'Robert Lepage: Possible Worlds' at TIFF

Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires direct Triptych. Photo: eOne Films.
Well, I’m kicking myself for making poor travel plans. I’ll be heading to Toronto for a month to do the EQAO test scoring again and then to cover Hot Docs, but I’ll arrive just in time to miss out on an exciting Canadian film spotlight happening at the Lightbox March 27 – April 1. (Ever the April Fool, I’ll arrive the night of the first.) Anyways, TIFF is spotlighting the career of one of Canada’s most significant filmmakers, Robert Lepage, in the series “Robert Lepage: Possible Worlds” in celebration of the director’s receipt of The Glenn Gould Prize, which is an internationally juried award presented by The Glenn Gould Foundation to an individual whose lifetime contribution has enriched the human condition through the arts. The retrospective, presented by TIFF and the Glenn Gould foundation, offers a week of Lepage’s films and showcases everything from his earliest works to his most recent film Triptych, which had its world premiere at TIFF last fall and was recently nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards including Best Director (Lepage shared the nomination with Pedro Pires).

Tilda Swinton and Tom McCamus in Possible Worlds
“Possible Words” appropriately begins with an archival print (!) of Lepage’s feature directorial debut The Confessional, which stars Kristin Scott Thomas and scored four 1995 Genies including Best Picture. Lepage will be on hand to discuss several of his films including The Confessional, Triptych, and one of my favourites, Possible Worlds. The opportunity to hear Lepage discuss his work sounds like a must for any Canadian film fan, for the director’s background in both film and theatre should make for an especially engaging conversation for anyone interested in the art of adaptation. Lepage’s films frequently adapt stage drama for the screen and they offer unique dynamics in the stage-to-screen process—Possible Worlds in particular, as the Tilda Swinton-fuelled take on John Mighton’s play is breathtakingly brainy. Triptych, on the other hand, might be the culmination of Lepage’s work as a great adapter since it sees him transform his own nine-hour stage play into a ninety-minute film. Lepage’s own philosophy of looking at texts anew seems like a fitting choice for a retrospective series. Someone please attend these screenings in my absence!

The screenings for “Robert Lepage: Possible Worlds” are as follows:

*Screenings with Lepage in person!

*Le Confessionnal                                                                                    
1995 | 100 min. | French with English subtitles | 35mm
Thursday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m. 
-Lepage's feature film debut is a time-tripping mystery centered on the filming of Hitchcock's I Confess in Quebec City in 1952.
-Canada’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film in the 1995 Oscar race.

*Triptych (Triptyque)
dirs. Robert Lepage and Pedro Pires | 2013 | 90 min. | French, English, German with English subtitles | Digital
Friday, March 28 at at 6:30 p.m
-Lepage's most recent feature (based on his celebrated, nine-hour theatre work Lipsynch) is an elegant, thought-provoking and gorgeously designed meditation on the many modes of human communication.

*The Metropolitan Opera HD Live: Berlioz’s La damnation de Faust
dir. Barbara Willis Sweete | USA | 2008 | 142 min. | French with English subtitles | Digital
Saturday, March 29 at 12 p.m.    
This live recording of Lepage's 2008 mounting of La Damnation de Faust with New York's Metropolitan Opera captures the stunningly ambitious, ultra-cinematic sensibility that the director brought to Berlioz's four-part rendering of the Goethe classic.

Le Polygraphe
1996 | 91 min. | French with English subtitles | 35mm
Saturday, March 29 at 3:45 p.m.  
A murder case becomes the locus for several parallel searches (via filmmaking, performance, academic research, political action, and sexual exploration) for an ever elusive truth, in Lepage's adaptation of his eponymous stage work.
-Nominated for 9 Genies including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress (Marie Brassard)
[Trailer not available.]

*Possible Worlds
2000 | 93 min. | English | 35mm
Saturday, March 29 at 7 p.m.        
Lepage adapted John Mighton's Governor General's Award-winning play for his first English-language feature, about a dimension-hopping hero (Tom McCamus) who pursues the love of his life (Tilda Swinton) through the many parallel versions of his existence.
-Nominated for 6 Genies including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress (Tilda Swinton).

*Wagner's Dream
dir. Susan Froemke | USA | 2012 | 115 min. | Digital
Sunday, March 30 at 12:30 p.m
Documentarian Susan Froemke captures the backstage drama and unprecedented logistical challenges involved in mounting Lepage's monumental staging of Wagner's Ring cycle at New York's Metropolitan Opera in 2012.

1998 | 83 min. | 14A | French with English subtitles | 35mm
Sunday, March 30 at 3:45 p.m.    
In Lepage's structurally complex yet surprisingly lighthearted political farce, a Québécoise actress in Japan is faced with an important personal choice while her separatist boyfriend tries to hide from the cops during the 1970 FLQ crisis.
[Trailer not available.] 

The Far Side of the Moon (La Face cachée de la lune)
Tuesday, April 1 at 9 p.m.
2003 | 105 min. | PG | French with English subtitles | 35mm
Lepage directs and stars in this dazzlingly imaginative adaptation of his acclaimed, semi-autobiographical stage play.
-Nominated for 4 Genies including Best Picture. Winner of Best Adapted Screenplay.
-Canada’s official submission for Best Foreign Language Film in the 2004 Oscar race.

“Robert Lepage: Possible Worlds” runs March 27 – April 1.
Please visit www.tiff.net for more information.