"Thus open the gates of paradise."

In this issue
TIFF 2000 Day 4

Day 4: September 10

State And Main

David Mamet
USA, 2000
Cast: Alec Baldwin, Charles Durning, Clark Gregg, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Patti LuPone, William H. Macy, Sarah Jessica Parker, David Paymer, Rebecca Pidgeon, Julia Stiles

David Mamet's new film. (If you're not sure who Mamet is, he also did "Glengarry Glen Ross" and "The Spanish Prisoner".) What a complete hoot! A movie crew is in Vermont, trying to finish work on a movie. Well -- that's what movie crews do. The story is mostly about the writer played by Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Rebecca Pidgeon who plays the town's bookseller.

The thing I like about Mamet's films is the way that, even though it might seem busy and a bit gangly, everything has a purpose, all the gears mesh. It's like watching an old steam powered engine, though if you've never spent an afternoon doing that, I'll never be able to convince you of it.

From the film:

"What's an executive producer credit?"
"It's what you give your secretary instead of a raise."

Rebecca Pidgeon is adorable. And you'd hope so, given that the part was probably written for her. [I would later learn that she had first considered the bimbo film actress part which is played by Sarah Jessica Parker, and that the role of Ann was her second choice.]

"The only second chance you get is the chance to make the same mistake again."


Hans Petter Moland
Norway/UK, 2000
Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Lena Headey, Ian Hart, Charlotte

This is the Stellan Skarsgård Film Festival. Director Hans Petter Moland, Stellan, and the lovely Charlotte Rampling where there. Should I be struck by a bus in the next half hour, I'll go happily.

Introduced as a "road trip from hell," it's the story of a daughter (Headey) who goes to Norway to fetch her estranged father (Skarsgård) for one last visit with her dying mother (Rampling). The movie is full of Norway and Scotland, and fabulous actors. Charlotte Rampling!Ever since "Stardust Memories," I've wanted to see more of her work. And here she is, live and in person. Did I mention that she's lovely?

Q: I noticed that both Stellan and Charlotte are playing in another movie together. Can you explain how this came to be?
A: (Skarsgård) The other film is "Signs And Wonders." We actually shot it before this one, and liked working with each other, so we kept on doing it.
A: (Rampling) We're husband and wife twice over. Why stop?
A: (Moland) I was very happy she agreed to do the picture when she heard (that Stellan was in it.)

Q: (To Skarsgård) Was the full frontal nudity scene agreed to up-front?
A: (Moland) It's hard for Stellan to keep his clothes on.

Q: Why Aberdeen?
A: (Moland) You're Scottish, right? I wanted to do a road movie, but you can't really do a road movie in Europe. It's too small. So I had to have them go somewhere remote enough for them to do what they do. Scots don't find it exotic visiting Aberdeen, but other people do.

Q: What was the most challenging thing about making this movie?
A: (Rampling) I'm not starting... [She passes the microphone.]
A: (Skarsgård) For me it was being a drunk, but keeping his humanity in the forefront so that the audience isn't simply disgusted with him.
A: (Rampling) You did it well. [She passes the microphone again.]
A: (Moland) I'll answer for Charlotte -- she's too modest to say -- but she had a very difficult job. She's only in the start of the film and about 8 minutes at the end, but it's her that sets off the story. Without her, these two people will probably never see each other again.

Q: And you? [What was the most challenging thing]
A: Probably raising the money!


Sogo Ishii
Japan, 2000
Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Ryu Daisuke, Masatoshi Nagase, Jun Kunimura


An overwrought story about a swordmaster who masquerades as a demon who wants to slay 1000 members of some rival clan, and of the warrior-turned-monk-turned-warrior who vows to stop him despite the advice of his spiritual master. While the movie has great production values, very good period costumes, lovely photography, and a low rumbling soundtrack with a Taiko drum you could feel in your chest every 12 seconds, this movie committed the one mortal filmic sin: It was boring.

Not really bad per-se, but boring. Let's forget it and move on.