While the Toronto Intl. Film Festival has become a magnet for major Hollywood star power, Montreal World Film Festival has carved out its own distinctive niche as a home for auteur cinema from all parts of the globe. The 23rd annual Montreal fest, which began Aug. 27 and runs through Sept. 6, again reflects this focus on international arthouse cinema, with a lineup of 288 pics from 68 countries unspooling at the event.
The event specializes in arthouse pics from around the globe and usually is light on big Hollywood titles. The open-minded cinemagoers of the French-speaking city start showing up for screenings at 9 a.m., with attendance reaching upwards of 350,000.
As always, the centerpiece of the festival is the Official Competition, with 19 features this year in the running to nab the Grand Prix of the Americas.
Canada is repped in the competition by Jean Beaudin’s “Memories Unlocked,” which stars James Hyndman, Pascale Bussieres, Yves Jacques and Louise Portal in the tale of a handicapped painter; and first-time Canuck helmer Louis Belanger’s “Post Mortem,” the story of a mother who’ll do just about anything to provide for her 5-year-old daughter.
The competition also includes the opening-night selection, Toronto writer-director Patricia Rozema’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park.” The U.K.-shot Miramax production features Frances O’Connor, Hugh Bonneville, Jonny Lee Miller, Embeth Davidtz and Harold Pinter.
Other pics competing include “The Bridge,” co-directed by Gerard Depardieu and Frederic Auburtin and co-starring Depardieu and Carole Bouquet; Italian director Ettore Scola’s “The Dinner”; German-French co-production “The Volcano,” from helmer Ottokar Runze; and “Misery Harbour,” from Oscar-nominated Norwegian director Nils Gaup. Iranian helmer Majid Majidi, who won the Grand Prix of the Americas in 1997 for “The Children of Heaven,” returns to the Montreal competition with “The Color of God.”
This year, the festival pays tribute to Richard Dreyfuss and Walt Disney. Dreyfuss will be given the Grand Prix Special des Ameriques at a ceremony Sept. 4 at the Imperial Cinema; the evening also will feature the screening of Dreyfuss starrer “Mr. Holland’s Opus.”
The same day, fest president Serge Losique will present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane Disney Miller, in honor of her father’s life and work.
As usual, Montreal offers a sidebar devoted to Latin American cinema, with 16 pics from 11 countries, including Fernando Solanas’ “The Cloud.” The spotlight country for this year’s festival is Ireland.
The lone Hollywood studio entry at the Montreal fest is Phillip Noyce’s “The Bone Collector,” which was shot locally last summer and features Denzel Washington.