TORONTO – A sexual thriller from Atom Egoyan, Heath Ledger’s final film, and Emily Blunt’s turn as a young Queen Victoria were among the latest titles added to the Toronto International Film Festival lineup Tuesday as programmers also revealed their slate of Canadian content.
The 10-day movie marathon will close with the film, “The Young Victoria,” directed by Quebec filmmaker Jean-Marc Vallee, whose previous film, “C.R.A.Z.Y.,” won the award for Best Canadian Feature Film at the 2005 festival.
Vallee’s latest film, a UK-USA production, takes a look at the turbulent early years of Queen Victoria’s rule, which TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey said was marked by “instant celebrity” for the young monarch.
“This is a completely new look at Queen Victoria as a young woman,” Bailey told hundreds of filmmakers and reporters gathered for Tuesday’s announcement.
“It really sort of blasts away at those stereotypes of Queen Victoria as a sort of prudish figure from history,” programmer Steve Gravestock added later.
“It’s very much a romance, quite beautifully done, also (featuring) amazing performances and really very affecting.”
The Canadian slate this year features a notably international flavour, with Egoyan’s new thriller, “Chloe,” based on the French film “Nathalie” and starring Irish actor Liam Neeson and U.S. actress Julianne Moore. Neeson was working on the film in Toronto earlier this year when his wife, Natasha Richardson, died following a ski accident near Montreal.
“‘Chloe’ I think might just be, if not Atom’s best, close to it. It really is an exceptional piece,” Gravestock said.
“The film really is a portrait of high-end Toronto, about a marriage that’s undergoing some trouble…. There’s some almost Hitchcockian touches to it, it’s a really subtle and kind of sleek film.”
Toronto actor Don McKellar stars in Dilip Mehta’s “Cooking With Stella” as a Canadian chef transplanted to New Delhi. The screenplay was written by Mehta’s sister, director Deepa Mehta.
“It was really exciting for me, I’d never been to India before and had a couple of months there in Delhi and loved it,” said McKellar, who also appears in “Leslie, My Name is Evil,” which screens at the festival.
“I worked (on) knife technique, what to do with dish towels and things like that,” he says of training for the cooking film.
“There are a lot of little things that you learn in cooking school that I had to work on.”
Also coming to TIFF is the North American premiere of the Terry Gilliam-directed “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” featuring the late Ledger in his last role. It was shot in Vancouver and also stars Christopher Plummer.
Other Canadian films backed by international star power include the super-hero flick “Defendor,” starring Woody Harrelson, Kat Dennings and Ottawa’s Sandra Oh, and the rock ‘n’ roll vampire tale, “Suck,” featuring cameos by Alice Cooper, Moby, Iggy Pop, and Henry Rollins.
Meanwhile, Sook-Yin Lee’s romantic comedy, “Year of the Carnivore,” features the CBC radio host and former MuchMusic VJ playing a young woman insecure in the ways of love.
“Cairo Time” directed by Ruba Nadda, the documentary “Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel” from Brigitte Berman, “J’ai Tue Ma Mere Xavier Dolan” directed by Xavier Dolan, and “The Trotsky” directed by Jacob Tierney and starring Jay Baruchel, are among other Canadian films chosen for screenings.
Bucking tradition, this year’s festival will open with the British film “Creation,” rather than with a Canadian production.
The festival runs Sept. 10 to 19.