Toronto International Film Festival opens with 'Looper'

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (foreground) and Paul Dano in "Looper."

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (foreground) and Paul Dano in "Looper." (Credit: Sony Pictures)

The biggest film event in North America with well over 300 films, the Toronto International Film Festival is also one of the more influential festivals in the world, giving shape to the movie season, the upcoming awards race and life at the movies for the next 12 months. Opening its 36th edition Sept. 6 -- with the sci-fi thriller "Looper," starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis -- TIFF isn't known for its curatorial discretion as much as its big-tent approach to cinema. But there's certainly something for everyone.

Among the more anticipated titles are "The Master," director Paul Thomas Anderson's latest, in which Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a character much like Scientology's L. Ron Hubbard; "Cloud Atlas," starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Jim Broadbent, based on the bestseller by David Mitchell and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer; "The Time Being," by first-timer Nenad Cicin-Sain, featuring Wes Bentley and another award-worthy performance by Frank Langella; and Joe Wright's ("Atonement") reworking of Leo Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina," with Keira Knightley as the tragic Russian.

Elsewhere, figuratively and literally, "What Maisie Knew" is a modern-day adaptation of the Henry James novel directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel, starring Julianne Moore and Steve Coogan. Among the "Midnight Madness" selections is "Seven Psychopaths" by acclaimed playwright-filmmaker Martin McDonagh ("In Bruges"), in which screenwriter Colin Farrell gets mixed up with a bunch of crazies that includes Christopher Walken, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Tom Waits and Harry Dean Stanton. First-time director Rola Nashef's "Detroit Unleaded," starring up-and-comers EJ Assi, Nada Shouhayib and Mike Batayeh, is an example of TIFF embracing a new generation of filmmakers. And among the documentaries, "State 194," about Salam Fayaad's quest to have Palestine recognized by the United Nations as an independent state, will be presented by, among others, the Palestinian prime minister himself.

For those who prefer their movies to have ripened somewhat, TIFF is also going back to the vaults: A restoration of Roman Polanski's luscious "Tess" (1979), starring Natassja Kinski, is among the special presentations, as is Alfred Hitchcock's 1954 classic "Dial M for Murder," restored to its original, glorious and apparently prescient 3-D.

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