Buzz titles in Toronto

With the weekend drawing to a close, much has been and gone: much is still to come. And some buzzy titles have started to emerge in the marketplace. Most buyers are still talking about Venice fare, but, unusually, two Canadian comedies have been liked…

These are the rock-band-meets-vampire spoof Suck with Malcolm McDowell as the vampire hunter Eddie Von Helsing and Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper amongst the very believable ranks of the Undead.  And Jacob Tierney’s The Trotsky, meanwhile, is about a high school teenager who believes he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky.

Nice notices surrounded Kirstin Scott-Thomas’s turn in Catherine Corsini’s Leaving (Partir, pictured), a sexy thriller co-starring Sergi Lopez. “We seem to be witnessing the prime of Kristin Scott Thomas as French cinema offers her some of the most demanding roles of her career,” says Screendaily’s Allan Hunter.

Not available but warmly received were Ricky Gervais with The Invention of Lying and Friday’s Up In The Air, with George Clooney already being talked about in terms of awards nominations (another compelling performance has come in from Michael Caine as a vigilante pensioner in the challengingly bleak and violent Harry Brown).

And probably not big-money sellers but nicely received nonetheless were the latest from Francois Ozon, The Refuge; Margarethe von Trotta’s Vision, Bruno Dumont’s challenging Hadewijch (never a good idea, really, to saddle a film with a title that nobody can pronounce); Brazilian real-life drama Jean Charles; and Juan Jose Campanella’s The Secret in Their Eyes.

Mixed nuts
Some of the more anticipated titles out for sale have been met less rapturously, however. Triage, with Colin Farrell as a war photographer returning to Ireland to wrestle with his demons, is “a glum drama that smoulders with angst but never quite catches fire,” says Screendaily’s Tim Grierson.

Perrier’s Bounty, featuring an Irish dreamteam of Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson and Liam Cunningham backed up by Jim Broadbent, is Ian Fitzgibbon’s crack at lowlife Dublin a la Guy Ritchie or Sexy Beast, but never quite manages to pull it off.

Get Low is another anticipated title, with Robert Duvall as a Depression-era old timer who holds his funeral while he’s still alive, but despite a light-footed turn from Bill Murray which steals the show, this is more in the Lifetime drama arena than multiplex or even awards.

Drawing more mixed notices were Carlos Saura’s latest, I, Don Giovanni; Nikki Caro’s Vintner’s Luck; Sebastian Cordero’s Rabia; and Amos Gitai’s Carmel, a personal ode to his late mother. 

Genre genies
The clashing-sword epic Solomon Kane, starring James Purefoy, from the same author who dreamed up the character of Conan the Barbarian, does what it says on the label, say critics, and the Aussie vampire gore-horror Daybreakers from directing brothers Michael and Peter Spierig with Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe creates “a disturbing urban nightmare,” according to Screendaily. 

The oldies are the goodies
Executive producer and ardent supporter Oprah Winfrey stormed through Toronto on the white hot wave which is the Sundance double winner Precious, Lee Daniels’powerful and painful drama about an overweight, abused, illiterate black teenager in Harlem of 1987 which somehow also manages to be hopeful and joyous by its finale. Patiently doing the rounds of the international festivals, Precious is building up for an assault onawards season.

As are Best Foreign Film hopefuls such as Cannes winner The White Ribbon, A Prophet and China’s bafflingly-turned-down from Cannes and Venice City Of Life And Death. Films such as Ong Bak 2, already successfully opened across Asia, prepared for their US release to enthusiastic audiences. 

Hot from Italy
It’s beginning to sound like a familiar refrain, but the strongest buzz titles in Toronto are still those which travelled over from Venice: in particular,Tom Ford’s A Single Man, set to premiere here on Monday night. But Jessica Hausner’s Lourdes, which has already sealed a raft of international deals post-Venice including to Palisades in the US, is also being eagerly-watched.

And Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, apparently in brisk negotiations. And Samuel Moaz’s Golden Lion winner Lebanon, of course, And debut Italian thriller The Double Hour.

And I Am Love…being repped by The Works International….and…. In today…It’s beginning to look like a vintage Venice, but there’s more to come in Toronto on Monday: Atom Egoyan’s Chloe; Neil Jordan’s Ondine; A Solitary Man, with Michael Douglas; Tian Zhuangzhuang’s The Warrior and the Wolf; Bruce Beresford’s Mao’s Last Dancer and, of course, Drew Barrymore’s directorial debut Whip It.Yes, indeed, that’s what we’ve all been waiting for….