The screening opened with Don McKeller's short film
"A Word From The Management." Don talks about being
the Festival Patron-minder while we pan (dolly) over people
sitting in a cinema audience. Nice. It's the sort of thing
you might even see outside the festival.
Maelström. Director Denis Villeneuve was there in a big
orange shirt to welcome us. "I'm told there's a Q&A
afterwards? I'm very embarrassed/ You will find out that a
fish wrote the movie. A fish I ate. I became very
intoxicated. I (tried to get help for it), and was told the
only thing for it was to write it down. So be kind with your
questions, and remember that eating seafood can be very very
dangerous." Charming fellow. I'm seldom that nice at
9:30 in the morning.
The film was a blast. It's a tale told be a fish. A study
in "vigilance, responsibility, and ... " something
else. "Love" perhaps? I wish I could remember what
Denis said exactly.
Trivia: The text at the start of the film, written in
Norwegian, is an apology to those from Norway for all of the
cliches used about them in the film. "But you're not
supposed to know that," added Villeneuve.
[I'm writing this in the cafeteria of the Royal Ontario
Museum (ROM). Initially empty, it has filled up in the last
hour with families and small children. I lose about 20
minutes staring into space, contemplating my own mortality
and morality, and wondering at the dopey plans I make for
planet CKIRIE. Maybe Maelström is just that kind of film.
Maybe I just need some coffee and a nap.]
Another in the "Dialogues" series of screenings,
this film was presented by Stellan Skarsgård, a big tall
Swede. If I were a woman, I could get quite silly about him.
He showed up dressed just like me as it turns out -- black
t-shirt and trousers, a discarded jacket. In fact, it's hard
to tell us apart except that his hair is blonde while mine's
black. and I wear glasses. And his forearms look as if they
could snap my spine in two while just having a nice stretch.
There's a touch of wild menace to Stellan that you don't want
to meet in a dark alley.
Bo Widerberg made "Raven's End" n the 1960's. It
was nominated for the Best Foreign Film OscarTM
in 1965. Stellan said he wanted to show it because that
nomination was some time ago, and he thought we might not
have seen it in a while, or ever. Good guess. It's a story of
a working class family in some Swedish industrial town in
1936. The son aspires to be a novelist, but is as yet
unpublished. He father is an alcoholic who manages to drink
and gamble away whatever money they've been able to save
through the mother's work as a laundress. Life happens at
"not a Hollywood pace, " says Skarsgård.
Thank goodness I had a box of orange juice with me;
drinking it helped me keep from nodding off. The film is not
boring -- my sleepiness is entirely my own fault. Though I
don't know what excuse the woman beside me would use to
explain her frequent head bobbing.
The film ends on a hopeful note, I think, though you could
interpret it as you like. I'm reminded of something Lynn
Stopkewich said at "Blue Velvet" yesterday: that
Lynch doesn't like to explicate his films because he feels
that it restricts the experience the audience can have.
Saying "This means this..." means that as a viewer,
you're not free to explore your own interpretations of the
Stellan spoke at length after the film. Rogers cable taped
the whole thing. If you want a transcript, talk to them. Here
are a very few of the comments he made:
He had the opportunity to
with the Widerberg (who died 2 years ago). [I believe
the film was "Vildanden".] He said that
Widerberg taught him more than any other director. He
said to (the cast): "I don't want to see your
tools. I want you to be just as good as the amateur
actors." Widerberg was trying to get the most
authentic performance as he could from the
On the first day of
shooting with Stellan, Widerberg was so anxious that
he didn't show up on the set. Stellan drove out to
his place and found him in bed, but was able to
cajole him into coming out, saying "C'mon...
It's just a movie." He'd reply, "I know,
but I want to do a good job." The same kind of
thing happened on the set of "Raven's End":
Widerberg spent the first three days shooting 16's
scene (that's the son's friend). "He's just not
coming out of his shell," said Widerberg, though
Stellan thought that it was Widerberg who wasn't
coming out of his shell. This made the picture's
producer very anxious, but once over that hump, the
rest of the film was shot very quickly in 27 days,
On acting with amateurs
versus professionals: "I like working with good
actors," those who can listen to you on
stage/screen. You can rehearse at home and come in
and do a good scene, but if you're not listening to
the other actors, the scene will be emotionally dead.
This is one of the differences between Widerberg and
Ingmar Bergman. Bergman would plan out everything in
advance, and so you have a lot of good solo
performances (even if there are others in the scene),
rather than authentic conversations and emotions,
which is what Widerberg wanted. In Bergman's films,
it's said that no one even has a job; that's how
abstract they are. "Bergman dissects everything
with his cold -- maybe too cold -- intellect."
