Cast: Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, Deborah Kara
Unger, Dimitris Katalifos
This is a story about infatuation, betrayal, and
obsession. Skarsgård plays Alec, a stock trader with an
unusual interest in the significance of seemingly random
observations (signs). His wife Marjorie (Rampling) works in
the American Embassy in Athens. He is having an affair with a
coworker. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure
out how well things end.
The film starts out well enough and starts the inevitable
slide down with aplomb, but somehow loses steam near the end.
It's not fatal, but it is detracting, considering the
otherwise high quality of the rest of the film.
Stellan Skarsgård, Charlotte Rampling, and director
Jonathan Nossiter were there for Q&A.
Q: What was shooting in Athens like?
Rampling: It's very un-Toronto. Very chaotic. But I did
like waking up and looking at the Acropolis from my hotel
room. I liked that a lot.
Q: In the end -- why did he jump?
Nossiter: It's funny -- some people say he jumped. Some
say he was pushed. (You'll have to make up your own mind.)
Rampling: You didn't think "sacrifice"? When he
asks her if she is thinking about Alan, and she says
"yes"... Perhaps he feels "What more is there
to live for?" He knows Alec will always be first in her
When asked what the film was shot on, Nossiter said it was
all on digital video which surprised the hell out of me. I
thought it was a combination of film and digital. When asked
why he chose digital video, he said that in part, it was a
deliberate move away from Kodak products. Kodak has a virtual
monopoly on film stock, which is, he said, a "disaster
for the industry."
Les filles ne savent pas
Cast: Isild Le Besco, Karen Alyx, Pascale Bussières, Pascal
Elso, Marie Rivière Synopsis:
Director Anne-Sophie Birot introduced the film by saying
we shouldn't worry about the title -- whether girls can't
swim or boys drown more easily.
It's about two teen-aged girls (16-ish), best of friends
who live in different towns in France. Events bring them
together at the seashore one summer. Gwen spends her days
shucking fish and having sex with her boyfriend Fredo. Lise
has a more literary bent; she write poetry and has a secret
crush on Gwen. I'm making it sound like the Swedish film
"Show Me love" but it's nothing like that at all.
It is about a time in your life when anything seems possible.
But when it does happen. it's with unexpected swiftness. some
damage is irreparable.
Isild Le Besco plays Gwen with a squinty, burgeoning, and
unforced sensuousness. sadly, she wasn't at the screening.
Look: it's a French movie. In a sense, nothing happens.
Not much anyway. It's mostly observation, and as such it's
Q: How did you get Pascale Bussières?
Birot: I had seen her in another film where she played
(someone from France), so I knew she could do the part [with
a convincing accent.] I contacted her, but expected her to
say "no" because it was not a leading part. But she
Cast: Koji Yakusho, Jun Fubuki, Teuyoshi Kusanagi, Ittoku
The director's introductory remarks: "This film is
done in the Kai Dun traditional style of Japanese horror
story. One of the rules is that the ghost is just there and
doesn't suck blood. I don't know if it was enough stimulation
for a hardened Toronto audience."
Last year Kurosawa was the Festival's spotlighted
director. After seeing one of his films, I rearranged my
schedule part-way though in order to see as many more as I
could; they really rubbed me the right way. Spare, cool, and
a bit peculiar. With "Seance", Kurosawa delivers
the same sort of panache, though I thought I found the story
problematic. A sound engineer (Yakusho) is out in the woods
collecting sound for an upcoming radio drama. A little girl
hides away in one of his equipment cases. Days later, he
comes across her inert body when he opens the case back home
in his garage. His wife, a psychic, has been asked by the
police to help find the girl. She wants to demonstrate that
her powers are real, and sees this as an opportunity to
provide proof by hiding the body somewhere, then by leading
the police to it. Complications arise when the girl turns out
not to be dead after all. And here is when the story takes a
false step for me: they choose not to call the police and not
to take the girl to a hospital. This is clearly a stupid
decision, and from then on, my sympathies were never with the
That said, the film does manage some sort of moral
comeback in the last third, and salvaged the screening for me
with a stylish study of remorse.
Kurosawa stayed for a Q&A, speaking through the tall
blonde translator I've seen here in years past, the one with
a voice like smoke. Every time I hear her, I fall in love.
