Unusual Offerings Highlight Toronto Film Festival

By Ashton, Stephen | American Cinematographer, February 1996 | Go to article overview

Unusual Offerings Highlight Toronto Film Festival


Ashton, Stephen, American Cinematographer


One of the largest celebrations of cinema in the northern hemisphere, the "Festival of Festivals" recently presented its 20th installment.

Toronto has proven itself in recent years to be something of a film mecca, attracting productions from both inside and outside Canada because of its ability to pass for many other cities. Also becoming increasingly popular is the city's International Film Festival; the most recent edition celebrated the 20th anniversary of what was known for years as a "Festival of Festivals," a place where one could see a collection of great films from other international festivals. But the scope and scale of the event has expanded so that it is an international fete in its own right, attracting audiences from around the world.

Coinciding with the Festival is the Forum, a popular series of special seminars and meetings designed for professionals who want to expand into other areas of their professions. Acclaimed actor/director Kenneth Branagh was this year's keynote speaker and he, along with actor Michael Malony, gave a rousing, often humorous account of how they made In the Bleak Midwinter (Midwinter's Tale) amid the perils of international coproduction.

Toronto's theaters are at full capacity during festival time, filled mostly with cinephiles who wait hours in line and keep coming back for film after film. In the last few years the sellout crowds have caused consternation among film industry folks who flock to Toronto to see new pictures and finalize deals which have stirred interest since the preceding Cannes film festival and Venice. This year, several new screens were put into operation to accommodate more screenings exclusively for the press and industry attendees.

Toronto's Gala Screenings include event presentations of studio films for the most part, but also feature new Canadian and international films. Included this go-'round were Carl Franklin's Devil in a Blue Dress, Gus Van Sant's To Die For, Diane Keaton's Unstrung Heroes, Andrew Davis' Steal Big, Steal Little, James Keach's The Stars Fell on Henrietta, Peter Yates' Run of the Country, Charles Matthau's The Grass Harp, Sean Penn's The Crossing Guard, Woody Alien's Mighty Aphrodite, Mike Figgis' Leaving Las Vegas, Doris Dorrie's Nobody Loves Me, Darrell Roodt's Cry the Beloved Country, Mort Ransen's Margaret's Museum, Tomas Gutierrez Alea and Juan Carlos Tabio's Guantanamera, Michael Verhoeven's My Mother's Courage, Claude Sauter's Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud, and Robert Lepage's Le Confessional.

Although the lineup of highprofile films is impressive, the Toronto Festival also provides a great opportunity to see and appreciate films which might otherwise have a hard time getting noticed. Among the most noteworthy were Desolation Angels and Synthetic Pleasures, covered below. Another impressive entry was Rude, the debut film by Clement Virgo, which will be the subject of a feature story in next month's AC.

Desolation Angels (USA)

Director: Tim McCann

Cinematographer: Matthew Howe

Tim McCann's debut film has been earning him such accolades as Toronto's FIPRESCI Award for Best First Feature (which was shared with another picture) and the Merchant Ivory Award at Telluride. Desolation Angels is set amongst a group of friends who fall victim to rage and jealousy. Nick (Michael Rodrick) and Sid (Peter Bassett) share very little in common, although they have been close friends since college: Nick comes from a working class background, while Sid is spoiled by his rich mother, who can't resist his manipulating pleas to fund his would-be acting career. After returning from a month spent out of town taking care of his sick mother, Nick discovers that Sid has made unwanted advances toward his girlfriend Mary (Jennifer Thomas) during his absence.

Director McCann graduated with honors from the SUNY Purchase Film program in 1987 along with Hal Hartley, Bob Gosse and Nick Gomez. Hartley's success with his ultra low-budget The Unbelievable Truth inspired McCann, who works as a cinematographer when not directing, to produce his own film rather than wait to be discovered by Hollywood. …

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