Day 5: September 13

9:00 a.m.

Human Traffic

Justin Kerrigan
United Kingdom, 1999
Cast: John Simm, Lorraine Pilkington, Shaun Parkes, Danny Dyer, Nicola Reynolds, Andrew Lincoln

Bright, loud, kinetic, playful fun. This is how to do a film where not a whole lot happens. Focus on characters, have fun with language and film idioms. Go nuts. This was a great way to start the day. Director Kerrigan was a couple of minutes late for the end of the film, and said that he had been up all night on a bender after Harv Weinstein bought the film yesterday. This after all the majors passed on it because they thought it'd be a bad influence (drugs, sex -- you know. Loud music.) Kerrigan could have easily been a character in the movie himself. he talks quickly and a lot, and forgets what he was saying in all his excitement and the jarring start to his day (10 earlier he had been asleep in his hotel room). "I'm never going to forget my experience here in Toronto," he said.


11:30 a.m.

Interlude: Dealmaking At Starbucks

There are two people at the next table trying to put together a film distribution deal. One is arguing that if they buy it, they'll have to do a French dub which will cost $20,000. However, if the other guy does it, he'll knock off $50k. There's a certain amound of B.S. in this. The seller is accusing the other guy of not being fair. The offer is now at $40k, and that's his best offer. Much giggling and gesticulating. He wants to shop it around some more.

Now he's dropping names and saying how well-placed his producer is (shades of "my Dad could beat up your Dad").

-- He's over-produced his picture... Spent $5-$6 million more than he should have. I've got a relationship with this producer, and now he's got to sell it... So what I'm trying to do is get it out on video first.

-- Which is why you need a distributor.

-- Which is why I'm talking to you.

-- So we're talking about $40,000

-- Which is $10k more than...

-- Don't fuck me.

-- I'm not fucking you.

(There's a longish pause, then)

-- Let me see your pen.

And on it goes, faster than I can write. Pity 'cause this is really quite a lot of fun.

12:30 p.m.

Spring Forward

Tom Gilroy
USA, 1999
Cast: Ned Beatty, Liev Shreiber, Campbell Scott, Ian Hart, Peri Gilpin, Catherine Kellner

My first time in the ROM theatre. Squeaky seats, thin cushions. Tom Gilroy, Ned Beatty, and Liev Shreiber were there. It's an outstandingg effort, full of excellent dialog which sounds natural and provides a window onto the evolving relationship between Murph (Beatty) and his new partner at the Department of Parks (Shreiber) who has just got out of prison. Not only does it look good, it sounds good too, and there's not a false note in it, which is quite a feat for a two hour movie.

Q: As an actor, was there anything you'd seen that you wanted to do when you directed?
A: Not really. I shot it in order, starting on page 1 and going through to page 92... We shot over the course of a year. I had these guys back four times which shows their commitment to the film.

Q: (To Ned and Liev) What's it like watching yourself on screen?
Liev: It's [interesting] seeing the energy between Ned and me change as the movie goes on. It's a year of my life documented, distilled.
Ned: I like it, but I don't know who that fat guy is who keeps saying my lines.

About the two kids painting: they were the kids of a friend of the director. After auditioning lots and lots of child ators, he just didn't find anyone who could deliver their lines naturally enough. They'd say their lines the way their parents had coached them, and wouldn't do anything until the other actor gave their lines. These kids were just play acting, just having fun.

Gilroy: "The Indian word for poetry is the same as that for breathing." I read that when I was, like 14, and it just blew my mind.

3:00 p.m.

Les Amants Criminels

François Ozon
France, 1999
Cast: Natacha Régnier, Jérémie Renier, Miki Manojlovic, Salim Kechiouche, Yasmine Belmadi

I remember why I picked this: Natacha Régnier. I was so impressed with her in "La Vie Revée Des Anges" last year. But this film was just a clunker. Sorry.

Part fable (I suppose), part underexposed film stock. But who can tell? Note to the film's director of photography: When Gordon Willis makes it dark, there's usually something well-lit. And it looks intentional. Look and learn.

It's basically your Hansel and Gretel story with an ogre stuck on the end of a teen age bummer-you-got-me-to-do-your-dirtywork film. Ick.

6:30 p.m.

Janice Beard: 45 WPM

Clare Kilner
United Kingdom, 1999
Cast: Eileen Walsh, Rhys Ifans, Patsy Kensit, David O'Hara

Only the 2nd public screening, the first being at the Edinborough Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. Comes out in the UK in January 2000. The film's director was here to introduce it and field Q&A. She was on time.

"Sta loca!" Si. Sta loca. Janice is an office temp at a British car company. She has a talent for telling very tall talkes to entertain her agorophobic mother. Patsy Kensit plays Janice's very bitchy boss who is head of the secretarial pool. Ooh. Aah. Office politics are skewered in a pretty conventional way.

Reasonable fun, but not really a great film, and it won't change your life or clear up your acne, or restore passion in your marriage, or give you a fashion sense, or even an umbrella on a rainy day. Do you know what I mean?

8:35 p.m.

Interlude: Sucking Back A Shake At Greg's

The last film of the day starts in ¾ of an hour. I think 5 a day is easier than seeing 4 because there's less downtime in which to wander aimlessly (which is the really tiring bit.)

My background thought for the day is not film related, which I hope is a welcome break to you, oh my reader. It concerns a nasty TV series from 1975/6 called "Space: 1999" I believe the story starts today. September 13th, 1999. A nuclear waste dump on the moon explodes, throwing it out of Earth orbit into deep space. And adventure, just like The Love Boat.

When the show came out, I was 9 and I couldn't get enough of it. The production design made it look faintly like Calvius Base in "2001: A Space Odyssey." Funky 70's super-moderist music, some really fine model work. Martin Landau played the commander of Moonbase Alpha. Probably not an especially proud moment in his career. I read somewhere that some cast member complained to the show's producer that "Geography's about maps; drama's about chaps," which has his/her oblique way of suggesting they hire some writers who were so caught up in the special effects. But when I was 9, I didn't care about bad writing. It looked cool!

I don't think I've seen it since. Not for 20 years at least. And I'm sure I don't want to see it because I just know it would stink up my living room with fromage. Despite searching for objectivity all my adult life, it looks like I need some memories to remain subjective. Bring on the rose coloured glasses, size small.

9:15 p.m.

Crazy English

Zhang Yuan
China, 1999

A documentary about Li Yang's crusafe to teach English (I mean -- to sell his books) to his his fellow Chinese. Or, as the director put it, a film about the latest movement in China (others being the 60's, the 70's...) Li uses a system of hand signals to show how to pronounce vowels properly. "Clearly, quickly, loudly" is his motto. Since 1988, it's estimated he's spoken to 13 million people in stadiums and halls (and in the Forbidden City, and on the Great Wall) all over China.

"I enjoy losing face!"

There's lots and lots of footage of this guy haranguing the crowd with his blend of humour, English phrases, repetition, and nationlism. But if the filmmake has a point of view, I missed it. And so at the end of 90 minutes, I was left wondering: So?

11:00 p.m.

17 Years

Zhang Yuan
China, 1998/9

Special bonus film included with "Crazy English" about a young woman who accidentally kills her (half?) sister, spends 17 years in The Big House, then is let out. The film won the Best Direction aware at Venice this year. Was filmed well (looked good), but after ½ hour, I checked out. It was slow, and this was my 6th film of the day.

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