Toronto Film Festival, Day 1: Edward Norton, Joaquin impersonator, financial crisis and more

You know that scene in Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page leaving a Paris café and suddenly the whole city folds in and angles out and pops-up like a 3-D Escher cityscape?

Toronto, on the first day of the 35th International Film Festival, is a little like that: with the new central five-screen, multi-purpose Bell Lightbox (opening Sunday), a new TIFF headquarters hotel (Hyatt Regency) and a giant vertical multiplex (the ScotiaBank) with an escalator that seems to climb into the clouds serving as the main screening venue, the locus of the festival has shifted from the upscale, pseudo-Euro Yorkville section to the heart of the entertainment district downtown. For the returning press, film buyers, sellers, programmers and publicists, the effect is disorienting, to say the least. And while we try to get oriented, we see movies, and talk to movie stars.

First interview of  TIFF35: Edward Norton, who  plays a convict trying to get parole and seriously messing with prison official Robert DeNiro's head. Intense, stage-like scenes with Norton and DeNiro sparring (verbally), snorting and hamboning like there’s no tomorrow. Norton -- dressed in brown leather jacket and blue jeans and just arrived at the Overture Films suite in the Park Hyatt -- talks seriously about collaborating with "Bob" again (they did The Score together), collaborating with John Curran (Norton and the director did The Painted Veil together), and about how Norton's going to moderate a talk with his pal Bruce Springsteen at a public event tied to the screening of the doc, The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town.

First film of TIFF35: Tamara Drewe, a randy comedy of manners set in the English countryside, with Gemma Arterton in the title role as a columnizing newspaper gal transformed from ugly duckling to hot babe and who beds a series of men, including a rock star and a married mystery scribe…. Stephen Frears directed, and I’m set to talk to him and Arterton on Saturday. The screening was at the plush Hazelton Hotel screening room. Leather armchairs and side tables…. too comfortable!

Then a public screening of Inside Job, Charles Ferguson's documentary about the origins, and perpetrators, of the global financial collapse of 2008 and its crippling aftershocks. OK, it's the opening night of the festival, and there's a line around the block at the Ryerson Theater, and a red carpet for Ferguson and his glamorous producer, Audrey Marrs …. and it's an almost packed house! For a movie about derivatives and deregulation! True, it’s narrated A-lister Matt Damon --   but hey, he’s not here. (And speaking of he’s not here, a Joaquin Phoenix impersonator is running around town, or maybe it’s really Joaquin Phoenix pretending to be a guy pretending to be him, all because his meta-doc I’m Still Here is playing at TIFF, too.)