TIFF 2011 Preview: Take This Waltz

So, if you haven’t been trapped under something heavy, you’ll know that the Toronto International Film Festival announced the first batch of films screening at the 2011 festival yesterday. It’s all over the place, so instead of just adding another copy-and-paste listing to the existing noise, I thought I’d begin looking at some of the films themselves. Granted, since many will be world premieres, there may not be a lot of information, but I think this could be kind of fun. It will certainly build my own anticipation for the festival, which runs from September 8-18. Hard to believe this will be my 17th year attending!

[nggallery id=3]

One of the first surprises for me was that the opening night slot didn’t go to Sarah Polley’s new film, Take This Waltz. Her directorial debut Away From Her screened as a Gala at the festival back in 2006 and went on to play numerous other festivals, even scooping a number of awards for Polley and her star Julie Christie. The opening night slot has often (though not always) gone to a Canadian production, and after the roundly-derided Score: A Hockey Musical opened last year’s festival, it would have been nice to see Polley given an opportunity to spotlight her film here in her hometown. Alas, that was not to be, with Davis Guggenheim’s U2 doc From the Sky Down shouldering her aside. But I’m curious about her new film, and hope it won’t be overshadowed by the musical behemoth that is U2 and the sideshow they are sure to bring to town.

I’ll admit to knowing very little about Take This Waltz until a few days ago. The TIFF synopsis is vague: “a bittersweet story about a married woman struggling to choose between her husband and a man she’s just met.” Canadian distributor Mongrel Media‘s description is better:

When Margot (Michelle Williams), 28, meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), their chemistry is intense and immediate. But Margot suppresses her sudden attraction; she is happily married to Lou (Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. When Margot learns that Daniel lives across the street from them, the certainty about her domestic life shatters. She and Daniel steal moments throughout the steaming Toronto summer, their eroticism heightened by their restraint. Swelteringly hot, bright and colourful like a bowl of fruit, Take This Waltz leads us, laughing, through the familiar, but uncharted question of what long-term relationships do to love, sex, and our images of ourselves.

And I have to admit that for me, the casting is what’s making it interesting. I’ve absolutely loved just about everything Michelle Williams has done. Last year’s double shot of Blue Valentine and Meek’s Cutoff made me ever more confident that she’s just getting started. The potentially wrenching storyline is lightened considerably by the casting of Rogen and Silverman, as well as by the film’s day-glo palette, which makes this an intriguing proposition.

The title of the film is from a Leonard Cohen song, which is based on the poem “Little Viennese Waltz” by Federico García Lorca. Perhaps the lyrics will give us some clues:

Now in Vienna there are ten pretty women. There’s a shoulder where Death comes to cry. There’s a lobby with nine hundred windows. There’s a tree where the doves go to die. There’s a piece that was torn from the morning, and it hangs in the Gallery of Frost. Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay. Take this waltz, take this waltz, take this waltz with the clamp on its jaws.

I want you, I want you, I want you on a chair with a dead magazine. In the cave at the tip of the lily, in some hallway where love’s never been. On a bed where the moon has been sweating, in a cry filled with footsteps and sand. Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay. Take this waltz, take this waltz, take its broken waist in your hand.

This waltz, this waltz, this waltz, this waltz. With its very own breath of brandy and Death. Dragging its tail in the sea.

There’s a concert hall in Vienna where your mouth had a thousand reviews. There’s a bar where the boys have stopped talking. They’ve been sentenced to death by the blues. Ah, but who is it climbs to your picture with a garland of freshly cut tears? Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay. Take this waltz, take this waltz, take this waltz, it’s been dying for years.

There’s an attic where children are playing, where I’ve got to lie down with you soon, in a dream of Hungarian lanterns, in the mist of some sweet afternoon. And I’ll see what you’ve chained to your sorrow, all your sheep and your lilies of snow. Ay, Ay, Ay, Ay. Take this waltz. Take this waltz with its “I’ll never forget you, you know!”

And I’ll dance with you in Vienna. I’ll be wearing a river’s disguise. The hyacinth wild on my shoulder, my mouth on the dew of your thighs. And I’ll bury my soul in a scrapbook, with the photographs there, and the moss. And I’ll yield to the flood of your beauty, my cheap violin and my cross. And you’ll carry me down on your dancing to the pools that you lift on your wrist. O my love, o my love. Take this waltz, take this waltz. It’s yours now. It’s all that there is.

Will this end up being a frothy candy apple of a movie, or will there be a worm at the core? With Polley at the helm, I’m confident we’ll get something memorable, especially if she’s read her Lorca and listened to Mr. Cohen.


  • Saturday September 10, 9:30pm – Roy Thomson Hall (PREMIUM)
  • Sunday September 11, 12:00pm – Ryerson
This entry was posted in Film Festivals, TIFF and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to TIFF 2011 Preview: Take This Waltz

  1. Drew Kerr says:

    Looks like some great stuff coming this year, so I’m very excited. The Sarah Polley film sounds really good and, being a massive U2 fan, I’m really looking forward to their doc.

    And no kidding, this is your 17th festival? Wow!

Comments are closed.