Q: There was not much music in this film. Is this a
trend in Japanese movies?
Kurosawa: Compared to most I make, this is chock-full of
music, but when it comes to where and when to place the
music, I become quite serious. Because I think music is very
powerful, if you want to scare somebody you can play scary
music, but you could play funny music and make it a funny
scene. It's a powerful emotional device but I didn't want to
distract you from the film... And I didn't want it to be
obvious. [You shouldn't be told how to feel by the music.] I
don't use a lot of scary music during the scary parts.
Q: When they take her out of the box, is she alive, dead,
or is it supposed to be ambiguous?
Kurosawa: it does look to them as if she's dead, and so
they are shocked, but when she's alive they think,
"Thank God" and that's where the tragedy begins. If
the girl had already been dead, the couple wold never have
run into the things they did.
Q: Re: The screenplay
Kurosawa: It's based on a British novel, Seance On A
Wet Afternoon [by Mark McShane]. It's an interesting
novel, but (because of) the difference between 1960's England
and modern Japan, there is considerable revamping in my film.
For example, there's no ghost in the novel. I didn't work
with another screenwriter, but I ended up completely
rewriting it. This happens a lot with me.
Q: Was seeing his own doppelganger a premonition of
Kurosawa: There's a Russian legend from Catherine The
Great where she sees her own doppelganger. Her psychics say
she's going to die but she says "No way!" I used it
was a way of signifying his acceptance of his own death.
The Basement Girl
"Who can turn the world on with her smile?" A
stream-of-consciousness work about a woman who was recently
dumped (or abandonée in the French narration) and
her starting recovery. Midi Onidera shot this in a lot of
formats, in French, with English subtitles. Even though
Onodera herself speaks "Only English at the best of
times." A tad abstract for my taste, but not bad.
Three girl friends decide to drop the "bullshit"
and talk about what's really important to them. One is
pregnant. Another is in love with a pregnant woman (possibly
her friend). Sitting in the first row, I noticed a fuzziness
to the image (or the projection -- I couldn't tell). Goes on
Francine Zuckerman Synopsis:
My favourite of the lot. Two women are driving to a
funeral. "You should have told him." Flashback to
scenes of the driver as a young girl with her father, driving
the same roads. They're happy. Then later in time, both have
aged. He is still driving, but now has an IV drip discretely
hung from the door. All he wants is for her to be married and
happy. But that will never happen, not like that anyway. Well
photographed, and smart enough not to tell us the
Foxy Lady, Wild Cherry
Ines Buchli Synopsis:
A young girl on the cusp of becoming a woman s visiting
her father. She asks her friend to stay over. Dad is not
altogether user to parenting, it seems.One of Dad's friends
drops over for supper. The girls check out his CB radio.
"What's jailbait?" A good film, but I was not fully
engaged by it. Could be fatigue setting in.
Clean Rite Cowboy
The "Clean Rite" man has a busy day. He cleans
people's carpets. One stop reunites him with what looks to be
a high school sweetheart. They reminisce in a touching scene
of shared memories and dancing. An escape to the past,
happier days. The wistful tone really appealed to me.
Cast: Craig Ferguson, Ian Hart, Jane Horrocks, Adrian Lester,
Catherine McCormack, Jimi Mistry, David Morrissey, Olivia
A very lightly spoken David Kan introduced the film,
saying something or other. Despite sitting no more than 20'
away, it was a strain to catch what he was saying.
The inevitable one sentence (fragment) plot synopsis:
Three stories of love centered around a salsa club in London.
It's a straightforward Saturday night fun film.
Random thoughts I hope my editor can knit together into a
coherent narrative: [We're not paid nearly
enough for that -- Ed]
Much of the cast was
there, including Jane Horrocks, who is lovely. Why
did she do this film? "I just wanted to play a
tart," she said.
Adrian Lester acts
everyone else up and down in this flick by not doing
much at all. Ian Hart plays a well-read cabby who
never seems to actually drive, and instead spends a
lot of time in the café, explaining his views on
relationships and women.
From the Q&A:
Q: In one sentence, can you tell us what you were
trying to say in this film?
Craig Ferguson: If we could'ha done that, we wouldn't ha'
made the fuckin' film! What is this -- the Toronto
International One Sentence Festival?