TIFF adds nine

Jul 31, 2001 by Ian Evans

The Special Presentations segment of the 26th Toronto International Film Festival has added nine films to its line-up. They include six world premieres, one North American premiere, and two Canadian premieres. The films announced are Bruce McDonald’s Picturing Claire, Jill Sprecher’s Thirteen Conversations About One Thing, Yvan Attal’s Ma Femme Est Une Actrice, Gregor Jordan’s Buffalo Soldiers, Mike Figgis’ Hotel, John Dahl’s Joy Ride, Neal Slavin’s Focus, and two films from Richard Linklater, Tape and Waking Life.

Canadian director Bruce McDonald returns to the Festival with the world premiere of Picturing Claire, an action-packed caper starring Juliette Lewis and Gina Gershon. Claire (Lewis) is a young French-Canadian woman forced to move from Montreal to Toronto, where she unwittingly gets involved in a murder case. Claire’s situation becomes increasingly desperate when the man she loves betrays her, and the killers start to close in on her.

The North American premiere of Thirteen Conversations About One Thing marks the return of up-and-coming director Jill Sprecher to the Festival with an exquisitely crafted and intricate drama about a group of people living in New York City. Boasting an ensemble cast that includes Alan Arkin, Matthew McConaughey, Clea DuVall, John Turturro, and Amy Irving, the film follows its characters through an elaborate narrative, poignantly examining each individual’s pursuit of happiness.

French director Yvan Attal’s Ma Femme Est Une Actrice, receiving its world premiere, is the story of Yvan (Yvan Attal), a sports reporter, who is married to Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg), an actress. Although living with someone famous has yielded certain advantages, Yvan becomes more and more anxious about having to share his wife’s intimate moments with the bevy of actors who co-star in her films. Obsessed and jealous, Yvan starts to lose his cool. This dynamic drama also stars Terence Stamp.

Buffalo Soldiers, starring Joaquin Phoenix, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, and Anna Paquin, and directed by Gregor Jordan, receives its world premiere at the Festival. The film is a thrilling drama about a group of American soldiers stationed in Germany in 1989. Running a black market in everything from drugs to army supplies, the group makes a tidy, albeit camouflaged, profit. The arrival of a tough new sergeant, however, complicates their plans, and sparks a dynamic and perilous struggle.

A world premiere, Hotel marks the return of Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) to the Festival. Following his success with Time Code, Figgis continues to experiment with digital video, taking an ingenious and exhilarating approach to filmic narration. At the Hungarian Palace Hotel in Venice, as well as in the piazzas and canals of the city, sleazy politicians, trophy wives, assassins, and maids collide in surprising ways. The film’s cast includes Salma Hayek, David Schwimmer, Burt Reynolds, Lucy Liu, Alan Rickman, Valeria Golino, and many more.

The world premiere of Focus marks the directorial debut of renowned photographer Neal Slavin, and stars William H. Macy, Laura Dern, David Paymer, and Meat Loaf Aday. Adapted from the Arthur Miller novel of the same name, the film is an ironic tale of anti-semitism set in New York at the height of the Second World War. The film recounts the unraveling of a community when the identity of a man (Macy) and his wife (Dern) are mistaken. Slowly ostracized by fascist elements at both home and work, the couple learns the value of solidarity as they struggle against unwarranted societal pressures and discrimination.

Joy Ride receives its world premiere at this year’s Festival. The film is a contemporary thriller from director John Dahl filled with terror, shocks, as well as lots of humour. Starring Paul Walker, Leelee Sobieski, and Steve Zahn, the film follows three young people on a summer road trip who accidently attract the unwanted and menacing attention of a deranged trucker. Crossing the American heartland, Joy Ride is a vibrant story about how danger can pull a friendship together.

Richard Linklater proffers two new films this year, both receiving their Canadian premieres at the Festival. In Tape, Linklater uses digital video to observe three friends as they confront some unresolved dilemmas in the confines of a tawdry Michigan motor lodge. Starring Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, and Robert Sean Leonard, Tape is a mesmerizing drama that slowly unveils the genuine motivations of its protagonists. With Waking Life, Linklater demonstrates his diversity as a contemporary filmmaker. One of the most exciting formal ventures in years, the film is not quite live action and not quite animation. Rather, it uses digital video painted over by computer and a large staff of artists, producing an effect much like that of old-fashioned rotoscoping. Structured as a series of vignettes, the film’s narrative suits its formal ingenuity, developing an engaging and accessible portrait of its myriad of characters.

These titles join the previously announced Special Presentation title Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), directed by Zacharias Kunuk.