Based on the novel by Ann Patchett – loosely based on the 1996 Peruvian Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis – Bel Canto is an unusual love story that follows opera star Roxane Cross (Julianne Moore) who travels to an unnamed country in South America to perform at a private concert for Katsumi Hosokawa (Ken Watanabe), a Japanese industrialist looking for an economical place in the continent to build a factory. In the midst of this display of wealth, extravagance, and cultural imagery, the gathering is interrupted by a rebel group who mistakenly believe that the president of the nation is at the party. What ensues is a month-long standoff between the group and the hostages, as the group demands the release of their imprisoned comrades.
Once again, Keira Knightley is out there giving a powerhouse performance in period clothes, but this time, she replaces the corset with a dapper suit. And Colette may just be her best performance yet. Knightley plays Sidonie–Gabrielle Colette, one of the most celebrated French novelists of all time. But her famous Claudine novels were never always her own. As a woman, she was forced to hide behind her novelist husband’s name and watch him get all the glory for her work. But, as the film shows, she fights back – for her work, and for her name.
Colette is a badass that has slipped the minds of many, but Wash Westmoreland’s film, despite taking place in the late 19th-early 20th century, is timely, as women are still fighting her fight. Fighting for equality, a voice, and the right to be individual. Many of Knightley’s past characters have worn the accessory of asphyxiation, but right out of the gate, Colette’s refusal to conform to the traditional female dress of Belle Époque high society is just one of the indications that the audience is in for a “We can do it!” kind of narrative.
Colette follows the period in the writer’s life when she was married to writer Henry “Willy” Gauthier-Villars. We see the sexual drama of their marriage and Willy’s newfound success as a writer after he asks Colette to write a series of books based on her school days. The Claudine novels became an almost overnight success, transforming into a national brand with young women lining up for the latest in Claudine dresses, beauty products, cigarettes – you name it, they had it. While keeping inside her talent from the world, she flourishes outward in this story of identity.
Akash Sherman’s second feature film, Clara, premiered at TIFF this year, defining him as a Canadian filmmaker to watch. At just 23-years-old, he has created a unique addition to the sci-fi drama. Starring husband and wife duo, Suits’ Patrick J. Adams and Pretty Little Liars’ Troian Bellisario, the film follows astronomer, Isaac Bruno, and his under-qualified, but eager research assistant, Clara, as they go on a search for life beyond earth. While on their search of the cosmos, they also develop something cosmic within themselves.