Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Day 8

by Henri Béhar

Toronto, Sept. 11, 1997

Canadian film ´ The Hanging Garden ' by Nova-Scotia-based Thom Fitzgerald is getting standing ovations from audiences and four-star reviews by most critics in town - at least those have have been lucky enough to see it; for the rest of us, it is still impossible to get in. The film also got a US distribution deal - MGM picked up the rights. It's delightful to see publicists and distributors taken aback by the success of ´ their ' movie (so now, it's theirs, eh?), all the more so since less than a week ago, its seller had forgotten to recognize it in the invitations to its parties...

A couple of years ago, it was Jane Austen (´ Sense and Sensibility ', ´ Pride and Prejudice '), this year seems to be Henry James's year. Starring Helena Bonham Carter, ´ TheWings of the Dove ' is less a Masterpiece-Theatre-type thing than a sensous pice of fine work by Iain (´ Backbeat ') Softley. Bonham-Carter plays a plotting aristocrat who risksbeingcast out of London society if she marries the man she loves (Linus Roache, from ´ Priest '). So she hands him over to an ailing American heiress (Alison Elliott), hoping they'll live happily - and richly - ever after when she leaves him all her money. The best laid plans, however...

The first ten minutes of Agneszka Holland'sd ´ Washington Square ', also based on Henry James, you wonder what the deuce Jennifer Jason Leigh is doing. Tense, nervous in too modern a way, she seems pretty anachronistic as a plain, but rich, girl who hold herself in low esteem - with no little help from her domineering father (Albert Finney) - and may think her freedom will come through a suitor (Ben Chaplin) who may possibly be after her money. You gradually suspect that beyond the Freudian rapport with her father and her stubborn obsession with her suitor, what Jennifer Jason Leigh is after is not her character's discovery, or non discovery, of love - leave that to Olivia de Havilland - but that of her pride. Once you get that, you realize she's right on target, and the risk she is taking is richly rewarded.

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