Officially there were 366 features shown at the just completed edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. I saw about 30. So it should come as no surprise that few of this year’s public and jury prize winners managed to elude my grasp.
The Audience award went to The Imitation Game, the tragic saga of mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the Enigma Code during World War II and fell into disrepute in the following decade when he was convicted of homosexual acts. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is already being touted for award’s consideration.
Among juried winners were Time Out of Mind and its star Richard Gere portraying a homeless man and the emotional love story Felix and Meira set in Montreal’s Hasidic community which received the prize as best Canadian feature of the fest.
Biography seemed a significant aspect of TIFF’s selections. Two that I caught were a testament to its challenge. In Love & Mercy, Paul Dano and John Cusack play, respectively, the younger and older Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The parallel intertwining stories focus on the already successful musician quitting touring and concentrating on writing and producing what would become the group’s most accomplished work. The later period deals with his recovery from emotional and physical meltdown, his relationship with the Svengaliesque Eugene Landy (a vampirish Paul Giamatti) and the flowering of a new relationship. Unquestionably bold and nuanced, Love & Mercy nonetheless hasn’t found the balance between its two realms. It’s at its best in scenes with younger Wilson creating in the studio and maybe that deserves a film all of its own.
The Theory of Everything is the story of Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane beginning with their meeting as students. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the balance of his genius as a physicist countered with his physical deterioration would render something emotionally potent. The accomplishment is that neither the filmmakers nor the performers push the drama inherent in the situation. And it’s hard to imagine that Eddie Redmayne who plays Hawking won’t be on the circuit come award season.
Mention was made in an earlier column about TIFF’s Telluride position and the prospect of a less front loaded Canadian event. To some extent that did occur but the industry was quick to react with a spate of private screenings targeted primarily at acquisition folk during the opening days.
By Tuesday morning one could sense the absence of buyers as well as junket press in the corridors and screening rooms just as has occurred for decades in Toronto. I got out of “Dodge” Wednesday evening just as the rains literally arrived and temperatures shifted from summer to fall.
The consensus was that it was not a banner film year for TIFF and that appeared to be less the result of selection than simply what was available to be screened. One of the last film’s I caught prior to flight time was Tom McCarthy’s The Cobbler that might best be described as a trainwreck. Adam Sandler plays a fourth generation shoe repairman that discovers he can transform into the possessor of the clogs he repairs with an ancient stitching machine. It’s a bit of whimsy not unlike the comic’s similarly themed Click but the notion of walking in someone else’s shoes … proves to be a strained metaphor. It runs right off the cliff in a horrid fashion that’s unique to intelligent and accomplished filmmakers making very bad decisions.
Let me wrap it up with Electric Boogaloo, a documentary on the making and unmaking of Cannon Films, the brainchild of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus that had Hollywood on its ear for a healthy chunk of the 1980s. From Chuck Norris to John Cassavetes, this was a company that churned out movies like stuffed sausage. Golan was systematic of someone that realized he was losing money on most pictures but believed he could compensate for that with volume. Ultimately it caught up with him and this valentine is enormous fun even if it can’t quite come to grips with how the patients took over the insane asylum. It reminds me of the motto of fictional Miracle Pictures: “If It’s a Good Picture, It’s a Miracle.”