MCN Columnists
Leonard Klady

By Leonard Klady

Confessions Of A Film Festival Junkie – TIFF40

The Toronto International Film Festival evolved as a journey rather than a slog. Back when Clint Eastwood was a star, not an auteur, and Rocky and Star Wars were not yet on the horizon, there was the The Festival of Festivals, concocted by a trio of entrepreneurial hustlers in the city with the not-yet-proud nickname of “Hogtown.” The first event screened a couple of dozen films at the theater at Ontario Place.

I remember meeting Russian filmmaker Larisa Shepitko, showing her film, The Ascent. Clouded over time is what exactly I was doing at this event, a showcase for films that had achieved acclaim at Cannes, Berlin and Venice. It was only a “catch up” fest. I remember a wager with Dusty Cohl (one of the three founding fellows) made at the Cannes festival in 1975 or 1976. I presume I lost but Dusty still picked up the tab on the Carlton Terrace.

The other thing I remember is the incredible embrace extended by the Toronto public. Storefronts along Bloor and Yonge concocted movie-themed displays. The city had been waiting for a movie event that balanced the low- and highbrows.

The next year, the eye of the storm relocated to the Bloor corridor. Bill Marshall (another of the scalawags) opened the doors at Sutton Place and dubbed the hospitality rooms The Hostility Suite. The screening venues in the core are all gone now, as is festival favorite Bistro 990, and the Sutton Place went condo.

I smile when thinking back to early editions; helping a confused and inebriated Julie Walters find her room at the Plaza II, for instance. It was funkier … but most things were in their initial stages and Toronto’s ambition was to grow rather than be only a footnote.

Today, it is an industry with a not-too-shabby home called the Bell Lightbox, scholarly year-round programming, tours, publications. Other than Sundance, no other festival can claim this level of support toward the Seventh Art.

Thursday, it begins in earnest, and the 300-plus feature schedule is daunting. TIFF is definitely not for sissies. Bon cinema.

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“Well, actually, of that whole group that I call the post-60s anti-authority auteurs, a lot of them came from television. Peckinpah’s the only one whose television work represents his feature work. I mean, like the only one. Mark Rydell can direct a really good episode of ‘Gunsmoke’ and Michael Ritchie can direct a really good episode of ‘The Big Valley,’ but they don’t necessarily look like The Candidate. But Peckinpah’s stuff, even the scripts he wrote that he didn’t even direct, have a Peckinpah feel – the way I think there’s a Corbucci West – suggest a Peckinpah West. That even in his random episodes that he wrote for ‘Gunsmoke’ – it’s right there.”
~ Quentin Tarantino

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima