The first full day of the 36th annual Toronto International Film Festival saw me harness my U2 media pass and attend my first ever press conference. Answering Twitter questions about the From the Sky Down premiere the night before, director Davis Guggenheim, Bono, and The Edge sat down with TIFF Documentary Programmer Thom Powers for a lively hour-long chat.
Many worthy quotes and tidbits were revealed, and you can watch the whole thing on U2’s website, but here are some highlights…
When asked how realistic a break-up might have been during the making of Achtung Baby, The Edge replied that a total crash and burn wasn’t that likely, but “what was really at stake was an ending of the trust the four of us had in each other. In a weird way, that probably would have been more sad.”
When asked about the reasons for doing the film, Bono replied that the band is dangerously close to irrelevance, and it was useful to look back at how they’d dodged that outcome before.
And when David Guggenheim was asked if he still had any questions left for the band after spending so much time with them, he looked over to Bono and The Edge and said “Do you like me?”
I attended two screenings in the evening, one of which received the first standing ovation I’ve ever seen at TIFF. It was called…
Film: The Artist
The Gist: The Artist is a black and white silent film set during the era when Hollywood made the transition to talkies. Chronicling the declining fortunes of silent film star George Valentin and the rise of the beautiful Peppy Miller as Hollywood’s new “it” girl, The Artist lovingly honors and recreates cinema’s first golden era.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius, a veteran of French TV (and he also wrote the screenplay)
Notable Cast and Crew: The two leads are both French actors, Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo. Great supporting work is provided by John Goodman, James Cromwell, and Malcolm McDowell.
The Goods: A lot of people will have a hard time convincing themselves that they want to see a modern day silent film, and I was certainly in that group. But the film was beloved at Cannes and Dujardin took home that festival’s Best Actor prize, so I felt like I had to give it a shot. And I can now tell you, firsthand, The Artist was a profound cinematic experience that I’ll likely never forget. This film exudes such a contagious joy that it’s almost indescribable. The full crowd at TIFF hung on the film’s every moment, and there was a palpable feeling in the room that none of us will ever see another movie quite like it. I confess I have no idea whether this film will find an audience when it gets a theatrical release. Reviews and word of mouth will be behind it (and several critics think it will receive some Oscar nominations—Picture, Director, and Actor all seem feasible), but how many ticket buyers will give it a chance? I hope you do, because The Artist is not to be missed.
The Grade: A
Film: The Hunter
The Gist: The story of a scientist hired by a biological research corporation to go to Tasmania and find the alleged last remaining Tasmanian Tiger.
Director: Daniel Nettheim, making his first feature film after a prolific decade in Australian TV.
Notable Cast and Crew: Willem Dafoe stars as the title character, with Sam Neil in a supporting role. The film was adapted from a novel by Julia Leigh.
The Goods: The Hunter is a deeply ruminative film about man’s role in trying to control nature, and the consequences we pay for it. Much of the conflict in the film is internal to Willem Dafoe’s character, and a huge visual draw for audiences will be the gorgeous Tasmanian wilderness. The movie was very reminiscent of the Robert Redford classic Jeremiah Johnson, and while it’s definitely beautiful and compelling, the resolution feels a bit unsatisfying on levels both practical and philosophical. But there’s a great scene with a Bruce Springsteen song.
The Grade: B
On tap for tomorrow: The premieres of the Cameron Crowe documentary Pearl Jam Twenty and the Ryan Gosling action noir Drive, as well as my attempt to score a ticket to the premiere of the Freud/Jung biopic A Dangerous Method.
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