Claire Denis, Jia Zhangke, and Jafar Panahi are TIFF13 “Masters”

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The complete list for the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival has arrived, and it features — get this — 288 films. When all is said and done, between press screenings, public screenings, and pre-fest screeners, I’ll probably end up seeing around 10 to 15 of these, and dammit, I think that’s pretty good.

TIFF kicks off in exactly two weeks (!), and I have lots of reading and pondering to do before then. The public schedule is up, the press schedule dropped yesterday, and sites like Indiewire have helpfully put together complete breakdowns.

I’ll be talking TIFF quite a bit here over the next few weeks, and pretty much every film site in the world will be doing the same. One of my favorite “programmes” at the festival is the “Masters” lineup, which last year included Michael Haneke, Christian Mingiu, Abbas Kiarostami, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Olivier Assayas, among others.

This year’s Masters list is a bit less “sexy,” and lacks some of the names I was really, really hoping might still squeeze in. It was unlikely that the Coens or James Gray would end up here, but I held out hope … Instead, they’re joining Spike Jonze and Ben Stiller for a particularly explosive New York Film Festival lineup.

(I’ve actually been a little hung up on these titles that are NOT coming to Toronto, to the extent that I have not properly judged the films that actually WILL be there. I need to get over that …)

But there are some biggies here. Claire Denis has been on a fascinating run, and “Bastards” drew wildly mixed notices from Cannes, which excites me. Also featured are the latest from Jia Zhangke, Hong Sangsoo, Jafar Panahi … Some usual suspects? Perhaps. That does not make it any less impressive.

Here is a rundown of TIFF”s 2013 Masters programme, with descriptions from Tuesday’s press release:

“A Touch of Sin” (Tian zhu ding) (Jia Zhangke, China/Japan, North American Premiere) — An angry miner, enraged by the corruption of his village leaders, takes action. A rootless migrant discovers the infinite possibilities that owning a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist working in a sauna is pushed to the limit when a wealthy client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from one discouraging job to the next, only to face increasingly degrading circumstances. Four people, four different provinces.

“Abuse of Weakness” (Abus de Faiblesse) (Catherine Breillat, France/Belgium/Germany, World Premiere) — An extraordinary collaboration between two legends of French cinema, Catherine Breillat’s brutally candid autobiographical drama stars Isabelle Huppert as a stroke-afflicted filmmaker manipulated by a notorious con man.

“Bastards” (Les Salauds) (Claire Denis, France, North American Premiere) — Supertanker captain Marco Silvestri is called back urgently to Paris. His sister Sandra is desperate; her husband has committed suicide, the family business has gone under, and her daughter is spiraling downwards. Sandra holds powerful businessman Edouard Laporte responsible. Marco moves into the building where Laporte has installed his mistress and her son, but he isn’t prepared for Sandra’s secrets, which muddy the waters. Starring Vincent Lindon and Chiara Mastroianni.

“Closed Curtain” (Parde) (Kambozia Partovi and Jafar Panahi, Iran, North American Premiere) — A house by the sea; the curtains are pulled shut, the windows covered with black. Inside, a man is hiding with his dog. He is writing a screenplay, when suddenly a mysterious young woman appears and refuses to leave, much to the writer’s annoyance. But at daybreak, another arrival will flip everyone’s perspective.

“Concrete Night” (Pirjo Honkasalo, Finland/Sweden/Denmark, World Premiere) — A 14-year-old boy in a stifling Helsinki slum takes some unwise life lessons from his soon-to-be-incarcerated older brother, in Finnish master Pirjo Honkasalo’s gorgeously stylized and emotionally devastating work about what we pass on to younger generations, and the ways we do it.

“Home From Home — Chronicle of a Vision” (Die Andere Heimat — Chronik einer Sehnsucht) (Edgar Reitz, Germany/France, North American Premiere) — Edgar Reitz tells this dramatic story of love and family against the backdrop of rural Germany in the mid-19th century, a time when entire poverty-stricken villages emigrated to faraway South America. The story centers on two brothers who have to decide whether they will stay or go.

“How Strange to be Named Federico: Scola Narrates Fellini” (Che strano chiamarsi Federico: Scola racconta Fellini) (Ettore Scola, Italy, International Premiere) On the 20th anniversary of Federico Fellini’s death, Ettore Scola, a devoted admirer of the incomparable maestro, commemorates the lesser-known aspects of Fellini’s personality, employing interviews, photographs, behind-the-scenes footage as well as Fellini’s drawings and film clips.

“Moebius” (Kim Ki-duk, South Korea, North American Premiere) — South Korea’s celebrated perennial provocateur Kim Ki-duk (“Pieta”) returns with this twisted family chronicle perched somewhere between psychological thriller, grotesque comedy and perverse ode to the pleasures of sadomasochism.

“Norte, The End of History” (Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan) (Lav Diaz, Philippines, North American Premiere) — In Philippine cinematic luminary Lav Diaz’s latest work, partially influenced by Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” a man is accused of murder while the real killer roams free.

“Our Sunhi” (Uri Sunhi) (Hong Sangsoo, South Korea North American Premiere) Korean auteur Hong Sang-soo’s latest follows an aspiring young filmmaker who becomes the object of desire for three very different men, in this smart, resonant dramedy.

Incidentally, Quebecois filmmakers Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires’s “Triptych” (Triptyque) was previously announced as part of the Canadian features lineup, and one additional title was announced in the Midnight Madness programme: the world premiere of Alex de la Iglesia’s “Witching & Bitching” (Las brujas de Zugarramurdi). I took a look at the other MM films a few weeks ago.

Photo from “A Touch of Sin” courtesy of TIFF

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