as projections started breaking down and the old efficiency gremlins began to play up…
He’s Single, the Coens are Serious
However, Toronto had plenty to say on its first two days.
Amusingly back on form are the Coen Brothers, setting their very personal A Serious Man (there is also a film called A Solitary Man here at Toronto: it’s a man-fest) in midwestern America of 1967. With its strong Jewish setting – it makes Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime seem practically atheist in its approach – this is a film to relish, richly amusing and so nicely performed by a cast of mostly unknowns. Admittedly small-scale and a bit of a push for the multiplex – lots of Yiddish phrases, a Hebrew school and a prologue set in Poland might cut the wider audience loose – A Solitary Man is up their with their best work.
Paul Bettany creates a stir…
Stars are tripping over themselves in Toronto. First up, naturally, were the opening night Mr & Mrs act – Paul Bettany and wife Jennifer Connelly playing “the Darwins” in Creation, Jon Amiel’s take on how On the Origin of Species came to be published. It’s a serious film, with a strong central performance amidst some challenges thrown up by Amiel’s choice of dramatic devices (in particular Darwin’s dead 10-year-old daughter, who gets far too much screen-time). It’s hard to be a festival opening film – these days, most producers avoid the slot like the plague, but Creation managed to vault its first hurdle. Next challenge: distribution and awards.
The combination of Juno writer and former erotic dancer Diablo Cody with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen star Megan Fox is irresistible to a certain demographic: paparazzi and teenage boys being top of the list. Especially when she does this thing for the cameras where she sucks her fingers….
Jennifer’s Body, the latest in the teen horror parade co-starring Amanda Seyfried, may have been greeted with a lukewarm nib by critics: “Despite its obvious selling points, Jennifer’s Body can’t help but feel unsatisfying,” says Screendaily’s Tim Grierson – but, frankly, who cares? Megan is in it and she looked hot on the red carpet.
George Clooney, another absurdly good-looking human being, laid waste to the Lido last week and repeated his charm offensive in the Canadian capital yesterday – first with the Venice title The Men Who Stare At Goats, with co-stars Jeff Bridges and Ewan McGregor, then with Jason Reitman’s Up In The Air.
Goats,directed by Clooney’s producing partner Grant Heslov, is a smart if light entertainment set mostly in Kuwait. Reminiscent of Three Kings, but significantly less biting, Goats casts Clooney as a member of a secret US army corp with “psychic powers”. Ewan McGregor is the small-town journalist who tracks their story down, and Jeff Bridges is the unit’s hippy leader.
Clooney is pretty good in Goats, but the critics were really taken by his turn opposite Vera Farmiga in Jason Reitman’s (Thank You For Smoking, Juno) latest comedy, Up In The Air.“Clooney is….flawless,” said Screendaily’s Tim Grierson. Not much more you can say than that, really.