Film Scouts Diaries

1995 Montreal Film Festival Diaries
Montreal Diary #3

by Henri Béhar

Come mid-week, the laid-back Festival has mellowed to nearly slow-mo. The films are "deserving" or "interesting". John Schlesinger delighted each and everyone, both with his made-for-tv movie "Cold Comfort Farm" and his dazzling command (and delivery) of English vocabulary; the "American Daughter" came from Kazakhstan, "A Mongolian Tale" was a treat (see David Sterritt's reviews)--and birds were suddenly everywhere

- In Goran Markevic's "Burlesque Tragedy" (a French-Bulgarian co-production taking place in Belgrade), the head doctor of an insane asylum is so fed up with abusive cuts in health care that he takes all the patients on a trek to the city (echoes of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest") in order to lodge a protest at City Hall. One of the patients has a fixation on a white dove which, he is sure, harrasses him--the Dove actually comes to life (an actor in disguise). One goes, 'uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh', then moves on.

- A multicolored parakeet is the reason why Sandrine Bonnaire and William Hurt meet in George Bardawil's "Shared Secrets With a Stranger", set in Saint-Petersburg at the end of the last century. Bardawill is a wonderful writer, scriptwriter, photographer and publisher. He still has to prove he's a grade-A film director. The film may go down in history as the first time a lean, hollow-cheeked Sandrine Bonnaire tries to be Glenn Close, and the first time William Hurt speaks--and acts, beautifully--in French.

- On the huge open-air screen on the Place des Arts, that very night, they showed Alfred Hitchcok's "The Birds" in a brand new copy. It was the hottest ticket in town, and the film was absolutely superb.

- Even Jean-Luc Godard practically opened his press conference with a reference to birds. The confab was set up by satellite, between one of the Salons at the Hotel Meridien and what one assumed was Jean-Luc Godard's apartment in Switzerland. We could see him, he could see us -- "like radio; I guess it's progress," he said (see larger excerpts in sidebar). Birds. Asked whether he could expand on something he said several years ago "Looking around (oneself) is being free," Jean-Luc Godard replied: "It's difficult to 'expand', as you say. But look at birds. They are free, if you will, but in the midst of danger, they have to be constantly on the alert. And by using its techniques, cinema, be it cinema or television (though I don't think tv does it much, precisely; cinema still can) is all about looking around oneself to see if there is no danger, or no transmittable disease since. To paraphrase French but Romanian-born philosopher Coin, 'Freedom grows only in a sick social body.' It must therefore be searched for, and found."

- The same night, when I got back to my hotel after dinner, I switched the TV on, and zapped onto... "The Birds", dubbed in French. So I decided to get the flu.

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