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Toronto Film Festival 2019

Just got back from my annual visit to the famous Toronto Film Fest. I broke my personal record and managed to take in 35 films during the 11 days; including five in one day alone last Saturday:)

Here is a recap of the European films I screened (some will make to the big screen, most others you will have look for on Netflix or Amazon streaming):

-Personal History of David Copperfield: Veep creator Armando Iannucci directs Dev Patel, Hugh
Laurie, and Tilda Swinton in the famous autobiography of Dickens. Normally not a big Dickens fan but the film is very entertaining with a fresh take on the novel.

-The Whistler: Much of the best cinema from the continent over the past 25 years has come out of Romania, and this is no exception. Excellent gangster film which also takes place on the Canary Islands. Title refers to a special whistling language used on the island so criminals can communicate to one another stealthy . So well explained during the film that by the end you can actually understand what is being communicated.

-Barefoot Emperor: A Flemish satire with a good premise. Set in the near future, the EU disbands and the King of Belgium becomes the Emperor of Europe. Sadly the film is flat out terrible, people fled the cinema in droves mid-way through.

-Sweetness in the Belly: An Irish production set in Ethiopia and London. Based on a novel, Dakota Fanning plays an Irish-American girl raised in Africa. Forced to flee during the civil war she becomes a refugee and settles in London. Beautiful story about her attempts to locate her lover stuck in Ethiopia and the spouses of other refugees. Very poignant with parallels to the current migrant crisis.

-Greed: Director Michael Winterbottom, and comedian Steve Coogan team up again with a very funny satire about the Philip Green scandal, and the serious issue of worldwide wealth disparity.

-Judy:BBC Films biopic of the last months of Judy Garland's life while she does concerts in London. Renee Zellweger gives what is sure to be an Oscar Winning performance in this moving must see film.

-Lyrebird: Filmed on location in Amsterdam, and set just after WWII liberation, the true story of a scandal involving looted wartime art and art forgery. Notable in that it is directed and financed by first time director Dan Friedkin, who is a Texas billionaire who made a lot of his fortune owning Toyota dealerships throughout the state. He surprisingly makes a very engaging film with a lot of help from his leads Claes Bang, Guy Pearce, and the rest of his Dutch cast.

-The Burnt Orange Heresy: Set in Milan and Lake Cuomo and Starring Claes Bang (again), Elizabeth Debiki, Donald Sutherland, and Mick Jagger. Another engaging film about the art world; excellent thriller.

-The Sleeper: Outstanding big-budget Czech language spy thriller set in Cold War Prague from HBO Europe. Screened the first two episodes of the the six part mini series. Unfortunately the producers were unsure if it will ever be available in North America as HBO USA/Canada are completely different entities from HBO Europe. Keeping my finger's crossed!

Also....although having nothing to do with Europe the very best film I saw at the fest was The Joker; the origin story of the infamous Batman villain . The film is a masterpiece and Joaquin Phoenix will surely win an Oscar for a performance that has to seen to be believed. I say this as someone who hates comic books, superheroes, and superhero movies. It deservedly won the Venice Film Festival three weeks ago.

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I heard The Painted Bird also made quite the impression in Toronto, and was quite dark and harrowing, even for a Czech film...