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Masters lend weight to Toronto fest

The festival also brings together an eclectic mix of International films, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2006 13:12 IST

One package that the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) can never go wholly wrong with belongs to the section devoted to the latest works of the masters of world cinema. It’s simple: even if only half the filmmakers on the programme manage to live up to only half the expectations of their admirers from around the world, the job is done.

Film lovers attending the Toronto celebration of the movies have an impressively wide array of options – among them the varied showcase of the best of Canadian cinema, the Vanguard programme that promotes the provocatively groundbreaking work of the mavericks and the equally exciting Visions section, which highlights an eclectic mix of films that adopt rarely seen methods of storytelling.

But as one goes looking for surprises in the above-mentioned sections, it is the assurance that the Masters bring to the festival that usually ends up being the biggest draw. This year is no exception. And how could it be with names like Alain Resnais, Volker Scholdorff, Margarethe Von Trotta, Ken Loach, Aki Kaurismaki and Werner Herzog up there on the marquee?

This writer’s hands-down favourite among the masterworks on show in Toronto this year would be I Am the Other Woman, German filmmaker Margarethe Von Trotta’s evocative, finely textured screen adaptation of a novel of the same name by Peter Marthesheimer.

Rescue Dawn, a film by German director Werner Herzog, was highly appreciated at the Toronto International Festival.

The film tells the story of a successful young engineer who falls for the in-your-face charm of a mysterious woman he encounters in a hotel. The more the man is drawn to her, the more he finds himself trapped in the complex web of lies and deceit that the irresistible woman’s life is. Boasting a first-rate script and a clutch of top-draw performances by actors of the calibre Armin Mueller-Stahl, Katja Reimann and August Diehl,

I am the Other Woman

is absolutely riveting fare, both as cinema and as a story.

German auteur Werner Herzog has crafted his first Hollywood genre film, Rescue Dawn, inspired by the true-life story of a US Navy pilot who escaped from a Laos prison camp during the Vietnam War. For Herzog fans, the film might come across as a bit of a sell-out to a form of filmmaking that isn’t a patch on the masterly films that he has made in the past. But those for whom Herzog is just another name, Rescue Dawn could well prove to be a film that is entertaining enough for the price of a multiplex ticket.

Another German veteran, Volker Schlondorff, also inspired by real historical events, has authored a completely different film. Strike, set in the Lenin shipyards of Gdansk, dramatises the flashpoint that led to the outbreak of the Solidarity movement in Poland and signalled the end of the Cold War.

Certainly not as entertaining as Rescue Dawn, Strike reveals flashes of Schlondorff’s deliberate, moody style of telling a story as it follows one female shipyard worker whose eventual dismissal from the shipyard triggered the uprising.

With Private Fears in Public Places, 84-year-old French legend Alain Resnais proves that he hasn’t lost any of his touch yet. Probably his most playful film to date, Private Fears is about seven characters and a complicated web of relationships. The stories are only tenuously connected to each other, but in Resnais’ hands, they turn into a delightfully witty, innovative and coherent humanist pastiche.