The first few days of the Toronto International Film Festival have seen Brad Pitt, Alexander Payne, Robert De Niro, George Clooney, Steve McQueen and Madonna trudge the city’s various red carpets unveiling their latest cinematic wares – some sniffing to be anointed Oscar contenders, others just hoping for any kind of festival love, writes Matt Mueller.
There were good critical receptions for Payne’s The Descendants, Moneyball, The Ides of March, 50/50 and Shame, mixed ones for W.E., Luc Besson’s Aung San Suu Kyi biopic The Lady, and Anonymous, and a get-out-of-town drubbing for the Jason Statham/Clive Owen/De Niro opus Killer Elite. No wonder the film cancelled its press conference.
Also receiving their world premiere at TIFF are the two films that Sandra Hebron has selected to be her opening and closing night films in her final year at the helm of the London Film Festival: the Fernando Meirelles/Peter Morgan collaboration 360 and Terence Davies’s The Deep Blue Sea. One of them’s a triumph, the other a tad underwhelming – and the fact that the latter is 360 comes as something of a surprise.
There’s plenty to admire in the film. Inspired by Arthur Schnitzler’s La Ronde, busy Vienna-based screenwriter Morgan (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) has crafted a global collage that starts with a young Slovak woman (Lucia Siposova) embarking on a career in prostitution and, via an interconnective web of encounters mostly involving love or lust that sways each character’s fate, traces a journey through Bratislava, Paris, London, Denver and Rio de Janeiro before coming full circle.
It’s a complete ensemble piece: Jude Law and Rachel Weisz as a plummy husband and wife – she cheating, he considering it – and Anthony Hopkins as a man flying to America to search for his missing daughter share equal screen time with Jamel Debbouze’s love-obsessed Parisian dentist, Ben Foster’s just-released sex offender and Maria Flor’s deceived Brazilian student. Meirelles brings an impressive fluidity to 360, but the sum isn’t greater than its well-oiled parts, unfortunately. And the music is bloody annoying.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, The Deep Blue Sea is Davies’s first narrative feature since 2000’s The House of Mirth, and it’s a moving, gorgeously lensed adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s play about Hester Collyer (Rachel Weisz), an upper-class woman in the 1950s who forsakes her marriage to a titled high court judge (Simon Russell Beale) to shack up with an ex-RAF officer (Tom Hiddleston).
Davies manages to make Deep Blue Sea surprisingly cinematic given its stage origins, and Hester’s ordeal is compelling, despite her adulterous betrayal, thanks to a stunning performance from Weisz. The Barber blaring from the soundtrack makes an inspired marriage with the tragic subject matter, too. A good choice for closing night and a reason for Daniel Craig’s new wife to turn up twice on the LFF red carpet this year.