Arts Review, The Arts

REVIEW: Canadian Star Directors at TIFF

REVIEW: Canadian Star Directors at TIFF featured image

One of the great things about TIFF is that Canadian films and filmmakers get to occupy a major place in an event that is watched and written about worldwide. It’s thanks to the support of the festival that talents like Bruce McDonald, Peter Mettler and Guy Maddin became prominent. This is also the festival that has consistently shown films by Quebecois directors and now a number of them—Jean Marc Vallée, Denis Villeneuve, Denis Cote—are getting international recognition for their work.

With TIFF still a couple of weeks away, it’s interesting to see and consider new films by such established Canadian masters as Denys Arcand, David Cronenberg and Sturla Gunnarsson.

In discussing Arcand’s Le règne de la beauté (An Eye for Beauty), Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and Gunnarsson’s Monsoon, it’s important to note that these are not reviews. Those can only take place after the festival. But it’s possible to make observations and express ideas about the directors and their styles.

The title of Arcand’s film, for example, is perfectly self-reflexive. Denys Arcand’s work always has a formal quality and his style is usually quite elegant. No surprise, therefore, to know that he has chosen to tell the story of a modernist architect who has to negotiate his affair with a stylish Toronto woman while living with his wife in the gorgeous countryside near Quebec City.

Lovers of Arcand’s work will enjoy seeing this Quebec master offer scenes of skiing in the height of winter or dining in country homes with many friends. And, as someone who has participated in arts juries, I can state that he perfectly captures the ambience of the dinners that happen after the meetings are adjourned for the day.

David Cronenberg is another modern Canadian master director with a new film at TIFF. Maps to the Stars is his first film shot (partially) in the United States—and particularly in Los Angeles. To say that it’s eagerly anticipated by Toronto audiences is an understatement. Julianne Moore’s performance as an aging actress campaigning to play her deceased mother in a major Indie film garnered her the Best Actress award at Cannes.

Cronenberg has assembled a brilliant cast: John Cusack as a charismatic evangelist/psychologist, Robert Pattinson as a limo driver hoping for stardom and Mia Wasikowska, everyone’s Indie darling, as a young woman with a very dark past. If Arcand beautifully shows the surface of things, Cronenberg appears to do the opposite—delving into the terrifying depths of characters in extreme situations. But then Arcand’s film is in Quebec and Toronto (including the island) while Cronenberg’s is in Hollywood. Perhaps they both reflect reality.

Veteran director Sturla Gunnarsson travels farther away than Arcand and Cronenberg—to India during the time of the monsoon. Gunnarsson, who has spent much time in India and shot his award-winning adaptation of Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey there, is clearly comfortable in the environment.

His Monsoon is gloriously pictorial, emphasizing the extreme contrasts in a land of deserts and floods, mountaintops and verdant farmland, cities teeming with humanity and villages where no one is a stranger to their neighbours. Using the immense chaos that the monsoon engenders, Gunnarsson may have been able to convey some of the complexity of one of the greatest countries in the world.

I say “may have” because this isn’t a review—merely a chance to convey a sense of three fascinating Canadian films, which will premiere at TIFF.

Written by Marc Glassman.

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