From Franco to Trespass: 10 Points Worth Knowing About TIFF's Latest Invitees
A year after his 127 Hours ushered in the fall festival season's hottest fainting sensation, James Franco is plotting his return to Toronto along with rest of the latest group of invitees to the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. And it's quite a list, with the likes of Franco's partner (!) Gus Van Sant, Mr. Brainwash, Jennifer Hudson, Lynn Shelton, Rachel Weisz and (ahem) Joel Schumacher making the trip as well. Let's parse the top 10 highlights from TIFF's latest announcement.
· Franco and Van Sant have collaborated on an art project called Memories of Idaho, a tribute/meditation on the 20th anniversary of Van Sant's classic My Own Private Idaho. It will screen in the atrium at TIFF's Bell Lightbox HQ; it goes like this:
At the work's core are two new films, projected sequentially, in a darkened, generic space. The first film, My Own Private River, is a feature-length chronological reassemblage of excised scenes and alternate takes from the original shoot, radically foregrounding Phoenix. The second film, Idaho, comes from one of three scripts Van Sant used to create the original film, its Super-8 texture meant to be a "ghost" of his original conception. Van Sant contributes ghosts of his own, large-format photographs of actual Portland street hustlers who appeared in, and provided inspiration and source material for, the film.
· Page Eight was announced as the festival's Closing Night selection, featuring Bill Nighy as a veteran intelligence officer embroiled in intrigue involving his dead boss's neighbor (Rachel Weisz). "Set in London and Cambridge," the program notes, "Page Eight is a contemporary spy film which addresses intelligence issues and moral dilemmas peculiar to the new century."
· Joel Schumacher's mysterious, fan-tested-TIFF-approved Trespass will indeed have its world premiere in Toronto. Co-stars Nicole Kidman and Nicolas Cage are expected to walk the red carpet in support.
· As presumed, Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard are throwing their hats in the awards-season ring with Winnie, the biopic exploring the controversial life and work of South African icon Winnie Mandela. The film will no doubt be one of the big market titles available up north, but will it be this year's Rabbit Hole -- captivating TIFF with a dynamite leading lady on the Oscar tip -- or this year's What's Wrong With Virginia -- a high-class ensemble job that nevertheless alienates the establishment and goes home without a deal?
· Thierry Guetta -- a.k.a. Mr. Brainwash, the street-art arbiter-turned-participant made famous in Exit Through the Gift Shop -- will visit TIFF as something of an artist-in-residence:
He will be engaged in multiple projects during the Festival, including a significant, multiple-piece exhibition at Gallery One. His presence will also be felt outside Roy Thomson Hall, with his spray cans towering over the red carpet, providing emergency assistance for evenings requiring additional glamour and pomp. And, finally, he will collaborate with TIFF on "Grace Kelly: From Movie Star to Princess," our fall exhibition. His unique tribute to the style icon will be seen wildposted all over town.
And of course, where Mr. Brainwash goes, Bansky never seems far behind, so watch for a graffiti bonanza in and around the festival zone.
· The kick-ass Jason Statham/Clive Owen/ Robert De Niro collaboration Killer Elite will have its world premiere in the Gala section.
· Also in Galas, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Hugh Dancy star in the world premiere of Hysteria, "a romantic comedy based on the surprising truth of how Mortimer Granville came up with the world's first electro-mechanical vibrator in the name of medical science."
· Violet & Daisy -- the world-premiere directing debut of Oscar-winning Precious screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher -- sounds fascinating, the kind of thing that can go massively right or wrong at any second: "The whimsical story of a teenager's surreal and violent journey through New York City follows Oscar nominee Saoirse Ronan as Daisy; with her volatile partner-in-crime Violet, played by Alexis Bledel, the two young assassins face a series of opponents, including one unusually mysterious man (James Gandolfini), in a life-altering encounter."
· Humpday director Lynn Shelton returns to features with Your Sister's Sister, featuring the intriguing logline: "Still mourning the recent death of his brother, a bereft and confused man finds love and direction in a most unexpected place."
· Finally, the Cuban zombie flick Juan of the Dead will finally have its world premiere, enabling viewers to determine once and for all if it's the Edgar Wright ripoff it looks like or some bold new vision in brains-chomping horror-comedy.
This is really just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the world cinema debuting this year up north; check out TIFF's site to get lost in the rest. It's worth it.