“‘Creation’ was DOA tonight,” proclaimed Anne Thompson, calling the opening night film at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, “Flat, dull, and painful to sit through.” Not a great start for a fest that broke with tradition this year to open with a non-Canadian production. The film focuses on the personal trauma that naturalist Charles Darwin faced in the period leading up to the publication of his book, “On the Origin of Species.”
Scantily clad Adams and Eves welcomed attendees to the gala opening bash last night which featured a brief fly by appearance from co-stars Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly at the city’s Liberty Grand, which was mainly filled with B-list Canadian celebrities and local folks.
For those who skipped the official opening festivities, though, there was the “anti-opening night.” Lars von Trier’s provocative “Antichrist,” the film that many in Cannes said would never get a release on this contintent, was given a prime opening night slot here in Toronto ahead of its upcoming theatrical release. Von Trier was even at the festival today, via satellite.
Last night at W Studios, a familiar Toronto fest sponsored party spot, scantily clad women with fake Olay tatoos handed out products samples at the “Antichrist” after-party, which also welcomed film co-star Willem Dafoe. The actor plays the husband to Charlotte Gainsbourg and together they portray a grieving couple in the wake of the sudden death of their young child. The pair travel to the woods to get away, but while there, the extremes of emotion take over. Set amidst beautiful imagery and a tranquil outdoor landscape, the film includes graphic portrayals of torture and genital mutilation as the mourning duo aggressively confont each other. [And the trailer premiered today on iTunes.]
The media response here in North America seemed much more respectful of the director, contrasting the raucous response the film received earlier this year in Cannes where it was booed by some critics and where he was confronted by journalists. At this morning’s satellite press conference, travel shy von Trier was asked if he was surprised that the initial festival reaction here seemed to be the opposite of the one in France.
“Well, if the North Americans are happy, then I’m not happy,” Lars von Trier said, somewhat jokingly in Copenhgen. “I made a mistake.”
Across town last night, Pedro Almodovar’s “Broken Embraces” was also given a prime opening night slot and the director also decided to forgo a Toronto appearance (he’ll be in the U.S. next month to close the New York Film Festival).
“He sent us instead,” offered Almodovar confidant and film lead Penelope Cruz alongside co-star Lluis Homar at Toronto’s ornate Elgin theater. She plays two roles in “Broken Embraces,” the story of a film director who is devastated at the loss of a lover. The movie weaves homages to other films and filmmakers.
“Cinema plays a very important role in all my films,” Pedro Almodovar wrote in an essay on his latest film and its influences. Referring to himself at one point in the third person he added, “I don’t do it as a pupil revering those directors who have preceded him. I don’t make films ‘in the style of’. When a director or a film appears in one of mine, it’s in a more active way than as a simple homage or a nod at the spectator.”
[Brian Brooks, Peter Knegt and James Israel contributed to this dispatch.]