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Signs of the times at this year's TIFF

arts-single-man-392.jpgDirector Tom Ford's A Single Man appears to be the only TIFF film garnering serious competition for distribution rights. (TIFF)

Is it me, or is this year’s TIFF feeling a little sedate compared to previous years? It’s quite possible I could be hanging out in all the wrong spots (like, uh, in the CBC offices at King & John), but I’m hearing little word this year of elaborate all-night parties at the Drake Hotel, and surprisingly few juicy blind items about depraved celeb behaviour at Bistro 990.

Also curiously absent from this year’s TIFF is news of that one breakout hit (a Slumdog Millionaire or Whale Rider) that inspires unanimous audience devotion and feverish all-night bidding wars amongst studio heads. Thus far, A Single Man, the queer-themed 60s period piece starring Colin Firth, is the only film to emerge as an early favourite, triggering a late-night deal yesterday.

In today’s New York Times, there’s a thoughtful article suggesting that the reason for this fest’s decidedly mellow feel is the current crummy economic climate – a theme that is also recurring with some frequency onscreen at TIFF, in films as diverse as Up in the Air, The Joneses and Capitalism: A Love Story. It’s an interesting undercurrent at TIFF 2009, and could have an effect on which films leave town as hits.

--Lee Ferguson