30,918 minutes of film was shown over the 10 days of the Toronto International Film Festival, culminating in the People’s Choice Award on Sunday. That’s approximately 515 hours, 21 days, or to put it more eloquently, a shitload of film. While he wasn’t able to catch every second of the three weeks worth of cinema our ‘man about film’ Owen Nicholls, has done his best to catch the films that will be on your radar in the not-too-distant future.
Unquestionably one of the stand outs from the festival so far is Room 237, a documentary looking into the outlandish theories about the meaning behind Stanley Kubrick’s horror classic The Shining. Using doctored footage of Kubrick’s own masterpieces, filmmaker Rodney Ascher weaves together batshit conspiracies ranging from obsessive sexual imagery to Stan’s involvement in the faking of the moon landings. Equal parts tribute to, and pisstake of, over-analysis, the most telling part is perhaps in the wavering voices of those reciting their persuasions, as if they’re not entirely convinced of their hypothesises themselves. You can de-construct the theories yourself when Room 237 opens in the UK on October 26th.
One film guaranteed never to inspire the kind of fervent ramblings that The Shining warrants is Writers. Although, coincidentally, there is a nice Stephen King connection here. The tale of an accomplished writer (played by Greg Kinnear) and his unapologetic desire to make his children follow in his footsteps is hampered by a constant name-checking of authors and bands and favourite novels that only emphasises the weakness of what’s on display, especially the “acting” of Lily Collins. If it does get picked up for UK release it’s fair to say it’s best left unread.
One man never in need of quotation marks around the word acting is Michael Shannon, completely believable in every single role he inhabits. In The Iceman, Shannon takes centre stage as a killer for hire with less morals than a Republican Talk Show Host. Happy to do his job with the misguided notion that “it’s for his family” Shannon’s Kuklinski is Walter White without the empathy. Backed by a host of fine performances from Winona Ryder, Ray Liotta, Chris Evans and David Schwimmer (sporting a ‘Ross goes to the Prom’ moustache), The Iceman may be small in scale but the performance at the core is huge.
Another lesson in acting finery comes courtesy of Robert Duvall in Jayne Mansfield’s Car, the fourth directorial feature film from Billy Bob Thornton. The one time consigliere to the family Corleone plays the patriarch of the Caldwell family still dealing with the absence of a mother who left them to marry a Brit decades ago. It’s as offbeat as you’d expect from the ex-Mr. Jolie – who also stars as a simpleton damaged by WWII – which is meant as a compliment. It is also yet another ensemble featuring Kevin Bacon, making the likelihood of achieving a “Bacon Number Higher Than Two” with any actor virtually impossible.
Easily one of the biggest films to début at TIFF was Cloud Atlas, the much anticipated adaptation of David Mitchell’s critically acclaimed best-seller, starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and a host of other thespian talent in multiple roles. Considering the word ‘unfilmable’ had been bandied about so often and the directors behind the project include The Matrix‘s Wachowski siblings, film fans waited with baited breath for the first reaction. Immediately after the première’s ended Twitter was awash with negative reviews facetiously claiming “No-one can be told how bad Cloud Atlas is…you have to see it for yourself.” While there was more than a whiff of review-written-before-film to some of the immediate feedback, the consensus was mixed to poor.
I saw it for myself and while I was impressed by the ambition on display for the first two-thirds, the final act was executed so badly all my admiration slowly seeped away. One thing is for certain, a paragraph or two isn’t enough space to truly get into the myriad faults and virtues the film possesses, so check back in March 2013 for a full and extensive review. For now all I will say is, if it manages to turn a huge profit I’ll eat a copy of the original novel.
Another eagerly awaited, but better received film, was Greetings From Tim Buckley, the first of two works due for release about the life of revered musician Jeff Buckley and his fractious relationship with his father. As a fan of both I must admit to pessimism before the screening, but it quickly becomes apparent that the tales of the father and the son are in very safe hands with director Daniel Algrant who opts to tell a section of Jeff’s life rather an an all-encompassing biopic. The section chosen, the run up to Jeff’s performance at a tribute concert for his father, is deeply affecting and Penn Badgley impresses as a son conflicted as well as a musician on the verge. Look out for Kate Nash as a fellow musician also playing the concert.
Check back after the weekend for the final part in our guide to TIFF, which will hopefully include The Master, already hailed as a modern classic, Pieta, which recently picked up the Venice award for Best Film, 50-Cent starring documentary How To Make Money Selling Drugs, and Joss Whedon’s take on Much Ado About Nothing. 30,918 minutes really is a lot of film.