Day 3: 12 Sept 98


Interlude

  I'm yawning like it's day 9. I must work on getting more sleep. I'm astounded at the number of very good films I've seen so far. Let's hope it stays that way.

Every year, I tend to get really spaced out by the middle of the week. I can't tell what day it is, or what's going on in the world. So this time I've brought a very small radio in the hope that listening to the CBC news five times a day will keep me balanced. As I write, the first episode of "The Great Eastern" is unspooling. Excuse me -- it's calling.


Ping Pong Bath Station

Gen Yamakawa
Japan, 1998
110 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Keiko Matsuzaka, Riho Makise, Keizo Kanie
Rating:
Excellent

  What a lovely looking film, the type I think mom loves -- light, funny in bits, dramatic in others. A Japanese hausfrau, unappreciated by her husband and son, leaves one day for a hot springs spa in the mountains. My goodness, it looked so beautiful. Peaceful. I felt a strong need to be relaxing in a hot spring on the other side of the earth. I've never seen a Japanese film that didn't depict the Japanese countryside as the most gorgeous place on earth. Even over Wales, which comes a close second.

"Continuing is succeeding," says the banner in a community ping pong hall. The goal isn't to win -- that's inconsiderate -- but rather to serve the ball so your partner can return it. "The longer it goes, the more fun it is."

The director was there, along with his translator. Here's what little I remember:

  • I had the opportunity to come to Toronto on business five years ago. I visited Québec, Toronto, and Niagara Falls. I also met the woman I married. [He turns to his translator, who also turns out to be his wife.]
  • [About the outcome of the ping pong tournament] We had planned that ending from the beginning.Early on, when we cast the son, who I think is a very good actor, he helped [bring that part of the story together.]

Perspective Canada Short Films

Eve-olve!
Sandra Law

7 minutes, Colour
Rating:
Good

  Claymation depiction of the rise of woman from the forest to the modern office.

Elimination Dance
Bruce McDonald

9 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Don McKeller, Tracy Wright
Rating:
Excellent

  Slickly made, enormous good conceptual fun from McDonald, McKeller, and Michael Ondaatje. A couple are in competing in an elimination dance where couples are asked to leave the dance floor if they meet the dance caller's criteria: If you've ever dreamt you were on a subway platform and put money in a pop machine, but instead of a soda, the Holy Grail drops out, filled with blood... If you've ever made a tape recording of a nude woman's growling stomach and sold it as whale song... (and so on.)

L'Amour L'Amour Shut the Door Por Favor
Valerie Buhagiar

11 minutes, Black and White
Rating:
Mysterious!

  I think seeing this film was my initial reason for scheduling this series of shorts. It's in the same mould as her short from a year or two back whose name eludes me ["One Day I Stood Still", 1996] I can't say I really enjoyed the ride, but if you liked her previous short, you'll probably appreciate this one too.

Shrink
Tim Hamilton

30 minutes, Colour
Rating:
Good

  A man goes to a psychologist at the urging of his girlfriend. She is worried about the cleanliness of her walls.

Phil Touches Flo
David Birdsell

6 minutes, Colour
Rating:
Excellent

  "Why are you touching Flo?" Find out nine minutes earlier. Much good fun.

The Fisherman and His Wife
Jochen Schliessler

11 minutes, Black and White
Rating:
Excellent

  A lovely bit of retro style where the fisherman gets what's coming to him. I loved the black and white television and the "stubby". (For international readers: a "stubby" was a short, squat beer bottle used before the decade of greed. For younger readers: that was the 1980's.)

Sploosh
Nathan Garfinkel

3 minutes, Colour
Rating:
Good

  I've never seen a film quite like--

Fish Bait
Anthony Seck

3 minutes, Colour
Rating:
Hmm...

  A day later, I can't remember anything about this three minute film. I'm sure it was good, but I'm an old man. [With the help of the Festival Guide, I'm reminded that this was a visually busy stroll through a retro lounge party.]

La Sonámbula
(The Sleepwalker)

Fernando Spiner
Argentina, Year
101 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Eusebio Poncela, Sofia Viruboff, Lorenzo Quinteros, Patricio Contreras, Pastora Vega
Rating:
Good

  This film marks the return of fellow movie-goer Dave (recently back from Tonga in the south Pacific), and Harry (recently from his apartment a couple of subway stops away.) "Do you know what the film's about" I ask Dave. "Not Really." "Me neither." As it turns out, the movie was a stylish bit of science fiction.

