More from Michael Moore
Barely four months have passed since Michael Moore was beating the drum at Cannes for his documentary Sicko. Now he’s back on the promotional circuit at the Toronto Film Festival, plugging a new documentary, Captain Mike Across America. Well, not quite so new in that it recycles footage from Moore’s 2004 Slacker Uprising tour, which encouraged young Americans to vote John Kerry for president. A bit late in the day to bring that out, you might think, given that the campaign did not achieve the desired result.
In Toronto, Moore had the added burden of defending the film against the claim in Variety that “this repetitious and self-indulgent hodgepodge comes across as a nostalgia-drenched vanity project, with far too much footage of various celebs introducing Moore as the greatest thing since sliced bread”.
While passing over the alleged significance of sliced bread, Moore insisted that the movie is not a vanity project.
Class acts introduce the classics
Although Toronto is awash with enticing new movies from around the world, it continues to honour classic films in its stimulating strand, Dialogue: Talking with Pictures, at which special guests introduce films from the past.
This year’s speakers are Nancy Kwan on Flower Drum Song, the 1961 musical in which she starred; Peter Bogdanovich on John Ford’s 1917 western Bucking Broadway, which had been assumed irretrievably lost; Ken Loach on Closely Observed Trains, Jiri Menzel’s 1966 Czech new wave classic; Richard Attenborough on his 1969 directing debut, Oh! What a Lovely War; Sidney Lumet on William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1944); Ellen Burtsyn on Martin Scorsese’s Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (1974), which earned her the best actress Oscar; and Max von Sydow on the late Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960), in which he starred.
The most coveted prize at Toronto is the People’s Choice Award, voted by the paying public who turn out in vast numbers, day and night, during the festival. The award has a new sponsor this year in Cadillac, and a new incentive for voting because one ballot paper will be drawn at random when the festival ends. The lucky voter will win a 2008 Cadillac CTS, which looks very smart indeed. I know that because it features in Cadillac’s promo before every single movie in the festival.
Kazakhstan became a figure of fun at Toronto last year when Borat broke out as a surprise hit. Now the Kazakhs are striking back with Mongol, Russian director Sergei Bodrov’s epic charting the rise of Genghis Khan. Well received at Toronto this year, the Kazakh-Russian co-production aims to follow Borat into the Oscar nominations.
“Borat was an unbeatable Kazakh movie, but I think the Kazakhs now have more of a sense of humour, although they were really upset in the beginning,” Bodrov says. “One of the reasons we got the money from Kazakhstan for Mongol was that they wanted to show people something different about their country.”
Suits you Stuart
Dubliner Stuart Townsend looked tanned and dapper in a white shirt and dark suit and tie when he came on stage in Toronto to introduce the world premiere of his first feature as writer-director, Battle in Seattle. Then he brought on the movie’s leading actor, Martin Henderson, who was wearing an identical outfit. As guys are not pushed about these couture clashes, Townsend joked that they were going to do a Blues Brothers routine. Next on stage was Woody Harrelson, looking rather less formal in a collarless blue shirt, red trousers and sandals.
Townsend finally introduced his off-screen partner, Oscar- winning South African actress Charlize Theron, who plays Harrelson’s wife in the film. “She put up with me yabbering about this project for five years,” Townsend declared. “I love her to bits.”
In the spotlight: