VarietyLA DVFLA090912 : Page 1
® 4 OF 6 SUND A Y , SEPTEMBER 9, 2012 Are Oscars no laffing matter? By Jon Weisman Seeing “Argo” in Toronto was a serendipitous treat, given the central supporting role Canada plays in the pic, not to mention its tailor-made laugh line about the way true Cana-dians pronounce “Toronto.” (Note: Fans of “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire” will recog-nize the dropping of a certain conso-nant.) The light-hearted roar of the “Argo” crowd at that Toronto-centric moment was one of many big laughs for a film that deftly bal-ances terror with humor, thanks in no small part to the perfs from Chris Terrio’s screenplay by champs like John Goodman and Alan Arkin. The movie’s festival-induced leap into best-picture discussion made me think about how pics with this many laughs fare when it comes to Oscar’s grand prize. See THE VOTE page 16 “Thermae Romae” Bollywood star, but TIFF tyro By Dave McNary When Anupam Kher told Woody Allen he’d been in more than 400 films, his “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” director had only one question: “In how many lives?” Kher re-calls. And yet the Bol-lywood star with the browser-crashing IMDB page is still somewhat stunned to find himself in Toronto for pre-Kher mieres of a pair of high-profile titles: David O. Rus-sell’s “The Silver Linings Play-book” and Deepa Mehta’s “Mid-night’s Children.” “It’s actually 453 films,” the 57-year-old Kher told Variety on Saturday, just a few hours before the “Silver Linings” red carpet. “I love keeping track of that number and it’s a reminder to me that I came from a small town in India. Of course, See KHER page 18 EAST TREATS WEST Asian pic biz gaining momentum By Jennie Punter From more Gala and prestige slots than ever to a new industry event stacked with major players, Asian cinema and biz have never been higher on the agenda at Toronto. “The Asian film industry is the most dynamic and fastest growing in the world — and the West wants to get in on the action,” fest artistic director Cameron Bailey told Variety on Saturday, follow-ing the international preem of Japanese box-office hit “Thermae Romae,” helmer Hideki Takeuchi’s adaptation of the popular comic book. With the scene set Thursday by the enthused recep-tion for fest opener and U.S.-China co-pro “Looper,” biz action kicked into gear Saturday morning with the sale of Korean helmer Hur Jin-ho’s “Dangerous Liai-sons,” which adapts the 18th-century French literary classic to 1930s Shanghai, to Well Go USA. See ASIA page 18 GALA PRESENTATIONS Cloud Atlas (Germany) The fullness of time By Peter Debruge ‘Pieta’ tames Golden Lion; ‘Master’ wins most prizes By Nick Vivarellli VENICE A n intense three-hour men-tal workout rewarded with a big emotional payoff, “Cloud Atlas” suggests that all human experience is con-nected in the pursuit of freedom, art and love. As inventive nar-ratives go, there’s outside the box, and then there’s pioneer-ing another dimension entirely, and this massive, independently financed collaboration among Tom Tykwer and Wachowski Tom Hanks in “Cloud Atlas” siblings Lana and Andy coura-geously attempts the latter, in-terlacing six seemingly unrelated stories in such a way that par-allels erupt like cherry bombs in the imagination. The R-rated epic should find a substantial audience when Warner Bros. re-leases it Oct. 26, assuming critics don’t kill it in the cradle. Based on David Mitchell’s novel — more like six novels re-ally, with each one executed in a Turn to page 16 South Korean helmer Kim Ki-duk’s twisted thriller “Pieta,” the tale of a mean loan shark who softens after meeting a woman who claims to be his mother, won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion — but not without a little political maneuvering at the expense of “The Master.” While “Pieta,” a festival fave considered a return to top form by the longtime arthouse darling, took Venice’s top nod, Paul Thomas An-derson’s “The Master” came away with the most prizes, sparking some controversy over this year’s rules. See VENICE page 18 Kim Ki-duk sang a Korean song to the jury after winning the Golden Lion for his thriller “Pieta.” Venturelli/WireImage
Are Oscars No Laffing Matter?
