At the Toronto International Film Festival, movies grapple with a confounding present by revisiting the past

TORONTO – “Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?”

That’s a quote from “Joker,” which made its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival this week. But the quip, uttered by Joaquin Phoenix in a bent, bravura performance as the DC Comics villain in his early years, could easily be a tagline for the festival itself.

A bewildering outside world – and how best to diagnose and deal with it – was the cardinal theme of a festival dominated by filmmakers who, however far-flung and temperamentally disparate, repeatedly attempted to meet a political and cultural moment so confounding that it defies traditional genres and categorizations.

Deeply serious issues weren’t just the stuff of sober biopics and staid period pieces but of uproarious comedy. Portraits of male-female relationships and power differentials took he-said, she-said to new levels of introspection and acute insight.

Most notably,

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