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The Collective Wazoo: "The Informant!"

September 12, 2009 |  7:26 am

MattDamonSoderberghStory Shortly before the start time of Friday's screening of "The Informant!" the film festival's Noah Cowan was waiting outside the Elgin Theater amidst a swirl of photographers, gawkers, gladhanders and people scrambling for a ticket. "Every minute Matt Damon's car doesn't get here, my amusing introduction gets shorter and shorter," he said.

Onstage moments later, Cowan had to merely say the name of director Steven Soderbergh to bring a swell of applause from the crowd. After bringing out producers Gregory Jacobs and Jennifer Fox, screenwriter Scott Burns and actors Melanie Lynskey, Scott Bakula and, yes, Matt Damon (who received a loud ovation of his own and a lightening storm of camera flashes), Cowan introduced Soderbergh to another huge round of applause. Soderbergh charged across the stage and high-fived those standing in a line there as if it were a basketball pre-game.

"I'm going to be a little smarmy and blow a little smoke up your collective wazoo," Soderbergh said, noting that he was also at the festival 20 years ago with his debut, "Sex, Lies and Videotape," 10 years ago with "The Limey," and last year with "Che."

"The reason I keep coming back," he added, "and the reason most filmmakers keep coming back is partially because it's a beautiful city, partially because the festival is so well-run, but it's mostly because the audiences are so great."

Flattered and primed as they were, "The Informant!" went over well with the audience. A comedy about shenanigans in the corn business, and a corporate whistle-blower (a toupee-adjusting Damon) who turns out to have a broader agenda, the film is also cerebral, distancing and difficult at times to get a grasp on. Soderbergh continually shifts the audience's footing, teasing them along with what might best be described as an unreliable interior monologue. Though some -- like me -- might find the film's tactics exciting and idiosyncratic, others may find them off-putting. If there were question after last spring's release of "Duplicity" as to whether smart, adult films have a spot in the contemporary marketplace, the strange ways of "The Informant!" may bring more answers. 

-- Mark Olsen

Photo: Matt Damon, right, and director Steven Soderbergh attend a press conference for "The Informant!" at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Credit: Frank Gunn / Associated Press

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