Seeing “Argo” in Toronto was a serendipitous treat, given the central supporting role Canada plays in the pic, not to mention its tailor-made laugh line about the way true Canadians pronounce “Toronto.” (Note: Fans of “Homicide: Life on the Street” and “The Wire” will recognize the dropping of a certain consonant.)<br /> <br /> The lighthearted roar of the “Argo” crowd at that Torontocentric moment was one of many big laughs for a film that deftly balances terror with humor, thanks in no small part to the perfs from Chris Terrio’s screenplay by champs like John Goodman and Alan Arkin. The movie’s festival-induced leap into best-picture discussion made me think about how pics with this many laughs fare when it comes to Oscar’s grand prize.<br /> <br /> The generality is all too familiar — if you’re a true comedy, you’d best hope for a Golden Globe, because the Oscars are serious business. Just for “Bridesmaids” to get a nomination last time around would have seemed a major achievement, and it didn’t happen. Comedy’s inherent degree of difficulty is no selling point to Academy voters.<br /> <br /> Look at what’s happened this century.<br /> <br /> After “American Beauty,” a dark tale but one with a sardonic sense of humor, won the 1999 Oscar, we got the following grim-faced parade: “Gladiator,” “A Beautiful Mind,” “Chicago” (all right, not grim-faced but not a chucklefest either), “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” “Million Dollar Baby” and “Crash.” At best, there was some comic relief in that group, relief sorely needed from the serious subject matter.<br /> <br /> We found some dark humor again sprinkled in 2006’s “The Departed” and 2007’s “No Country for Old Men,” but the next two years of “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Hurt Locker” put an end to that.<br /> <br /> “The King’s Speech” in 2010 probably generated the most obvious laugh-out-lines for an Oscarwinning picture since “American Beauty,” and set the stage for “The Artist,” the most overtly lighthearted film to win since 1998’s “Shakespeare in Love” (by the way, down the road on The Vote you’ll receive my lecture that unrevises the revisionist history that “Shakespeare” unfairly stole that award).<br /> <br /> “The Artist” turns dark as it nears its climax, but though it deals with serious themes, no one comes away saying it’s a heavy movie. It won the Golden Globe as a comedy, appropriately.<br /> <br /> “Argo” probably falls into “King’s Speech” territory in its ratio of jokes to drama. However, “Argo” doesn’t have to work as hard as “King’s” to explain the stakes — indeed, the Ben Affleckdirected film is edge-of-your-seat stuff from the opening moments. A couple of years ago, you might have thought the laughs risked undermining the film being taken seriously, but now, they’re this close to firming up a trend.<br /> <br /> And if you like the chances of “Moonrise Kingdom” setting up a tent on nomination day, “Argo” wouldn’t even be the most amusing film to get tapped.<br /> <br /> It’s interesting how these puzzle pieces come together. If “Argo” makes you feel swept away, the laughs are no doubt a key reason why, even if it’s the drama that hammers home your esteem.
