Toronto's Eye for Talent
As the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival powers onward through this weekend showcasing the work of emerging filmmakers as well as new works by venerated veterans, let’s turn back the clock to commemorate the TIFF North American debuts of the first feature directorial efforts from Paul Greengrass, later to pilot Bloody Sunday, The Theory of Flight, United 93, Green Zone, Captain Phillips and three breathless Jason Bourne action thrillers; and Neil Jordan, whose future output would include Mona Lisa, The Crying Game, Interview with the Vampire, Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy, The End of the Affair and the acclaimed miniseries The Borgias. Greengrass brought his TV documentary background and talent for grit and verisimilitude to Resurrected (1989), which was shown in Toronto 27 years ago today. Inspired by a true story, this gripping tale focuses on British soldier Kevin Deakin (David Thewlis in a fantastic early lead role that would portend the great acting career to follow), presumed a casualty of the Falklands War, who emerges seven weeks after the conflict ends and brought home to a stunned family and military, who have already memorialized him. Wracked by survivor’s guilt and pressed by accusations of desertion by supposed friends and fellow soldiers, the normally soft-spoken Kevin begins to unravel under pressure – and the threat of retribution from one-time comrades-in-arms reaches a violent flashpoint. The cast also includes two stalwarts of British film – Tom Bell and Rita Tushingham – as Kevin’s parents. A moody and poetic drama wrought from the brutal criminal underworld in Northern Ireland (shadowed by but not directly linked to the area’s political turmoil between England and the locals), Angel (1982) [aka Danny Boy] screened 34 years ago this coming Sunday and offers the first glimpse of what would be a formidable multi-film collaboration between Jordan and Stephen Rea. The future The Crying Game Best Actor Oscar® nominee plays a musician who witnesses the gangland-styled murder of his band’s manager and a deaf-mute girl. Prior to the tragedy, he’s been a carefree womanizer with no roots and few convictions and fewer scruples, but when it becomes clear that the violence-weary authorities have little interest in investigating the case, he experiences a change of heart, becoming obsessed with tracking down the killers, ultimately becoming one himself. Produced by John Boorman but not widely distributed at the time, Angel proved a haunting and visually striking precursor to Jordan’s 30+-years of daring picture-making. Every September for the past 40 years, Toronto is rightly proclaimed a launching pad to year-end awards, but its greatest value lies in exposing the ambitious efforts of emerging directors. And these great early films (courtesy of Film 4) by Messrs. Greengrass and Jordan can be savored in vivid 1080p via the Twilight Time hi-def Blu-rays of the formative and fascinating Resurrected [available here: http://www.screenarchives.com/title_detail.cfm/ID/27154/RESURRECTED-1989/] and Angel.