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Canada's Hollywood invasion begins

The opening hours of the Toronto International Film Festival featured few stars — but a whole lot of anticipation for movies from George Clooney, Ang Lee, and the Coen Brothers

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Sam Emerson

Things got off to a typically low-key start at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival on Thursday (Sept. 6), as press, publicists, filmmakers, movie stars, and, oh yeah, regular movie viewers filed into the steamy Canadian metropolis.

THE AUDIENCE BUZZ
The only gala premiere on the fest’s opening night — Fugitive Pieces, an adaptation of Anne Michaels’ Holocaust novel by Canadian writer-director Jeremy Podeswa (The Five Senses) — seemingly left audiences mixed on its impact. Mostly, however, the day was given over to early press showings of films due to officially unspool early this weekend, including the Reese Witherspoon/Jake Gyllenhaal terrorism drama, Rendition, and the George Clooney corporate malfeasance thriller, Michael Clayton. The Jodie Foster revenge drama, The Brave One, had a special red carpet premiere last night in advance of its premiere in plain old megaplexes next week; advance reviews have not exactly been kind.

Indeed, attendees still had plenty to talk about. At a screening of Ang Lee’s Lust, Caution, which centers on a torrid love affair during the Japanese occupation of China during WWII, some journalists could be heard arguing about whether the movie’s now-infamous NC-17 sex scenes were either over-the-top or the best thing about the film. Meanwhile, the Coen brothers’ Texas crime thriller, No Country For Old Men, which wowed audiences at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, promises to do very much the same here across the pond, judging from the reaction at last night’s press preview. Look for more reaction to these and other films in the days ahead.

THE TOUGHEST TICKET
For the subjects of Heavy Metal in Baghdad, a documentary about, evidently, the only metal band in Iraq, called Acrassicauda (i.e. a deadly species of scorpion, naturally), the truly tough ticket appears to be just getting to the festival. According to the film’s publicist, the band members— who had been living in a basement in Syria — were denied exit visas by their host country. To add very real injury to the insult, the Syrian government is allegedly threatening to send the Iraqi refugees back home. ”Their lives are in danger,” said the rep. Kinda puts the whole idea of actors taking a ”risk” with overtly political films seem a bit soft, doesn’t it?