East Treats West
Asian pic biz gaining momentum<br /> <br /> From more Gala and prestige slots than ever to a new industry event stacked with major players, Asian cinema and biz have never been higher on the agenda at Toronto.<br /> <br /> “The Asian film industry is the most dynamic and fastest growing in the world — and the West wants to get in on the action,” fest artistic director Cameron Bailey told Variety on Saturday, following the international preem of Japanese box-office hit “Thermae Romae,” helmer Hideki Takeuchi’s adaptation of the popular comic book.<br /> <br /> With the scene set Thursday by the enthused reception for fest opener and U.S.-China co-pro “Looper,” biz action kicked into gear Saturday morning with the sale of Korean helmer Hur Jin-ho’s “Dangerous Liaisons,” which adapts the 18th-century French literary classic to 1930s Shanghai, to Well Go USA.<br /> <br /> Pic has its North American preem Monday night following the inaugural TIFF Asian Film Summit, a banner event for the festival, being held at the recently opened Shangri-La Hotel Toronto.<br /> <br /> Bailey and his team scoured the globe for expert advice and for business leaders who will tackle the nitty-gritty of attaining closer East-West collaboration in a daylong series of working sessions on key topics like harnessing talent, wrangling financing, managing co-pros and building sales ties.<br /> <br /> “The West wants to access not only the film-loving audiences in huge countries like China and India, but also the financing that’s available in countries with serious film money,” said Bailey, whose first step in putting the summit together was sitting down in Hong Kong with producer Bill Kong (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”), whom Bailey calls “one of the best minds on film globally.”<br /> <br /> Bailey also secured the participation of superstar Jackie Chan, the summit’s guest of honor.<br /> <br /> “We wanted to have one high profile actor to be a kind of ambassador and show, through the work they’ve done, what’s possible in terms of building bridges.” <br /> <br /> In Cannes, Bailey sat down with Senator Chris Dodd, MPAA CEO and chair, and will continue the free-ranging conversation Monday morning in a summit session called “The Global Future of Film.” <br /> <br /> “I really liked his nuanced approach to important issues, such as curbing piracy, that the major studios are trying to figure out in order to engage more closely with the Asian industry,” Bailey said.<br /> <br /> While many recent industry confabs have focussed on China, the fest wanted its summit to open the exchange to the wider Asian scene.<br /> <br /> “You can see in this year’s programming films that show creative and financing collaboration between Asian countries,” Bailey said.<br /> <br /> An afternoon session looking at India’s unique path to international success through both Bollywood and independent film includes the participation of Nina Lath Gupta of the National Film Development Corp. of India; the country has 20 pics on this year’s slate, 10 in the City to City program, which puts Mumbai in the spotlight.<br /> <br /> The fest’s diverse Asian feature slate includes pics from China (18) , Japan (16), South Korea (11), the Philipines (4), Vietnam (3) and a film apiece from Singapore, Thailand and North Korea.<br /> <br /> Asian genre films, also on the summit agenda, have a long tradition of generating aud and buyer excitement in Toronto — previous Midnight Madness titles “The Host,” “13 Assassins” and cult favorite “The Raid” to name a few.<br /> <br /> Although this year’s midnight slate lacks an Asian pic — Japanese helmer Ryuhei Kitamura’s world-preeming “No One Lives” is a U.S. title — Toronto’s thrillseeking auds and have plenty to choose from.<br /> <br /> Saturday night saw the worldpreem of Lu Chan’s latest bigbudget historical spectacle “The Last Supper” — with CAA and Wild Bunch primed to pursue, respectively, U. S. and international sales — and the North American preem of thesp-turned-helmer Stephen Fung’s “Tai Chi O” (Well Go USA), a retro-futuristic actioner with superstars Tony Leung Karfai and Shu Qi.<br /> <br /> Previous fests have seen film fans from Toronto’s large South and East Asian immigrant populations show up to catch a rare live glimpse of superstars from their native lands on the red carpet.<br /> <br /> “We’re expecting some crazy crowds this year,” Bailey said.
