Jarmusch and Jensen Pictures Acquired, Innaritu Talks "21 Grams" and More From Toronto
by Eugene Hernandez, Wendy Mitchell, and Brian Brooks
United Artists chief Bingham Ray had something to celebrate on Tuesday night at his annual "darts party" at the Madison Ave. Pub here in Toronto. Earlier in the day the exec announced a deal for Jim Jarmusch's latest film, "Coffee & Cigarettes." The pact was sealed here at the Toronto International Film Festival where the movie debuted earlier this week. A collection of short vignettes, the film includes performances by Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Cate Blanchett, Meg White, Jack White, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, and Bill Murray.
"Jim and I have worked together before and have been friends for a very long time," offered Ray, in a statement on Tuesday. "He's a wonderful, innovative filmmaker, and I'm pleased to get the opportunity to work with him again on a film as exciting and interesting as 'Coffee & Cigarettes.'" Ray, who handled Jarmusch's "Year of the Horse," seemed thrilled during a conversation with indieWIRE later in the day. He said he first caught the black & white movie at Venice this year. Ray has been on the fest circuit for nearly two weeks, traveling to Venice from Telluride and now to Toronto.
Newmarket Nabs "Butchers"
The anticipated deal for Anders Thomas Jensen's dark comedy "The Green Butchers," mentioned Tuesday in indieWIRE, was announced later that day with a Newmarket Films announcement of the pact by company president Bob Berney. Newmarket nabbed U.S. rights to the picture and will unveil the movie in the States in November at the AFI Fest in Los Angeles.
"We love working with the Danes," said Berney in a prepared statement. "We are happy to be continuing our successful relationship with them on this wicked new comedy 'The Green Butchers,' which brings together some of the most innovative and talented filmmakers and actors in Europe." Jensen wrote such Danish films as "Open Hearts," "The King is Alive," and "Mifune."
Talking About Euro Cinema
An overflow crowd packed a press conference Monday afternoon for the annual European Directors Panel sponsored by European Film Promotion. Toronto International Film Festival head Piers Handling personally introduced the panel, which was to discuss the topic, "Cinema in the 'new' Europe: does European filmmaking have renewed creative edge and sense of purpose?" Former Rotterdam Film Festival head Simon Field began querying directors on whether they identified themselves as "European" directors or whether they likened themselves to their respective nationalities. The discussion then turned to the continued dominance of "non-European" films. Finally, British director Peter Webber ("Girl with a Pearl Earring") vocalized what was already on everyone's mind and said to call 'it' what it really is, "American film dominance."
Most of the conference then turned once again to the issue of U.S. films and their continued domination in the world's theaters. Webber asked, "Is it our fault people want to see American movies?" But then someone in the audience shouted out that money and marketing was the secret to America's success in film. Icelandic director Dagur Kari ("Noi Albinoi") offered his take on the discussion of American cash, quoting a lesson from his days in film school. His instructor said that film should always have "a point of no return." In American film, he said, it's when the airplane hits the mountain. In Polish film, it's when the cup of tea spills off the table. After the audience and panel members laughed, Kari offered his solution to Europe's inability to match America's financial prowess simply saying, "We should do something different."
Getting Heavy With "21 Grams"
Fresh from a critically acclaimed premiere in Venice, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu was on hand in Toronto for the hotly anticipated showing of his sophomore film, "21 Grams." The movie, opening in November from Focus Features, showcases astounding performances from Sean Penn, Naomi Watts, and Benicio Del Toro, who play three strangers unexpectedly brought together following a tragic car crash.
Innarritu told indieWIRE that the reaction to the film so far has been "amazing." The film was several years in the making, as Inarritu went through dozens of drafts with screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. Ultimately, the director told indieWIRE that "21 Grams" is "about loss and about hope, how we can find hope after such great losses, how we can survive that. And it's also a love story. I discovered it was a love story while we were shooting, just watching Naomi and Sean."
It marks his first English-language film, after his lauded Spanish-language debut "Amores Perros." The new film was a bigger project for him, but he said that working with a larger budget wasn't a problem. "One rule of cinema is that no matter how much money you have, it's never enough," he told indieWIRE. "Even though this film cost 10 times more than 'Amores Perros,' it was exactly the same problem, it's never enough." The film was mostly shot in Memphis, which Inarritu said surprisingly reminded him of his old home of Mexico City. "There is some texture about it that reminds me of Mexico City. There's soul." "21 Grams" has already spurred Oscar talk, although the director says his challenging work might not be the kind of film that's Academy-friendly. We'll have to wait and see...
Mad about Maddin
One film that seems to have been universally embraced here in Toronto is the latest movie by Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin titled "The Saddest Music in the World." At parties this week, film buyers have been buzzing about the mostly black & white picture which was made in the style of a musical melodrama. In the depression-era story, starring Isabella Rossellini, the actress portrays a "beer baroness" who launches a worldwide competition to find the saddest music in the world, offering a $25,000 prize. The movie was adapted by Maddin and George Toles from an original screenplay by Kazuo Ishiguro. Festival organizers have announced a fourth screening of the film for Thursday morning here in Toronto.