Toronto girds for ‘Invasions’

Arcand's pic to open festival

TORONTO — Denys Arcand’s Cannes fest prize-winner “The Barbarian Invasions” will raise the curtain Sept. 4 on the 28th Toronto Intl. Film Festival, organizers announced Tuesday.

The bittersweet ode to family and friendship took the screenplay award as well as actress honors for Marie-Josee Croze at Cannes, where it was acquired for U.S. release by Miramax.

“Invasions” picks up where “The Decline of the American Empire” left off 20 years earlier. This is Arcand’s fifth film to make the Toronto selection and his third opening-nighter, following “Decline” in 1986 and “Stardom” in 2000.

“Is that a record?” deadpanned Arcand, on hand with producer Denise Robert for the press conference. “Toronto was always good to me. My films are well received here, and I’m royally treated by the festival, so I’m a happy man.” Arcand said the version to screen in Toronto will be longer than the Cannes cut, but shorter than the cut in Quebec theaters.

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More preems

Festival director Piers Handling announced three other galas.

Robert Altman’s backstage ballet drama, “The Company,” from Sony Pictures Classics, which stars Neve Campbell, James Franco and Malcolm McDowell, will have its world premiere. Lions Gate’s Nicole Kidman starrer “Dogville,” from Danish iconoclast Lars von Trier, will receive its North American preem; and Canadian director Emil Gaudreault’s coming-out comedy “Mambo Italiano” will unspool as a gala presentation. Latter title goes out through Samuel Goldwyn Films in the U.S.

World-premiering in the Masters lineup is John Sayles’ “Casa de los Babys,” from IFC Films, with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lili Taylor and Marcia Gay Harden in a drama about six women trying to adopt children in Latin America. In the same section will be the North American preem of L’Histoire de Marie et Julien,” from Gallic veteran Jacques Rivette.

Five films were unveiled for this year’s international spotlight, this year titled Vida Novo: The New Brazilian Cinema. Among them are Hector Babenco’s prison drama “Carandiru,” from Sony Pictures Classics, and Jose Padilha’s docu account of a Rio hijacking, “Bus 174,” going out in the U.S. via ThinkFilm. Also announced are Eliane Caffe’s “The Story Tellers,” Jose Henrique Fonseca’s “The Man of the Year” and “Margarette’s Feast” from Renato Falcao.

A dozen titles for the Contemporary World Cinema program include David Mackenzie’s “Young Adam” with Ewan McGregor, which drew significant buzz at Cannes; Icelandic newcomer Dagur Kari’s “Noi Albinoi,” from Palm Pictures; John Crowley’s urban relationships drama “Intermission,” starring Colin Farrell, from IFC Films; and Sony Pictures Classics’ drama “The Mother,” from director Roger Michell.

Other titles are Erik Matti’s “Prosti,” IFC Films’ “Kitchen Stories” from Norwegian helmer Bent Hamer, Julie Bertuccelli’s “Depuis qu’Otar est parti,” Penny Woolcock’s “The Principles of Lust,” Naomi Kawase’s “Shara” and Sedigh Barmak’s “Osama,” the first film to come out of post-Taliban Afghanistan, which was picked up by United Artists in the U.S.

Silent pic

The special silent presentation this year will be Erich von Stroheim’s “The Merry Widow” (1925), with live musical accompaniment conducted by Berndt Heller.

The Festival Group’s Film Reference Library recently acquired the archival collection of longtime celebrity interviewer Brian Linehan, including 2,400 research files and 10,000 photographs, which will be available to researchers.

Fest runs Sept. 4-13. Visa box office opens July 14 at www.bell.ca/filmfest, or (416) 968-FILM. The walk-up festival box office opens July 21.

(David Rooney in New York contributed to this report.)