TORONTO — You know you’ve got a good party on your hands when Madonna shows up.
The singer, her left arm still in a sling from last month’s horseback riding accident, made a surprise appearance at the 30th Toronto International Film Festival Sunday night, sending the already sleep-deprived paparazzi into a frenzy as she walked the red carpet at Roy Th ompson Hall for the North American premiere of her director-husband Guy Ritchie’s ‘‘Revolver.’’
Earlier that night, U2 frontman Bono, in town for a week of concerts, took the stage at the Isabel Bader Theatre, where the documentary ‘‘Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man’’ was making its world premiere, to pay tribute to the singer. ‘‘I would not know how high to jump or how far I was falling without Leonard Cohen,’’ Bono said to the audience.
Madonna and Bono were just the latest in a seemingly endless parade of famous faces that invaded the city throughout the weekend. This festival, which runs through Saturday, is as much about moviegoing as it is about stargazing, and crowds hung out en masse outside festival venues and the Four Seasons Hotel just to catch a glimpse of the likes of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, Kirsten Dunst, Susan Sarandon, Richard Gere, Liam Neeson, Jeff Bridges, Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Robert Downey Jr., Anthony Hopkins or tiny Dakota Fanning, all of whom were flitting about town to promote their latest films.
As for the films themselves: By Sunday night, the early critical consensus had it that the best movie shown here thus far was ‘‘Brokeback Mountain,’’ director Ang Lee’s heartbreaking love story between two cowboys (played by Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) over the span of two decades. Lee and the actors arrived here Saturday from the Venice Film Festival, where the movie had been shown a few days earlier. But the moment the director reached his hotel, he learned the film had won Venice’s top honor, the Golden Lion, and he turned around and hopped back on a plane to accept the award.
This accounted for Lee being a no-show at Saturday night’s invitation-only party for Brokeback Mountain at the lounge Flow. The crowd of would-be gate crashers was so thick that when I managed to reach the hulking doorman holding the guest list and uttered my name, he turned to a fellow bouncer and they both laughed in my face, as if to say ‘‘If we don’t know who you are, you’re not getting in, guest list or not.’’
Fortunately, the humiliation only lasted a few seconds, since a publicist for Focus Features, the distributor of ‘‘Brokeback Mountain,’’ happened to walk by at that very moment, and much to the bouncers’ chagrin, whisked me past the velvet ropes. Inside, partygoers sipped on raspberry mojitos and congratulated Ledger, who is virtually guaranteed an Oscar nomination for his performance in the film. Director Terry Gilliam, in town for the world premiere of his movie ‘‘Tideland,’’ was also spotted nearby, seemingly oblivious to the largely negative reaction to his film, about the imaginary world of a little girl (my take: it is practically unwatchable).
On Sunday afternoon, I was standing in the eighth-floor hallway of the Park Hyatt Hotel, waiting to interview Ledger and Gyllenhaal, when a visibly exhausted but beaming Lee returned from Venice, carrying the hefty trophy with him. Ledger came out of his room to congratulate his director and give him a big hug, and their conversation, on which I politely eavesdropped, was just another way in which this formidable festival allows movie buffs to commingle with filmmakers — intentionally or not.