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Toronto International Film Festival, Day Three: ‘Violette,’ Mystery Doc ‘Finding Vivian Maier,’ Holofcener’s ‘Enough Said’ and More

Toronto International Film Festival, Day Three: 'Violette,' Mystery Doc 'Finding Vivian Maier,' Holofcener's 'Enough Said' and More

There are many ways of threading one’s way through a film
festival with 366 films, of which 288 are features. Sometimes I envy my friends who are
monomaniacs, partisans of Asian or experimental films, or those whose jobs and deadlines
dictate which films they have to see. I am greedy and want to see more than I
possibly can. 

I am attracted to the latest film from a director whose entire
oeuvre I am familiar with, as well as the first film from an unknown talent.  I can be equally thrilled by a big-budget
Hollywood movie stuffed with stars and a film shot on video for pocket change.
Plus I also want the unique experience: Jason Reitman’s table read, or Godfrey
Reggio’s new film, “Visitors,” with its Philip Glass score played
live by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

This year TIFF’s advertising is based on “what’s your
Festival personality?”: The Arbiter
of Taste, The Adventurer, The Record-Breaker, The Stargazer, The First-Timer,
#The#Hashtag#Addict — and there are more. 
I see myself in more than a few of their descriptions:  Le Cinephile, The Adventurer, The
Globetrotter. (I used to try to be the Record-Breaker, until I discovered that
skipping the Midnight Madness screening every night — the best audiences in Toronto,
a guaranteed good time — noticeably improved my chances of staying awake
through the next day’s lineup.) 

You could put together an interesting program of literary
films — not just movies based on novels, but movies about writers, such as the
Beat generation “Kill Your Darlings,” in which Daniel Radcliffe
incarnates Allen Ginsberg, Ben Foster William Burroughs, and Jack Huston Jack
Kerouac, in the story of the 1944 murder of David Kammerer (Michael C.Hall) by
Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan); “The Invisible Woman,” about Charles
Dickens’ (Ralph Fiennes) love affair with a much younger actress (Felicity
Jones); “The Right Kind of Wrong,” about a writer whose ex-wife
writes about him on a blog called Why You Suck; “The Great Beauty,”
by Paolo Sorrentino, about a failed novelist and journalist; “Lucky
Them,” with Toni Collette as a veteran rock journalist. And there’s more.

I can’t resist “Violette,” about Violette Leduc, a
protege of such famed French intellectuals as Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul
Sartre, Albert Camus, and Jean Genet. 
Leduc is incarnated in a noisy, desperate, busy, and compellingly
self-destructive performance by Emmanuelle Devos, and her encourager, idol, and
unfulfilled love object, de Beauvoir, is played by Sandrine Kibirlain, as a
paragon of reasonableness, calm, and workaholism. “Violette” never
breaks down into the “and then I wrote…” trope of writer biographies;
in literary fashion, it’s arranged in chapters that explore a relationship, a
place, or the inspiration for one of her books. The film has the satisfying
effect of making me want to read Violette’s books (as well as perhaps someday
getting around to de Beauvoir’s four volumes of autobiography and “The
Mandarins,” her novel about her love affair with Nelson Algren.  As soon as they invent those extra hours in
the day I need). And “Violette” also satisfies my Francophilic and entirely superficial love of
Parisian street scenes, restaurants, and period clothes and decor.

I stay in France for “Love is the Perfect Crime,”
which sounds promising, with Mathieu Almaric well-cast as a professor (in the
world’s most architecturally stunning college, with nowhere-to-hide
glass-walled classrooms overlooking a picturesque lake ringed by mountains). He is sexual catnip to his nubile students as well as equally stunning older women
(and perhaps also his sister, with whom he lives in a cozy ski chalet). Its increasingly loopy plot paints Almaric
into another picturesque corner from which he sees only one way out.  I grew a bit fatigued – the film is 111
minutes long — but I guess I could categorize it as a guilty pleasure.

I was considering dashing out of the hothouse confines of
the Press & Industry screenings to join the real world (or what passes for
it during the festival, which is the reel world) at a Gala presentation of
“Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon,” with the extra added
attraction of a conversation onstage between beloved Mike Myers, the director
of the documentary, and its subject, the famed manager of rock and roll legends
and sometime movie producer. 

But I run into a friend, Maureen O’Donnell, longtime Toronto
publicist who was once head of communications for TIFF, who is en route to
another documentary I’m dying to see, “Finding Vivian Maier,” about
the mysterious and fortuitous discovery of the life’s work — hundreds of
thousands of photo negatives and undeveloped rolls of film — of a supremely
gifted and eccentric street photographer whose
oeuvre was completely unknown during her career as a nanny.  Because I have already bought two books about
Maier, “Vivian Maier Street Photographer,” (with text by polymath
Geoff Dyer) and “Vivian Maier: Out of the Shadows,” by Richard Cahan,
Amazon now stuffs my recommendations list with photography books, so this movie
suits me right down to the ground: an amazing story, with stunning images.

Afterwards we join a long lineup for “Enough
Said,” a romantic comedy by the dependable Nicole Holofcener, with Julia
Louis-Dreyfus — so good in “Veep,” so Emmied for
“Seinfeld,” “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” and
“Veep,” that it’s a surprise to realize it’s her first role in a
feature since 1997.  She plays a divorced
masseuse, whose daughter is about to leave for college, who starts dating a big
teddy bear of a guy (the charming James Gandolfini, in his next-to-last film
role), also with a daughter heading off to school, not knowing that he’s the ex
of her new best friend, a popular poet (Catherine Keener, Holofcener’s favorite
actress and lucky charm, with good reason). 
Complications ensue, satisfyingly resolved. Slight but graceful and

I’m left on my own as most of the P&I screenings are
over, and I haven’t scored a ticket to a public screening.  I try a movie that wasn’t on my initial
list-of-one-hundred, “The Immoral,” a Norwegian movie described as
“one of the funniest, most provocative comedies you’ll see this
year.”  I sit next to a friend who
spends more time telling me about what his wife and kids have been up to since
we last saw each other than he does at the movie, which sends a single mother,
her infant, and her foul-mouthed ex-army boyfriend on the run from child
welfare services and the police. Sounds like a laugh riot, right?  It’s shot with an incredibly shaky-cam, more
of a jagged-cam, that makes the hand-held work on “LAPD Blue” look
like a steadicam by comparison. I give
it more than half-an-hour before I, too, am on the run.

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