Prime premieres for Toronto festival

'Visitor,' 'Private,' 'Souffle' screen at film fest

Dealmaking at the Toronto Film Festival got off to its usual sluggish start Thursday, but the sheer tonnage of major preems promised a weekend to remember.

Screenings today through Sunday will bring the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Naomi Watts, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett and Charlize Theron to the red carpet. There’ll also be screenings of potential acquisition titles like “The Visitor,” “Nothing Is Private” and “Le deuxieme souffle” (The Second Wind), which stars Monica Bellucci and Daniel Auteuil.

Opening-night pic “Fugitive Pieces” is also available, but even if it doesn’t firm up a pact after its gala at Roy Thomson Hall, the mere fact of its presence will thrill the home crowd. Producer Robert Lantos, something of a Canuck-Hungarian David O. Selznick, also has David Cronenberg’s “Eastern Promises” at the fest.

“Fugitive” marks the 10th Toronto opener for Lantos. Pic, which has garnered some admiring local notices, is directed by native son Jeremy Podeswa and adapted from the novel by Anne Michaels. It tells the nonlinear story of a writer’s childhood rescue from the Holocaust by a Greek architect.

Podeswa’s film output hasn’t traveled, but his work on TV series such as “Six Feet Under” and “Rome” has made his name in the U.S.

“Nothing Is Private” is Alan Ball’s directorial debut. Along with “Then She Found Me,” Helen Hunt’s first directorial outing, and “Proof” scribe David Auburn’s “The Girl in the Park,” Vadim Perelman’s “In Bloom” is expected to generate interest upon its Saturday preem.

The drama from the “House of Sand and Fog” helmer, which stars Uma Thurman, Evan Rachel Wood and Eva Amurri, depicts the lingering after-effects of a Columbine-like school shooting.

On Thursday 2929 Intl. announced that it had sold 15 global territories on “In Bloom,” leaving only the U.S., U.K., Germany, Australia and Latin America. CAA and Cinetic rep domestic rights.

The 2007 edition of the fest, while chock-a-block with big bows and big names, is shaping up to be a bit less lively than last year’s, when “Borat” star Sacha Baron Cohen arrived for the pic’s preem in a taxi and promptly climbed out of the trunk onto the red carpet. Lionsgate hopes some folks remember those high times as it presents about 20 minutes of footage from “Borat” helmer Larry Charles and Bill Maher’s upcoming pic about religion.

Beyond “In Bloom,” the only notable sales news concerned a pic not even in Toronto: Claude Lelouch’s thriller “Roman de gare,” which went to Samuel Goldwyn.

Katapult also announced it had acquired world rights to “Joy Division,” a doc about the influential Manchester, England, post-punk band. Screenings start today.

For those less inclined to meditate on loss and tragedy (at least in a non-camp way), there’s always Dario Argento’s “Mother of Tears,” which caps the Italian horror fantasist’s “Three Mothers” trilogy. It was set to premiere at midnight.

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