Day 6: 15 Sept 98


Snow

Eric Tretbar
USA, 1998
82 minutes, B&W
Principal Cast:
Shane Barach, Rose Mailutha, Lara Miklasevics, Chris Knott, Jefferson Koegel, Erika Remillard
Rating:
Satisfactory

  Film number 15. A helpful festival volunteer advised me to get out of line and go for a coffee. There were about 100 tickets up for grabs an hour before the start. So I retired to a Starbucks and write the last couple of pages. Saw Piers Handling (Festival director) walk by outside the big glass windows. No time to knock him down or make it look accidental. Come to think of it, I haven't see him introduce anything yet. Good man; more forward three spaces.

"Snow" is the first black & white film I've seen at this festival which is unusual for me. It takes place in Minneapolis in the dead of winter. Two people meet and spend the day together. There is a wistful quality about the story. People do what they do, but only sometimes say what they mean, and opportunities are lost because of it.

There was a scene in the Jerusalem Restaurant that tipped me off as to where the film was set. (I ate there about 7 years ago. it was March or February, and it was brutally cold. That memory coupled with the air conditioning in the theatre reinforced the idea of snow.)

Some Q&A with the director:

Q: Was this a short film that you expanded into a feature?
A: No, it was one story from start to end. My first film, "The Usual," was a short film that I was going to extend into a half-hour film. When I wrote this, I thought a feature would be like a half hour film, but three times longer. So I wrote this in three 30-minute acts. There's a flaw in the dramatic structure of "Snow" -- as some of you may know, the first and third acts are supposed to be slightly shorter than the second act. Which it isn't.

Q: Was shooting in snow a problem?
A: For the camera? No. The worst that happens is you get snowflakes melting on the lens, which you're used to. You can insulate your camera and batteries so that's not a problem. For the crew? You can work a crew for about 30 hours without a break, but when it's cold, you have to break every two hours or so, which slowed us down.

Q: Were the actors cold?
A: They were very cold.
Q: They didn't look cold. They must be good actors.

Q: Was the music from the time they were reminiscing about, or was it contemporary?
A: Contemporary. I tried using music from that era when the Minneapolis music scene was [active], but it was too choppy for the pace of the film.

Q: When did you film?
A: February 1996. We chose then because statistically that's the snowiest month in Minneapolis. That was the same season the Coen brothers were filming "Fargo" and there was just no snow. Everyone else was saying "This is great!" but we -- and the Coen brothers -- were just weeping. The next year, there was a lot of snow. One morning, my DP and I went out and did all the snowy cityscapes. So if you see any snow, it's from '97.


Interlude: John and Wendy Tutt

  I'm writing this under the uncovered walkway in the pseudo-park on Cumberland Ave between Belaire and Avenue Road. I an eyeing the pigeons who frequently fly over me with grave suspicion. Perhaps it's time to get a move on.

(Later) Am in the relative comfort of the Manulife Centre. It's air conditioned and has the comforting smell of coffee and baked goods. I just ran into John and Wendy Tutt who run the Princess cinema back home (Waterloo). We quickly compare notes, no doubt to our mutual bafflement. With 300 films, who can you have even a nodding acquaintance with more than about 100 -- of which you're seeing between 30 and 50? In any case, they were lukewarm on "The Man With Rain In His Shoes" and the new Isabelle Huppert film. They punted the "Eve-olve" shorts in favor of a Yugoslavian film whose name eluded all of us, which which they seemed vaguely dissatisfied. En route to a 2 o'clock, they dashed off and I ate a banana.

Obviously, all the action is here in the Manulife Centre this year. Having 8 screens here can't hurt, and it is in the geographic mid-point between the Uptown and Cumberland theatres. Flipping back pages in my log book, I see I was doing exactly what I am doing now on 10 Sept 97. Sitting on the same bench. With the same fatigue. I am so sleepy.


God Said, "Ha!"

Julia Sweeney
USA, 1997
85 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Julia Sweeney, Quentin Tarantino
Rating:
Good

  Sometimes I think I could listen to monologues all day. Sweeney's is good, but perhaps a bit choppier than Spalding Gray's tend to be. But still engaging. And filled with CanCon: A reference to the CBC playing on NPR in the dead of night. Mention of Phil Hartman. Yes, I did laugh out loud when Sweeney told the story of being "Pat" for a day, her own acknowledgement of just how lame it all was. Would I see it again? Yup. I'll probably have more to say about this later. [Turns out I didn't.]

Interlude: Counting

  What to understand what 350 means? Go sit at the front of a movie theatre. Turn around, and look at every face you see, and try to put a name to every one. Just make up something for each, something appropriate. Each person has a name, a history, plans, loves. Keep going -- you probably stopped early. It's exhausting. That's how many is 350.

The Man With Rain In His Shoes

María Ripoll
United Kingdom, 1998
89 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Douglas Henshall, Lena Headey, Penélope Cruz, Gustavo Salmerón, Mark Strong, Eusebio Lázaro, Neil Stuke, Charlotte Coleman, Elizabeth McGovern
Rating:
Excellent

  I was absolutely captivated by this movie. Not once did I think of the people around me, or how fatigued I was, or nothin'. In part, my interest was in seeing someone deal with the end of a relationship, something I've done myself seemingly recently. So when "Vic"'s girlfriend moves out after admitting to having an affair, the feelings I felt were in part from Henshall's performance, and part my own life.

There is at least a passing similarity to "Sliding Doors," but "The Man With Rain In His Shoes" has elements of Spanish surrealism that "Sliding Doors" didn't have. I think I prefer this film in part for its fantasy element, but also because it handles the realism very well too. Even in a fantasy, bad things still happen.

Douglas Henshall, María Ripoll, and Juan Gordon (producer) were there to accept (metaphorical) bouquets and a few questions:

Q: The colours are very vibrant. Was this to reflect the hyper-reality?
MR: [Bugger. I can't remember exactly what she said, but she expressed a with to make something that looked good.]

Q: I recognize Penélope Cruz. Where do I recognize her from?
MR: She's famous. She was in "Live Flesh," Pedro Almodovar's latest film, "Belle Epoque," ... But this is the first film she has done in English.

Q: Did you ever consider an alternate ending?
MR: No. Maybe Douglas?
DH: I never thought of an alternate ending. When we were filming the ending and I'm at the bottom of the stairs, María wanted me to turn around, but I said that if I turned around, I'd go back to her. I liked that everything isn't wrapped up in a neat picnic ribbon. "Vic" has finished one cycle of his life, and she's starting one of her own. As it is in a lot of our lives, I think.

Q: Congratulations on winning Best Screenplay at the Montréal Film Festival.
MR: Thank you. The script was written by Rafa Russo who sadly isn't with us tonight. [She did not mean to imply that Russo had died, I think.] He's a very good writer.


Lucia

Don Boyd
United Kingdom, 1998
108 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Amanda Boyd, Richard Coxon, Mark Holland, John Osborn, Ann Taylor, Andrew Greenan, John Daszak
Rating:
Unsatisfactory

  Say something nice. The soprano looked very nice. her voice was only piercing in a couple of spots. It was a very good video blow-up, not very contrasty at all. It started only 15 minutes late. I had to sit though only an hour of it before I gave myself permission to go. The sat was reasonably comfortable.

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