Day 8: 17 Sept 98

Perspective Canada Shorts

Echoes In the Rink: The Willie O'Ree Story
Errol Williams

26 minutes, Colour

  A documentary about the first black NHL (hockey) player. I found it an interesting document of Canadian history. Not only was O'Ree an excellent player, but he had only one eye. How do you play hockey so well with monocular vision?


Michel in the Suęte
Neal Livingston

5 minutes, Colour

  A short film made from parts of a larger project showing the Suęte hurricane winds (90-200 km/h) that blow in Cape Bretton in the spring and fall. The Festival programmer remarked that they watch about 300 short films, of which 90% are rejected, and are quite nasty. As a reviewer, you have good days and bad days, she said, but when they saw this film (on one of the bad days), they laughed and laughed. I can't say I laughed, but I don't think that mattered.


When Ponds Freeze Over
Mary Lewis

23 minutes, Colour

  A woman tells a bed time story about the time she fell through the ice while skating. She recalls her life as well as her parents' and grandparents'. It mixes live action with animation to excellent effect. It was dreamy without being disconnected. I think this is a superb bit of film making because it takes advantage of the medium, doing things that you couldn't do as effectively in paint or print.


Rain, Drizzle, and Fog
Rosemary House

49 minutes, Colour

  St. John vue par... Andy Jones, Ed Riche, Tam Walsh, Mary Walsh, Anita Best, Brian Hennessey. A film postcard from the rock, memories of growing up and the reasons for returning.


Intermezzo: Books

  This Thursday dawns as cool and bright and blue as yesterday. Word is that it will last for a few days at least. I finished What The Buddha Taught (Tim Ward) this morning. This must be some kind of record -- from purchase to completion in under 10 days. For me that's a record. I'm still working my way through Albert Speer: His Battle With Truth by Gitta Sereny which I bought almost three years ago. Good, but heavy. Unlike Neither Here Nor There (Bill Bryson) which I'll start later today. I also started reading a collection of poems by Pablo Neruda last night, but it's not for reading straight through. It's for nibbling and savoring.

Shall I engage in some time capsuling? CBC Radio news last night led off with the release of a report on bank mergers in Canada. Next came the Starr report and details of U.S. president Clinton's alleged sexual affairs with that woman, Ms. Lewinski. The Ontario government just made it legal for 12 year-olds to shoot gins in some sort of apprentice program. I understand this was a sop for rural constituents, but polls of those areas show little support for the legislation. Oops.



Amos Kollek
USA, 1998
85 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Anna Thompson, Felicia Maguire, Alyssa Mulhern, Anna Grace, Bill Dawes, Mike Hodge
(See below)

  A harrowing story of a woman and her mother, both prostitutes on the streets of New York City. It was shot in a very realistic documentary style with both professional actors and real prostitutes and crack house patrons. I don't think I've seen the line between the real and imaginary so successfully blurred.

The director and lead actress (Thompson) were there for this, the world premiere. It's a bit unsettling seeing someone you've been thinking of as a crack whore for the last 85 minutes reasonably well dressed. Or dressed at all.

Q: How long did it take to shoot?
AK: Thirteen days. We shot very quickly and economically over the period of two weekends, starting with the documentary footage in the crack house.

Q: What did you to do prepare for this role?
AT: Nothing. I spent time with the people in the crack house and just talked to them. I was afraid there would be a period of earning their trust, but they were very friendly, very open. They were very willing to share their stories.

Q: Have any of the (prostitutes) seen the movie yet?
AK: No one has seen the movie yet. It came from the lab two days before its screening here in Toronto.

Rating: This is quite difficult to rate. Do you rate it for technical prowess? Chutzpa? How much I enjoyed it? Ah, who gives a toss. "Satisfactory" and be done with it.

Your basic audience member: Passes three loud long sighs during the movie over the course of maybe 10 minutes, then leaves soon after. Would that he had simply left earlier and saved us the hassle of his sighs.



Hans-Christian Schmid
Germany, 1998
99 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
August Diehl, Fabian Busch, Dieter Landuris, Jan-Gregor Kremp

  Looked good. Sounded good. The director was there to introduce its North American (?) premiere.

Good Things:

-- Handled the computer business well
-- Created an appropriate sense of paranoia.

Bad Things:

-- Didn't get into the heads of the characters
-- Just didn't much care

Some comments from the director:

  • This film is about Hanover, the mid-Eighties, and computers. That's three reasons not to make this film.
  • This is the 23rd Toronto Film Festival. The ticket for this film has 23 on it (he holds it up), but I'm sure it's just coincidence.
  • Some of the characters in the film are aggregates.
  • The film will be released in Germany early next year. Distribution in Canada is unknown.


Am I Beautiful?

Doris Dörrie
Germany, 1998
116 minutes, Colour
Principal Cast:
Franka Potente, Otto Sander, Senta Berger, Maria Schrader, Gottdried John, Jaochim Król, Iris Berben, Ancia Dobra, Steffen Wink

  After leaving the theatre, Dave and I had this conversation:

DAC: Did you that?
CKI: No.
DAC: Not at all?
CKI: Not at all. Except for the bit with "David" (Otto Sander) -- the man with no memory. That might have made a good short.
DAC: Maybe a couple of the others.
CKI: No. You?
DAC: I thought it was mostly fun.
CKI: It showed people in heartache and pain doing things I'd never want to do.
DAC: We must have seen different movies.
CKI: Well you were sitting closer.

So heaven knows what was up my arse last night, but I just couldn't get into the film. Which only irritated me further.

This was coincidentally the film's opening night in Germany, but Doris Dörrie (who was here) hadn't had a chance to find out how it went. She was very gracious and pleased to be showing the film here in Toronto, which almost pulled the whole thing out of the fire form me.

Here's some Q&A with Doris:

Q: What attracted you to having such a large cast?
A: I was kind of bored with just two or three. I had thought that having a new actor every couple of days would be exhausting, but (it was a source of strength.)

Q: Can you talk about the casting?
A: Most of the people in the film are quite famous in Germany, and all of them wanted to do the film, so it was just a bunch of phone calls. I'm really proud of that.

About the stories -- she had written them in a book of the same name, not thinking of filming them. As a result, she put in a lot of stuff she wouldn't have otherwise -- car scenes, bathrooms -- because they are hard to shoot. Then when she made the film she realized that now she had to actually film all this tough stuff.

Q: What did you mean by the title? Was it that all the women in the movie need constant reassurance that they're beautiful?
A: I think it's more about the question that nobody asks: Am I happy? Did I make the right decision (years ago)?

Q: Can you tell us about your next film?
A: It's set in Japan. It's about two German brothers who go to a Zen monastery.

I found a whole log of Buddhist philosophy in the film, either because it's been on my mind lately, or because it was really there (this last Q&A gives me the courage to actually voice this thought.) Breathe in. Breathe out. Everyone was in some way living in the past, or in anticipation of the future except for David for whom a stroke has erased most of his memories. He seems most at peace, despite losing the broad strokes of his past. Curiously, he can still recall some of the minutiae: the taste of someone's bread, the name of an old land lord (or tenant?) Is that any more or less important than the memory of who baked the bread? Even if it was your lover?


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