Film Scouts Diaries

1995 Toronto Film Festival Diaries
Henri Behar At The Toronto Film Festival: D-Day minus 1

by Henri Béhar

Wednesday, September 6

Those in the know arrive the day before, so that by the time the Toronto International Film Festival starts, they have unpacked, hung their tuxes and ball gowns, checked out the hospitality suite, marked their territory and, most importantly, before the "hoi poloi" (read: ordinary filmgoers) descend en masse on the temporary Festival headquarters located at the Sutton Place hotel, got the passes, tickets and invites without which you simply don't exist in Festival-land--might as well watch the whole damn thing on television. In charge of Special Events, "Party" Barbara frantically juggles with Gold Patrons, V.I.P.s, town, state, province and federal officials, and the drag queens who are to perform at the opening-night bash (after the gala screening of a film called "The Confessional"? Wicked!).

No ciggy, no ticky. A rule-bender if there ever was one, "Party" Barbara has put up a sign at the entrance of her office that reads: "Smoking Obligatory"--which instantly endeared her to the newest endangered species in modern History and made said office the rallying point for Asian, European, Latin-American actors, filmmakers, journalists and assorted visitors.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, The Toronto Festival ( Festival of Festivals) kicked off the night before its official opening with The Founders' Dinner, a petite gathering (for 500) at the Old Mill. Run by the Sutton Place's former (and legendary) manager, the Old Mill is a glorious (and, thank God, landmarked) mini-chateau on the outskirts of the town, luxurious without ostentation, with three levels of luxuriant flower beds, trees and proud ruins. The cuisine was (sort of) Hungarian--the 20th Festival is paying tribute to Hungarian cinema-- and the evening was impeccable, marred only by the millionth massacre of "Music of the Night", from Andrew Lloyd Webber's "Phantom of the Opera", and the shrill rendition, by a self-proclaimed soprano, of what is possibly the best known aria from George Bizet's "Carmen", "L'Amour Est Enfant De Bohème" ("Mom, is the lady hurt?" asked a child with sweet innocence and refreshing honesty).

The snobs repaired to town in taxicabs and limousines, which, with traffic and all, took them a good 45 minutes. Those in the know (see above) took the subway (17 minutes to downtown Toronto). "So that's what subways are!" said a foreign producer who would never be caught dead in his country's public transportation but likened his "Canadian discovery" to a religious experience.

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