Film Scouts Diaries

1996 New York Film Festival Diaries
Week 1: Desperately Seeking Wim II

by Karen Jaehne

At the end of the first week of the New York Film Festival, I'm still thinking about "Secrets & Lies." It's amazing how it takes the orphan theme everybody's been trying to do - from "Bogus" to "Stealing Beauty" - and brings it right down to our essential fear - that our parents may be very, very unattractive.

"A Self-Made Hero" by Jacques Audiard is another good missing-identity film about a young man with a fascist in the family - the best film from France in some time, if I may say so. Of course, with the pretentious Maurice Pialat in the running, it's easy to win.

"Temptress Moon" is a hoot - the best in soap opera since "Gone With the Wind," with a silk nightie and a little egg foo yong on the side.

But back to important things: Mike Leigh was in fine form. Even though the crowd at Tavern on the Green applauded as the film's troupe marched through, Leigh maintained his dignity and never played the star. Later, when we went to his table to say hello, he rose and talked like a normal guy. We'd had a very good interview the previous day, and there's no reason to believe the rumors that he's "difficult" with the press. Maybe the press deserves some difficulty.

For me, the best thing about roaming around the press screenings at the festival is running into "all the usual suspects" in the film world. People who don't usually get together, who in fact might never want to be seen in each other's presence, have no choice but to nod graciously and acknowledge the other person's right to be there - if not to an opinion.

The serious and the facile, the scribblers and the gabblers, the structuralists and the screenwriters all hang in, watching those films, occasionally disputing them - but, sad to say, almost never asking an intelligent question in the press conferences. My favorite this year was one woman's inquiry into how Miramax was going to mercilessly carve up "Sling Blade" because, "It's a big, mean company," she claimed. Puhleeze, let's try MGM.

It'll be fun to listen to the views and watch the reviews, and then see how far folks go in changing their minds by the time they get to the keyboard.

Wo ist Wim? I continue my manhunt. Wo ist Wim? Not at the Wienerwald, not at the Wiz. Wo ist Wim? He's never missed a festival where he had a stake in a movie - which may be exactly what he did to "Beyond the Clouds" - a stake through the heart.

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