The Toronto Film Festival doesn't often lack the vision thing. And then came Blindness.
The Fernando Meirelles film based on Nobel Prize winner Jose Saramago's acclaimed novel, which garnered mixed reviews at its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, made its North American debut Saturday at the Elgin Theatre. And judging by audience reaction, the Toronto gala was something of a repeat performance.
Before the screening, the director, who vaulted to international ranks on the strength of such hits as City of God and The Constant Gardener, introduced stars Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Gael Garcia Bernal and the mostly Canadian supporting cast.
Shortly afterward, those in attendance were treated to a two-hour postapocalyptic nightmare. Festival-goers checking their BlackBerries has become a sad fact of screenings. But the number of flashing Smartphones seemed unusually high. The theater was dark but didn't disguise the dozen-plus audience members exiting mid-movie.
One film generating extremely positive buzz is first-time helmer Nicholas Fackler's holiday romance, Lovely, Still. The film, about an elderly bachelor (Martin Landau) who falls in love with a new neighbor (Ellen Burstyn) has been playing to sold-out crowds. Adam Scott and Elizabeth Banks costar.
We caught up with Scott and Banks at one of the hottest (and hardest to get into) parties in town, a bash thrown by Creative Artists Agency at the rooftop bar of the Park Hyatt Hotel.
Here are some party highlights:
• Scott, who appeared opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Aviator and stars in HBO's Tell Me You Love Me, sang the praises of the "filmmaking phenom" Fackler, a 23-year-old neophyte who's also a painter. Asked about HBO's cancellation of his sexually-charged drama after one season, the 35-year-old thesp said he felt "relieved" for the most part because work on Tell Me You Love Me had been going on for three years and HBO was unsure what to do with it. The father of an infant, with a second child due in about six weeks, Scott said he was looking forward to spending quality time with his ever-growing family.
• Banks, who is also starring here in Kevin Smith's anticipated Zack and Miri Make a Porno, preferred to hold forth on another upcoming project, Oliver Stone's biopic of President George W. Bush, W., in which she plays Laura Bush. "I think people are going to be really surprised [with Stone's portrayal of Bush] when they see the movie," she said, adding that she was "thrilled" to be in the movie and looked forward to the reception when it hits theaters just before the November presidential election.
• MSNBC anchor and former general manager Jeff Abrams acknowledged there was some "real tension" behind the scenes during the cable network's coverage of the Democratic National Convention between star commentators Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews and veteran journo Tom Brokaw over the network's perceived leftward tilt.
• Spotted chatting quietly in a corner was Keira Knightley, in town to promote her latest costume drama, The Duchess. Also on hand: Bill Maher, who's been making the rounds for his new comedy film, Religulous, and Gerard Butler, star of the well-received Guy Ritchie caper, RocknRolla.
• Two stars who didn't make the scene were Blindness star Ruffalo and Oscar winner Adrien Brody, both of whom star in another Toronto entry, The Brothers Bloom. The two arrived together in the lobby of the Park Hyatt and were ready to head up stairs to the soiree, but after learning it was a CAA wingding, Brody turned tail and Ruffalo followed. Brody severed ties with the agency earlier this year.