"Lola Runs" to the U.S., Troche Goes Brit, and Bertolucci
by Anthony Kaufman
The Toronto Fest's main press screening theater, the Varsity, is
actually located in a mall multiplex. Six screens to choose from
between 8am to 9pm, with different films starting roughly every 30
minutes and a Starbucks downstairs to boot, it's sometimes easy to
mistake this year's fest with a day out to the mall, with busy shoppers
like Miramax, Paramount Classics and Fine Line rushing to find the best
buys before the week is out.
Yesterday's screenings ran the gambit from delightful buzz-pic
discoveries to critically mixed world premieres from established
directors. The success of German filmmaker, Tom Tykwer's packed
press/industry screening of "Run, Lola, Run" generated the most heat.
In attendance were a slew of distributors, independent agency reps from
William Morris and Endeavor seeking Tykwer's number, and festival heads
like Geoffrey Gilmore from Sundance and Peter Scarlett from San
Francisco. The film is the number one box office draw in Germany, having
grossed $6.1 million in three weeks, according to Screen International.
"Run Lola Run" screened at both Montreal and Venice, with a buzz pitch
finally reaching a breaking point here in Toronto. After the screening,
industry professionals swarmed the film's rep, Lucius Barre, seeking
info on the film and the director's status. Buzz at the screening was
that Miramax would be the winner, and Barre would not confirm the
rumors, but did concede that they would be closing a U.S. distribution
sale in the next couple of days. However, word circulated late last
night that Sony Pictures Classics had picked up the film.
Tykwer, whose last film "Wintersleepers" was received less warmly by
industry and festival heads last year, looks as if he's broken through
the U.S. barrier with "Lola," a fast-paced, extravagantly stylized,
pumping narrative that is structured in three parts a la Kieslowski's
"Blind Chance" where each outcome is different, depending on the choices
Lola makes. Lola must find 100,000 Deutchemarks in 20 minutes to save
her boyfriend from getting killed. With the clock always ticking,
Tykwer plays with time, cinema, and narrative like a frenetic MTV ad
spot. Not all fun and fancy, though -- by the third section, audience
members were noticeably restless.
Toronto's gay community came out in droves for "Go Fish" director Rose
Troche's second feature "Bedrooms and Hallways," a British comic romp
with a cast of eccentric characters and startlingly campy production
design. Managing Director of the festival, Michele Maheux, summed up
the reaction to the film in her intro, "I wanted to sleep with every one
of them by the end of the movie." With roars of laugher and heavy
applause during and after the film, it's definitely a crowd-pleaser.
But as brought up in the Q & A, Troche and her producers at Pandora have
a tough marketing sale -- the film is not exactly a "gay film" and its
conclusion has been construed by some as embracing heterosexuality over
homosexuality. Troche's answer to the problem is one of openness to
both. Still seeking U.S. and Canadian distribution, the film is
lighthearted and fun enough to cross over into both audiences. The
film, with its successful mix of cinematic styles, sympathetic
characters, and smart acting, should also make Troche a hot property.
Italian master, Bernardo Bertolucci and French favorite, Olivier Assayas
("Irma Vep"), screened their pics to mixed reactions. Bertolucci's "The
Siege" (credited in the movie as "Besieged") is about a young African
woman (Thandie Newton) who lives as a maid with an awkward British
pianist (David Thewlis) in an Italian city. Made for Italian
television, Bertolucci dispenses with his usual glossy Vittorio Storaro
cinematography in favor of a small-screen hand-held approach from D.P.
Fabio Cianchetti. Screening in the Masters section the film feels a bit
more like an amateur first-outing with its unsubtle use of slow-motion
and its intimately melodramatic script from Hollywood screenwriter,
Clare Peploe. Post-screening a few distribs and fest heads showed
interest, but a small circle of critics were laughing about the actor's
performances. Still, Bertolucci and Thewlis may be big enough names to
get the film released in the U.S.
Assayas' 7th narrative feature, "Late August, Early September," also
showing at the upcoming New York Film Festival, packed them in at
yesterday's press/industry screening, but couldn't sustain the
audience's interest. With each new subject heading that structured the
film, another round of walk-outs could be seen. Starring French starlet
Virginie Ledoyen ("A Single Girl") and comedic charmer Mathieu Amalric
("My Sex Life or How I Got into an Argument") the film follows a group
of friends through several loves and a single emotionally impacting
death. Although the movie is direct and intimate in its style, it lacks
a traditional dramatic plot. In press notes, Assayas wrote, "This does
not exactly fit in with the idea of immediate dramatic profitability
that seems to be the supreme concern these days, but I think that it may
lead to something more subtle and insidious. . ."
North American studio premieres included October Films' "A Soldier's
Daughter Never Cries" from James Ivory, Bryan Singer's "Apt Pupil"
(Columbia/TriStar) and Fox Searchlight's "Waking Ned Devine."
Also of notice, were three foreign-language pics, "The Lovers of the
Arctic Circle," from Spanish director, Julio Medem, about two lovers
destined for one another since childhood, Philippe Grandieux's somber
"Sombre" about a serial killer; and veteran Serbian auteur Goran
Paskalijevic's "The Powder Keg", of which I overheard one audience
member nudge Geoffrey Gilmore, "So have you made a decision on this one
yet?" Gilmore replied, "Not yet. It won't be for awhile." We'll be