MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: Day 4


Saturday morning’s early morning screening of The Descendents – Alexander Payne’s new film starring George Clooney – at the Toronto International Film Festival got into rather severe technical problems. Those of us standing in line were told at about 20 minute intervals that there was a problem but exactly what problem was kept vague. When the doors were finally opened and we were seated a cluster of us began to speculate just what was going wrong and concluded that the film hadn’t been downloaded.

A short time later one of the fest folk apologized for the delay but didn’t exactly explain why we were kept waiting. However, he let slip that the screening would start when they hit the magic number of 74%. Our group did a few high fives and the screening finally started about an hour late.

The woman beside me confessed that in all the years of coming Toronto she’d never been to a projection that was delayed. I had going back to the days of film breaks and instances where a movie had been prepared for the platters … backwards. A definite inconvenience but considering that TIFF has close to one thousand screenings, it’s reasonable to expect that a couple will have snafus.

The film turned out to be a pleasant surprise. Set in Hawaii, it centers on Clooney and his family who are long time residents. It’s a melodrama. His wife is in a coma as a result of a boating accident; and his extended family is in the process of selling off a large chunk of property worth millions.

It doesn’t push the drama but it’s certainly ever present. And that was a relief as I’ve largely felt assaulted by most of the films I’ve seen to date. Whether it was the graphic violence of Drive or the sexual peccadilloes of Shame, the effect has been that I’m staggering out of screenings and not particularly keen to push on to the next film.

Saturday night I planned to drop by a reception for The Descendents hosted by Fox Searchlight. But as these things go, I wound up at a party for that night’s gala, David Cronenberg’s A Dangerous Method. And who should be there but George Clooney who was in fine form, comfortable, solo and apparently not a bit concerned he wasn’t at his party.

Conversely the “Method” stars either skipped their party or made the briefest of appearances. Perhaps they moved on to the Fox Searchlight event or any one of a dozen other dos. I’m also hoping that the crowds will thin a bit now that the weekend is coming to a close. In extreme instances one has to wait for up to an hour in line to get a reasonable seat and that only heightens the anxiety that one’s spending as much time waiting as watching.

Still haven’t been wowed by a single film and am getting the festival disease that manifests itself in the feeling that one’s missing the singular attractions.

There’s much less of a sense of serious sales activity this year but there’s also the fact that there aren’t that many high profile films up for auction, at least for North America.

Oh, and Sunday provided a respite from the sponsor blurbs I like to carp about. However, their replacement wasn’t any better. In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 the festival provided its memorial that threatened cancellation of the event and certainly damped the normally go-go nature of TIFF. Aside from the fact that a lot of those who spoke were taped rather than filmed, essentially they still seemed shell shocked by the tragedy with not a single voice yet capable of having the distance to provide a broad perspective. It’s thoroughly understandable but not very good cinema.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon