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Book Review - World Film Locations: Toronto

Examination of the city that's come to be known as "Hollywood North".

Edited by: Tom Ue


If you've watched a Hollywood movie over the last decade or so that purports to be set in New York, Chicago or Boston, take a closer look at those locations - it's probably actually been shot in Toronto.
The latest in Intellect Books' established World Film Locations series, previous installments of which have covered metropolises like Tokyo, London and New York, as well as smaller cities like New Orleans, Marseilles and my own hometown of Dublin, World Film Locations: Toronto is one of the more interesting, given the city's relationship to Hollywood.
Thanks to tax breaks and an abundance of skilled crews, Toronto has become one of the most popular sites for major film productions, though the city rarely gets to play itself on screen. Canada's largest city, North America's third largest overall behind New York and Los Angeles, has become something of a metropolitan minstrel, thanks to its generically North American skyline. The city's one distinguishing structure, the CN Tower, once the world's tallest building, is regularly framed out of shots, like a drunken uncle in a wedding photo, to create the illusion we're looking at a city south of the 49th parallel.
Edited by Tom Ue, a University College London Canadian Centennial Scholar, the book collects various short essays discussing topics from Toronto's cinematic beginnings in the underground film movement of the sixties to its contemporary status as "Hollywood North". The bulk of the volume looks at individual films, from the 1966 short Paddle to the Sea to last year's mega budget production Pacific Rim. Locations are discussed and maps of the city are included to pinpoint the sites of iconic scenes.
As I get older I find it increasingly rare to come across movies I haven't previously been aware of but World Film Locations: Toronto put two new interesting movies on my radar: the thrillers The Silent Partner and Highpoint, both products of Toronto's late seventies / early eighties tax shelter era that have now fallen into obscurity. I'll be doing my best to track both of these thrillers down, and for this alone I'm grateful to this volume.
The book features an attractive design that resembles a tumblr blog in its use of images but the essays are quite slight and I would have appreciated a look at the logistics of filming in Toronto; perhaps an interview with one of the many Canadian character actors who spend their career imitating New Yorkers or Bostonians, and answers to questions like "Are all those US cop cars stored in some giant warehouse in Toronto?" As it is, World Film Locations is a breezy read that will probably be of most interest to natives of the city itself, but the rest of us might just be introduced to some interesting Canadian movies that have flown under our radars.

You can purchase Toronto and the rest of the World Film Locations series direct from the publisher at www.intellectbooks.co.uk


Eric Hillis

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