Toronto prepares for ten days of movie madness

AFP Relax News
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US acting legend Al Pacino will take to the stage for the 2014 TIFF Gala event

Schwarzenegger movie "Maggie" might have ducked out of the star premieres, getting its distribution deal sorted before Toronto's 10-day marathon of movie madness begins, but there's still plenty to keep an eye on at the Canadian event with a huge number of films -- 392 from 79 countries -- and an incredible diversity on offer.

Canada's Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) runs September 4-14, opening with David Dobkin's "The Judge," which has Robert Downey Jr. as the city lawyer returning home to defend his father, town judge Robert Duvall, against a murder charge.

At the other end of the fest is closing night film and period drama "A Little Chaos" from Alan Rickman, with the director himself as French king Louis XIV and Kate Winslet as a gardener commissioned to create a new fountain for the regent's Versailles palace.

Throughout the festival's run, a track of gala presentations and special screenings welcomes high-profile directors and stars with both mainstream and highbrow appeal: Zhang Yimou drama "Coming Home," Ning Hao's comedy "Breakup Buddies," two Al Pacino films in "Manglehorn" and "The Humbling," Hayden Christensen crime thriller "American Heist," and the exploration of family ties in Kevin Costner and Octavia Spencer movie "Black and White" number among them.

This year's TIFF also sees a clutch of historical biopics visit its screens: "The Imitation Game" has Benedict Cumberbatch as codebreaker extraordinaire Alan Turing, while Eddie Redmayne of "Les Miserables" becomes quantum physicist Stephen Hawking for "The Theory of Everything," and Tobey Maguire stars as chess enigma Bobby Fischer in "Pawn Sacrifice."

September 5 has been nominated Bill Murray Day, with free public screenings of the actor's "Stripes," "Groundhog Day" and "Ghostbusters" in the lead-up to new film premiere "St. Vincent."

Several critical darlings from Cannes 2014 also cross the pond, with North American showings for Special Jury Prize winner and Quebec-set "Mommy," painter's portrait "Mr. Turner" with Cannes Best Actor, Timothy Spall, and Un Certain Regard Jury Prize winner "Force Majeure."

Other tracks embrace more obtuse fare with contributions from a globe's worth of auteurs in the Masters program, from Jean-Luc Godard and Michael Winterbotton to Hong Sang-soo, Abderrahmane Sissako and this year's Palme d'Or winner Nuri Bilge Ceylan.

By contrast, the Wavelengths program focuses in on art and experiment, with material from the reknowned Ken Jacobs, Marseille-set French-Taiwanese production "Journey to the West," a crossbreed of literary influences from the world's oldest living filmmaker Manoel de Oliveira in "The Old Man of Belem," and even Viggo Mortensen's turn as an adventurous 19th-century explorer in "Jauja."

Two other schedules are set up to sate fans of international movie-making: the self-explanatory World Cinema program, and TIFF's track for up-and-coming directors.

That second bill, Discovery, pulls in a diversity of exciting projects that include the unbelivable true story "Unlucky Plaza" from Ken Kwek of Singapore; the daring "Stories of Our Lives" from an anonymous Kenyan collective; Sao Paulo's "Obra," which juxtaposes architectural structure with hidden family histories; and irreverent high school comedy "Guidance," which swaps the musical pull of "School of Rock" for inappropriate life advice.

And that's not even yet touching upon several new additions to this year's edition of the Festival; two streets are transformed into public displays of cinematic and artistic wonder, while the Canadian short film track is joined by an international sibling which boasts two of the event's three shortest works as well as Disney Pixar animation "Lava."

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