Interlude

  I chatted with the woman in the seat beside me before the film. She was such a good sport, she deserves her own Q&A:

She: I may have to leave early.

Me: Another film?

She: No -- this is just my iffy-ist film.

Me: Do you remember what it's about?

She: No. You?

Me: No. I programmed my films last Tuesday [actually 2 Tuesdays ago], then promptly forgot everything.

She: Have you seen anything you really liked?

Me: Yes! Um... [Mr. Memory springs into action.] "À Vendre" (French). I just saw "Ping Pong Bath Station" which was... lighter in tone than some of the others, but very enjoyable... "My Rice Noodle Shop" as also very good. All character study and no car chases.

She: I just got out of "Touch of Evil," the Orson Welles film. Janet Leigh was there! When the two men who did the restoration said that, the whole audience rose. That was the moment for me. She was passionate and articulate [talking about the film].

Me: Had you seen it before?

She: Oh yes.

Me: Do you know what they changed?

She: You've seen it?

Me: Oh yes.

She: Well. They took the credits off of the initial shot. If I was Orson Welles, I'd be pissed off that they put credits over it too. (Welles wanted them at the end of the film.) And a lot of explanatory scenes were dropped. They had been added in [at the studio's urging] because they thought the story needed more explanation.

And I saw "The Red Violin."

Me: You got tickets? I've heard a lot of people tried to see it, but were turned away.

She: It was a total fluke. A friend had an extra ticket and called me up. It was good [but not great?]

And "Goin' Down the Road."

Me: You liked it?

She: Yes, I did. You didn't?

Me: No. In fact, I've never been able to sit through it.

She: Why is that?

Why indeed. I made some lame excuses about it looking like crap, and how I preferred visually sumptuous films. But that's not the real reason. In part, I can only watch it as an artifact of Canadian culture, not as a movie. I'm distracted by the way people dress, but the scenes of Yonge street in Toronto. I'm always looking for landmarks or places that I remember from my youth here in the city, but that are long gone. I'm not even sure I've mad a real effort to screen it as opposed to watching it at 2 in the morning on CityTV, punctuated with commercials and cut to shreds. Days later, I'm still feeling badly about trotting out such a poor, if not dishonest, answer to a simple question.

Let's get back to the film at hand. "The Sleepwalker," a world premiere, the director said. It hadn't even opened in Buenos Aires.

Stylish, very stylish. With at least a nod to "Bladerunner." Perhaps just a bit long. But that's OK. I liked the billboard for AVID in one long shot (they made the film editing equipment used by the filmmakers.) Harry suggested it combined elements of "Dark City" and "City of Dark". I agree completely.

There a brief, yet insipid Q&A:

Q: I had a question about the time in the film. When it starts, it's 3010. But it ends in the present day.
A: When watched the film now, I was a bit confused myself. When I was making the film, it was was very clear.

[Dave's unasked question: The woman was a total babe. Can he comment on that?]

Q: I was confused by the ending. Can you explain it?
A: It means whatever you think it means.
Q: I think that's a cop-out. What did you think it meant?
A: It's not me that matters. It's you.
Q: Well what I'm asking is...

At this point we quit the theatre to dash over the the Varsity for the next film.


2 Seconds

Manon Briand
Canada, 1998
100 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Charlotte Laurier, Dino Tavarone, Yves Pelletier, Pascal Auclair
Rating:
Satisfactory

  Despite winning Best First Feature (and Director too, I think) at the Montreal Film Festival, this movie did nothing for me. I thought it was all over the map and perhaps too much about cycling and not enough about the characters. The parts that worked for me were Laurie's conversations with Lorenzo, a bicycle repairman who used to race. Grafted on to that was some background of being a bike courier. Yeah, whatever.

I talked to Harry about this film last night -- he thought it was the best of the five or so films he's seen so far. He thought the initial scenes on Monster Mountain were exciting. On the downside, he found the physicist character to be unrealistically silly. Harry is a physicist by training.

This screening probably scrapes the barrel so far. There was a fire alarm part way through 9the theatre wasn't evacuated, but projection was stopped for several minutes) and I had a couple of talkers sitting next to me. Take note, gentle reader: until you can find a way to silently communicate with your friends and loves ones in a movie house, please -- shut the hell up. I don't want to hear it.

A microscopic bit of the Q&A with Briand:

Q: Was it autobiographical?
A: No. It was pure fiction.
Q: Nothing is pure fiction.
A: There you go.

Q: How did you get GT involved?
A:[Blah blah blah]

While I remember a fair bit of the Q&A, I'm just not interested enough to write it down.


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