This is my first Takeshi (Beat) Kitano film. Your basic
Yakuza fare, done much in the style of the early Clint
Eastwood films like "Fistful of Dollars" or
"The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." Kitano writes,
directs, and acts. This is some very smooth product.
Yamamoto (Kitano) is one of the top men in a Japanese
Yakuza family. Following a war with another family, they are
forced to merge with their rivals. As with any corporate
merger, some people stay, while others have to go. And
Yamamoto has to go. The family says he must die, and so he
flees to Los Angeles where he stays with his younger brother,
a small-time drug peddler. Yamamoto sets up shop and builds
his own crime empire. Things aim for the point where everyone
marked for death dies.
A very watchable blend of violence and grim humour. A good
way to start the day.
Cast: Fabrizio Filippo, Don McKellar, Marya Delver, Gordon
Currie, Jennifer Clement, Tobias Godson
This could have been a decent half-hour production.
Instead it went on and on for another 60 minutes. Office
drones make a bet to see who can go the longest without going
outside, commuting between work and home through the network
of malls in downtown Calgary like ants in an ant farm. Well,
that's one way of putting it. You could also describe it as
what happens over lunch one day.
A slightly manic Gary Burns was there to gab about the
film. I could recount the Q&A, but I doubt there
is much of common interest. Maybe just one:
Q: Could you comment on your use of digital tape
versus film? A: We shot mostly on video with some 355 mm mixed in. We
thought the difference would be really noticeable (after the
film blow-up), but it's really subtle. I don't think it's any
cheaper using digital other than you don't need a guy to load
the camera, but the blow-up costs a fortune, so I wouldn't be
surprised if shooting digital was more expensive
than film. I think the choice you make depends on the
project. If you want big, sprawling vistas of mountains,
digital is no good. Anything over 20' away just looks like
Cast: Juliette Binoche, Thierry Neuvic, Sepp Bierbichler, Ona
Lu Yenke, Luminita Gheorghiu, Arsinée Khanjian, Alexandre
[Two tables behind me at the mall where I'm writing
this, an internet e-commerce solutions salesman is pitching
his wares to a prospective customer. I can't help overhearing
as he punches up all of the buzzwords. "MERCHANTS need
to be focused on SECURITY of their customers' orders. Our
goal is to DOMINATE the E-BUSINESS market." I find this
all particularly distasteful, and fear it has soured my
This is a hard film to talk about in a linear way because
it's not linear itself. At the start, a title card introduces
it as a series of stories about incomplete journeys. Maybe it
said "incomplete stories" as well, which was true
in any case.
The film follows a number of threads linked in a purely
An actress (Binoche)
filming a movie, auditioning for a production of
"Twelfth Night" (in French), and her
relationship with a war photographer who disappears
to Yugoslavia for days/weeks at a time
A woman from Romania who
is in France illegally to make money, presumably,
though we only see her begging on street corners in
Paris. At home though, she could be one of your
neighbors, tending to home and family.
A man (from Senegal?) in
Paris who has a problem with authority. He harasses a
passerby for being rude to the Romanian woman. The
passerby happens to be the war photographer's younger
father, who wants his youngest son to take over the
family farm. The son is having none of it.
A school for deaf
children. They open and close the film with a game of
charades, the last one being completely inscrutable.
They practice as a drum corps and play in Paris. One
of its members is from the Senegalese family.
Arsinée Khanjian was there to introduce the film and to
do Q&A after. Here's some of what she said:
"I'd been asked what directors I would like to work
with, apart from the one I work with a lot. One of the people
I named was Michael Haneke. So about a month before they
started shooting, I got a call from him, and he said,
"Do you want to be in the film? It's a small part."
I don't think I heard past the first part, I was so excited.
I knew it was a small part, just that one scene, but it's
always been a dream to fly to Paris to make a movie."
The scene to which she is referring takes place in a Paris
restaurant. It starts with three couples around a table (she
is elbow-to-elbow with Fair Juliette). they talk, then Anna
(Binoche) goes to the washroom. We follow her away from the
table as she passes by another table with the Senegalese man
and his date. We see the start of their evening out, then as
Anna returns from the WC, we follow her back to the first
table where they talk some more. It's a long scene, and I
don't remember if it's all in one take or not. (I think not;
there wouldn't be a good reason to shoot it that way.)
