CRONENBERG COMES HOME
The gala day starts off with Sprockets family film Terra, at 1:30 p.m. and ends with Le Deuxième Souffle at 9:30 p.m. (both at Roy Thomson Hall). In between comes:
David Cronenberg (Canada/U.K.)
Here, Cronenberg takes his keen nose for violence to London, where the Russian mob is running amok - slit throats, drugged prostitutes, heroin imported from Kabul, diaries with dirty secrets, not to mention the taciturn Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen), a man of few words but many scary talents. Sure, it's just a crime thriller, yet a genre flick by Cronenberg is always a different sort of beast and, courtesy of his usual strong casting and measured pacing, this one has quite the roar. Yes, it also has that already-celebrated fight scene, the punch-up in a bathhouse where towels are shed along with the blood. What it doesn't have is the thematic resonance of A History of Violence, a film that exploited the genre even while transcending its limitations. Eastern Promises definitely delivers, but not on that scale. Rick Groen
6:30 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall
Count on Inside Entertainment's burlesque-themed party, dubbed "A celebration of sexy cinema," to bring out a local cast of colourful characters. Word has it a few entertainers have already flown in for tomorrow's One X One smash fundraiser. Those with big appetites will appreciate the venue: a brand-spanking-new steakhouse called Jacobs & Co. (12 Brant St., 9 p.m.) where the entire menu will be previewed.
The CANADIAN HIGHLIGHT
The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman
Peter Raymont (Canada)
Canadian director Peter Raymont (Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire) went to Chile with Ariel Dorfman, the poet, novelist and playwright (Death and the Maiden). Dorfman was the cultural adviser to Salvador Allende before the coup on Sept. 11, 1973, and the film is an elegy for those who were murdered, tortured and erased by the military. Though it's interwoven with archival footage and interviews, the film is essentially Dorfman talking: Devastated by the coup, filled with the need to explain the reason for his chance survival, he sees his story as a bridge to that other Sept. 11, and what happens when a culture is ruled by fear and anger. Liam Lacey
2:45 p.m. Scotiabank 3
BRIT DAY AT THE FEST
Galas include The Last Lear at 1:30 p.m., and Cate Blanchett's much-anticipated return to the throne in Elizabeth: The Golden Age at 6:30. Also getting the gala treatment today:
The Jane Austen Book Club
Robin Swicord (USA) **½
It's getting to be all Jane all the time. Not content with adapting her novels, or updating her novels, or re-inventing her cloistered life, Hollywood now hits the poor woman with a book club. Set in sunny California and based on Karen Joy Fowler's sunnier tome, the movie follows the progress of five women and a token guy as they tiptoe through the Austen oeuvre, exchanging literary aperçus on the order of, "Mr. Knightly is my favourite of all the Austen men." Along the way, darned if their own romantic ups and downs don't begin to resemble the fictional characters', allowing the Janeites in the audience to play spot-the-connection. Swicord directs with a relatively light touch, but material this precious has an awfully low breaking point. Then again, maybe the genre will catch on: Anyone for The Franz Kafka Book Club? R.G.
9:30 p.m., Roy Thomson Hall
THE ONE TO HIT
No contest here. One X One is TIFF's linchpin entertainment event that gets people feeling all warm and fuzzy inside thanks to its support of children's charities. With Matt Damon, Wyclef Jean and Shakira, model Petra Nemcova, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson, Richard Gere and Diesel's Renzo Rosso as marquee names, the Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen St. W. 5 p.m.) will become a United Nations of celebrity good Samaritans.
THE CANADIAN HIGHLIGHT
Guy Maddin (Canada)
A hilarious "docu-fantasia" from one of Canada's most distinctive directors, My Winnipeg is at once an autobiographical fever dream, a mythopeic history of Canada's coldest city and a wacky exercise in ethnography. Holding its hallucinatory blend of archival footage, animation and skewed recreations of scenes from Maddin's childhood together is the director's inspired, entertaining narration. "Demolition is one of our growth industries," he intones with barely suppressed rage as another Winnipeg landmark meets the wrecking ball. The Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce won't like this film, but Maddin's transmogrification of the Manitoba capital makes it seem as mysterious and, well, foreign as any one of the world's great metropolises. James Adams
5 p.m., Varsity 8
ALSO SEE ...
Jan Sverak (Czech Republic/U.K.)
With the exceptionally funny and touching Empties, this Oscar-winning (Kolya) Czech director completes his acclaimed trilogy of films about stages in life. His father Zdenek Sverak (once again his co-writer) stars as Josef, a blithe, somewhat mischievous literature professor who reluctantly retires. Josef's restless, social nature soon leads him to take a part-time job at a bottle-return counter, and his well-intentioned meddling in other people's romantic problems gets mixed results. This deft comedy about life's transitions may conclude with an unforgettable scene in a hot-air balloon but its many pleasures are down-to-earth. J.P.
9:45 a.m., Cumberland 2