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Peter saw his first movie when he was just a little boy, and has never gotten over that experience.

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Toronto Day Five

Posted September 10, 2008

Mondays at film festivals always feel like a Carpenters’ song. The weekend guests have gone home for the weekend. The tabloid photographers up here to catch a snap of Burn After Reading’s Brad Pitt have moved on to greener photographic pastures. The entourages have exited. And by Monday journalists have started to sum up the festival. Owen Gleiberman at Entertainment Weekly announces: “It's official: The Toronto Film Festival and the Academy Awards have broken up. Or, at least, they're engaging in a trial separation. From this critic's perspective, that's a good thing.” EW’s verdict was confirmed by many other festival veterans, although not always with the same conclusion. Most critics have pointed out that distributors seem to be keeping their Oscar bait out of Toronto, but not all have seen the silver lining – the return of Toronto as a cinephile festival. For myself, that is what makes Toronto so great––the eclectic surprises, the unheard of directors, the disastrous bombs.

Il Divo

Il Divo

Paolo Sorrentino’s Il Divo chronicles the rise of Giulio Andreotti, the unlikely politician who withstood seven different governments from 1946 and made the Christian Democratics the ruling party of Italian politics. Veteran actor Toni Servillo delivers an transformative performance, creating the man as an imploded figure of power. Servillo uses Andreotti’s serious physical disability to create a figured coiled stiffly up into himself, moving slowly, but definitively, pulling all power like a black hole deep in himself. Riding the waves of history, from the rocky 60s, the terror of the Red Brigade and the murder of the kidnapped Aldo Moro (a death that haunts Andreotti), the reactionary 90s, even his arrests, convictions, releases for Mafia connections, Andreotti’s blank face and hunched physique seem as eternal as the city he loves.

A very different biography comes in Nick Oceano’s Pedro, the biopic of Pedro Zamora, the Cuban-born, gay, AIDS activist who won the hearts of many when he appeared on the second season of MTV’s “The Real World.” Produced by filmmakers Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, and written by Dustin Lance Black (who also penned the upcoming Focus Feature Milk), Pedro is an intimate biography of a man that all of America was made to believe they were intimate with. Indeed there is something odd of a fictional biopic about a character from the real world. “The Real World,” which did more to redefine the meaning of “real” since French psychoanalysis, purported to show us the truth in a highly fictionalized way; now fiction must be called on to show us the real truth. But the real power of the film, especially for those who remember the first Pedro, comes at the end, when we realize that despite the fact that Pedro Zamora died so long ago, the AIDS crisis is still very much with us.

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Valentino: The Last Emperor

Strangely somewhere between Pedro and Il Divo comes Matt Tyrnauer’s Valentino: The Last Emperor, the documentary about the gay Italian fashion giant who for over 45 years only needed one name. Like many of the recent fashion bios––David Teboul ‘s Yves Saint Laurent: 5, Avenue Marceau, 75116 Paris, Robert Guerra and Eila Hershon’s Chanel Chanel, or Douglas Keeve’s Unzipped––the documentary is equal parts biography, fashion lesson, satire, and panegyric. Interestingly, Valentino: The Last Emperor is as much about Giancarlo Giammetti, Valentino’s lover, business partner, and constant shadow, as it is about the designer. The film is also strangely a monster movie. Towards the end we realize that an entire industry, a cultural history, and the legacy of fashion designer are about to be devoured whole by a massive corporation. As such, even as the film exalts Valentino it eulogizes the death of Couture.