Toronto Film Festival 10 Days and 300 Movies

By Harper Barnes Post-Dispatch Critic | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), September 24, 1995 | Go to article overview

Toronto Film Festival 10 Days and 300 Movies


Harper Barnes Post-Dispatch Critic, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


TORONTO is the site of the most important film festival in North America.

That's not just one critic's opinion. Variety, the show-business publication, recently asked 100 motion-picture executives from around the world to rank the festivals, and they put the annual petting zoo at Cannes at the top of the list, followed in order by the Berlin, Venice and Toronto film festivals.

The other big North American festivals trailed behind.

Telluride, held over Labor Day weekend in the mountains of Colorado, is probably more fun than Toronto because much of its casual, stand-in-the-john-line-with-the-stars atmosphere has remained, despite the ongoing Aspenification of the old mining town/ski resort. But Telluride shows three or four dozen films over 3 1/2 days rather than Toronto's 300 over 10 days.

Paradoxically, one reason Telluride is so much fun is that very little business is done, and the film publicists who flock to Toronto find Telluride frustratingly unreceptive to their mission. In other words, one of the main reasons I enjoy Telluride - nobody is pestering me to interview stars and directors - is the very reason I choose to go to Toronto instead.

This year, for example, those available for interviews included Diane Keaton and Mia Farrow (although, understandably, not in the same room or even the same hotel), Denzel Washington, Sean Penn, Andy Garcia, Treat Williams, Uma Thurman, Harvey Keitel, James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave and several dozen other stars and directors.

The other big mountain film festival, Sundance, which takes place in Utah in January, has become the major market for American independent features, but the good films that premiere at Sundance tend to make it eight months later to Toronto.

The always important New York Film Festival, which begins on Friday, has commendably maintained its mission as primarily a place for New York-area film buffs to preview good new releases.

Films are shown in the evenings and on weekends, when ordinary people can get to them, whereas Toronto begins showing movies at 9 in the morning and doesn't stop until well after midnight, so if you have the time and are really crazy you can easily see six movies a day for 10 days in a row at Toronto.

Three a day, plus an interview or two and at least one sit-down lunch or dinner was my goal for this year's festival, which began Sept. 7.

I ended up on the money, with 30 movies, a dozen interviews and some terrific Indonesian, Japanese and French food, plus a lot of fruit, muffins and Wendy-burgers on the run.

One of the added attractions of the Toronto festival is that it takes place right in the middle of this very cosmopolitan city - it's New York or Chicago with much less crime - so there is plenty to do when movies begin to pall. And they do.

Overall, the quality of the movies this year, the festival's 20th, seemed a bit lower than in 1994. Nothing seemed as overwhelmingly good as at least four of last year's offerings - "Heavenly Creatures," "Once Were Warriors," "Hoop Dreams" and "Crumb" - and nothing deeply controversial came out of the blue to have everyone talking about it, as "Priest" did last year.

Still, when you only see 10 percent of the bill, you are working from a very narrow sampling. For instance, "Antonia's Line," the Dutch film about the life of a woman in the second half of this century, was given the People's Choice award by audience vote at the end of the festival and was widely praised by critics, but its screenings managed to elude me.

Here are 10 favorites, very roughly in order of preference. All can be expected to open here within the next six or eight months, and "Frankie Starlight" will be shown at the St. Louis Film Festival in late November. Others on the list may also be booked for our growing and respected festival.

Several film makers and executives said something along the lines of "Hope to see you this year at the St. …

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