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TIFF:DIVERSE CINEMATIC FARE

As the Toronto Film Festival winds down, it is time to soak up some films, and what a diverse and mostly captivating bunch there are. Urban Cinefile roving reporter PAUL FISCHER reports.

A Fairytale - A True Story
A Fairytale - A True Story, is an unexpected delight, a film about the purity and magic of childhood. Set in the north of England towards the end of World War 1, 2 cousins tell childhood stories about fairies. In the tranquillity of their grassy haven, they spot one and photograph him, an event that changes not only their lives but of their family and real life characters Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (perfectly played by Peter O'Toole) and Houdini (Harvey Keitel at his most subtle and restrained). Beautifully directed by Charles Sturridge and joyous to watch, Fairytale depicts the innocence of childhood in a way rarely captured, and remains a funny, poignant and irresistible entertainment for children and the child in all of us.

Welcome to Sarajevo
Welcome to Sarajevo
already captured attention at Cannes, and is director Michael Winterbottom's most astonishing work to date. Set in war-torn Sarajevo in the early 90s, the film examines the harsh reality of war through the eyes of war correspondents, from the jaded to the emotive. Shot in TV news style, Winterbottom has crafted an emotionally rich and multi layered drama, eliciting fine performances from the diverse likes of Woody Harrelson, as the star American reporter, and the extraordinary Stephen Dillane as British journalist Henderson, determined to save a children's orphanage. The film pulls no punches in its depiction of war, resulting in an emotionally-charged compelling drama.

The Assignment
The Assignment, a political thriller directed by Christian Duguay, stars Aidan Quinn as an American sailor mistaken for terrorist Carlos the Jackal, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people. He is used by a CIA operative (Donald Sutherland) to train as Carlos and impersonate him in a dangerous mission. Full of clever ideas and a strong performance by Quinn, The Assignment had potential but is ultimately a routine thriller rather insipidly directed and lacking coherence. It's a slow, muddled affair that is unlikely to succeed in the commercial theatres.

One Night Stand
Expectations were high for the new Mike Figgis film, One Night Stand, and this latest gem from the British director of Leaving Las Vegas doesn't disappoint. In one of his finest and most meticulous performances to date, Wesley Snipes plays a successful Los Angeles-based commercial director who comes to New York to rekindle a friendship with a one time close friend now diagnosed with AIDS (Robert Downey Jnr). En route home he meets a beautiful young woman (Nastassia Kinsky) and Fate results in them spending the night together. The film explores the notion of guilt, family, sexuality and communication in a film sparkling with humour, emotional highs and a literate, perfect script by Figgis, who also wrote the music. Powerful and emotionally rich, this is a mature and exciting film from an innovative, intelligent film maker.

Mr Jealousy
Mr Jealousy was a revelation, a bitingly funny, well written comedy from the director of last year's sleeper hit, Kicking and Screaming. Eric Stoltz delivers his best performance to date as a would-be writer whose relationships with women obsessively dwell on their ex-boyfriends. His latest girlfriend (Annabella Sciorra) is an art gallery tour guide, who has had more than 20 previous lovers, a fact somewhat concerning to our romantic hero. One of them is an author whom Stoltz inadvertently bumps into, follows into therapy and joins the guy's therapy group, pretending to be one of his closest friends. With reminiscences of Woody Allen, Mr Jealously is a sharply observed, witty and unpretentious comedy about the dilemmas of human relationships, and it's a masterful work. Apart from Stoltz, Sciorra is extraordinary, as she gives a luminous and hilarious performance.

Seven Years in Tibet
In a beautifully rich and subtle performance, Brad Pitt plays self-centred Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer attempting to climb a Himalayan peak at the outbreak of World War 2. Captured by the British and interned, he escapes and ends up in Tibet where his friendship with the young Dalai Lama transforms his life and way of thinking. Seven Years in Tibet is one of those visually expansive films one rarely sees, the kind of movie that needs to be cinematically savoured. Stunningly shot and impeccably designed to capture both the period and atmosphere of the times, Annaud has combined cinematic mastery with the intimacy of the film's pivotal characters, and the two blend in seamlessly. Pitt gives a mature and vivid performance, superbly realised. John Williams' music has an evocative feel to it, and the whole movie looks magnificent under Annaud's creative direction. Full of emotional highs, Seven Years in Tibet is a major movie event, and a rare gem from mainstream Hollywood. It's a fitting film to close this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

All the above films will be released in Australia.

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Harvey Keitel in A Fairytale - A True Story







Wesley Snipes, star of One Night Stand




Brad Pitt stars in
Seven Years in Tibet - closing film



Other films screened at TIFF include:

The Sweet Hereafter



Washington Square



Swept from the Sea







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