MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie – TIFF40

The Toronto International Film Festival evolved as a journey rather than a slog. Back when Clint Eastwood was a star, not an auteur, and Rocky and Star Wars were not yet on the horizon, there was the The Festival of Festivals, concocted by a trio of entrepreneurial hustlers in the city with the not-yet-proud nickname of “Hogtown.” The first event screened a couple of dozen films at the theater at Ontario Place.

I remember meeting Russian filmmaker Larisa Shepitko, showing her film, The Ascent. Clouded over time is what exactly I was doing at this event, a showcase for films that had achieved acclaim at Cannes, Berlin and Venice. It was only a “catch up” fest. I remember a wager with Dusty Cohl (one of the three founding fellows) made at the Cannes festival in 1975 or 1976. I presume I lost but Dusty still picked up the tab on the Carlton Terrace.

The other thing I remember is the incredible embrace extended by the Toronto public. Storefronts along Bloor and Yonge concocted movie-themed displays. The city had been waiting for a movie event that balanced the low- and highbrows.

The next year, the eye of the storm relocated to the Bloor corridor. Bill Marshall (another of the scalawags) opened the doors at Sutton Place and dubbed the hospitality rooms The Hostility Suite. The screening venues in the core are all gone now, as is festival favorite Bistro 990, and the Sutton Place went condo.

I smile when thinking back to early editions; helping a confused and inebriated Julie Walters find her room at the Plaza II, for instance. It was funkier … but most things were in their initial stages and Toronto’s ambition was to grow rather than be only a footnote.

Today, it is an industry with a not-too-shabby home called the Bell Lightbox, scholarly year-round programming, tours, publications. Other than Sundance, no other festival can claim this level of support toward the Seventh Art.

Thursday, it begins in earnest, and the 300-plus feature schedule is daunting. TIFF is definitely not for sissies. Bon 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