Day 1: 10 Sept 98

Unlucky Monkey

Japan, 1997
106 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Shinichi Tsutsumi, Hiroshi Shimizu, Akira Yamamoto, Ikko Suzuki

  "Unlucky" is right. One very unlucky thing after another happens to a group of Yakuza whose boss has just been given a room in the big house. Let me give you a flavour of it. In the opening minutes, two members of the gang are about to pull off a bank robbery. They don white ski masks. As they cross the street to the bank, another man in an identical ski mask runs out with a bag full of money. He's hit by a car. The bag goes flying, and lands in the hands of the Yakuza. Then one of them is struck by a car. The money goes through the air again and drops in the second man's hands. A foot chase ensues. ¥80 million. That buys a lot of noodles and cigarettes. Along the way, a number of people die, all accidents. Paranoia builds as the bodies pile up.

But don't get me wrong -- this is not a jolly "Carry On" movie. It's perhaps the darkest comedy I've seen. Lighter than Checkov for sure, but not by a whole lot. Stylishly filmed, well paced, with attention to sound that I always welcome. a very good start to the festival.

À Vendre

Laetita Masson
France, 1998
117 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Sandrine Kiberlain, Sergio Castellitto, Jen-François Stévenin, Chiara Mastroianni, Aurore Clément, Roschdy Zem
Rating: Outstanding

  Sandrine Kiberlain plays France Regent ("Very patriotic!"), a woman who has just left her fiancé at the alter. A detective (Sergio Castellitto) is put on the case. He reconstructs her life by talking to those she has met and subsequently left. He talks to her parents, whom she's told everyone are dead. Well they are in a way; physically they are living, but they are emotionally deceased. When he asks if they miss her, they give various non-committal replies until, realizing how lame they must sound, eventually say that they miss her.

The film is all character study -- of both France and the detective who pursues her. I've heard that you can't see yourself except in the reflection of others. That's exactly where this film is coming from. Fabulous. Not a thing wrong with this film.

Excellent titles. I realize this sounds just stupid, but when you see a hundred films a year, you notice when someone has put a bit of thought into what typeface they're going to use, and how it's presented. Remember "Chacun Cherche Son Chat" or "Two Deaths"? Both had outstanding titles. And so does "À Vendre". They all looked

    J   L   T
     U   I   H
      S   K   I
       T   E   S

Masson was there both before and after, though a film this intense doesn't easily lend itself to cheeky questions. So here are some comments she made:

  • This is my first time in Toronto. It is up to you whether it is my last too.
  • I expect you to be silent after the film (because it's so moving.) That's the greatest compliment.
  • The film has questions. Many many questions. But no answers. I have no point of view, no message. Answering the questions is up to the audience.
  • [About the change to video for the last segment -- was it expedient or just cheaper?] Both. I wanted something different for the ending after the ending. I wanted to show the American nightmare, not the American dream.
  • In part, it's about how Europe is changing, how everything is for sale. Perhaps it has been like that here for a while, in North America.
  • Everybody [here] wants to go home and go to bed.

Some dialog between Luigi the detective and France:

-- I'll send you a plane ticket home if you'll take it.
-- It's not too late?
-- I'll be waiting.

It gives me hope.

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