Bono, Madonna and Neil Young walk into a bar… looking for Brando

There’s no shortage of rock stars at this year’s TIFF

Rock stars have always seen themselves as movie stars in the flesh. From a black-and-white Bob Dylan playing hide’n’seek with the camera in Don’t Look Back to Mick Jagger performing as a man is stabbed to death near the stage in Gimme Shelter, the big screen validates rock’s delusions of grandeur as nothing else can. But it’s a two-way street. You can’t imagine Martin Scorsese’s movies without the Stones on the soundtrack. And Bruce Springsteen has talked about how his seminal album, Darkness on the Edge of Town, was heavily inspired by American film noir. That was at last year’s TIFF, when the Boss, interviewed onstage by Edward Norton, was the hottest ticket at festival. This year, it’s raining rock stars.

TIFF kicks off Sept. 8 with Davis Guggenheim’s U2 documentary, From the Sky Down, the first time a doc will open TIFF. Bono and his band will be there to rouse the gala crowd. Director Jonathan Demme will present the world premiere of Neil Young Journeys, his third concert film with the Canadian troubadour, this one documenting Neil’s solo show at Toronto’s Massey Hall last May. Demme will also interview Young onstage at the Princess of Wales Theatre. Eddie Veder, meanwhile, is expected to grace the premiere of Cameron Crowe’s new documentary, Pearl Jam Twenty. And Madonna will touch down at TIFF for the North American premiere of W.E., the movie she’s directed about the romance between King Edward VIII and Wallace Simpson (which premiered in Venice to underwhelmed reviews). Don’t expect any of these icons to actually perform at TIFF. Though you never know. It can’t hurt to be prepared. After the Springsteen appearance last year, I noticed a stagehand carrying away an unplayed acoustic guitar.

Of course, other rock stars may show up, as they tend to whenever Hollywood stars converge en masse. I’ve seen Mick Jagger in Cannes a couple of times, at last year’s premiere of Stones in Exile, and years earlier at an MTV party, where we carried on an absurdly civilized conversation as he absently twitched to the music. And a few years ago, the highlight of my festival was an unplugged concert by Patti Smith, celebrating a documentary about her that wasn’t even part of TIFF. She performed at a fashion-line party at the Gardiner Museum, where she stood alone at a microphone with no stage and gradually subdued the loud cocktail crowd, even though many of them had no idea who she was.

So who knows what the long nights of the festival will hold in store? To quote that fine old song by Neil Young . . .

Maybe Marlon Brando
Will be there by the fire
We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood
And the good things there for hire

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