Ten New Films to Watch from the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival
by Eugene Hernandez and Wendy Mitchell
Major international film festivals serve as important launching pads for new films. In Toronto, programmers introduce premiere movies to a varied group of attendees, from industry buyers to journalists & critics and of course to a large audience of general moviegoers. As we conclude our coverage of the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival we offer a list of ten new films worth seeing from this year’s lineup. The list is a collection of films that were our favorites and those that were the hottest buzz titles at the festival. It’s a roster that includes films that will screen in theaters since many have been acquired for distribution in the past week.
“Coffee and Cigarettes” — The latest film from Jim Jarmusch, acquired in Toronto by United Artists, is a collection of short vignettes shot over a number of years and featuring a large all-star cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, and Bill Murray. In the segments, each set in a different location, a collection of characters gather to chat and joke, often about caffeine and nicotine.
“The Corporation” — This provocative, entertaining, and at times chilling documentary explores the role of corporations in our lives. Directed by Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott, in collaboration with author Joel Bakan, the film wowed audiences in Toronto where it was a runner-up for the festival’s audience award. It remains without distribution, although acquisitions discussions continue.
“Girl with a Pearl Earring” — Peter Webber offers a traditional but very well done biopic about the 17th century Dutch artist Vermeer. Scarlett Johansson’s performance as Vermeer’s inspiring housemaid is quiet but powerful, and the film’s art direction and cinematography are simply stunning, like a painting brought to life. Lions Gate will release the movie later this year.
“The Green Butchers” — This absurdist dark comedy shows that writer/director Anders Thomas Jensen isn’t content with the down-and-out Dogme crowd. Some truly hilarious lines that aren’t lost in translation punctuate this film that was acquired in Toronto by Newmarket.
“Intermission” — IFC Films co-produced this stylish, funny Irish film that offers an amalgam of romance, heists, and drama. Good energy and a top-notch cast, including Colin Farrell, Cillian Murphy, and Shirley Henderson (who is brave enough to sport a moustache).
“The Revolution Will Not be Televised” — Even those of us who can’t pick out Venezuela on a map were stunned by this edge-of-your seat doc about the coup to overthrow the country’s president, Hugo Chavez. It is a reminder of the power, and sheer entertainment value, that a great non-fiction film can provide. Vitagraph Films will release the doc later this year.
“The Saddest Music in the World” — Isabella Rossellini stars as Lady Port-Huntly in Guy Maddin’s “The Saddest Music in the World,” which IFC Films acquired during the festival. Port-Huntly is a disabled beer baroness who stages an international competition to find the saddest music from across the globe, as a way of increasing the demand for beer. With his characteristic touch Maddin offers a visually exciting, mostly black and white, musical comedy.
“Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring” — This beautifully shot drama, set in rural South Korea, depicts a story of two monks, one young and one old. The younger monk comes of ages as the story unfolds during the passing of the seasons. Along the way, he has a sexual awakening that is ignited by the arrival of a beautiful, but ailing girl. The film’s lack of dialogue underscores its universal themes. Sony Pictures Classics acquired the movie in Toronto.
“Young Adam” — Sony Classics also recently acquired this Scottish film noir that will be buzzed about for its steamy sex scenes between Ewan McGregor and Tilda Swinton. With some amazing cinematography, it’s also a captivating portrait of life along the gritty canals near Glasgow.
“Zatoichi” — Filmmaker Takeshi Kitano, who won the award for best director at the Venice Film Festival last week, stars as a blind swordsman who rescues a village that is run by gangsters and samurai. The movie, acquired by Miramax at the close of the Venice fest, went on to win the audience award at the Toronto International Film Festival.
[Brian Brooks contributed to this article.]