Tiger Takes Toronto by the Tail

Director Ang Lee's historical epic, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, was named the winner of the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival Sunday.

If you’re counting your Oscar omens already, Oscar-sweeping American Beauty won the same prize in Toronto. Lee, who is Taiwanese, has gained national acclaim for his English-language movies The Ice Storm and Sense and Sensibility. He chose to return to the Chinese language for Tiger, even though it might mean risking the film’s marketability.

Hong Kong superstars Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh star in the film, which is set during the Qing dynasty in China. At this year’s Academy Awards, Yun-Fat, who plays a Gladiator-like martial arts warrior who just want to retire, described the film as “Sense and Sensibility — with martial arts”

“There’s an innocence, a pure magic of movement to this movie,” festival director Piers Handling tells the Associated Press. “It takes you back to your childhood days, when people fly across rooftops and have sword fights in trees.” The film is set for a United States release in December.

Besides anointing American Beauty, Toronto has also helped find distributors for Robert Duvall’s The Apostle and the German art-house hit Run Lola Run.

This year’s buzzed-about entries include the Australian romance Innocence, the British comedy Billy Elliott (formerly titled The Dancer), and DreamWorks’ American political drama The Contender, which looks likely to get the biggest Oscar push this year from the on-a-roll studio.

Basquiat director Julian Schnabel’s new film, Before Night Falls, about the late Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas, drew buzz at the International Venice Film Festival for Javier Bardem’s strong turn in the lead and at Toronto, it found a distributor: New Line.

Also finding a distributor was the new film from Strange Days director Kathryn Bigelow. The murder mystery The Weight of Water, starring Sean Penn and Elizabeth Hurley, was picked up by Lions Gate.