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September 14, 2000 2:00 AM
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TORONTO 2000: Redeeming Tykwer, Other Euro Directors Stake North American Claim

TORONTO 2000: Redeeming Tykwer, Other Euro Directors Stake North American Claim

by Anthony Kaufman




(indieWIRE/ 9.14.00) -- Tom Tykwer landed in Toronto on Tuesday with little time to spare before he was to introduce his latest film, "The Princess and the Warrior." Just 20 hours before, Tykwer rapped production on "Heaven," his
Miramax-produced new feature, but you wouldn't have guessed it, judging
from the filmmaker's energy. He and star-girlfriend Franka Potente (The
Princess, if you hadn't guessed) were whisked off the plane, sped to
their hotel and joyfully presented their film to a hundreds of viewers
eager to re-experience the thrills of Tykwer's "Run, Lola, Run."


It was "Run, Tom, Run," the film's publicist joked before a
post-screening private dinner at Bistro 990. Soon, Tykwer, Potente,
co-star Benno Furmann, Sony Classics co-president Michael Barker, and X-Film Creative Pool producer Stefan Arndt arrived at the restaurant and took turns shaking hands and embracing each other with celebratory
smiles.


Just a week ago in Venice, the meeting may have not gone so smoothly, as
the world premiere of "The Princess and The Warrior" was received with
far less than raves. indieWIRE's own review went: "Tykwer's comedown
film unravels in frustrating fits and starts. It's 'Wait, Lola, Wait'
with narcoleptic prog-rock overtones -- Zabriskie Pointless for sucker
romantics."


But here in Toronto, some critics remain faithful to Tykwer's cause.
Though many naysayers -- probably the same bunch who found "Run, Lola,
Run" shallow or MTV-ish -- still exist, others contend that Tykwer
remains one of Europe's foremost visual stylists. Calling the film
"Wait, Lola, Wait" -- while admittedly a witty jibe -- is an unfair
label to place upon a movie that was not out to replicate "Run Lola
Run," but moreso to develop on that film's cinematic flourishes,
thumping suspense, and fate-filled themes.


"All I can try to do is make interesting, entertaining movies," an
exuberant Tykwer said, responding to the notion that people are
expecting "Run Lola Run 2." "I don't know whether this is less
interesting or less entertaining than 'Lola,'" he continued of "The
Princess," "but I personally don't feel that, at all. I never want to
see the same movie again. Especially I don't want to make it. I want to
explore things. I feel like it's extremely connected to 'Lola' in terms
of the spirit and soul and the actress," he said laughing, gesturing
towards Potente. "Everyone who loves movies loves the difference of
movies," he added, "and the potential to see something very different.
And that's what I tried to do -- not to repeat myself."


Fortunately for Tykwer (and distributor Sony Pictures Classics), North
American audiences may be more receptive to Tykwer's star-crossed,
techno-pulsing worlds than those in Europe. It's hard to tell, of
course; we'll see when the film gets released. But what sort of
Euro-fare does work in the North American market? Well, there's really
only one to find out and it's here at the Toronto Film Festival, also
known as "the gateway to the North American community," where filmmakers
from all over the world try to break on through to this side of the
Atlantic.


"It's the most important market in the world," noted Spanish director
Laura Mana at the third annual European Directors panel, where 10 of the
festival's notable premiering European directors gathered to discuss
problems of globalization, co-productions, and how to tell personal
stories in a money-driven marketplace. "Opposed to the Hollywood
steamroller that comes to Toronto each year, it's very important that we
celebrate European directors," noted Festival Director Piers Handling,
as the panel got underway.


But it was German Romuald Karmaker, whose feature "Manila" won the Best Film Prize at Locarno, who cut the whole session down to size: "Why do
we need a panel to get interest in our films. Why do we have to get 10
European directors together to get reactions in the local papers if
American or Canadian filmmakers go to Europe and everyone's after them.
Why's that?"


Dominik Moll, the French director whose Cannes hit "Harry, He is Here to
Help
" will be released by Miramax in January, noted the inherent
problems in the terms of discussion: "Hollywood verses European," he
said, "is a bit of an artificial separation. It also gives the
impression that European films are necessarily personal or arthouse
films, which is not true. You have very commercial French films that are
awful and some commercial French films that are very as good, and it's
the same from the U.S."


Directors from smaller countries on the panel, like Belgium's Pierre
Paul-Renders
(with his clever cyber-story "Thomas in Love"), Iceland's
Baltasar Kormakur (with his praised comic debut "101 Rekjavik"), and
Austria's Florian Flicker (with his 3-character heist flick and Locarno
winner "Holdup") all told of the necessity of international partners to
get their movies made. Said Kormakur, "I come from a country of 275,000
people, so I can't make a movie only for this market." Romuald Karmaker
offered Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami as an example, "What is he
without France?" he asked his fellow panelists.


Also on the panel was Norway's Hans Petter Moland whose "Aberdeen"
continues its trail of positive buzz from Karlovy Vary and Telluride to
Toronto. For a film that stars Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling and
Ian Hart, filmed in London, and co-produced, it was a surprise to hear
the Scandinavian lament the "danger of globalization" where cinematic
variety is swallowed by global market considerations.


"Scarlet Diva" director and quite the young diva herself, Asia Argento,
daughter of the great Italian horror director Dario Argento, spiced up
the panel with her tale of shooting Italy's first digitally shot
feature. Shooting with a Digi-Beta Sony 790, Argento was able to steal
exterior shots from all over the world and integrate them into her film.
Argento praised the format and offered a glimpse into what her next DV
project has in store: "It's a porno film, which is wonderful for me,
because in Italy," she continued, "it's the only way to go against the
mainstream -- these boring comedies and these horrible neo-realistic
films -- so I think I'm going to make a porno." Argento clarified: "But
I won't be acting in it."


Another European director in Toronto using digital technologies is
Britian's Bernard Rose, director of the Hi-Defition Digital Film
"ivansxtc. (To Live and Die in Hollywood)." Before his screening, Rose
called "35 mm film chained to the institutions." "You have to get
permission," he said, "for the film, for the script, for the cast." For
DV, he continued, "you don't have to ask permission. All you need is
some good credit cards and a pair of running shoes." While Rose's words
got a laugh, his film got few. And except for the movie's opening images
of Los Angeles, the digital image, projected digitally, was a far cry
from the lush details of celluloid. The movie needs a 35 mm blow-up and
a rewrite.


Films from Europe that have fared better with Toronto audiences include
Tony Gatlif's "Vengo," Sophie Fillieres's "Aie" ("Ouch") and Francois Ozon's latest "Sous le Sable" (Under the Sand), which divided critics, yet remained an impassioned favorite for a select few. One notable
absence from Toronto's Euro-slate is Cannes winner, "Dancer in the
Dark
." A quick stop at its U.S. distributor Fine Line revealed the
answer: if a film opens the New York Film Festival, which "Dancer" will
next week, inter-festival politics say it can't play in Toronto.

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