Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day 7

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 10, 1997

Pretty quiet on the party front. A small Columbia (Sony) reception at 4 pm for Chow Yun Fat, John Woo's leading deadpan kung-fu acrobat-cop and Mira Sorvino's co-star in " The Replacement Killers " (not shown here). Before that, Chow Yun Fat participated in the Filmmakers' Dialogue series at the Cumberland at 1 pm. I only found out at 3. Darn. Am I slipping or what?

In a small reception at Roy Thompson Hall, director Atom Egoyan (" The Sweet Hereafter ") is knighted Chevalier des Arts et Lettres for his contribution to French (read: world's) culture.. Armenian of ancestry but Cairo, Egypt-born Canadian citizen Egoyan probably hasn't got a drop of French blood in his veins. It doesn't matter: his work transcends geographical and social borders.

" Love and Death on Long Island " , which we saw (and liked) in Cannes is shown to the press. Jason Priestley is already in town, as are Joan Cusack and Kevin Kline. Tm Selleck is due in any minute.

Alright, so you already know that Tom busses, smooches and slurps Kevin in Frank Oz's " In and Out ". You already know that the comedy is based on Tom Hanks " outing " his high-school teacher in his acceptance speech at the Oscars, when he got the Best Actor Award for " Philadelphia ". As the *faux* Hanks, Matt Dillon is wonderfully scathing - and generous - in self-mockery, but he's only guest-starring in this Paul (´ Jeffrey ') Rudnick-penned comedy. The thrust, so to speak, of ´ In & Out ' is what happens to this teacher (Kevin Kline) who lives in a tiny little town in deep America and is outed - or is he? - more nilly than willy in front of a billion tv-viewers just days before he is to get married. Talk about the reaction of the wife-to-be (delightful Joan Cusack) and the man's mother (Dbbie Reynolds (as yummily cockeyed as she was in Albert Brooks' ´ Mother '). Talk about the man himself, who never thought he was gay - or was he? Yes, he worships Streisand, so what? Talk about, in particular, of the slick TV personality (Selleck) who, gay and out himself,urges the teacher to come out. Hence the smooch. You'll have to see for yourself whether Teach comes out, and how.

It's a funny little film, suave, sophisticated, compassionate. And *normal*. The antithesis, in that, of Mike Nichols' loud ´ Birdcage '. Considering the early reactions here, a lot of the buzz and the fuss will focus on the inclusion, however belated, of gays in the mainstream as defined by Hollywood. All one can say is, ´ Time to grow up, mainstream '. If ´ In & Out ' hastens the process, more power to it.

Nothing quite prepares you for Paul Thomas Anderson's ´ Boogie Nights '. It's a wild, sprawling, outrageous epic about the hardcore-porn industry, world and underworld of the late '70s and early'80s, with their studs, queens, scumbags, entrepreneurs and, yes, innocents. Thanks, so to speak, to his 13-inch appendage (a direct reference to then-porn star John Holmes), a 17-year-old San Fernando Valley busboy, Eddie Adams (Mark Wahlberg in a star-making performance) turns into super stud Dirk Diggler after he meets with adult-film director Jack Wagner (Burt Reynolds) then cast, among them Don Cheadle (from Devil in a Blue Dress ' ), Julianne Moore (porno queen and motherly) and Heather Graham, the receptacle to end all receptacles, who keeps her roller-skates on whatever position she performs in.

A fairy tale, of sorts, and a cautionary tale, ´ Boogie Nights ', as tensely structured as Martin Scorsese's ´ GoodFellas ' and as energetic as Quentin Tarantino's ´ Pulp Fiction ', is also quite a piece of anthropology. ´ How do you keep them in their seats after they come? ', muses Burt Reynolds in one of the film's most revealing moments. Revealing in that Paul Thomas Anderson's film catches the porno industry at the very time it undergoes a drastic and irreversible change. Way back when, when porn was shot in celluloid, they still tried to make *movies*, with scripts and character development. When porn went straight to video, all pretense at filmmaking was thrown out the window, the only ´ development ' was the deployment of attributes in a string of boringly repetitious calisthenics.

Make no mistake, though: ´ Boogie Nights ' is also a family movie. However disparate, the porn-making cast and crew *do* constitue a family, no less, and no more, dysfunctional than yours and mine.

Yes, at some point, Wahlberg displays the organ that is Dirk Diggler's claim to fame. It's a prosthetic. Even based solely on this performance, however, his talent and sensitivity are as huge as the Empire State Building. And real.

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