MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie

I’m compelled to say a few things about choice. And how it’s been raining in Toronto the entire weekend.

If you have but a single option, choice is not a consideration; and two options will lead to an arbitrary decision. It’s only when one has three options that a process begins that involves a range of considerations. The ideal spectrum—according to a long-ago statistics class—is three to seven. Beyond that it gets messy. And there are times during the Toronto International Film Festival that there can be a dozen or more film options.

I had good reasons to opt for Trumbo, a kinda-bio of the screenwriter that takes place during Hollywood’s blacklist era. Trumbo was one of the Hollywood 10, and served prison time for contempt of Congress. Later, he wrote screenplays under assumed names and ultimately was the first of those scribes to get a credit under his own name once more — a significant start to healing wounds and ruptures.

Bryan Cranston, that screen chameleon, captures the subject’s wit, passion and humor and that goes a long way to paving over the awkwardness of a parade of cameros of iconic glitterati. Trumbo famously said it was an era without heroes or villains, only victims. I met quite a few (almost all are gone) and was happily surprised that young attendees unaware of that time “got it.”

Blacklisted Lionel Stander observed that the House Committee went after the likes of movieland and the military because it got headlines and most of the U.S. Communist party leadership was made up of FBI plants. It was classic bait-and-switch that one might ascribe to today’s immigration controversy.

Crime and gangsters became a running theme of my weekend with 1960s London, 196070s Boston and modern Belgium some of the stops en route. Appropriately the most flamboyant of the trio was Legend, the saga of the Kray Brothers, the East Ender twins who muscled their way into posh society with more brute force than suasion. Countless Brit films have used them as inspiration and in 1990’s The Krays, Spandau Ballet’s Kemp frères played Ronnie and Reggie. I remember that film fondly but it’s likely to be erased by Tom Hardy playing both roles effectively.

That was followed by Black Mass, the rise and disappearance of gangster “Whitey” Bulger (played by Johnny Depp), Beantown’s comparably violent capo of the Winter Hill gang. The similarities between the two films are jarring. In both instances, gangs emerged from working class neighborhoods, saw themselves as Robin Hood, used force to quash competitors and showed sufficient wiles to coerced government and/or the police to maintain a stranglehold.

Legend unfolds through the narration of Ronnie Krays’ girlfriend and later wife, while Black Mass is structured around the investigation that brought Bulger down with ex-gang members divulging how they operated and where muscle was applied. I found the former more compelling and organic and the latter onstrained and disconnected by secondary elements and characters. Nonetheless, both pack f punch, literally and figuratively.

The action is more down to earth in The Ardennes, from the same company that produced Oscar foreign-language nominee Bullhead. Again the focus is brothers (but not twins), albeit small timers. The saga opens with a botched robbery that lands one in jail, and by the time he’s released the other has gone straight and is involved with the sibling’s girlfriend. The title references Belgium’s more idyllic, bucolic region with the implication of happier times and something approaching normalcy. While it has an inexplicable pull on the two characters, the area proves to have much darker and disturbing consequences.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.


Quote Unquotesee all »

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