Bollywood Star, But TIFF Tyro
When Anupam Kher told Woody Allen he’d been in more than 400 films, his “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger” director had only one question: <br /> <br /> “In how many lives?” Kher recalls.<br /> <br /> And yet the Bollywood star with the browser-crashing IMDB page is still somewhat stunned to find himself in Toronto for premieres of a pair of high-profile titles: David O. Russell’s “The Silver Linings Playbook” and Deepa Mehta’s “Midnight’s Children.” <br /> <br /> “It’s actually 453 films,” the 57-year-old Kher told Variety on Saturday, just a few hours before the “Silver Linings” red carpet. “I love keeping track of that number and it’s a reminder to me that I came from a small town in India. Of course,Sometimes in India I was working on as many as 18 films at the same time.” <br /> <br /> Kher, whose credits outside India include “Bend It Like Beckham,” Ang Lee’s “Lust, Caution” and Allen’s 2010 pic, has been acting since the early 1980s. He’s in the opening scenes of “Midnight’s Children,” speaking in his native Kashmiri dialect and has a key role as Dr. Patel, therapist to Bradley Cooper’s character in “Silver Linings.” Most of his scenes with Cooper were shot early on, in a single day last fall.<br /> <br /> “I think David did that because he wanted the performances to be authentic but it was a real challenge to do them all at once,” Kher admits. “And I do my best work when I don’t know the people around me. It’s very different from India, where I’ve worked with a lot of the people many times.” <br /> <br /> Kher remains self-effacing. He had auditioned last year for Russell via Skype but there were tech problems both in India and Toronto, adding, “They weren’t my best auditions but David told me that I got cast because I had the right look for the part.” <br /> <br /> He’s convinced that his appearances in mainstream English-language films is a signal of India’s emergence and avid moviegoing populace. As of Saturday, Kher had nealry 900,000 followers on Twitter.<br /> <br /> “My being in these two films is a pretty big deal in India,” he adds. “India is so much more than the slums in ‘Slumdog Millionaire.’” <br /> <br /> On the advice of a teacher, Kher forced himself to learn English while he was in acting school in India by speaking nothing but English between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. “My friends would run away from me,” he recalls.<br /> <br /> Kher broke into showbiz in 1982 with the Bollywood film “Aagmaan” after unsuccessfully auditioning for Richard Attenborough for the part of Jawaharlal Nehru in “Gandhi,” despite showing up in a Nehru jacket.<br /> <br /> “He told me that he already had his Nehru so I argued and did the audition very badly,” Kher recalls. “I wound up dubbing a single line in the film for release in India and got paid 1,000 rupees. That’s where I began to learn how celebrate failure.”
The Fullness Of Time
Cloud Atlas <br /> (Germany)<br /> <br /> An intense three-hour mental workout rewarded with a big emotional payoff, “Cloud Atlas” suggests that all human experience is connected in the pursuit of freedom, art and love. As inventive narratives go, there’s outside the box, and then there’s pioneering another dimension entirely, and this massive, independently financed collaboration among Tom Tykwer and Wachowski siblings Lana and Andy courageously attempts the latter, interlacing six seemingly unrelated stories in such a way that parallels erupt like cherry bombs in the imagination. The R-rated epic should find a substantial audience when Warner Bros. Releases it Oct. 26, assuming critics don’t kill it in the cradle.<br /> <br /> Based on David Mitchell’s novel — more like six novels really, with each one executed in a different genre, then split and wrapped around the next in a nested, “The Saragossa Manuscript”-style construction — this daunting adaptation rejects the book’s innovative, but overly literary format in favor or a more cinematic approach, opting to tell all half-dozen tales at once. Like juggling Ginsu blades, the tricky feat is part stunt, part skill, but undeniably entertaining to witness as half a millennium of world history unfolds, much of it set in centuries still to come.