Toronto fest sets Irons’ ‘Butterfly’

Geffen Pictures’ “M. Butterfly” has been selected as the opening-night film for the 18th annual Festival of Festivals. And the honor makes helmer David Cronenberg the first director to have two films open the Toronto fest.

“I feel like a Grand Prix racer winning the Canadian Grand Prix,” he told Daily Variety.

Cronenberg’s “Dead Ringers,” which starred Jeremy Irons, opened the fest in 1988. Irons also has a starring role in “M. Butterfly,” along with John Lone. Cronenberg says the two fest-opening films represent a “perfect case of kismet. The symmetry is perfect.” He points out that the only actor he’s ever worked with twice is Irons. And he’s also the only director that Irons has worked with on two pix.

Cronenberg expects Irons and several other actors in the film will be in attendance at its Sept. 9 world premiere.

Also slated to attend this year’s Sept. 9-18 event is Italian helmer Nanni Moretti. The fest will feature a retrospective of his work, including “Ecce Bombo,””Sweet Dreams” and Bianca.”

Piers Handling, the fest’s deputy director of programming, called Moretti “one of Italy’s best kept comedic secrets.”

He also noted that filmmakers of the new Italy will be the focus of “Italian Renaissance.” Featured directors include Gianni Amelio (“A Blow to the Heart”), Gabriele Salvatores (“Marrakesh Express”), Ricky Tognazzi (“The Bodyguards”) and Silvio Soldini (“The Peaceful Air of the West”).

Other titles unveiled Tuesday include some Cannes prize-winners: Ken Loach’s “Raining Stones,” Mike Leigh’s “Naked” and “The Scent of the Green Papaya,” a feature film debut for Tran Anh Hung. “Each year, Cannes provides us with some real treasures and this year was no different,” said Handling.

The fest also will showcase Taiwanese cinema in honor of that government’s National Film Year. Among the titles to be screened are “The Puppetmaster” (Hou Hsiao-hsien), “The Wedding Banquet” (Ang Lee) and “Hill of No Return” (Wang Tung).

This year, the fest’s token ticketing system has been rejected and replaced by an advance ticketing system designed to combat the hassles of long lineups. From Sept. 2, patrons will be able to book tickets in advance over the phone. Tickets can also be purchased at the cinema on screening day, subject to availability.

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