Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day 2

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 5, 1997

The opening night party at the Guvernment (NOTE TO EDITOR: It *is* spelled G-U) .was a big, wild, noisy affair. The venue is a block-long, block-wide cavernous arena with nooks, crannies, halls, corridors, staircases up, staircases down. In two hours, I never hit the same spot twice. Finally bumped into (film scout) Kathleen Carroll and (festival co-founder) Dusty Cohl. Turns out they'd gone to the Rolling Stones impromptu try-out concert at the Horseshoe Tavern. A private gig - for 300 - so hush-hush that even members of Toronto's Wayward Angels, slated to open for country singer Jack Ingram that night, weren't told.

So how was it? ´ Oh, great! ' Carroll pipes in. ´ Great, ' says Cohl. After-the-fact informers later tell me both Cohl and Carroll had been standing and clapping and dancing five seconds after Mick Jagger had started strutting his stuff...

Someone finally tells me about the Festival poster and trailer. The tall, dark and handsome official poster boy is named Bradley Yip and the ´ date ' he is embracing Lisa Heugehan. No, they don't date in real life - or do they? Although, says an insider, Yip ain't hurtin' for lack o' dates. A Ford model (move over, Tyson), he also works the bar at the Rosewater Supper Club. Half the press corps decide to check it out. My friend Julie messes up her hair punk-style and dons a slinky dress. ´ He needs special treatment, ' she says. Tough luck, Yip ain't working tonight.

Early morning press screening of Curtis Hansen's ´ L.A. Confidential ', based on James Ellroy's eponymous novel. What a great way to start the day - or end the night, as it turns out. The movie is more wicked and more mischievous than on first viewing in Cannes. The writing is taut, Spacey delightfully slithering, Crowe intense and dynamic and Pearce incredibly sharp. Keep an eye on that Guy, folks.

Spike Lee's documentary ´ Four Little Girls ' tells the story of the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama, church in 1963, which killed four schoolgirls. A racially motivated crime, it became a rallying point for the civil rights movement and voter rights in Alabama. ´ Four Little Girls ' is either an oddity in Spike Lee's oeuvre, or else a new departure for the ´ Jungle Fever ' ´ Mo' Better Blues ' auteur, in that his handling of the material is self-effacing. As he gives ample room to talking heads, archival and contemporary footage, the fundamental decency and anguish of the families of the victims comes through, without the director pressing the point. It makes the film - and the case - even more devastating..

Hush-hush screening of ´ Chinese Box ', strictly reserved for those who will interview director Wayne Wang and actor Jeremy Irons. Irons meets Chinese icon Gong Li (of ´ Raise the Red Lantern ' fame) and kung-fu diva Maggie Cheung on the night Hong Kong is handed over to China ? Can't wait

Atom Egoyan is pretty angry. The Globe and Mail has published a front page photograph of him arriving at the ´ Sweet Hereafter ' premiere last night. So far so good. But the Globe failed to acknowledge the presence on the pic of esteemed stage and screen actress ArsinÈe Khanjian, simply labelling her the director's ´wife' (which she is). So Atom lets them have it, then gets on with his press conference. Subtly different from the Cannes one in that actress Sarah Polley, virtually unknown on the Croisette, is here a major television star, and her role in Egoyan's film is quite a departure for her. After Egoyan explains how and why he wove the legend of the ´ Pied Piper of Hamlin ' as narrated by poet Robert Browning into Russell Banks' yarn, the novelist has but one comment: ´ If I were to rewrite or update the novel today, that's the one element I would add. I wish I had thought of it. ' Can't think of a greater compliment.

Egoyan reiterates his beef with both the Ontario and the Federal governments for slashing their arts funding across the board. Downsizing is one thing, cutting to the quick something else entirely. ´ Isn't it a problem for the Canadian cinema and television industries to be so constantly subsidized with public funds?, ' a journalist asks another after the press conference, using phrases like ´ assisted ', ´ chronic dependency ' and ´ waste of money '. At which point, his Canadian interlocutor indicates that Alliance Communications has just officially attributed higher second-quarter profits to Egoyan's "The Sweet Hereafter" sales. So much for ´ waste of money '.

Kevin Spacey comes into town tonight. Samuel Jackson, Spacey's co-star in the film they're now shooting in Chicago, has just arrived. Apparently, he was spotted wearing a vivid orange shirt and a matching beret.

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