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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Toronto International Film Festival: Opening Day

There was an appropriate cool breeze in the air as fans lined King Street in front of the Princess of Wales Theatre in anticipation for a special showing of "The Big Chill" on the opening day of the Toronto film festival.

Commuters might have been less enthused by having a major thoroughfare blocked during rush hour. But those who gathered to celebrate the 1983 yuppie-era classic about a reunion of old friends were rewarded by the sight of cast members Glenn Close, Kevin Kline, Mary Kay Place, Tom Berenger, Meg Tilly and JoBeth Williams.

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They were on hand to help salute the 30th anniversary of the movie credited as an early major Hollywood production to actually premiere at the festival—and for convincing studios that this is the perfect venue for garnering best-picture Oscar attention.

Earlier Thursday afternoon, press and industry types got to choose between the steamy lesbian-themed Cannes sensation "Blue Is the Warmest Color"—a large time investment at 179 minutes—and Jim Jarmusch’s droll vampire comedy "Only Lovers Left Alive." Unfolding in his usual unrushed pace, Jarmusch offers his twist on contemporary bloodsuckers who are reduced to making deals with hospital lab technicians to keep them stocked in fine-grade hemoglobin.

You know you are a territory beyond the tween Twilight zone when Tilda Swinton, vampy indeed with a massive mop of white hair, offers her undead companion Tom Hiddleston a blood Popsicle. Or as he calls it, “Blood on a stake.”

And, as is too often the case with the title that earns the opening gala spot on the TIFF schedule, "The Fifth Estate" proved less than the sum of its many glitzy cyber visuals, cable-news text and pulsing techno music as it attempted to make sense of the whistleblower site Wikileaks.

Benedict Cumberbatch puts a fine arrogant crusader spin on its enigmatic founder Julian Assange—his platinum locks a perfect complement to Swinton’s. But the ripped-from-the-headlines drama too often tells instead of shows how the ground-breaking watchdog site’s unauthorized release of confidential information might strike a blow for accountability in government and large institutions but often undermines the well-being of innocent individuals drawn into the fray.

While some awards pundits are predicting Oscar consideration for "The Fifth Estate," it is very telling that the movie received strong applause but no standing O at the Roy Thomson Hall last night. Which usually translates into an unwanted type of big chill.

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