Toronto Film Festival: High-profile releases and under-the-radar films are both satisfying viewing
The kind of hoopla I prefer was the screening in an old-time movie palace of “Visitors,” a weirdo documentary from Godfrey Reggio, who gave us “Koyaanisqatsi” and its follow-ups. The film, “presented by” Steven Soderbergh, and scored by Philip Glass, both in attendance, is as slowed down as Reggio’s other films are furiously fast. Shot in impeccable black and white, without dialogue, it has something to do with metaphysical musings about the nature of watching a movie and features a big, unsmiling lowland gorilla borrowed from the Bronx Zoo. But what made the evening special was the live orchestral accompaniment in the pit by 66 members of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Most people don’t realize that in the silent era, at least in the big cities, this sort of thing was not uncommon. Those days are long gone. Today you couldn’t even fit a string quintet into many of the shoebox multiplexes.
Asghar Farhadi, who directed the great “A Separation” a few years ago, was back with “The Past,” a lesser but still strong film about a painful divorce, set in Paris and costarring Bérénice Bejo (“The Artist”). I’ve never quite understood how it is that certain Iranian directors, such as Farhadi and Abbas Kiarostami, are free to work abroad, on material not altogether uncontroversial, while others, like Jafar Panahi, who also had a film in Toronto, “Closed Curtain,” are essentially under house arrest. (In 2011 Panahi smuggled into Cannes his “This is Not a Film” on a flash drive inside a cake.)