Reel Toronto: Toronto Stories
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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.

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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.

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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…

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…taking a bus into town via the Gardiner…

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

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…and Dundas Street…

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

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

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

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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…

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…and that cute little Winchester Cafe across from the farm

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…in Taylor Creek Park…

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…and in the Necropolis.

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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…

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…walks down Spadina Avenue

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…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.

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

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

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

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

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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…

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

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

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

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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.