The Toronto International Film Festival starts next Thursday! September 10! Who’s excited? Well, you should be: even if you (like me) can’t attend, Toronto unveils much of what devoted filmgoers can look forward to over the next half-year or so. I’ll be keeping an eye on the festival’s high-profile premieres (and perhaps even more so the low-profile ones, where surprising gems can emerge with little notice). But now it’s Monday morning and the salivatory pre-coverage is already flowing, so let’s start with the best film piece I read this weekend, Katrina Onstad’s profile in The New York Times on the upcoming Atom Egoyan movie Chloe.
There’s a lot to like about this piece — Onstad deftly balances where the film fits in Egoyan’s body of work, speculation on how it’ll turn out, and its now-eternal place in morbid trivia as the film Liam Neeson was working on when wife Natasha Richardson died in a skiing accident. That’s the sexiest (and most tasteless) hook for the article, and in a rare feat, she handles it as something relevant and worth discussing for non-exploitative reasons, noting “It’s now the tragic movie about marriage during which one very famous marriage ended so tragically.” Has the movie changed? Neeson says “I can’t go back there,” and Egoyan ponders the potentially “interesting overtones […] about how precious a marriage is.”
What Onstad, a Canadian journalist, doesn’t dwell on is the Canadian-centric nature of the extremely unlikely collaboration between the intellectually heady Egoyan and his new producer Ivan Reitman. Best known as the guy who made classic comedies by virtue of his casts rather than his incredibly awful technique (“Stripes” is one of Bill Murray’s best vehicles, but with anyone else, it’d be unwatchable), Reitman is also an industrious producer of indiscriminate crap: this year, he’s already attached his name to “Hotel For Dogs,” which is about as far from Egoyan’s cerebral sexual games as you can get.
Though the profile never notes precisely how this unholy alliance was first mooted — it genteelly speculates Reitman wanted to connect with whatever artistic roots he had — it seems entirely possible that the main reason Reitman and Egoyan are working together is Canadian solidarity, a force more powerful than any Hollywood hook-up. Reitman hasn’t done a purely Canadian production in a while – back in the ’70s, Reitman produced some David Cronenberg movies, which doesn’t make any more sense — but those loyalties die hard. Just look at the films produced by Egoyan, described in the article by a friend as lacking not just a “lowbrow side; he doesn’t even have even a middlebrow side.” Besides lending his name as producer to Guy Maddin, Egoyan is also credited with such unmemorable Canadian productions as, uh, “Jack & Jill.” A few years ago, he spoke enthusiastically at a tribute to Canadian über-hack Norman Jewison, whose movies — like the unbelievably sludgy “Fiddler on the Roof” — he surely knows better than to actually get seriously into.
Not that I think Reitman set up a charity production for a fellow Canadian; a $20 million budget is no joke, and Reitman somewhat crassly notes that in the aftermath of Richardson’s death, when trying to figure out the pragmatics of shooting around an absent Neeson, he had to remember that “films involve hundreds of lives.” But
I think it’s kind of sweet, really: a confluence of filmmakers with absolutely nothing in common but their nationality and the burden of representing a film scene that — like Canada as a whole — has always been hard to define to the outside world, even if it doesn’t make Reitman’s last directorial outing, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” anything less than a crime against humanity.
[Photo: Julianne Moore and Amanda Seyfried in “Chloe,” Studio Canal, 2009]