It didn’t take long to get back to the festivals…
I feel like all the pieces are in the right place after announcements from New York (FIRST!) and Toronto, with the Telluride schedule showing itself more clearly than ever because of TIFF’s new rules about opening weekend and North American premieres.
I hate the idea of this all being a competition between the festivals. All three are so distinct. They each have a purpose. And for me, the more above board everyone is, the better.
The first thing that really strikes me about the TIFF announcement today is the absence of Cannes. There are three titles from the main competition that have been announced (Foxcatcher, Mr. Turner, and Wild Tales). Also, there is the Sundance premiere, Whiplash, that was at Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight. in All three are top notch and are being distributed in the US by Sony Classics… and all four will probably be in Telluride before Toronto.
Of course, there will be further announcements, but currently, aside from Sony Classics’ entries… no Palme D’or winner Winter Sleep, no Grand Prix winner Le Meraviglie (The Wonders), no Un Certain Regard winner Feher Isten).
Xavier Dolan’s Mommy has a release date in Canada in mid-September, as well as US distribution, announced today, by Roadside Attractions, which would make sense as a critics/publicity opportunity.
And again, pointing out that there are more announcements to come… but could there be a better TIFF film than Clouds of Sils Maria? IFC may not be up for paying the costs associated with a gala, but Kristen Stewart and Chloe Moretz are TIFF superstars. Juliette Binoche, who also conceived of the film with Olivier Assayas is a major veteran star and TIFF regular. And most of Assayas’ post-Demonlover films have shown at TIFF.
It’s also shocking to me that Asia Argento’s powerful and quirky Incompressa (Misunderstood) is not only not announced for TIFF, but still has no US distribution deal. Where is A24 on this one?
Sony Classics bought a slew of terrific movies at Cannes that don’t have US dates yet, a couple of which have had European theatrical debuts (Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall and Saint Laurent) and two of which have not (Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan and Wim Wenders’ The Salt of The Earth).
Then there’s the Dardennes’ Two Days, One Night (Sundance Selects, euro release, no North America premiere yet), The Homesman (first release by Saban Films via Roadside Attractions, unseen since Cannes), and the re-cut version of Hazanavicius’ The Search (no domestic distributor).
Out of Un Certain Regard, it’s hard to imagine not wanting Party Girl, Charlie’s Country or Jauja… or at the very least for the sake of actor love, Ryan Gosling’s Lost River or Matthieu Amalric’s The Blue Room.
And Kristian Levring’s western, The Salvation, (IFC, euro release, no domestic premiere or date) is the kind of movie that will be surprisingly high on audience awards lists.
That’s 19 movies from Cannes that are currently/surprisingly M.I.A. on the fall fest circuit in North America. A lot. And it doesn’t even include Director’s Fortnight/Critics Week fare like It Follows (look for it in the Midnight group), Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe, Matthew Warchus’ Pride (a post-fest September CBS Films release), and Diego Lehrman’s Refugiado (no domestic distributor), amongst others.
I suspect that most of these films will land somewhere amongst Telluride, Toronto, and New York… if not at more than one… or even all three. But for the moment, that is the most curious part of the dance for me. New York’s selection committee is still screening, which seems like some serious passive-aggression on their part. No doubt, most of the members of the screening committee have seen most of the relevant films… but still, distributors are waiting to form strategy about the other festivals after they know what is on the table.
New York Film Festival made a point of announcing its premieres before Toronto. (So much for being above the fray.) All three make perfect sense for NYFF and the filmmakers. It is interesting that two of the three World Premieres are next films from filmmakers who were previously produced by Scott Rudin, who has had 2 of the 5 World Premiere opening nights at NYFF.
David Fincher opened NYFF with The Social Network four years ago. It was the first World Premiere to open NY in many, many years. Now it is the standard the festival holds. That said, with a theatrical opening day a week after the NYFF premiere, it seems close to impossible for Fox to do its press work for the film after or in conjunction with NYFF. So expect the film to be seen fairly widely by press before the NYFF screening, surely under strict embargo. Allowing Film Comment the “first review” opportunity has also become the norm. Maybe they press junket on the weekend of the 27th in NY.
Likewise, NYFF will world-premiere (now a verb!) its “Centerpiece” film, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice… at least in theory. PTA is not exactly without whimsy about finding audiences early for his films. (The Fantastic Fest premiere of There Will Be Blood – exec produced by Rudin – was a reaction to NYFF turning the film down… to the shock of all involved.)
And closing NYFF will be Iñárritu’s Birdman, which will premiere at Venice, close New York, and then open less than a week later in the US via Fox Searchlight. It seems like Iñárritu has been working himself towards a Searchlight release, his first film, Amores Perros at the then-tiny Lionsgate, then to Focus with 21 Grams, then to former Searchlighter Megan Colligan at Paramount Vantage with Babel, and now, finally, at Searchlight itself.
Here’s another thing. Toronto is the big media play of the three festivals. But in the case of both David Fincher and Paul Thomas Anderson, you have directors who do not like to do press. So New York is a much more logical berth for both films. They will do the press conferences and a kiss-up Film Comment piece, and other highly select media for NY. But both guys would rather just let the movie (and a strong awards campaign) speak for them. Fox will take good care of Fincher and Warner Bros love to take the low-key approach to building awards movies. So this is a perfect fit. Of the three, the only one not on a short release date schedule, relative to the festival premiere, is the PTA.
So… the Toronto International Film Festival announcement…
There are only two potential commercial monsters on the announced schedule… The Equalizer and The Judge… Denzel and Downey. And there really isn’t much left at the table. Studio-wise, the only movies that I can imagine still booking a September fest would be The Interview (if it’s great), the Fox animated Book of Life, and the David Ayers film, Fury. You could well see The Skeleton Twins turn up for publicity purposes. I don’t see Searchlight chasing with Marigold 2. What is the story with Big Eyes? Unbroken would have taken an important position if it were coming. Too early for Interstellar. Heart of the Sea is too far away. Into The Woods is reshooting now. I don’t expect any big last-minute surprises at this point.
But I do look forward to being surprised.
I count 59 films on today’s list… and there is a lot to be excited about. Part of that excitement is that it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to be the “kick-off of the season.” It feels like a film festival.
Moreover, it feels like a film festival in 2014, where the definitions are a lot blurrier than they once were. Besides the big movies, you have familiar veterans who feel just right for a festival experience, like Mike Leigh, Jason Reitman, David Gordon Green, Ozon and Zhang Yimou. Studio directors like Ed Zwick, Barry Levinson, Shawn Levy and Andrew Niccol are showing up with small films. Actors are becoming (or continuing as) directors (Jon Stewart, Mike Binder, Alan Rickman, Chris Evans, Chris Rock). You’ve got rising talent whose next films offer a high wire of expectations (Olivier Nakache/Eric Toledano, Jean-Marc Vallée, Ramin Bahrani). And you have a parade of names, all of whom inspire excitement (or fear) Baumbach, Moverman, Marsh, Glatzer/Westmoreland, Bier, Cantet, Ferrara, Hartley, Ferrara, Coixet, LaGravenese, Scherfig, Hartley, Chelsom.
You have Liv Ullmann!
I don’t know about you, but I love not knowing too much when I see movies. I know that I will be disappointed more than once. But I also know that I will be surprised and thrilled a lot more times than one.
And that’s why I go to film festivals.