King Street was thronged. Rush lines stretched blocks. Screenings were packed. But something nevertheless felt muted and anxious in Toronto this year. The red carpets were lonesome spectacles without movie stars to walk them, and who wants to go to a party if Kate Winslet or Michael Fassbender or Jodie Comer or Paul Dano—all with big movies at TIFF—aren’t there to rub shoulders with?
Or, would this be the festival for purists? Sans celebrity distractions, might one appreciate the films on their own terms? Sure—but more questions still loom. Will studios buy them? And will there be any films next year? It was hard to know what to think about the strikes and rancor as TIFF churned its earnest way on, taking no sides, like a child of divorced parents. The only sensible strategy, amid it all, was to take in as many movies as one could. (The festival ends on Sunday.)
Below are the movies that grabbed me, and gave me a little rush of optimism that impasses will be broken and creativity and commerce will gloriously reconcile. I've ordered them by release date, though some are still seeking distribution as I write. I expect—hope!—that they will be coming to a movie theater or streaming platform soon.
The most end-to-end entertaining movie I saw at the festival is this Danish 18th-century epic starring Mads Mikkelsen as an army captain who is determined to make a life for himself in Denmark’s barren Jutland heath. Arrayed against him are Denmark’s idle aristocrats and land barons who are threatened by his farming ingenuity and turn to violence to stop him. One is particularly nasty: Frederik de Schinkel (Simon Bennebjerg), as cruel a fop as any since Joffrey Baratheon on Game of Thrones. Their duel turns the movie into a kind of Nordic western with old-fashioned pleasures: romance, villainy, adventure, heroism, a bloody, gripping climax, and loads of gorgeous widescreen vistas along the way.
The film has distribution but a US release date is still TBD.
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