MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: It’s a Wrap

Officially there were 366 features shown at the just completed edition of the Toronto International Film Festival. I saw about 30. So it should come as no surprise that few of this year’s public and jury prize winners managed to elude my grasp.

The Audience award went to The Imitation Game, the tragic saga of mathematician Alan Turing who cracked the  Enigma Code during World War II and fell into disrepute in the following decade when he was convicted of homosexual acts. Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance is already being touted for award’s consideration.

Among juried winners were Time Out of Mind and its star Richard Gere portraying a homeless man and the emotional love story Felix and Meira set in Montreal’s Hasidic community which received the prize as best Canadian feature of the fest.

Biography seemed a significant aspect of TIFF’s selections. Two that I caught were a testament to its challenge. In Love & Mercy, Paul Dano and John Cusack play, respectively, the younger and older Beach Boy Brian Wilson. The parallel intertwining stories focus on the already successful musician quitting touring and concentrating on writing and producing what would become the group’s most accomplished work. The later period deals with his recovery from emotional and physical meltdown, his relationship with the Svengaliesque Eugene Landy (a vampirish Paul Giamatti) and the flowering of a new relationship. Unquestionably bold and nuanced, Love & Mercy nonetheless hasn’t found the balance between its two realms. It’s at its best in scenes with younger Wilson creating in the studio and maybe that deserves a film all of its own.

The Theory of Everything is the story of Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane beginning with their meeting as students. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the balance of his genius as a physicist countered with his physical deterioration would render something emotionally potent. The accomplishment is that neither the filmmakers nor the performers push the drama inherent in the situation. And it’s hard to imagine that Eddie Redmayne who plays Hawking won’t be on the circuit come award season.

Mention was made in an earlier column about TIFF’s Telluride position and the prospect of a less front loaded Canadian event. To some extent that did occur but the industry was quick to react with a spate of private screenings targeted primarily at acquisition folk during the opening days.

By Tuesday morning one could sense the absence of buyers as well as junket press in the corridors and screening rooms just as has occurred for decades in Toronto. I got out of “Dodge” Wednesday evening just as the rains literally arrived and temperatures shifted from summer to fall.

The consensus was that it was not a banner film year for TIFF and that appeared to be less the result of selection than simply what was available to be screened. One of the last film’s I caught prior to flight time was Tom McCarthy’s The Cobbler that might best be described as a trainwreck. Adam Sandler plays a fourth generation shoe repairman that discovers he can transform into the possessor of the clogs he repairs with an ancient stitching machine. It’s a bit of whimsy not unlike the comic’s similarly themed Click but the notion of walking in someone else’s shoes … proves to be a strained metaphor. It runs right off the cliff in a horrid fashion that’s unique to intelligent and accomplished filmmakers making very bad decisions.

Let me wrap it up with Electric Boogaloo, a documentary on the making and unmaking of Cannon Films, the brainchild of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus that had Hollywood on its ear for a healthy chunk of the 1980s. From Chuck Norris to John Cassavetes, this was a company that churned out movies like stuffed sausage. Golan was systematic of someone that realized he was losing money on most pictures but believed he could compensate for that with volume. Ultimately it caught up with him and this valentine is enormous fun even if it can’t quite come to grips with how the patients took over the insane asylum. It reminds me of the motto of fictional Miracle Pictures: “If It’s a Good Picture, It’s a Miracle.”

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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