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Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady Klady@moviecitynews.com

Confessions of a Film Festival Junkie: Toronto 2011 – Day II

Toronto is huger than it’s ever been before.

And naturally that’s bound to create a few glitches. On opening day I trotted down to the Bell Lightbox to pick up my press credentials and was informed that the press office wasn’t handling that duty. I’d have to go to the Park Hyatt just a block down the street.

Of course when I got there the first person I encountered told me to go right back to the Lightbox. Fortunately someone more in the groove stopped her, said that I was in the right place and pointed me in the specific direction of the credentials desk.

In a curious sort of way the current Toronto International Film Festival runs a lot like it did in its nascent years. Back in the early day the organization was feeling its way and didn’t have the resources or manpower to solve myriad problems both minor and significant. But the staff was relentlessly polite and strove to solve whatever dilemmas cropped up.

Today, the event couldn’t possibly employee the number of volunteers and temp staff to accommodate the hordes that descend upon the Ontario metropolis for TIFF. They’re still consistently polite, perhaps even more polite, and once one finds the appropriate person (and that can be daunting) I’ve discovered that mountains are reduced to manholes.

Historically the festival has an almost unerring capacity for choosing the wrong opening night picture. This year was no exception with its selection of the U2 profile From the Sky Down. More rumination than concert film, it focuses on the group’s preparation for the 2011 Glastonbury festival, one of England’s most beloved musical events. They decide to revisit their seminal album Achtung Baby, recorded 20 years earlier in Berlin.

Frankly I’m hard pressed to explain the incomprehensibility of this film without becoming symbiotically disjointed. Suffice it to say the commentary is banal, the progression erratic and the “so what,” what the heck.

Now I do understand the p.r. value of having one of the most venerable and popular rock and roll acts as part of the opening night festivities even if TIFF patrons aren’t their core audience. But culling through the 300 plus titles on view, I have to say that other movies, particular several in the Gala section, would have provided comparable star power and are more entertaining and unquestionably better made.

It should also be pointed out that (and this isn’t particular to Toronto) there’s a literal cost for the great privilege of getting the opening night slot. Namely you get to pay for the opening night party and that ain’t hay.

Coincidently the very first film I saw this year at the fest – The Love We Make – has a lot of parallels with the curtain raiser. Both are slated for premieres on Showtime, aspire to capture the essence of a musical titan and relate to a bygone event. In the case of The Love We Make it’s (Sir) Paul McCartny and the Concert for New York that occurred about six weeks after the tragedy of 9/11. It’s surfaced as a 10th anniversary special.

Directed by documentary titan Al Maysles, IT works as both a personal and professional profile and has sufficient tension to hold one rapt. It also has some excellent concert footage with the likes of The Who, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, James Taylor and the ex-Beatle. We also get to see Mr. McCartney rehearsing and promoting the event and it all works as a piece.

Also on the plus side was the Toronto fest’s decision to cut out opening night speeches that have droned on for as much as an hour in the past. Instead it created a sponsor’s reel that to be honest wasn’t particular well done but we can hope for better next year. TIFF also runs sponsor blurbs particularly produced for the event in front of regular screenings. Last year I counted as many as seven but so far that’s easily been surpassed by 11 in the current edition that range from Dolby and Christie Projectors to Cadillac as well as two specifically for TIFF including one for an upcoming Grace Kelly exhibition and a nod to the festival’s volunteers that features Atom Egoyan in a pickle. Let me assure you that their charms – even the very best efforts – dissipate after 10 exposures.

I also have to confess that I attended my first reception. It was an accident but I’m not complaining. The event was relatively small and honored the 20th anniversary of Sony Classics chiefs Michael Barker and Tom Bernard. It was cordial and relaxed and I admit to stifling a gasp when the speeches began. Thankfully, they were brief, humorous and gracious with kudos to Sir Howard Stringer and the ever present A. Egoyan. Barker’s reply was just about note perfect.

It’s still early days at TIFF and I can’t really say that I’ve been wowed by a movie yet. There’s been very good stuff like the much ballyhooed The Artist and Drive. Both are first rate, the first a literal silent movie set in the milieu of Hollywood in the 1920s and ‘30s and the latter reminiscent of the intelligent crime thrillers of the ‘70s including The Driver and Thief. Still I found The Artist a bit thin and repetitive and Drive bothered me somewhat by its employ of excessive violence.

Just prior to the fest I did see Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia which would have been close to an unqualified rave; and I guess that counts.

Later, gator …

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Klady

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“Let me try and be as direct as I possibly can with you on this. There was no relationship to repair. I didn’t intend for Harvey to buy and release The Immigrant – I thought it was a terrible idea. And I didn’t think he would want the film, and I didn’t think he would like the film. He bought the film without me knowing! He bought it from the equity people who raised the money for me in the States. And I told them it was a terrible idea, but I had no say over the matter. So they sold it to him without my say-so, and with me thinking it was a terrible idea. I was completely correct, but I couldn’t do anything about it. It was not my preference, it was not my choice, I did not want that to happen, I have no relationship with Harvey. So, it’s not like I repaired some relationship, then he screwed me again, and I’m an idiot for trusting him twice! Like I say, you try to distance yourself as much as possible from the immediate response to a movie. With The Immigrant I had final cut. So he knew he couldn’t make me change it. But he applied all the pressure he could, including shelving the film.”
James Gray

“I’m an unusual producer because I control the destiny of a lot of the films I’ve done. Most of them are in perfect states of restoration and preservation and distribution, and I aim to keep them in distribution. HanWay Films, which is my sales company, has a 500-film catalogue, which is looked after and tended like a garden. I’m still looking after my films in the catalogue and trying to get other people to look after their films, which we represent intellectually, to try to keep them alive. A film has to be run through a projector to be alive, unfortunately, and those electric shadows are few and far between now. It’s very hard to go and see films in a movie house. I was always involved with the sales and marketing of my films, right up from The Shout onwards. I’ve had good periods, but I also had a best period because the film business was in its best period then. You couldn’t make The Last Emperor today. You couldn’t make The Sheltering Sky today. You couldn’t make those films anymore as independent films. There are neither the resources nor the vision within the studios to go to them and say, “I want to make a film about China with no stars in it.”Then, twenty years ago, I thought, “OK, I’m going to sell my own films but I don’t want to make it my own sales company.” I wanted it to be for me but I wanted to make it open for every other producer, so they don’t feel that they make a film but I get the focus. So, it’s a company that is my business and I’m involved with running it in a certain way, but I’m not seen as a competitor with other people that use it. It’s used by lots of different producers apart from me. When I want to use it, however, it’s there for me and I suppose I’m planning to continue making all my films to be sold by HanWay. I don’t have to, but I do because it’s in my building and the marketing’s here, and I can do it like that. Often, it sounds like I’m being easy about things, but it’s much more difficult than it sounds. It’s just that I’ve been at it for a long time and there’s lots of fat and security around my business. I know how to make films, but it’s not easy—it’s become a very exacting life.”
~ Producer Jeremy Thomas