Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
The Plebeian Diary #2

by Jason Gorber

September 7, 1997

Life is not always easy for the plebeian reviewer. Press passes do not abound, nor do free tickets, cheap transportation, or, most depressingly, invitations to the parties for the "cool" people. One seldom feels so socially designated (or denigrated) as during festival time, walking past all the beautiful people with their beautiful hair as they gallop off to their respective gatherings.

CITY-TV, perhaps the grooviest TV station on the planet and one of the most ardent supporters of the festival, turns its parking lot into a "Festival Shmooze" site. A big tent with inviting halogen lights but large security guards ensuring that only those with tickets may mingle meaningfully. Various other more private gatherings can be spotted by the huddles of people gathered outside some non-descript doorway that leads, no doubt, into some futuristic den of celebrity conversation. Walking past as the observer, just another consumer of film, I'm not the cool kid invited to the party, and instead I slip into a self-defensive arrogant mode, mentally chanting that at least I can say that I UNDERSTOOD the movie that we all sat through together. Snickering inwardly with the bile and spite of a typical-high school gothic solipsist, I manage to pull my coat higher over my ears and walk by the party that I no longer covet.

One cannot keep this front up for long. Even going to bleak black-and-white Scandinavian films is difficult if you haven't purchased in advance. If Toronto need to know that it takes its film festival seriously, with dozens of other films playing to capacity crowds, the relatively obscure Erik Skjoldbjurg film "Insomnia" sold out before the festival and had over fifty people in line for rush seats. It was easier, instead, to try and get rush tickets for the gala showing of Andrew Nicol's "Gattaca".

Back at Roy Thompson Hall, I learned from the trusty and faithful usher staff (most of whom volunteer and really DON'T need to put up with the things that are thrown their way by the "beautiful people") that all has not gone well in the last few days. It seems that a certain head of a certain festival got really pissed when security refused him entry without his identification. Instead of complimenting his staff on their thoroughness, he pulled the "DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM!" schtick.

Meanwhile, the delays during the festival can almost entirely be blamed on the "talent". As Diary One mentioned, Alec and Kim were not very receptive to the fans gathered at their exit. Nor, it seems, has their courtesy extended to the Festival organizers. With Kim's "L.A. Confidential" and Alec's "The Edge" coming back-to-back, Friday and Saturday, the Radiant Couple managed to delay the screening by almost an hour on both nights. Meanwhile, the crowds became downright violent, chanting and screaming (in the words of an usher) to be let in and wait inside instead of in line in the rain. There were soaked gowns and bitter moods, apparently, as the screenings finally let in. Fashion tip: the galas are as low key as you make them. Wear jeans, unless you are really trying to get into those parties that I mentioned above.

In the end, though, it's kinda exciting being around people whom other people have heard about. As Ethan Hawke arrived for the screening of "Gattaca", I couldn't help but notice that he's much better looking on screen. Danny De Vito, one of the producers, ranted philosophically about genetics and power as he filmed those filming him with a mini handicam. Of course, he continued to ignore the autograph hounds. I found that the bitterness and jealousy that I held earlier simply got transferred onto the stars, where it should probably have resided in the first place.

Sitting down to see "Gattaca", I noticed the two reserved seats beside me with mild amusement. "How come nobody reserves seats for me?!" the angst-ridden plebeian cried inwardly. As the film was about to begin, one of the true geniuses of Canadian (or any) cinema decided to sit beside me (well, beside the friend who was beside me...) David Cronenberg, with his trademark black glasses, calmly sat down to screen the film. Wacky. Here I am, Gala presentation, one of my film heroes two seats away, and my angst is replaced by the childlike mantra, "don't let me look stupid..." My friend and I chatted him up, asked him questions, asked him if he had any questions in return, and politely, suppressing inward giddiness, sat next to a real, honest-to-goodness Canadian film legend.

Never mind the parties. In the environment of a theatre, much more agreeable to clever cinematic conversation, I got to talk with Cronenberg. And I didn't look stupid, either.

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