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Toronto International Film Festival: the buzz this year

George Clooney film captures attention, along with a new Neil Young documentary.

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There were times when TIFF, as everybody calls the festival, seemed more like a rock show than a movie show. Davis Guggenheim's U2 documentary, From the Sky Down, kicked off the 10-day event, and there was also Cameron Crowe's documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty, and Jonathan Demme's Neil Young Journeys, which is mostly a record of Young's solo concert in May in Toronto's Massey Hall. Bono and The Edge and Eddie Vedder were limo'd all over town. They even jammed. But there's nothing quite like listening to Neil Young singing some of his best stuff in the Demme film. (This is their third collaboration together.)

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After the screening, a grade school classmate introduced herself from the audience – turns out Young had a crush on her in third grade – and he talked about how as a little boy he used to collect turtles from the local watering hole in Omemee, Ontario, and blow them up with firecrackers. "I guess my environmentalism roots aren't all that deep," he said.

I attended a small dinner with Young that same night, where I wanted to talk music and he told me instead that the secret to dieting is not eating bread at restaurants. I asked about breadsticks.

He thought for a while and then answered: "That's a gray area." With a beat-up leather jacket and yellow Panama hat, Young could be mistaken for a superannuated roadie and not one of rock's lasting luminaries. He's currently writing a memoir about the cars in his life.

Francis Ford Coppola's mostly self-financed, microbudget Gothic horror film, Twixt, starring Val Kilmer as a sub-Stephen King novelist, is colossally disappointing, but it provoked one of the more moving moments at a festival press conference. The movie includes a fatal boating accident involving the novelist's daughter, clearly an allusion to the boating death of Coppola's son Gian-Carlo. Tearing up, Coppola said, "Every parent feels they are responsible for what happened to their kid. I didn't realize until I made the film that I felt so responsible for what happened those 24 years ago."

He was also asked if he would ever direct a "Godfather IV," to which he responded: "I have less interest in making another 'Godfather' movie than I have in this glass of water in front of me. And I'm not thirsty."

I was in Toronto during the 9/11 attacks and the festival commemorated that event on its 10th anniversary this year by showing a short film chronicling that horrible day. TIFF, which was in the middle of its run, didn't shut down on 9/11 but there were no parties, no galas, no red carpets, no interviews, just movies.

I thought at the time that the movies should have been jettisoned as well, but by the end, I changed my mind. Good movies can be more than diversions, they can be restorative, and back on 9/11 everyone was looking to connect with life in whatever way they could.

Ten years later, we live in a world very much shaped by that awful event, and the same principle, as this festival so vigorously confirms, still applies: Movies, at their best, are a way to bring us into the world and make us feel.


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