Kevin Smith's Tusk
The Toronto International Film Festival has long tried to be all things to all audiences, packing a broad swath of genres, tones and subjects into every year. But the 2014 edition will be the only one where people can choose between "that three-hour documentary about London's National Gallery" and "that one where Justin Long comes to Canada and gets turned into a walrus."
Technically, they'll likely be able to do both, since the screenings of Frederick Wiseman's TIFF Docs entry National Gallery and Kevin Smith's Midnight Madness premiere Tusk are unlikely to overlap. But I can't see much of a crossover in the audiences, if we're being honest.
Today's announcements of the Midnight Madness, Vanguard, Masters and TIFF Docs programs does continue that tradition of something for everyone. Whether it's French New Wave legend Jean-Luc Godard's new 3D experiment Goodbye To Language or Australian documentarian Mark Hartley's latest pop-culture flashback Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story Of Cannon Films, you will be able to find something tailored specifically to your interests ... and doubtless you'll stumble across six or seven surprising discoveries along the way.
The outsized premises of the Midnight Madness section tend to get the most attention, and the inclusion of Tusk - aka "Kevin Smith's walrus version of The Human Centipede" - seems to guarantee that rule won't be broken in 2014.
The series opens with Tokyo Tribe, a dystopian street-gang thriller from director and TIFF fixture Sion Sono (The Land Of Hope, Love Exposure, Suicide Club, Cold Fish and last year's Why Don't You Play In Hell?). There's also a new chapter of Jaume Balagueró's found-footage zombie series, [REC] 4: Apocalypse, returning the franchise to its core narrative after the diversion of the third instalment, and The Guest, a new thriller from You're Next's Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett starring Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens.
The Guest also features Maika Monroe, who also stars in the buzzy It Follows, a psychological thriller from David Robert Mitchell, director of the indie drama The Myth Of The American Sleepover. It's been building some buzz on the festival circuit, but if I'm being honest the film I'm most looking forward to is Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement's What We Do In The Shadows, which stars the New Zealand comic collaborators and their pal Jonathan Brugh as cranky roommates who also happen to be centuries-old vampires.
Over in the TIFF Docs section, Wiseman's National Gallery looks to be another I'm especially intrigued by Merchants Of Doubt, Robert Kenner's documentary on "the shadowy world of professional skeptics" - those dissenting, invariably corporate-backed voices who appear on CNN to say they're still waiting for all the science to come in on a given issue. The festival will also present the world premieres of The Look Of Silence, a new work about the legacy of the Indonesian genocide from Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act Of Killing), and The Yes Men Are Revolting, Laura Nix and the eponymous media pranksters' latest gallery of elaborate hoaxes.
We'll be getting the international premieres of Seymour: An Introduction, Ethan Hawke's study of concert pianist-turned-piano teacher Seymour Bernstein, and Lixin Fan's I Am Here, which follows a dozen young boys as they make their way through the stages of a Chinese TV talent show.
Mondovino's Jonathan Nossiter returns to the topic of wine with Natural Resistance, about Italian vintners determined to produce wine in the traditional style while the world around them shifts to mass production, and the Iraqi filmmaker Samir delivers Iraqi Odyssey, which examines his own family history in the context of his native country's political upheavals. And Gabe Polsky's Red Army promises a similar mixture of the political and personal through the story of the USSR hockey team of the 1980s.
As always, the Masters section reads like a mixture of mandatory film-festival programming and gloriously unexpected wild cards. I'm thrilled to see new films from Michael Winterbottom (The Face Of An Angel, a fictional meditation on the public fascination with murder starring Daniel Brühl and Kate Beckinsale) and the Swedish genius Roy Andersson (A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence, in which - assuming I've interpreted the description correctly - two traveling salesmen encounter all of humanity).
Godard's characteristically divisive Goodbye To Language will make its North American premiere at the festival, as will Hong Sang-soo's low-key romance Hill Of Freedom, Ann Hui's The Golden Era, a drama about the Chinese writer Xiao Hong, and Im Kwon-taek's Revivre, about a widower who finds himself attracted to a younger co-worker.
Over in the Vanguard section, Midnight Madness programmer Colin Geddes continues to find a place for films that aren't quite batshit crazy enough to make the late-night program - but are plenty weird on their own terms.
Peter Strickland, director of 2012's breakout creeper Berberian Sound Studio, returns with The Duke Of Burgundy, a femme-centric thriller starring Borgen's Chiara d'Anna and Sidse Babett Knudsen; Vinyan's Fabrice Du Welz is back with Alleluia, a present-day reworking of the true story of the Honeymoon Killers.
The illustrator and filmmaker Dave McKean launches his fabulist animated drama Luna; insanely prolific genre-hopper Takashi Miike is back with Over Your Dead Body, in which actors staging a ghost story find themselves in the grip of the narrative.
Gerard Johnson's British thriller Hyena stars A Field In England's Peter Ferdinando as a ruthless London cop who comes up against an adversary he might not be able to intimidate or destroy; Veronika Franz and Severine Fiala's Goodnight Mommy is a creeper about young Austrian twins who become convinced that the woman who's returned home from the hospital is not really their mother.
The claustrophobic might want to bring a friend along to Shrew's Nest, Juanfer Andrés and Esteban Roel's Spanish thriller starring Macarena Gómez and Hugo Silva, who co-starred in last year's Midnight Madness entry Witching And Bitching as a terrified shut-in and her new, not entirely willing companion. And then there's Spring, a genre-bending love story from Resolution directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead starring Lou Taylor Pucci (late of the Evil Dead remake) and Nadia Hilker.
This is just a handful of the titles announced today; as always, more information is available at TIFF's website. Get going.
The 39th Toronto International Film Festival runs September 4 to 14, 2014.