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Toronto Film Festival: “The Master” & “Kon-Tiki” World Premieres

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Ben Affleck makes his way into a film screening at the TIFF (WWJ/Aaron Gonzalez)

Ben Affleck makes his way into a film screening at the TIFF (WWJ/Aaron Gonzalez)

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By Karen McDevitt, CBS Detroit Blogger

It was a late night for most of us TIFFERs (Toronto International Film Festival-goers) on Friday. World premieres of “The Master” and “Kon-Tiki” kept both sides of the city, as well as the onscreen globe, in full motion.

In fact, at one point in the exhilarating Kon-Tiki, Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl says to a member of his crew – who, by the way, has agreed, in 1947, to cross the Pacific Ocean on a balsa wood raft – “This is bigger than us.”

The “this” that Heyerdahl is talking about, of course, is his real-life mission to sail some 5,000 miles from South America to Polynesia in order to replicate what he believes to be the intended route of the islands’ ancient settlers. This is one wild ride. The 1950 documentary about his adventure was, after all, the first Norwegian film to win an Oscar.

OK, I was skeptical, too. A movie about a handful of guys on a raft floating across the ocean? A movie that’s two hours long, spanning 101 days, in the middle of nowhere? Really?

I will only say this: It is, absolutely, bigger than us.

See it! and, according to my colleague Aaron Gonzalez, see The Master, too. “It’s a unique character study,” he says, “with strong performances by Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.” To top it off, the film was screened in 70mm at the Princess of Wales theatre.

Yes, it is written and directed by the amazing Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, Boogie Nights, etc., etc.), but there seems to be much more Oscar buzz around here about Phoenix’s performance as a returning soldier to post-World War II America. From his roles as Johnny Cash (Walk The Line) to Ethan Learner (Reservation Road) to his own alter ego, Phoenix never fails to surprise and captivate an audience.

But there’s more! My friend and fellow-Detroiter Kim Moon is gushing (literally, and she’ll tell you so) about Israeli Michael Mayer’s Out in The Dark. She’s dubbed it “Brokeback Mountain in the Middle East,” explaining, “it’s about a gay couple, one Israel, one Palestinian, living in the Middle East.”

Kim not only fell in love with this movie, she also got a picture taken with director Mayer and two of his principal actors. Such is a filmgoer’s life at TIFF: accessibility to a wide range of international stories and images as well as those responsible for their production.

When we leave the reel life here on Sunday, it will be to share our personal photos of the likes of Ben Affleck, Kirsten Dunst, Bruce Willis, Kristen Stewart, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and the top of Emily Blunt’s head (honestly, it’s here!). Only it will be the films and directors and cinematographers we will be talking about. If I’ve learned one thing, repeatedly, at TIFF, it’s that great movies are made from more than just stars. They are bigger than us and bigger than them.

Karen McDevitt teaches film and new media classes for Wayne State University’s Department of Communication.

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