Day 4: 13 Sept 98


Aside (Self Doubt)

You know, as I write this, it's only Monday. Yet it's getting progressively harder to record my impressions of the films I've seen. I can't adequately precis the movies unless they're really poor. I barely remember who made them. so who am I to advise you on whether or not to see a film? Should you do so based on how much or little I write? Do you just look at the rating? Maybe I should stick to writing about the weather.


Praise

John Curran
Australia, 1998
98 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Peter Fenton, Sacha Horler, Marta Dusseldorp, Joel Edgerton, Yvette Duncan, Winston Bull
Rating:
Excellent

  Kay's comments were for once germane: She said that over the summer, she watches a lot of movies submitted to the Festival. Most are pieces of junk, she said. But this one, even though she saw it at 8:00 in the morning, and even though the tape had time codes on it, and there were pauses where the reels ended, it jumped off the screen. After watching it, she called the Festival office and said that they should invite this film.

There are a lot of firsts in the film: First feature. First time acting for the male lead. First film for the lead actress. So does it jump off the screen at you? It certainly does. Not perhaps with the same force as "Character" [from last year's Festival] but well enough.

I can't tell you what the title means beyond the name of the book on which the film is based. As it that's any kind of explanation.

Great to see this film. It's very strong, very appealing if you like stories about people, stories that end somewhat realistically. Here's Q&A with the director:

Q: Tell us about the casting process
A: We didn't find "Gordon" until quite late in the casting period. We were a couple days from preproduction when we found him. Here we were, about to start, and we didn't even have the lead. Some of the guys who came in tried to strip away their masculinity and ended up slumping like this (he mimics.) Other guys just weren't comfortable doing that. I wanted someone kind of asexual, someone who doesn't exude masculinity. I wanted someone wooden, but not too wooden. I met him a couple of years ago when I [almost?] did a music video [for his band?] He has never acted before.

For her, we wanted someone strong, ballsy when she came in, it was love at first sight. She's fabulous, and I think you're going to see a lot ore of her. Well, you did, I guess.

Q: Can you tell us about the rehearsal/improvisation you did?
A: Not a lot of improvising, although some of my favorite moments in the move were accidents. The scene where Gordon grinds the gears on the car was an accident, but we left it in. There are times when you'd normally do five takes, but something happens and you only get one. You have to deal with it.

Directing each of them was different. She is a conventionally trained actress, so she would always ask why she was doing something, rather than what she should do. He was just the opposite. He'd say, "How do you want me to do this, John?"

Q: Was it difficult making this film given it's... not quite graphic. But a very frank portrayal of sex?
A: Yes, but that was the whole point of the movie, to show it in a very frank way. [His response was more elaborate, but it escapes me right now.]

Q: Was her eczema real or makeup?
A: It was makeup. There's one Oscar in this movie (the person who did the makeup.) He worked on "Braveheart" among other films.

Q: The eczema was inconsistent from one part of the film to the next. Was that intentional?
A: Yes. We had to strike a balance so that you knew it was there, but wasn't distracting.


In The Winter Dark

James Bogle
Australia, 1998
92 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Brenda Blethyn, Ray Barrett, Richard Roxburgh, Miranda Otto
Rating:
Satisfactory

  Director James Bogle and star Brenda Blethyn were there to introduce the film. I was delighted to see that Blethyn was there, and craned my neck to spot her before she stepped into the spotlight. I never would have picked her out. She was very lively and articulate, unlike any character I've seen her play. And the short dark hair threw me a bit too.

Remember her in "Secrets and Lies"? She was nominated for the Best Actress Academy Award (™, etc.) She didn't win, and Alexa speculated that it was because they didn't realize she wasn't really like her character. I remember seeing her on Oscar (™, et al) night. She was beautifully coifed and glowing. In her films, she is often a bit dim and dumpy.

The film didn't do much for me, although it was plainly made by competent people; it just wasn't my thing, you know? If you enjoy watching the mysteries shown on TVO or PBS, this will probably please you.

Very brief Q&A with James Bogle:

Q: What differences are there between the film and the book?
A: There are some things that are fine in the book, but that wouldn't work cinematically. For example, when the dog is on the porch barking at the beginning, in the book they don't know what it is, but in the movie, we see that it's Ronnie, and from that point on, the audience starts to perceive the mysterious form differently. Also, they hear the dog barking then it stops. When they go out to see what it is, they find the dog with its head on a chain. I don't think that would have worked on film, so we had to work around it.

Q: Can you explain what was going on when she's putting her fingers in the wax cast?
A: She's starting to doubt what her husband has been telling her. That was a very difficult scene. It looks easy, and I guess if you're Brenda Blethyn, and you know what you want to do, it is easy. But she's got to reach offscreen for the cast as if it's been there all the time, look at it. Find that moment of creativity to think to put her fingers in the cast, turn over, hide the cast. It took us a long time.

Q: Can you reveal something? In the garage when he's killing something -- was that the cat in the bag?
A: Yes. [At this point, Barry leans over and murmurs: "He's let the cat out of the bag."]

 


Voleur De Vie

Yves Angelo
France, 1998
105 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Emmanuelle Béart, Sandrine Bonnaire, André Dussollier, Vahina Giocante, Eric Ruf, André Marcon
Rating:
Excellent

  I think I was anticipating this film most -- it's with the very lovely Sandrine Bonnaire and Emmanuelle Béart. Unfortunately, neither were there for this, the film's North American premiere. And neither was Yves Angelo, who returned to Paris in response to "sudden and unexpected" circumstances. Instead Jean-Louis Livi (the producer) was there to read us a long note from Angelo which was, franchement, too well-written for me to reproduce here. He did mention that in a very short period, he had experienced both the birth of his (Yves') daughter, and the death of his father. This film is his attempt to convey the emotions he felt. He apologized for his sudden departure, saying that just last night he has sat where we were sitting and had discovered Roberto Benigni's film ("La Vita e Bella") which showed things at which you didn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I don't think you will laugh at any point in my film," he wrote. Harry leaned over and said, "I'm depressed already."

True to his words, the film did not raise any guffaws. It's a somber meditation on the cycle of life and death., on love and sex, very precisely made. Somewhat unsettling. Despite there being many words spoken, what I remember most clearly about the film are the wordless moments. A woman observed in a cemetery. Reading test results. Photos on a wall.

I didn't feel sad after this film, or even lonely. It's the feeling you get after you shout out in a secluded place, hear the echo of your voice bounce back, then fade into silence.

This was my first time in the Elgin theatre for a film. It's very nice -- red carpets, ushers, reasonable seats, lovely decor. But you can't see any of that once the light go down.


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