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culture

Reel Toronto: Toronto Stories

Toronto gets its own anthology film. It's beautiful, bland, and busting at the seams with Torontoness.

Toronto’s extensive work on the silver screen reveals that, while we have the chameleonic ability to look like anywhere from New York City to Moscow, the disguise doesn’t always hold up to scrutiny. Reel Toronto revels in digging up and displaying the films that attempt to mask, hide, or—in rare cases—proudly display our city.

2013 4 10torontostories

We try, good readers, we really do. We go into something like Chloe or Toronto Stories pleased to see our city on screen, looking pretty as can be. And then we gradually come to remember that it just ain’t enough. Toronto Stories is one of those anthology films, kind of like Paris, je t’aime, but with only four stories and much less quirky. It has precisely two things in common with the rather more entertaining Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: It makes Toronto look real nice and its “Toronto” extends no further north than St. Clair Avenue.

2013 4 10terminal1

So, the film basically consists of three short movies linked by a common thread. It all starts off with this kid getting off a plane at Pearson Airport…

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10terminal1 ext

…wandering outside…

2013 04 10rogerscentre

…taking a bus into town via the Gardiner…

2013 4 10yonge queen

…and up Yonge Street (at Front in our first shot) past Queen Street…

2013 4 10yonge dundas

…and Dundas Street…

2013 4 10yongebloor harveys

…to where he gets out at Bloor, and disappears into the crowd. (The Harvey’s is now gone, thanks to the One Bloor development).

2013 4 10kidonviaduct

But we keep seeing him, like here, on the Bloor Viaduct…

2013 4 10dovercourt

…or stealing some fruit from this shop on Dovercourt Road.

2013 4 10part1 riverdalepark

The first full segment is about these kids who are looking for a monster in the Don Valley, below Cabbagetown. So we get lots of beautiful, summery shots of the area, including Riverdale Park…

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…the entrance…

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…and inside of Riverdale Farm…

2013 4 10cabbagetown

…and that cute little Winchester Cafe across from the farm

2013 4 10underviaduct

…in Taylor Creek Park…

2013 4 10necropolosprobably

…and in the Necropolis.

2013 4 10sookyin silverdollar

The second film is about Sook-Yin Lee’s relationship issues and, as with those kids, she doesn’t get out of her own neighbourhood much. But this time it’s Kensington. Like, she hangs out in the Silver Dollar…

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…gets off the train at Spadina…

2013 4 10sookyin spadina

…walks down Spadina Avenue

2013 4 10ROM

…visits the ROM…

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…and goes to learn a bit at the Toronto Reference Library which, hey, admittedly is a few clicks down the road.

2013 4 10stclair

We told you we’d get as far north as St. Clair and, indeed, here we are, not too far west of Yonge Street.

2013 4 10stclair elfogon

In our second story, the main character is a window washer, plying his trade on St. Clair, at Albert’s Jamaican Foods.

2013 4 10russellhill

He then zips up into Forest Hill, to this house on Russell Hill Road, where there’s a whole hullaballoo.

2013 4 10union duh

The final story involves Gil Bellows and starts, somewhat obviously, in a gorgeously cinematographized Union Station.

2013 4 10unionconcourse

With just the sort of geographical consistency we appreciate, he goes down to the concourse level…

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…and to the subway platform.

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Then he has a run-in with the law at this convenience store…

2013 4 10conveniencestore

…which, thanks to the dental clinic in the background, we can place as the Polaris shop, at College and Dufferin Streets.

2013 4 10markdailey

Hey, it’s a cameo by the dear, departed Mark Dailey. We can get behind that.

2013 4 10soupkitchen

This soup kitchen scene was shot at the All Saints Church, at Dundas and Sherbourne.

2013 4 10southofunion

And, last but not least, we encounter our lost kid again, down around York Street and Bremner Boulevard.

It’s actually rather amusing to read the reviews of this film. Variety suggested it was the nadir of omnibus movies, with no memorable moments. The reviewer concedes that “local ticketbuyers may flash brief curiosity.” He must have been right, because the Star‘s Bruce DeMara “a local guy and unabashed city booster” was more forgiving. His review lets you know, in case you were wondering, that love, Canadian style, is “awkwardly authentic, funny and warm.” DeMara says Gil Bellows gives a “tour-de-force performance.” Meanwhile, NOW‘s Norm Wilner says he’s overacting. The reality is, perhaps, somewhere in between. But no matter how good or bad Toronto Stories may be, we can at least agree with Wilner that it’s awfully nicely lit.


CORRECTION: OCTOBER 4, 2013: We originally misidentified two locations. The soup kitchen was shot at the All Saints Church, rather than St. Andrew’s and the bridge underpass is in Taylor Creek Park, not below the Bloor Viaduct. Thanks to “Secam” for pointing these out; we’ve corrected our errors above.

Comments

  • Upset Netizen

    I’d like to kick the guy responsible for the colour balance in the balls repeatedly.

    • Eric S. Smith

      Smog day?

    • HotDang

      Movies were like that for a while. It was an artistic choice. There is no need to resort to violence. Next you’ll be burning books you don’t like.

  • CaligulaJones

    I don’t think that’s the Viaduct. It appears to be the bridge over O’Conner at Woodbine…

  • Rex

    That’s definitely not the Bloor viaduct.

  • The Fussy Recluse

    No care to mention that this is a ripoff of “New York Stories”?

  • AJD

    That’s Church of the Redeemer on Bloor Street, not St Andrew’s. (And it’s the interior of the church–the lunch program is downstairs in the parish hall.)

  • Secam

    I was on the shooting crew for Toronto Stories. The scene attributed to the viaduct was in fact shot on (and under) the O’Connor bridge that runs over Taylor Creek Park, and the scene in the soup kitchen was photographed at the Church and community centre (I believe it’s called All Saints) at Dundas and Sherbourne.

    A quick anecdote about the soup kitchen scene: Shortly after we started shooting that night, someone was spotted (by a passerby) walking outside the building with a rifle. The police were called, and our set was completely locked down by ETF for 2 hours.