<br /> <br /> Whereas the directors’ earlier films hook viewers from the opening scene, this one functions more like a symphony, laying out snatches of all six separate strands and gradually building toward grand movements in which these elements merge in different combinations. Playing to their respective strengths, the Wachowskis tackle the earliest and two future-set segments, while Tykwer manages the three more contempo episodes, including a comedic one featuring Jim Broadbent as Timothy Cavendish, a borderline-senile book editor set in present-day London.<br /> <br /> Broadbent, like the rest of the multiculti cast, reappears in the other sections as well, fully reinventing himself as a briny sea captain and a world-famous composer, plus a couple other bit roles so cleverly disguised by makeup, auds might not recognize him on first viewing. Each of the stories involves some measure of romance, beginning in 1849, with American lawyer Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) separated from his beloved (Doona Bae) by seafaring adventures among the Pacific Islands, and extending to the year 2346, where a lowly goat-herder (Tom Hanks) falls for an emissary (Halle Berry) from the opposite end of the technological spectrum in post-apocalyptic Hawaii.<br /> <br /> Berry also stars in her own thread, playing Luisa Rey, a San Francisco reporter circa 1973 investigating the imminent threat of a nuclear reactor meltdown, receiving key assistance from scientist Rufus Sixsmith (James D’Arcy), who might just be the same man seen in the Cambridge-set 1936 chapter, a touching same-sex love story involving an aspiring musician (Ben Whishaw) attempting to write what will become the film’s theme, “The Cloud Atlas Sextet,” a beautiful piece actually composed by Tykwer, Johnny Klimek and Reinhold Heil.<br /> <br /> The riskiest and most essential of the threads — the one on which the entire tapestry depends — takes place in NeoSeoul, 2144, a socially stratified “Blade Runner”-like city in which genetically cloned fabricants serve their consumerist masters. (By 2346, the middle class has been so ruthlessly eliminated that the world may as well be divided into cave-dwellers and astronauts.) Because the six segments naturally assume different styles, the division of labor among directors and their respective units complements rather than compromises the project’s overall success, with the makeup and visual effects departments each carrying off seemingly impossible feats of transformation.<br /> <br /> In Mitchell’s novel, readers must draw their own connections between the tales, with only the recurring motif of a comet-shaped birthmark to suggest the continuity of a single soul across time. The film makes the congruities clearer, as Adam Ewing’s Pacific journal is read by Frobischer, whose epistolary correspondence with Sixsmith resurfaces in the Luisa Rey mystery, eventually published by Cavendish, whose own story is adapted to film and viewed as a futuristic recording much later by Sonmi-451 (Bae) in NeoSeoul. The final connection is best left for auds to discover, but suffice to say that common themes echo throughout the film, where the gesture of liberating a slave in 1849 reverberates through time, culminating in a paradigm-changing insurrection whose denouement occurs two centuries later.<br /> <br /> Certain links are impossible to miss by virtue of the way the three writer-directors assemble the film, and yet, given the sheer scope of the source material, so much has been omitted that one’s attention must be engaged at all times as the mosaic triggers an infinite range of potentially profound personal responses.<br /> <br /> No less exciting is the way “Cloud Atlas” challenges its actors to portray characters outside their race or gender. For instance Hugo Weaving plays villains in nearly every age, ranging from a heartless Korean consumerist to a Nurse Ratched-like ward master. Indeed, the filmmakers put the lie to the notion that casting — an inherently discriminatory art — cannot be adapted to a more enlightened standard of performance over mere appearance, reminding us why the craft is rightfully called “acting.”<br /> <br /> CREDITS: A Warner Bros. Release and presentation of a Cloud Atlas/X-Filme Creative Pool/Anarchos production in association with A Company and Ard Degeto. Produced by Grant Hill, Stefan Arndt, Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski. Executive producers, Philip Lee. Co-producers, Roberto Malerba, Marcus Loges, Peter Lam, Alexander Van Dulmen, Tony Teo.