Some cultural archaeologists have concluded that all the thousands of stories in Western literature can be boiled down to seven basic plots. That notion is reinforced by sampling a swath of the nearly 300 features presented at the Toronto International Film Festival. A number of notable entries here have twins, or even triplets, in the lineup. Here are a few examples of the program's moviemaking déjà vu.
HAVEN'T WE MET BEFORE? There are not two but three star vehicles here this year with a major actor playing his own doppelgänger. In the dark comedy "The Double," Jesse Eisenberg does double duty as an office worker so meek that his colleagues scarcely register his existence. Then his brash lookalike joins the firm, claiming credit for the veteran's important but unrecognized work and stealing the affections of the girl he adores from afar (Mia Wasikowska.) The Psychological thriller "Enemy" covers similar thematic territory, with Jake Gyllenhaal as a Toronto history teacher stunned to realize that an actor with identical looks is living nearby. The men step into each others' lives with bizarre consequences as the film builds to a horrific climax. In "The Face of Love," the story is retold as an emotionally troubled romance. Annette Bening plays a recent widow whose inability to move on is compounded when she falls in love with her late husband's physical double (Ed Harris.)
FAITH AND FRAUD Several blistering critiques of organized religion are in the lineup. "The Sacrament," from U.S. horror film director Ti West is a pseudo documentary about a TV crew visiting a remote religious community whose mysterious leader rules with total authority. South Korea's drama "The Fake" concerns a faith community defrauded by its manipulative minister. And the much talked-about real-life documentary "Mission Congo" explores charges that during the Rwandan refugee crisis millionaire televangelist Pat Robertson used a medical relief charity as a front to airlift machinery and evade taxes on his personal mining operation in distant African diamond fields.
KINKY COMEDY A pair of Asian offerings pushed sex comedy to cringe-inducing limits of perversity. "Moebius," from South Korean iconoclast Kim Ki-duk, is a dialog-free deadpan comedy about the obsessive pursuit of pleasure. When a wife discovers her husband's affair, she uses a knife for a Lorena Bobbit-like retaliation that scars both him and their adolescent boy. Father and son begin a weird odyssey in search of new, post-mutilation thrills. The twisted comedy was effectively banned in the director's homeland. Japan gets into similar territory with "R100," another crazy-weird depiction of pain-induced pleasures. A mild-mannered salesman signs on at an elite bondage club whose dominatrixes ambush him during the course of his daily life. When he tries to back out, the situation builds to an absurd showdown with a SWAT team of S&M ninjas. The subject matter is transgressive, but the film is oddly sweet of heart.
A STAR IS BORN, LUV Two musical underdog stories set in London feature striving entertainers about to become superstars. "One Chance" tells the true tale of Paul Potts, a mobile phone salesman and amateur opera singer who became a media sensation through his appearance on "Britain's Got Talent." And the Jimi Hendrix biopic "All is By My Side" stars Andre Benjamin as the then-unknown guitarist recording his breakthrough album amid the sex-and-drugs distractions of Swinging London.
Are there echoes here or is it just me?