"Thus open the gates of paradise."

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TIFF 2000 Day 9

Day 9: September 15

Saint Jude

John L'Ecuyer
Canada, 2000
Cast: Liane Balaban, Nicholas Campbell, Raymond Cloutier, Bernie Coulson, Kris Lemche

Liane Balaban. That's why I picked this, based on her performance in "New Waterford Girl" which, despite not expecting to like it, charmed me nonetheless.

This is a harder film about Jude (Balaban), a young woman who turns tricks, her friends on the street -- a pedophile named Clarence and a young hustler, Georgie -- and her sister's boyfriend Gabe. Trouble ensues for Jude when she rips off a drug dealer's brother. And so it goes.

One day later, it turns out, I don't have much to say about this film. It's not a fundamentally bad film, just not very memorable. It looked very good though. The director was there to take Q&A, and as soon as I can remember a thing he said, I'll write it all down. Nice fellow though.

[This review was not completed]

La veuve de Saint-Pierre

Patrice Leconte
France/Canada, 2000
Cast: Juliette Bincohe, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Philippe Magnan, Philippe Duchaussoy

Web Site: http://www.laveuvedestpierre.com

Why I picked this film: Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteuil, Emir Kusturica, Patrice Leconte. Filmed in Louisbourg, Nova Scotia.

It's 1850. Two drunken sailors set out to decide whether their old captain is "gras ou gros" (fat, or just big). In the gloom of night, they knife the captain (who looks gras to me). They are charged with murder. One is sentenced to hard labour, the other (Kusturica) to death. The trouble is that Saint-Pierre has no guillotine. One has to be sent from Martinique. And then there's the matter of not having a willing executioner.

While they wait for both, he is put in the charge of the garrison captain (Auteuil) and his wife "Madame La" -- short for "Madame La Capitaine" -- played by Binoche. Over the winter, the prisoner helps build a greenhouse and mend roofs around the village. When he saves the tavern from being destroyed by a runaway house (it was being moved), he is celebrated by the community, even though he's still under sentence of death from the council and governor. It becomes clear that the man has changed, and so you have to evaluate whether his sentence is still just.

Then the ship arrives carrying the guillotine.

There's nothing wrong with this film except for a cyan pall that coloured the print, giving me the sensation that I had just stepped out of bright sunlight into a darkened room.

La Moité Gauche Du Frigo

Philippe Falardeau
Canada, 2000
Cast: Paul Ahmarani, Stéphane Demers, Geneviève Néron

A fake documentary about two roommates -- Christophe, who is looking for a job, and Stéphane who is filming his search. I have to fess up and admit that I'm not a big fan of fake documentaries because they seldom come close the the real thing (they usually look too good or are too dramatic), but this film gets it spot on, in part because director Philippe Falardeau really is a documentary film maker. There were points where I wondered if he had actually interviewed some corporate executives and had spliced it in for verisimilitude. No, as it turns out. This is a good, apolitical film from French Canada.

Falardeau was generous enough to delay his flight home so he could stay for the Q&A. Here are some of his comments.

  • "This is the strangest theatre I've ever been in. It's like having tunnel vision." (The Cumberland 4 is long a quite narrow. It's the theatre with the Laurel and Hardy curtain.)
  • "It was shot on digital video with a Sony VX-1000, then transferred to video by (a company in Montréal) using a very complicated process. We did a lot of tests -- we had to avoid certain colours, and movement -- OK I said we have to have movement. You notice there are medium shots by no big vistas. It's too much information for the camera."
  • He had started out naming names and using actual information about the companies at which Christophe interviewed, but once his lawyers saw that, he got out his out scissors. Essentially, "You don't use anything unless you've already got the money for the law suit." He did use the name "Rike" for "Nike" despite his lawyer telling him not to, but you don't spend years working on a script to have it completely emasculated, he said.
  • About his original vision compared to the final product: "The original had more teeth." Over the development process, its social agenda was toned down ("We've heard this before") and the relationships in the story were emphasized.
  • SRC (the French language service of the CBC) has already bought the film. Marketing in the rest of the world is unknown.

Q: Is the end of the film the end of their [Chrisophe and Stéphane] friendship?

Falardeau: No, but it will never be the same.

"I can't believe so many people stayed for Q&A. I didn't think there was much of an audience for this, but apparently there is."

Again, what a lovely fellow.


Sharunas Bartas
France/Portugal/Lithuania, 2000
Cast: Valentinas Masalskis, Fatima Ennaflaoui, Axel Neumann

This film had a lot of walkouts. Imagine a film composed of a series of tableaux with almost no dialog and only the barest of stories. There you have it. A shipwreck. Three survivors on a beautiful foreign shore wander down beach and over sand dunes. It could have been told with a flip-book of postcards, except that the postcards move.

Still don't get it? OK. I was in Chicago last month. I walked past a marina near dusk as a storm was approaching. Scores of sailboats were moored there, their sails furled, but their rigging striking the masts in the breeze. The hulls tipped back and forth, each in their own rhythm, to the gentle pinging of the lines. I wanted to take a picture of that: the motion, the light, the sound. What you can't do with a still camera, you can do with motion pictures. And that's what this film was all about: stunning photography with an excuse to show it off.

Interlude: Manulife Center

It's 9:10 on Friday night and I am exhausted. I've done little in the past eight days not directly related to the film festival. Each day is the same: go to a film. Watch the film. Write about the film. Repeat, sleep, repeat.

I'm having one of those ugly days -- days when all of the fashion magazines I don't read and all of the attractively dressed people around me finally succeed in making me feel ugly. "I obviously don't belong here. Who am I trying to fool?" You know those sorts of thoughts. It may just be the fatigue talking, but it's speaking to me, and I'm all ears.

I'm at a table beside an ever-ascending escalator, as if I'm in an Escher drawing. Up, up, and more up. In its mirrored sides I can see people one floor below in the food court, and one floor up at the theatre entrance. It's difficult to keep it all straight, spatially.

Ran into a patron last night to whom I last spoke about 4 years ago at a screening of "Erotique". Balding, great voice, lucid. He didn't obviously remember me.

I've seen Tracy several times in passing too. She's been around for at least the last 8 years. We spoke once in line for the Uptown a couple years back, but she too has forgotten me. To her, I'm the invisible man.

A paradox presents itself: if you are invisible, is it possible to be ugly at the same time?

Cousin, Cousine

Jean-Charles Tacchella
France, 1975
Cast: Marie-Christine Barrault, Victor Lanoux, Marie-France Pisier, Guy Marchand

It's a good thing I didn't blow off this film because it perked me right up at the end of another 5 film day. This one is from the vaults. Twenty-five years ago, it was the first Festival Of Festival Gala. Marie-Christine Barrault and Victor Lanoux meet at a wedding. Though they're both married (to wretched spouses), they start spending a lot of time together. Everyone assumes they are sleeping together even when they're not. And then they do.

It's nice light French fare that I haven't seen done in twenty-five years. It's such a different style of storytelling from what you'd see today, proving that it's not just the width of men's ties that have changed since then.

Marie-Christine is a honey, in case you didn't know. She has the same smile as Juliette Binoche, which I'd never realized until today. Look for Marie-Christine and Charlotte Rampling in Woody Allen's film "Stardust Memories."