Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day 1

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 4, 1997

Tonight's opening night. The ritual is implacable. Moving from Chateau-Helga to the Cambridge Suites Hotel. Great location, great space, wih dining table, coffee table, bedside tables - and a desk with plugs and cords and jacks for your modem, you fax, your this, your that... Perfect to set up a completely functional work space that doesn't bite into your living quarters.

Time to go to the Festival office at the Sheraton, pick up your credentials, your programme, your updated guest list and press screening schedule. You bump into everyone you've ever met on the Festival circuit. Over the years, you've learned how to say, ´ My God, you're here, when.did you arrive? ' in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, Chinese, Croatian, Farsi, Hindi, Urdu and Tagalog.

Time, of course, to get (or hustle for) one's invitation to the opening night party. Time, also, during the day, to catch up with films one has missed in a previous festival, or, if one hasn't, just to see how they hold up.

Abel Ferrara's ´ Black Out '. Still holds up. Beatrice Dalle quite strong, Claudia Schiffer is fine, Matthew Modine's performance far more subtle that he was credited for in Cannes.

Gary Oldman's ´ Nil By Mouth '. Damn tough, damn good. ´This one is from the gut, ' says an American journalist. ´ More like from the heart, ' replies a Canadian one, who'd seen it in Cannes. ´ Damn, this is not going to be a normal celebrity interview, ' the US scribe continues. ´ Kind of forces you to use your brain, huh? ' the Canadian mutters. A fight? No, they burst out laughing and head to the bar for Bloody Caesars(Marys with clam juice). ´ So how was Gary Oldman in Cannes...? '

From one viewing to the next (this is my third), Atom Egoyan's ´ The Sweet Hereafter ', based on Russell Banks' novel, keeps getting deeper under your skin. (See Cannes 97 coverage). Stronger, more haunting, and more exhilarating. Director Egoyan is a fighter. As he introduces the film to the gala audience, he lashes at the Government for so drastically cutting its arts funding. ´ My entire career, ' he basically says, ´ was helped and nurtured by public funding. Without it, I wouldn't be here. ' (Nor would you, he implied). ´ Now I can stand on my own. But who knows how many writers and directors are now having their creativity nipped in the bud? '

On the lighter front, yes, they move! The couple on the poster, I mean. They're on the Festival trailer that opens every screening of every movie. It's a wonderfully shot film ballet for golden-lit copper skin, carressing hands, strong back, soft shoulders, swan necks and hungry lips.Who are they? More importantly, *where* are they?

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