Toronto International Film Festival Day 1

Posted 8 September 2017




The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival has a very different feel to last year's version of the event. The opening weekend in 2016 found the city awash with big-name Hollywood stars promoting a slew of highly commercial movies and hogging the red carpet; all of The Magnificent 7 were in town (the 2016 remake, not the Yul Brynner one); McConaughey and Johansson dropped by for a screening of their animated musical Sing; and Ryan Gosling began the media onslaught for La-La Land that would culminate in it winning the Academy Award for Best Film…for all of thirty seconds.

No such glitz this year! These are serious times and there is a clear emphasis on serious filmmakers and their work. So, instead of an expensive Western being the highlight of the festival's opening night, we were given the Canadian premiere of Loveless, the latest film from Andrey Zvyagintsev, possibly the best Russian director of the moment. Zvyagintsev's films (The Return, The Banishment, Elena and Leviathan) consistently paint an immensely bleak picture of contemporary Russia and Loveless continues in that vein. The film is already gathering a strong critical reputation as it goes through its initial festival tour and won the Jury Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival. The film shows the devastating effect of a divorcing couple's bitter arguments on their twelve year-old son. It clinically provides not just a critique on the indifference of parents who spend more time with their smartphones than their children but also on Russian society as a whole.

The film played to a packed house at the Winter Garden Theatre last night and Zvyagintsev was on hand to introduce the film and give a Q&A afterwards - I dipped out of that as it was getting late due to the film having been started in error without subtitles - hey it's not just the Showroom where such things happen! I initially thought that, for me, the film had not delivered the expected emotional charge; however, I now cannot get the film out of my head and feel it has taken hold of my attention in a way I wish it hadn't. It is an astonishing piece of filmmaking and although an extremely demanding watch, should not be missed.

As I left, I had to struggle through a packed foyer where Grace Jones was being adored by her fans - a documentary, Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami had been on in the ElginTheatre (which shares the same location as the Winter Garden, one on top of the other) at the same time as Loveless. The world's greatest living diva has lost nothing of her outrageous disparagement of convention and I reflected that actually TIFF may not have completely forsaken its showbiz side.

Martin Carter

Principal Film Lecturer at Sheffield Hallam University, Martin regularly gives lectures and courses at The Showroom Cinema in Sheffield.Read more posts by Martin Carter


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