Twenty years ago, when the Festival of Festival began to make its way in Toronto's cultural landscape, the city was new to what is known elsewhere as Festival Fever. Five years later, the yearly event is a must: people rearrange their vacation schedule, line-ups from 7 a.m. have become the norm, and so have packed theatres where the filmgoer risks death in order to discover an unknown Hungarian gem from the silent era.
To celebrate the Festival's 20th anniversary, the "Globe and Mail" asked several film-makers and goers to walk down Memory Lane. Canadian director Atom Egoyan remembered the 1989 premiere of his film "Speaking Parts", when the lab had spliced two reels the wrong way around and he had to rush through the city in a cab driven by a Rastafarian who thought his passenger was totally delusional but decided to humor him. "I had always thought that an opening would be very glamorous", Egoyan is quoted as saying, "but there I was running into the theatre with two canisters under my arm, sweating like a pig." Festival director Piers Handling remembered meeting with Julie Christie, his teenage years' "goddess of my dreams", He still smarts when he recalls the day after the Festival ended: Unbeknownst to everyone, Julie Christie, had stayed in town; when she called to say Good-bye and Thanks for everything, nobody bothered to wake up the poor Handling who had crashed on his office couch.
Brilliantly written and directed (if, occasionally, self-consciously so), the opening-night film, Robert Lepage's "The Confessional", is a movie that enters the world of movies itself. In 1952, Alfred Hitchcock came to Quebec City to shoot "I Confess" with Anne Baxter and Montgomery Clift, forever marking the very soul of all of the city's churchgoers, nay, inhabitants. Gliding between then and now, "The Confessional", also shot in Quebec City, tells of a double quest: a young man's for his brother, the young brother's for his own identity --and that of his real father. As the man retracing his past, Lothaire Bluteau ("Jesus of Montreal") delivers an uncannily intense performance.
The recent Provincial Budget cuts that mostly affected Culture, Health and public services (aren't they always the first to go?) put a damper on the 20th-Aniversary celebration that was to be the party to end all parties. Attending the "Confessional" gala screening, Ontario premier Mike Harris was roundly booed--and this from a population that has turned politeness and good manners into a religion!
Another guest of honor, Charlton Heston had spent part of the afternoon meeting with attending journalists for "selected interviews". Beeban Kidron's "To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newar" opening in town today, an impudent writer asked the Star whether he'd ever wanted to play a cross-dresser on screen. One could see the veins almost pop on "The Planet of the Apes" star's neck before he said, "No." But Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon didn't seem to have any problem with it in "Some Like It Hot", the scribe insisted. "Yes," Moses coldly replied, "but then they never directed Shakespeare, did they?"
Let's not open that can of words, Chuck, okay?
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