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Sex & Politics Among Eclectic Toronto Film Festival Topics

Sex research movie Kinsey Liam Neeson Laura LinneyBill Condon’s sex research movie Kinsey with Liam Neeson and Laura Linney: Kinsey, about the life and work of controversial sexologist Alfred Kinsey, is one of the eclectic entries at this year’s Toronto Film Festival.

Toronto Film Festival offerings range from biopics of Alfred Kinsey and Bobby Darin to an Oscar Wilde comedy and the political musings of Jean-Luc Godard

This year’s edition of the Toronto Film Festival, which runs Sept. 9–18, will be showcasing a vast and eclectic array of topics – 321 features and shorts from 61 countries – including some controversial (male-focused) sex research, U.S. presidential contender John Kerry’s Vietnam War exploits, the final psychopathic days of Adolf Hitler in his underground Berlin bunker, and Jean-Luc Godard’s political meditations.

Also: An Oscar Wilde social critique, the life and times of singer/actor Bobby Darin, the issue of female genital mutilation in tribal Africa, the spread of AIDS in South Africa, and the personal and professional woes of a temperamental British stage actress.

Toronto’s People’s Choice Award winnergenerally a good predictor of awards season esteem – will be announced near the end of the festival.

Sex (research) movie for adults

The movie about the male-focused sex research – featuring a bit of male nudity and, apparently, a not inconsiderable amount of same-sex lust and obsession – is bound to become one of Toronto’s highlights: Screenwriter-director Bill Condon’s U.S.-made biopic Kinsey, in which Northern Irish performer Liam Neeson plays New Jersey-born biologist/sexologist Alfred Kinsey (1894–1956), a controversial and revolutionary figure whose 1948 book Sexual Behavior in the Human Male shocked, horrified, and outraged post-World War II moralists in the United States and elsewhere.

In Kinsey, Condon traces the tortuous personal and professional journey of the title character and his sex research partners, both in the lab and in bed. Also in the big-name cast:

  • Best Actress Oscar nominee Laura Linney (You Can Count on Me, 2000) as Clara Kinsey (née McMillen), Alfred Kinsey’s wife and unofficial collaborator.
  • Chris O’Donnell as Kinsey’s official collaborator Wardell Pomeroy.
  • Peter Sarsgaard as another collaborator, Clyde Martin, who also happened to be Kinsey’s sometime sex partner.
  • Best Supporting Actor Oscar winner Timothy Hutton (Ordinary People, 1980) as collaborator no. 3, Paul Gebhard, who would later become the director of the Kinsey Institute.
  • Plus Oliver Platt, Tim Curry, Dylan Baker, Katharine Houghton (Katharine Hepburn’s real-life niece, seen in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), and two-time Oscar nominees John Lithgow (The World According to Garp, 1982; Terms of Endearment, 1983) and Lynn Redgrave (Georgy Girl, 1966; Bill Condon’s Gods and Monsters, 1998).

Note: Wardell Pomeroy and Clyde Martin collaborated with Alfred Kinsey on Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. They were joined by Paul Gebhard for the follow-up 1953 tome Sexual Behavior in the Human Female.

A Good Woman Helen Hunt Mark UmbersA Good Woman with Helen Hunt and Mark Umbers. In this film version of the classic Oscar Wilde comedy, Hunt stars in the role previously played by Irene Rich (Lady Windermere’s Fan), Lil Dagover (Lady Windermeres Fächer), and Madeleine Carroll (The Fan).

Oscar Wilde and West End-set All About Eve precursor + Jean-Luc Godard and Bobby Darin

Below are four other notable Toronto Film Festival offerings:

  • Mike Barker’s A Good Woman is a 1930 Amalfi Coast-set adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s 1892 comedy of manners Lady Windermere’s Fan, A Play About a Good Woman, with Best Actress Oscar winner Helen Hunt (As Good as It Gets, 1997) as the titular character’s worldly, amoral mom. Also in the cast: Scarlett Johansson (as the demure Lady Windermere), Stephen Campbell Moore, Mark Umbers, Milena Vukotic, and Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, 2001).
  • Based on W. Somerset Maugham’s 1937 novel Theatre, István Szabó’s Being Julia stars Annette Bening as late 1930s London stage diva Julia Lambert – a more explosively self-centered version of Bette Davis’ Broadway star Margo Channing seen in Joseph L. Mankiewicz’s 1950 Best Picture Oscar winner All About Eve. Also in the big-name cast: Jeremy Irons, Shaun Evans, Bruce Greenwood, and veterans Miriam Margolyes, Michael Gambon, Rosemary Harris, and Rita Tushingham.
  • Nouvelle Vague icon Jean-Luc Godard’s latest, Notre Musique, is divided into three segments along the lines of Dante’s The Divine Comedy: “Hell,” featuring a war-and-carnage montage; “Purgatory,” with Godard as himself, headed to an arts conference in Sarajevo, where he meets with a variety of people and where the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a key topic of discussion; and “Heaven,” a brief conclusion featuring one of the conference attendees.
  • The Kevin Spacey-directed Bobby Darin biopic Beyond the Sea stars the two-time Oscar winner (The Usual Suspects, 1995; American Beauty, 1999) as the 1950s/1960s pop idol and Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee (Captain Newman, M.D., 1963) who died at age 37 in 1973. Also in the cast: Kate Bosworth as Darin’s wife and sometime co-star Sandra Dee (Come September, If a Man Answers, That Funny Feeling), John Goodman, Caroline Aaron, Greta Scacchi, Peter Cincotti, Matt Rippy, and Oscar nominees Bob Hoskins (Mona Lisa, 1986) and Brenda Blethyn (Secrets & Lies, 1996; Little Voice, 1998).

“Sex & Politics: Toronto Film Festival” endnotes

Toronto Film Festival official website.

Liam Neeson and Laura Linney Kinsey image: Fox Searchlight.

Helen Hunt and Mark Umbers A Good Woman image: Lionsgate.

“Sex & Politics Among Eclectic Toronto Film Festival Topics” last updated in November 2022.

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