Toronto 2014: Read our TIFF programme preview

This Thursday (4 September), the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival will kick off in Canada with David Dobkin’s courtroom drama The Judge, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Robert Duvall. Over the proceeding week and a half, before the cinematic cornucopia reaches its conclusion with Brit Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos, festival-goers will attend almost 300 feature films and over 100 shorts. The jam-packed programme, taking in various theatres across the city, comes bursting with a staggering 139 world premieres as well as an array of films already lauded on this year’s international festival circuit. Since its inaugural incarnation back in 1976, TIFF – as it’s affectionately known – has grown into one of the world’s primary annual film festivals and the 2014 lineup looks like a particularly strong one.

Ever leaning towards the eclectic, this year’s TIFF will premiere mainstream offerings such as Antoine Fuqua and Denzel Washington’s take on eighties TV favourite The Equalizer. Screenwriter Dan Gilroy steps behind the camera for the first time for the Jake Gyllenhaal-starring Nightcrawler. Elsewhere, French filmmaker François Ozon returns swiftly to screens with The New Girlfriend, Susanne Bier focuses her camera on Nicolaj Coster-Waldau for A Second Chance and German director Christian Petzold’s regular leading lady Nina Hoss heads up his latest, Phoenix. The festival’s City to City strand this year looks to twin Toronto with Seoul, providing a glimpse of the best coming out of South Korea – led by Kim Seong-hun’s A Hard Day and Kelvin Kyung Kun Park’s A Dream of Iron.

Other strands such as Midnight Madness and Vanguard are more than liable to get pulses racing with a variety of provocative and arresting works from the likes of Japanese maestros Sion Sono (Tokyo Tribe) and Takashi Miike (Over Your Dead Body). Of great interest to many observers in the UK will be the new film from British director Peter Strickland, who burst onto the scene with 2009’s Katalin Varga before following up with the exceptional Berberian Sound Studio (2012). Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy purportedly takes for its basis a vintage erotic melodrama and contorts it as only he knows how. Within its ten-day run, TIFF will turn its eye to films from across the globe with 79 countries being represented in total. Lav Diaz follows the brisk Norte, the End of History (2013) – which clocked in at 250 minutes – with the gargantuan 338-minute From What Is Before (2014). Portuguese director Pedro Costa also returns to the screen with Horse Money, while Bruno Dumont, Abel Ferrara and a plethora of talented directors join past masters like Jean-Luc Godard, Isao Takahata and Krzysztof Zanussi for what promises to be a fantastic cinematic showcase.

The Toronto International Film Festival takes place from 4-14 September 2014. For more coverage, follow this link.

Ben Nicholson