Day 2: 11 Sept 98

Dr. Akagi

Shohei Imamura
Japan/France, 1997
130 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Akira Emoto, Kumiko Aso, Jyuro Kara, Jacques Gamblin
Rating: Satisfactory

  Caught myself micro napping... This was the latest start to a day a the festival (3:30 p.m.) in all the years I've been going., so I was probably worn out by a day of tromping about. Looked good, started on time. Parts looked as if they could have been cut together to form a decent film that wasn't all over the place.

Plot synopsis: A doctor labours in a small Japanese village. He is obsessed with the spread of liver disease. He has a sign in his office which reads "Being a doctor is all legs." He is often shown rushing from place to place. Where's Kenneth Brannagh? For that matter -- where's Manoel De Oliveira when you need him?

Un Grand Cri D'Amour

Josiane Balasko
France, 1997
90 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Josiane Balasko, Richard Berry, Daniel Prévost, Daniel Ceccaldi

  A broad farce about two actors, former lovers, brought together after 10 years for a play called "Un Grand Cri D'Amour." Written, directed, starring, and produced by Josiane Balasko, who was there for the Q&A. Kay Armitage introduced the film, saying that this was the first time Balasko had come to Toronto. She was quickly shouted down (Balasko was here for "Gazon Maudit" in '95). Why does Kay think we're here to listen to her speak?

I would later tell Mom and Scott that I had seen a French comedy. All were surprised that it remained funny, even in English. Most French comedies I've seen just didn't survive the language barrier. Of course now I can't name a single French comedy, amusant ou pas. "Chacun Cherche Son Chat?" Sort of a comedy, more drama. And I liked it a lot, so it's a bad example. "Cruising Bar." There. Actively disliked it. But it's Québecois, not continental French. So I'm not going to prove my point today. Common wisdom's unprovable anyway, isn't it?

Some comments from the Q&A:

Q: I wanted to congratulate you on making a comedy that survived translation.
A: Thank you. I think the characters are there in English or French. [I'm paraphrasing here] She's this... monster.

Q: Are the characters based on people you actually know?
A: Me.

Q: When I saw "Gazon Maudit" at the Montreal film festival, you said that it was a different cut [from what she wanted, I think]. Was this your cut?
A: You're asking if I had edited this differently?
Q: Right.
A: Oh no. The only thing I cut out was the pornography scene. [Much laughter] With the dog. [Hysterical laughter.]

Q: What compels you to make comedies?
A: It's life, which has a bad ending. I have a chance to make people laugh. [She points to the screen.] And maybe give it a happy ending.

I'm transcribing this very poorly. Balasko was more eloquent by way of gesture in a way I've only seen from people from France. A shrug, pursing the lips, the way one stands all says far more than I can put down in words.

My Rice Noodle Shop

Yang Xie
Hong Kong, China, 1998
96 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Carol Cheng, Kevin Lin, Bao-Ming Ku, Fang Yu, Zong-Di Zhang

  A gorgeously photographed adaptation of a quite well-known Chinese story. A woman is running a rice noodle shop in Taipei; it's about her and her customers and contrasting their childhood hopes with their present circumstance. The film has a body count which lends it a welcome heft. It's not very easy to describe without getting bogged down in meaningless detail. Very enjoyable, and a world premiere to boot.

The director and writer were there to bask in the applause and answer some questions.

Q: I noticed food was a relevant theme in the story. Were you influenced by "Eat Drink Man Woman?" [Dead silence.] It was a Chinese film from a number of years ago.*
A: Ang Lee and I both went to the same school, NYC. I know the film. But no, I was influenced by the book.

Q: What was the reaction of the People's Republic to your film? They obviously supported you.
A: Yes they did. There were a couple things that they wanted changed, the censors.

Q: Was the present day in the 1960's?
A: Yes.And the past was the 1930's.

* This is the winner of the most boneheaded question of the festival. And only on Day 2.

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