<br /> <br /> Directed, written by Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski. Camera (color, widescreen), John Toll, Frank Griebe; editor, Alexander Berner; music, Tykwer, Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil; production designer, Uli Hanisch; supervising art directors, Stephan O. Gessler, Kai Koch, Charlie Revai; set decorators, Rebecca Alleway, Peter Walpole; costume designers, Kym Barrett, Pierre-Yves Gayraud; sound (Dolby Digitial/SDDS/DTS), Ivan Sharrock; sound designer, Marcus Stemler; supervising sound editor, Frank Kruse; re-recording mixers, Lars Ginzel, Matthias Lempert; senior visual effects supervisor, Dan Glass; visual effects supervisor, Stephan Ceretti; visual effects, Method Studios, Industrial Light & Magic; Rise FX, Scanline VFX, Black Mountain, One of Us, Trixter, Lola VFX, Bluebolt, Gradient Effects; associate producers, Gigi Oeri, Lora Kennedy, Peter Grossman; assistant director, Sebastian Fahr-Brix; casting, Lora Kennedy, Lucinda Syson, Simone Bar. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Gala Presentations), Sept. 7, 2012. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 172 MIN.<br /> <br /> Zachry, et al .............................. Tom Hanks<br /> Luisa Rey, et al ........................ Halle Berry<br /> Timothy Cavendish, et al ........ Jim Broadbent<br /> Nurse Noakes, et al ............ Hugo Weaving<br /> Adam Ewing, et al .................. Jim Sturgess<br /> Sonmi-451, et al ....................... Doona Bae<br /> Robert Frobischer, et al ....... Ben Whishaw<br /> Kupaka, et al .......................... Keith David<br /> Rufus Sixsmith, et al ........... James D’Arcy<br /> Madame Horrox, et al ......... Susan Sarandon<br /> Kona Chief, et al ..................... Hugh Grant<br /> <br /> With: Xun Zhou, David Gyasi, Robert Fyfe, Martin Wuttke, Robin Morrissey, Brody Lee, Ian Van Temperley, Amanda Walker, Ralph Riach, Andrew Havill, Tanja de Wendt, Raeven Lee Hanan.<br /> <br /> (English dialogue)
'Pieta' Tames Golden Lion; 'Master' Wins Most Prizes
South Korean helmer Kim Kiduk’s twisted thriller “Pieta,” the tale of a mean loan shark who softens after meeting a woman who claims to be his mother, won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion — but not without a little political maneuvering at the expense of “The Master.” <br /> <br /> While “Pieta,” a festival fave considered a return to top form by the longtime arthouse darling, took Venice’s top nod, Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” came away with the most prizes, sparking some controversy over this year’s rules.<br /> <br /> “The Master,” Anderson’s powerful drama about the tender bond between a character loosely based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a wild, alcoholic and freespirited follower (Joaquin Phoenix), took both the Silver Lion for best director and best male acting nods for both Hoffman and Phoenix.<br /> <br /> The fact that “The Master” scored multiple prizes — but not gold — suggests it was the subject of complex negotiations among jurors, as confirmed indirectly by Mann himself.<br /> <br /> The jury tried to “cast the right picture to the right award” without considering the prizes a strict hierarchy, Mann said during the closing ceremony.<br /> <br /> During the post-awards presser Mann further elaborated, noting that Venice fest rules do not allow a pic to win the Golden Lion and also acting prizes.<br /> <br /> “So we decided that a good way to give ‘The Master’ its fullest recognition was, according to a nonhierarchical principle, to give it the prize for best director and also for the actors.” <br /> <br /> Austrian helmer Ulrich Seidl took the Special Jury nod for “Paradise: Faith.” <br /> <br /> The best actress nod went to Israel’s Hadas Yaron for “Fill the Void” by Rama Bursthein. “Something in the Air,” by Gallic helmer Olivier Assayas, took the prize for best screenplay.<br /> <br /> The Marcello Mastroianni prize for best emerging thesp went to young Italo actor Fabrizio Falco for his roles in both Marco Bellocchio’s “Dormant Beauty” and Daniele Cipri’s “It Was The Son.” <br /> <br /> “It Was The Son” also scored a nod for best cinematography.<br /> <br /> The Lion of the Future for best first work went to Turkish helmer Ali Aydin’s “Mold.” <br /> <br /> Hong Kong helmer Wang Bing took the top nod in the fest’s Horizons section dedicated to more cutting-edge works.