FESTIVALS: Montreal's World Where Dreyfuss and Iranian Praised
by Brandon Judell
"There are some actors who transcend their own time. John Wayne clearly did. He lived more in the nineteenth century than in the twentieth. And when you see him, you are quite capable of believing that he lived on the frontier -- and his language and body language spoke to that. Without diminishing myself, I don't. I live in the Twentieth Century. Who I am and what I am lives very much within now. Not in the future with space guns and laser beams, and not in the past with pirate ships, even though I prefer those movies as an audience."
Guess who's chatting up indieWIRE at 10:30 in the morning with a little self-analysis? Richard Dreyfuss, of course, who was being honored for his career in cinema by the 23rd Montreal World Film Festival, the emphasis being more on "The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz" (1974) and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977) than "Krippendorf's Tribe" (1998).
(Please note Mr. Dreyfuss is quite high on his forthcoming venture, "The Crew," which co-stars Burt Reynolds, and he's also looking for indie scripts.)
That Dreyfuss was being honored other than Sandra Bullock or Roger Moore, two thespians who somehow garnered the award in recent years, shows Montreal has regained its sensibility. This year was one of its finest years. Smooth running, too. (No Canadian airline strikes to cause chaos like in 1998.)
Admittedly a lot of the press complained about the lack of star power, especially when those stars that did show up weren't all that accessible. Denzel Washington flew in and out for "The Bone Collector" without even a how-do-you-do.
As for Sarah Polley, she was only talking to the Canadian Press about Audrey Well's "Guinevere," refusing to even give a press conference. (Note to magazine editors, Ms. Polley will only consider being chatted with if you offer the cover.) Yes, Polley is being groomed as Miramax's next Gwyneth Paltrow. Happily, her performance in "Guinevere" as a young woman learning about sexuality and men the hard way merits all the star nurturing she can get. Yet whether this clever film, which also boasts fine turns by Stephen Rea and Jean Smart, will catch on is not a certainty. (Although after seeing it, I immediately bought 5000 shares of it on The Hollywood Stock Exchange-hsx.com.)
Gerard Depardieu was also around to get the word out on "Un Pont Entre Deux Rives" ("The Bridge"), a film he both co-directed and stars in with Carole Bouquet. The year is 1962 when Georges' business goes down the drain. Finding work on an out-of-town bridge, he leaves his spouse Mina (Bouquet) all alone with their son. While at the cinema, watching "West Side Story," Mina finds true love, a rich engineer who's working on the same bridge. Le Parisien has already compared this effort to the work of Truffaut, and they're not far off base.
But returning to the subject of high profile thespians, Montreal has seldom been about stars. It's about the love of film in all its incarnations and genres. Montrealites start lining up at 9 am in the morning for such unknown entities as Alan White's "Erskineville Kings "(Australia), Hampton Fancher's upcoming Shooting Gallery release "The Minus Man" (United States), which tied for the Special Jury Prize with Giuseppe Piccioni's "Not Of This World" (Italy). And with over 400 hundred selections from such countries as China, Albania, Brazil, Bulgaria, Honduras, Colombia, Switzerland, and Romania, there's a whole lot of unknowns to gamble your time on.
Additionally, there are the free late night street screenings that attract thousands of cinephiles. "West Beirut" and "The Red Violin" were just two of this year's well-received offerings. By comparison, the New York Film Festival is an elite gathering where just a few can attend while Montreal is a populist affair that the whole town can celebrate and does.
Back inside the cinemas, folks were rewarded with such accomplished fare as the latest Jane Austen adaptation, the superb "Mansfield Park" directed by Patricia Rozema. (Will anyone ever release her "The White Room"?) Rozema now, by the way, has an ongoing contract with Miramax.
Also acclaimed was Grand Prize winner Majid Majidi's "The Colour of Paradise," an Iranian crowd-pleaser which focuses on a blind boy and the father who wants to get rid of him. It's the second time Majidi has won the top prize here -- "The Children of Heaven" won two years ago. This one garnered applause at every screening. The film played here under the name "The Color of God," but God will be making an exit by the time it's released.
Other films of note were Eric Styles' intriguing "Dreaming of Joseph Lees" (United Kingdom) which stars Rupert Graves and an unforgettable Samantha Morton. While hot for her one-legged educated cousin (Graves), a country girl (Morton) settles for a crude admirer who'd rather kill himself than ever lose her. What's a gal to do when her beloved relative unexpectedly returns her affections?
Then Rohmer met "Last Tango in Paris" in Catherine Breillat's breathtaking "Romance," to be released soon in the U.S. by Trimark Pictures. It's so nice to see actors doing on the screen what we've heard they've been doing all along on the casting couch. This at times languorous but always intellectually stimulating effort graphically depicts fellatio and copulation to tell the story of a young woman in love with a male model who refuses to satisfy her. Considering what we see of her tepid oral maneuverings, we certainly know one reason why.
Among the American slate were Andrew J. Kuehn's "Get Bruce!," that ha! ha! documentary on gay laugh-meister Bruce Vilanch; Mark Illsley's "Happy, Texas," Miramax's joyously goofy answer to "In and Out"; and Christopher Livingston's "Hit and Runway" which forces a gay Woody Allen-esque screenwriter onto a macho Italian stud who needs his writing services. Is it love at first flight? The duo has to pen script by Monday for America's Number One action hero if they are going to achieve any lifetime success. Co-writer Jaffe Cohen, who is best known as a member of the Funny Gay Males, has supplied lots of laugh-out lines for this comic romp that just might do some business.
Montreal was also chock full of those features you can you never forget, whatever their merit. Jacques Holender's "Rats "(Canada) included actual footage of rodents devouring each other. What else would you expect in a feature about a down-and-out documentarian? Jonathan Sagall's beautifully acted "Urban Feel" (Israel) might just be the first film to include footage of kosher cunnilingus. It's hero-of-note is a bisexual, alcoholic Buddhist. Hunt Hoe's "Seducing Maarya" explores the life of Asian Indians in Canada. It's heroine, the beautiful Maarya, weds a gay alternative musician, beds his father, and then commits incest with her visiting brother. No extra curry needed here. And best of all, the Best Director prize-winning "Post Mortem" (Canada) has a mortuary worker rape a beautiful dead thief and accidentally bring her back to life. Now he wants to wed her. Finally a technique of resuscitation that "Baywatch" hasn't even tried . . .yet.