AK: That one scene -- we rehearses for one day where
Michael worked out where he wanted the camera (and other
technical details). The next day we shot it. Thirty-two
CKIRIE: As an outsider, if I were to watch each of the 32
takes, would I see a difference, or was it technical
difficulties that needed so many takes?
AK: He knew exactly what he wanted. There were some
technical things -- we had to chew our food and deliver our
lines, and there's a temptation to eat very fast so you can
speak without having a mouthful of food. But it didn't look
natural, so one take we'd work on that. Another take, some
After 32 takes of cutting up a fish dinner, Arsinée was
keen not to eat fish again for a long time.
Themes in the film: responsibility, communication,
languages. At what point must you stop being just an observer
and intervene? Can you photograph a war and not feel
anything? Suppose you see a woman being harassed in a subway
car: how long do you let it go on? Do you keep your distance,
or do you stand up for her?
The thing I still haven't resolved is the part of the
actress. How does she fit into the framework? Some of her
scenes are of her, the actress, living daily life. Others are
scenes from her films which you don't initially recognize as
being films until the director calls "cut" or some
other movie-making artifact enter the frame. The confusion
between her life and her art its intentionally ambiguous
(though it's always resolved by the end of the scene), but
what does it mean?
Cast: Kirsten Dunst, Lynn Redgrave, Julia Brendler, Alberta
Watson, Peter Donaldson, Brent Carver
Have you ever had a conversation with a faintly-remembered
acquaintance? Have you ever made minutes of small talk that
passed like long hours only for you both to slowly realize
that you have been mistaken, and are, in fact, complete
This is Sheri Elwood's first feature. When I read in the
programme guide that she had also made the short film
"The Swimming Lesson", I immediately confused her
with the maker of "The Skating Party" who I thought
had shown great promise. I did see Elwood's first film, but
didn't care for it at all. Similarly, I didn't get into
"Deeply". In fact, I was bored, but the audience
(and my friend Harry) loved it, so what the hell do I know.
Sheri Elwood, Lynn Redgrave, and Brent Carver, and the
young fellow who plays "James" were there at this
world premiere, as were the producer and cinematographer
Redgrave was asked what attracted her to this film. She
said "The script" and praised it saying that it
just leapt off the page when she read it. Oddly enough, the
writing was the thing that most put me off. The structure of
the film is that of a story-within-a-story, but I didn't feel
that the inner story was sufficiently tied to the outer
story. I thought it failed to advance the outer story's
events or to change any of the outer characters in any
Harry disagreed, saying that the telling of the inner
story (a romance which ends badly) was key to the young woman
in the outer story coming to terms with her pain of losing
her lover, thus facilitating a healing process. I countered
by saying that it's no good if the inner story doesn't make
someone do something, that everyone in the film was
reactive (rather than active), and that that leaves you with
a movie that's dead in the water.
Harry said that that was a bunch of hooey. Then I said
Harry was a full of hooey. And then Gertrude Stein punched me
in the mouth.
Canadian Short Films
Inspired by The Engineer Of Human Souls. An expat
Czech teacher now living in Toronto notes that nothing is as
beautiful as when you can observe it, free from fear. Black
A (fake) documentary about a filmmaker and his obsession
with making Super 8 film starring children's Playmobil
figures. One talentless wag opines that his films are kind of
"dinky" and "lame". Could this be the
truth? Great fun.
Canada, 2000 Synopsis:
A young boy daydreams while having the stations of the
cross explained to him in a Catholic church somewhere in
Quebec. Instead of seeing the son of God carrying a cross, he
sees his mother who constantly moans about the load she bears
in raising her son. Shrug.
De l'art et la
manière chez Denys Arcand
Georges Dufaux Canada, 2000 Synopsis:
A (real) documentary about director Denys Arcand, shot
while he was working on "Stardom" which happens to
be the opening film of this year's festival. Arcand comes off
as being quite likeable, aware of his own limitations. This
would be perfect for airing on CBC Newsworld's show "The