Last year's 25th anniversary smash was such a success, it is hard to imagine how Toronto would keep up the intensity for so under-whelming a figure as 26. And yet far from an anti-climax, Toronto 2001 already has a buzz about it; albeit not one that will necessarily excite the acquisitions executives.
This year's line-up feels like a return to roots for festival director Piers Handling, a renowned cineaste; 2001 sees the launch of a new programme, Wavelengths, devoted to avant-garde filmmaking, a filmmaker spotlight on the outre Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl and a retrospective of the video work of Canadian filmmaker Jean Pierre Lefebvre -- all of which will be studiously ignored by anyone interested in making money.
Even the choice of opening film, Bruce Sweeney's Last Wedding - an anti-romantic satire -- carries an air of transgression, a challenge to those who would suggest Toronto has grown stodgy with age.
As Sweeney told Screen International, Last Wedding is not the sort of film you invite corporate sponsors to. Then again the corporate sponsors are full of surprises themselves, indulging a love of movies with a nice tax deductible donation.
Perhaps stung by mutterings that Toronto has sold out to the US industry, the press office reminded those who were listening that nearly 60% of the features screening this year are in a language other than English. In addition, the festival is actively attempting to correct the US-bias created in the media (last year, renowned auteurs went without interviews) by launching a festival daily to cover the films and filmmakers who might otherwise be overlooked (Screen International reviewer and Scotland correspondent Allan Hunter will contribute a daily column).
While there will still be junkets, official star-worshipping has been dropped; the festival has wisely retired the tribute night following last year's debacle, where Stephen Frears, the subject, was as baffled as the audience.
Toronto still remains the festival of festivals, its original name, a North American gateway to a wide range of product that has screened at a major continental festival.
Eight of the films in competition at Venice will be screened at Toronto, including Ken Loach's The Navigators, Alfonso Cuaron's Y Tu Mama Tambien, Amos Gitai's Eden, South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk's Address Unknown, Richard Linklater's Waking Life, Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding, Goran Paskaljevic's How Harry Became A Tree and Clare Peploe's The Triumph Of Love. Films screened out of competition or in sidebars at Venice also coming to Toronto include Milcho Manchevski's Dust, Benoit Jacquot's Tosca, Josee Dayan's Cet Amour La and David Mamet's Heist.
Based on the general reactions to Venezia 58, many may end up asking themselves why they had to go to Venice, when Venice (without the rain) is coming to Toronto.
Cet Amour-La (Fr)
Dir: Josee Dayan
Jeanne Moreau's performance as Marguerite Duras is being touted as a Golden Lion winning performance in this drama about the latter years of the writer-filmmaker and French national treasure when she took a companion and lover many years her junior. An intimate portrait of a legendary love affair all the more impressive for its being the debut theatrical feature of French TV director Josee Dayan. It is also screening at Venice.
Hearts In Atlantis (US)
Dir: Scott Hicks
Unjustly perhaps but Snow Falling On Cedars took the 'shine' off director Scott Hicks. That aura should be restored by Hearts In Atlantis, a story of childhood discovery tinged with adult nostalgia that could appeal to a broad audience. Certainly the pedigree is there: based on a collection of stories by Stephen King, adapted by legendary screenwriter William Goldman and starring Anthony Hopkins as curious father-figure with a gift for widening insight in other people
The Last Kiss (It)
Dir: Gabriele Muccino
A box office smash at home in Italy, this urban relationship movie has been described two ways: as a wild, zany dramatic comedy and as a powerful melodrama. Director Muccino recently signed a multi-picture deal with Miramax, first up is the English-language remake of Cedric Klapisch's When The Cat's Away. L'Ultimo Bacio makes its international premiere at Toronto
Last Orders (UK-Ger)
Dir: Fred Schepisi
An appealing cast - Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Helen Mirren - star in this adaptation of Graham Swift's prize-winning novel Last Orders. Although turned down for Cannes, the film has festival engagements at San Sebastian and London as well as Toronto later this year.
Last Wedding (Can) (opening film)
Dir: Bruce Sweeney
Sweeney's anti-romantic comedy follows the disintegration of three relationships with agonisng precision. As brilliantly written as it is performed, this is filmmaking to match a Neil Labute or Todd Solodnz but wiithout the pretensions of art. An audacious choice for Opening Night film.
Life As A House (US)
Dir: Irvin Winkler
New Line Cinema is hot on this emotional drama about a man (Kevin Kline) diagnosed with terminal cancer who decides to spend the rest of his life building his dream house. Directed by Irwin Winkler (At First Sight) from a script by Mark Andrus (As Good As It Gets), it also stars Hayden Christensen as his estranged son, Kristin Scott Thomas as his wife and Mary Steenburgen, Jena Malone, Sam Robards and Scott Bakula.
Dir: David Atkins
Artisan Entertainment opens this dark comedy - the feature directorial debut of David Atkins - in US theatres on Sept 14, directly after its Toronto world premiere. Steve Martin plays a dentist drawn into a world of sex and murder after he falls for an alluring patient (Helena Bonham Carter). Kevin Bacon, Laura Dern, Scott Caan and Elias Koteas also star.
Dir: Peter Chelsom
This romantic comedy should help Peter Chelsom in atoning for Town & Country. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale play a couple that was meant to be together but through fate are separated. Strong supporting cast, including Jeremy Piven and Eugene Levy, is sure to draw viewers in North America. The post-Pearl Harbor Beckinsale is of course very hot.
Taking Sides (UK-Fr-Ger-Aust) Gala
Dir: Istvan Szabo
A Szabo film is always to be anticipated. Written by Ronald Harwood based on his play, the film tells the real-life story of Wilhelm Furtwangler (Stellan Skarsgard), whose powerful position as the conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic during the Third Reich brought him under intense suspicion in the war's aftermath. Harvey Keitel plays the US officer charged with his prosecution. The sumptuous $10.5m production was backed by German finance house MBP.
Bunuel And King Solomon's Table (Sp)
Dir: Carlos Saura
This film brings together some of Spain's biggest names in the arts: veteranCarlos Saura co-wrote and directed the fictional tale about legendary filmmaker Luis Bunuel and his friends, painter Salvador Dali and writer Federico Garcia Lorca. Stars up-and-comers Ernesto Alterio, Pere Arquillue, Adria Collado and El Gran Wyoming.
The Diaries Of Vaslav Nijinski (Aus)
Dir: Paul Cox
Some claim The Diaries Of Vaslav Nijinski to be the be