Happening September 5-15, the Toronto International Film Festival provides a fairly decent forecast for the forthcoming awards season. Though both Venice and Telluride film festivals premiere films that will also screen in Toronto, the latter nevertheless remains the most approachable of the September affairs, proving as much a festival for the industry as it is for audiences at large. High-profile films slated this year include Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story; Todd Phillips’ Joker (starring Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role); Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers in Marielle Heller’s A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and much more.
Of course, the festival’s robust programming also includes a healthy selection of foreign films, both debut features and the latest from established filmmakers, as well as documentaries, short films and more. Third Coast will feature my dispatches from the festival’s first week; here’s what I’m looking forward to seeing.
Judy — Renée Zellweger portrays the icon herself, Judy Garland, in Rupert Goold’s highly anticipated biopic of the entertainer’s final year and her concert series at London’s famous Talk of the Town nightclub. From the trailer alone, the film looks stunning, with Zellweger’s embodiment of Garland apparently seamless. Based on the early reviews out of Venice, the film delivers—and then some.
Ema — Pablo Larraín has quickly established himself as one of those filmmakers I’ll seek out no matter what they’ve made. From 2012’s sharp, smart No to the devastatingly dark The Club in 2015 and even his first English-language film, Jackie, starring Natalie Portman as Jackie Kennedy in the aftermath of her husband’s assassination, his films are always meticulously crafted and wholly captivating. Ema, about a family in crisis, stars longtime collaborator Gael García Bernal.
Wet Season — Filmmaking isn’t an easy process, and sometimes it takes time to follow up an impressive debut feature. Such is the case for Anthony Chen, who made a splash with 2013’s Ilo Ilo, about the bond between a young boy and the woman who cares for him. His second feature, Wet Season has a lot to live up to, but by all accounts Chen returns with the clarity, attention to detail and sensitivity that marked his first film.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire — Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood painted a vivid, modern portrait of female adolescence, approaching this phase in a young woman’s life as one as formative and consequential as that of young men (as seen in countless other films). Sciamma transports us back in time for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, following an artist and her subject as their creative relationship becomes something much more.
Jallikattu — Set in the southern region of Kerala, India, Jallikattu follows the chaos as a buffalo escapes from the butcher who purchased it and every man in town wants to get the credit for capturing it. Unfolding at a fever pitch, the film by Lijo Jose Pellissery is just 91 minutes long, meaning he makes the most of each and every scene.
Citizen K — The latest documentary from the prolific Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Dark Side, The Inventor, Going Clear), Citizen K delves deep into the world of international politics and power players as it chronicles Russian businessman and anti-Putin advocate Mikhail Khodorkovsky. The banking and oil magnate rose to prominence in the 1990s only to be knocked off his pedestal when his vocal objections against the Putin regime proved too much for the Russian government to tolerate.
The Truth — Last year, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters succeeded in gorgeously breaking audience’s hearts as it introduced us to an unlikely family of orphans and thieves. At this year’s festival, Kore-eda premieres his first French-language film and he really swings for the fences: The Truth stars Juliette Binoche (!) and Catherine Deneuve (!!) as a daughter and mother whose work collaborations quickly unearth long-buried family resentments. Sold.
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