The man who plays the
alcoholic father was a himself an alcoholic in life.
And so they could only work half days sometimes.
They'd feed him a hard-boiled egg in the morning, and
a little beer. Then as the day went on, they'd give
him a little more, but in 3-4 hours, that'd be it (he
was then too drunk to work). He has since dried out
and is now a very good actor.
About Widerberg working
with the same set of people in each film: The actor
who plays the son worked with Widerberg a lot. They
had a strong relationship, working and playing
On Lars Von Trier
(director of "Breaking The Waves"):
"When I saw his first film, I said, 'I want to
work with that director. When he becomes interested
in people.'" About Von Trier's film
"Europa": "Everything is very
controlled, and as a result, quite cold. But he was
able to change his style, first with 'The Kingdom',
and then with 'Breaking The Waves.'"
An audience member asked him how Swedish audiences reacted
to "Raven's End'. Did they find it as gloomy as North
American audiences do? Stellan replied that he didn't think
it was gloomy -- it was hopeful. The son leaves town
because if he doesn't, he will die. Maybe he will come back
for his girlfriend, or to visit his parents, but it's only
through leaving that he will survive.
About the meaning of last image in the film (a girl
playing with an umbrella in slow motion, then freeze frame):
"I don't know. I know how it makes me feel, but I
haven't thought of putting it in words." An audience
member remarked that Widerberg did the same that at the end
of "Elvira Madigan." Skarsgård notes that it's
also done at the end of "Les 400 Coups", but no one
knows what to make of it.
Interlude: At Starbucks
I'm in what once was Britanell's bookshop, and is now,
somewhat predictably, is a Starbucks coffee shop. At least
there's plenty of seating. My caffeine headache is subsiding,
though it feels as if I have had kilometers of film pulled
across the surface of my eyes like a retracting measuring
I have no idea what the next two films are about. No more
art today, please. I need something very ordinary to look at
right now. In English.
I am such a suck.
Cast: Petra Tikalova, Edward Dratner, Elizabeth Liebel,
Eugene Alper, Brian Morri, Virginia Baeta, Maggie Rowe,
Christopher Fairbanks, Jean Lavelli
A quiet, yet good-looking film from first-time director
Mia Trachinger (who was there along with producer Rebecca
Sonnenshine and cinematographer Patti Lee). The story: a
couple flee some unnamed war-torn country for some unnamed
American city in search of peace and work. Through a friend
from back home, they find work as street corner bunnies. They
crouch and bounce, dressed in pink bunny outfits while
passers-by absently rub their furry heads or sub in their
arms. That's all that there is to the job: crouching and
bouncing. And treating their clients consistently. Like an
emotional McDonald's restaurant, I suppose.
Despite being the obvious hook, the job isn't so important
to the movie. It's just a job, like any other you might be
used to. The story is about the couple and how they adapt to
being in a new country, without friends, starting from
To promote the film, they have had somewhat lugubrious
people dressed in bunny suits hanging about Bloor Street near
Bay, right in the heart of Festival territory. "We still
have all those bunny costumes," Trachinger said.
During the Q&A, someone asked the usual "how much
did it cost" question. Since the film hasn't been sold
yet, the producer didn't want to get specific, but ballparked
it at under $1,000,000 USD. The money came from "secret
The next morning, the thing I remember most about the film
is its look. The flat lighting, the strangely empty streets,
they way all of the meals shown on film were completely
unrecognizable and somewhat grotesque. The blank expression
on Petra Tikalova (the lead actress) as she bounced on her
heels, hands in front of her chest, trying not to get
Cast: Goya Toledo, Martin Feifel, Harry Prinz, Nina Proll
An Austrian film about a cocaine deal in Vienna. A Mexican
woman and her lowlife boyfriend smuggle a kilogram of cocaine
into the country from New York, and are trying to find a
buyer, make a quick $100,000, and then blow town. Things
don't go exactly right -- hence the story -- forcing the
woman to enlist the aide of a cab driver to help conclude
This is good, tight film., shown tonight for the first
time outside Austria. Got a good reaction from the audience.
The director was there to introduce the film and to do
Q&A. He wore a very nice dark gray suit that hung on his
body as if it were made of water.
Comments from Herr Spielmann:
He wanted fresh faces for
the leads, and cast some very well-known Austrian
actors in the minor roles (the "other" cab
driver, the woman at the supermarket)
The lead actress (Toledo)
did not speak German, so she had to learn her lines
phonetically, which in addition to being very
difficult, makes it hard to perform as well (how do
you deliver a line when you're a stranger to its
On the drug scene in
Vienna: "I'm afraid it's more rich than I have