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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

TIFF ’11 Dispatch #1: Can You Say Party? I Knew You Could.

Another year, another Toronto International Film Festival.

It doesn’t feel like a whole year since the last TIFF, but here we are, back in the land of ketchup chips and butter tarts, churning through four-five movies a day. The fest has a different feel to it this year, with most everything officially moved down to the vicinity of the TIFF Lightbox. Last year everyone was still adjusting to the move and grumbly about moving downtown, but this year it’s starting to feel like an actual festival center: lots of folks schmoozing and networking at the Canteen at the Lightbox, or grabbing a coffee at the Second Cup across the street because the concession stand at the Lightbox only serves drip coffee (the horror!).

We’re staying in a flat in the Festival Tower, which is super convenient for screenings since we just have to take the elevator down and walk around the corner to get to Lightbox screenings, or walk a couple blocks if we’re seeing something at the Scotiabank. So that’s a major plus that allows me to squeeze an extra 20 minutes or so of much-needed sleep out of my late nights.

The downside of this location, as we’ve discovered tonight, is that the festival lounge is right below our balcony, and it feels like the rocking late-night party is happening right in our flat. It’s 2:30AM here and the party is still going strong, pumping out the requisite mix of Loud-Ass Film Festival Party Music that all the big fest parties seem to love. I don’t know how anyone actually manages a conversation with all that noise, but they must because I can hear lots of loud talking and the occasional drunken “woo-hoo!” wafting up into my bedroom as I write. I’m spinning it to myself as “festival ambiance.” Yeah, let’s call it that.

I hit the ground running today. David and I grabbed our badges as soon as the press office opened, then managed to get our seats for an early screening of Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia secured before dashing across the street to Second Cup to grab some much needed caffeine to get the blood pumping. I liked Melancholia quite a lot. It’s a visual poem of a film, gorgeously, stunningly composed, and Kirsten Dunst gives maybe the best performance of her career to date. I wish she’d work more often with directors like this who really challenge her; the last film I liked her this much in was Marie Antoinette, but her turn in Melancholia as a deeply depressed, mentally unstable bride is far superior to anything else she’s done. More on Melancholia later, it’s the kind of film I like to let steep a bit before banging out a full review. The visuals in this film, though, may just haunt my dreams tonight.

My other favorite film of the day was Wim Wender’s superb documentary Pina, a dance film quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen, that brings to life the work of the late iconic German choreographer Pina Bausch. I don’t think it was for the guy I had the misfortune to sit next to at the screening, who spent the first 15 minutes or so rattling his popcorn bag and munching loudly, and much of the rest of the film falling asleep and snoring quite loudly, occasionally jerking awake and whacking me. It was a blessed relief when he finally had enough and took off, hopefully to go take a long nap far, far away from the screening rooms.

Next up was Alex Gibney’s new doc, The Last Gladiators, about professional hockey’s “enforcers” — you know, the guys who like to brawl and engage in fisticuffs on the ice. The story mostly focused on former Montreal Canadiens enforcer Chris Nilan, whose fairy-tale story of getting to play in the NHL deteriorated into a life of boring jobs and addiction.

I generally like Gibney very much, and for the first half or so Last Gladiator really clips along and is a lot of fun. But it’s draggy in the second half, and you can see where a nip here and a tuck there might have kept the second half of the story moving forward at the same energy as the first. It’s not a bad film by any means, and hockey fans in particular will find much to like in the game footage. It doesn’t have quite the intensity or polish, though, of other Gibney films like Taxi to the Dark Side and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room.

I wrapped things up today with a dinner party for Gus Van Sant’s latest film, Restless, followed by the public screening of that film over at the Ryerson. Thankfully, we were shuttled over to the Ryerson — in a big, sparkly disco-fied limo bus, no less.

As for the film, which is being distributed by Sony Picture Classics, (opening in NY and LA on the 16th), it feels very much like similarly themed films such as Homework (renamed The Art of Getting By) and It’s Kind of a Funny Story, and I wouldn’t call it Van Sant’s best, or even most original film ever, but it’s not bad for what could have been a much more depressing film. More than anything, it gives its young actors, Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper (son of Dennis) a chance to shine as the relentlessly cheery Annabel and relentlessly moody Enoch.

Meanwhile, Danny Elfman’s cheery score contrasts with the dark storyline about two teenagers struggling with bad things that happen to good people (I won’t spoil them here, in case you haven’t already read reviews of the film from when it played Cannes). Overall, Restless feels more like Van Sant “Lite” than Van Sant as auteur — not offensive or bad, but also not spectacularly great.

I have a full day of five films planned for tomorrow, but I’ll bang out some longer reviews for you as I can. Right now, though, I need to grab some sleep … which would be a hell of a lot easier if they’d ever shut off the loud music and send everybody home for the night.

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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