Sunday, September 09, 2007

TIFF07, Day 3

Saturday, September 8 Weird not getting up, getting coffee, and going straight to the Varsity or Cumberland for an 8:30am first screening of the day, but I have back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back interviews from 10:30 to 5pm or so, so no movies for me, just movie stars. First up, Juliette Binoche, talking about Disengagement and Le Voyage du Ballon Rouge, and about the other 20 movies she seems to have made in the last year. Well, a few less than that, but impressive number, including new Eric Zonca(The Dreamlife of Angels guy) and the Steve Carell/Peter Hedges studio filck, Dan In Real Life.

From the Sutton Place Hotel to the Four Seasons, where, on the sidewalk, a crowd of celeb-gawkers stand well-behaved behind barricades, hoping to spot stars (Clooney! Pitt! Affleck! Charlize!) as they de-limo into the lobby. The lesser-known Affleck, Casey, is first up: he’s Robert Ford, the assassin, in Andrew Dominick’s Days of Heaven-ish The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Brad Pitt is the legendary outlaw, and it’s a slow-moving, poetic, beautifully shot affair. Affleck is easygoing, smart, and the conversation is OK, considering he’s been at this for days, and that the army of studio publicists managing print and TV media for three pictures (Assassination, The Brave One and Michael Clayton), come and go, speaking into their walkies, thumbing their Blackberries. Two whole floors of press junket ridiculousness.

Time for quick lunch, then back to the same hotel where I ride up in the elevator with tall, chiseled-mug French actor Vincent Cassel, recently the villain in a couple of Hollywood thrillers, and here for David Cronenberg’s super, bloody, Russian mobsters in London pic, Eastern Promises. The doors open onto a floor of Warner Bros. flackery, with Ben Affleck standing idly in the hall (waiting for his brother, I guess). (Ben’s Mrs., Jennifer Garner, is in town too, with the much-buzzed teen pregnancy comedy comedy, Juno) Tilda Swinton, who plays a coldblooded coporate lawyer in Tony Gilroy’s jaw-droppingly good Michael Clayton, welcomes me into her suite, drolly saying adieu to her little coterie of bright-eyed, brainy-looking pals – a troop of fellow Brits dressed in chic hippie garb, a kind of Incredible String Band-look, by way of Fashion Week. Swinton, tall and regal, is dauntingly smart, articulate, amusing. I ask her if she could tell that Michael Clayton was something special as she was doing it. She could, and she cites a few others where she had a similar feeling (Orlando, The Deep End). She happily announces that she’s skipping out on Film Festival business tonight to catch Bjork, in concert on some nearby Lake Ontario island.

Next: Sean Penn, kicked back at the Park Hyatt, sporting sharp black shoes, a sharp black suit, open-collared white shirt, a muss of hair, a pencil mustache – and an air of satisfaction (but not smugness) at having produced a pretty great movie: Into the Wild, Penn’s scripted and directed adaptation of the Jon Krakauer non-fiction bestseller. Emile Hirsch stars as Chris McCandless, the college kid who quits town, cuts himself off from family and friends, and hoboes it across America, ending up alone, living in an abandoned school bus in the Alaskan outback. It’s an epic road movie, an odyssey of self-discovery and spiritual and earthly musings, and it’s heartbreaking, beautiful and full of rich performances (Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, Kristen Stewart). I ask Penn, who’s made three smaller pics since he took up directing in the early 90s, if he showed Into the Wild to directors he knows, and has worked with, to get feedback as he was editing. He had: here’s his list of mentors and pals: Francis Ford Coppola, George Lucas, Paul Thomas Anderson, Clint Eastwood.

Then it’s downstairs and upstairs to another floor for a talk with Hirsch, who Penn discovered in the L.A. skateboarding thing Lords of Dogtown, and who is friendly and funny and chomping on granola bars as he discusses losing 40 pounds over the course of the project, kayaking river rapids, and clambering up big hills with 80-something Holbrook and throwing up from the hike and the heights of it – not Holbrook throwing up, he was fine. Hirsch did the vomiting. The 22-year-old California kid segued from Penn’s old-school Into the Wild to the Wachowski Brothers new-fangled Speed Racer, which Hirsch says is “all green screen” – just him and a car and a Christina Ricci and a few other folks walking around a Berlin studio, with super-cool digital landscapes to be filled in later. Total contrast is style and substance and movie-making philosophy. Hirsch couldn’t be happier.

Finally get to see a movie: Takeski “Beat" Kitano’s Glory to the Filmmaker,a totally goofy meditation on moviemaking and movie genres by the deadpan Japanese director/star. Spoofing his own work in gangster pics, and his countrymen’s fondness for sappy love stories and Ninja action pieces, Kitano wanders from genre spoof to genre spoof accompanied by a life-size papier-mache likeness of himself. By the time this strange and funny thing is over, there have been totally surreal space movie sequences, pop-eyed animation, rock and rollers with huge prosthetic phalluses, cosmic explosions, Japanese Jerry Lewis-like slapstick, and a girl and her mother journeying through time, space and a Sumo wrestling restaurant brawl in the company of goose and giraffe hand-puppets.

Lets call it a night.


Anonymous Claude said...

Juliette Binoche's name is familair (and yummy) but I can't quite picture her.
What might I have seen her in? I keep thinking she played Gueneviere in some swords and sorcery film. Is that right?

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Dondy said...

Sean Penn's Into the Wild sounds a good deal like Werner Herzog's film about the guy who went to live with bears. What is it about this subject that seems to intrigue directors.
Have you liked any of Penn's previous directroial efforts?

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Ed said...

Wait, are you saying Jerry Lewis wears a prosthetic phallus?
Didn't he once play an Asian? But I don't remember any snake trousers. Is that the Canadian version?

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Hal said...

Are you American? Because your thumbnail picture sure looks British (although probably not the kind Tilda Swinton would hang out with).
Speaking of Tilda Swinton, how much did her parents hate her to give her that name? Or were they both vicars? Unless if course you are the child of vicars in which case that question would be in bad taste and I take it back.

11:06 AM  
Anonymous Macca said...

Hmm, Tilda Swinton. Was she the inspiration for that Beatles song, "Tilda Was You"?

3:42 PM  
Blogger Steven Rea said...

Claude: Juliette Binoche was in The English Patient, in Kieslowski's Blue, in Cache, in Chocolat.... tons o' stuff.

Dandy: Yes, there are similarities between Into the Wild and Grizzly Man -- survival in the wilderness stories, where man (or woman) is alone with Nature and their own thoughts. I've liked all of Penn's films, but this one is by far his most ambitious and successful.

Hal: I'm a British child of vicars, so I'm deeply offended. And my cat's name is Tilda.

Macca: Yes.

8:41 AM  

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