Steenburgens movie is another superb work from Sayles. Its about American women who travel to South American to adopt babies from poor families and the red tape they face as well as the friendships they establish with each other. The film is gloriously acted by Steenburgen, Lili Taylor, Daryl Hannah, Marcia Gay Harden, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Rita Moreno, Susan Lynch, and others. The movie makes powerful statements about the politics of international adoptions and the glaring differences between cultures. Steenburgen told me Sayles is remarkable for his ability to understand bonds between people of different means and to explore the myriad questions about foreign adoptions. She was enthralled by the idea of seeing a film where you would have a woman staying in a hotel and then have the woman who cleans her room. And they dont speak the same language, but they are speaking the language of the heart. That was the theme in the movie that was the most dominant for me, this thing of the haves and have nots of the world. And how do we travel between our places in life? And is it right to take someone from one culture to another, and is it right to leave someone not to be loved and not take someone from their home? Commenting on the fluid camera and dreamlike feel of the haunting Elephant, Van Sant said: films are like dreams. I think that when you consider what dreams are supposed to do, or at least what I think theyre supposed to do emotionally; usually if youre having a really good period of your life and everything is going well, your dreams might be very very dark and very troubling. If youre going through a very very dark period in your life and things are difficult; people that are going through really horrific things, like prisoners, theyll very very beautiful dreams. Dreams are seemingly meant to counteract or prepare you for emotional changes. So that if everything is going well, at least emotionally youre grounded in a world that actually is unsettling, so that when the unsettling things happens, emotionally you can handle it, and you can say its like a dream. Which just means its not like my life. Its more like what my dreams do. In films we tend to use them as other realities.
The chance to see movies like Easy and The Station Agent is a reason festivals are so terrific. That sound you hear in Easy is the sound of silence. Good silence. This is the first feature film from screenwriter-director Jane Weinstock and she knows exactly when to have her characters be quiet for a few seconds. To think, rather than act solely on impulse. This is a very funny romantic comedy that understands adults and adult behavior. Easy features a starmaking performance from Marguerite Moreau as a young woman torn between love and the idea of love. Relationships are not what theyre cracked up to be, and she knows it. For some reason, she attracts oddballs, and she needs to understand why. Does love have a future or is it just going to be sex, or maybe even celibacy? Weinstock has a real understanding of the dynamics of human connection. The nicely acted movie never cloys. In fact, it offers up a few sweet and thoroughly believable surprises. The Station Agent is a fascinating tale about a dwarf who is obsessed with trains. He inherits an abandoned railway station and his life changes in the most amazing ways. Screenwriter-director Tom McCarthy has made a first feature that is sheer bliss.
Of course, festivals are also about gossip. You really can walk through the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel and trip over celebrities. Most of them eschew attitude, but just in case youre thinking its all fun and games, heres the skinny on one movie stars behavior. The Toronto Globe And Mail reported about Diva behavior from recent Oscar winner Nicole Kidman. Seems that reporters at the one-hour question-and-answer session with The Human Stain star were advised to maintain a discreet distance from Kidman. To ensure that no one got too close and infringed on the Australian actresss personal space, all reporters had to turn on their tape recorders (which were granted a place on the desk in front of her) 15 seconds before she entered the room. They were also advised that they could not shut their tape recorders off - or, God forbid, leave their seats - until the ex-Mrs. Cruise was safely out of the room.
Kidman co-stars with Anthony Hopkins in The Human Stain, which is based on Philip Roths novel about a recently widowed Massachusetts college professor with a secret that has everything to do with who he really is. Both play troubled people who come together for sex and companionship. Director Robert Bentons outstanding, well-acted, wonderfully written movie works well on a number of levels, although I had a little trouble buying Kidman as a gum-cracking, salt-of-the-earth type. Hopkinsperformance is flawless. Theres a breakthrough performance from Wentworth Miller as Hopkins character as a young man. Anna Deavere Smith, Ed Harris, Gary Sinise, and Jacinda Barrett are also onboard. Nudity ruled the roost in a lot of movies at TO, and critics were hard-pressed not to have seen something with sex, sex, and more sex. The good news is that the ones I saw were worth the time.
Director Jane Campion (The Piano) unreeled her In The Cut, a gritty and very engrossing thriller about a serial killer on the lower east of Manhattan. The movie divided fans and critics alike, but this is an atmospheric film that isnt supposed to make you comfortable. Loneliness and lust, murder and malevolence are not family fare. Meg Ryan is a teacher who falls hard for, and has rough sex with, a NYC detective played by Mark Ruffalo. Both Ryan and Ruffalo bare all, and when I say all, I mean everything. For some, that might be reason alone to see the movie. I liked it for more than that. Its unsettling, and thats a good thing. Young Adam features Ewan McGregor, no stranger to nudity. Its a Scottish film about an unusual subject. A family runs a boat up and down the watery back channels of Scotland, delivering coal and other goods along the way. McGregor starts having sex with the wife (Tilda Swinton) of the boat owner and bad things start to happen. This is a fascinating movie about loyalty and responsibility and lack of guilt. Theres a murder and a mystery and it plays out perfectly. Twentynine Palms is from French director Bruno Dumont (LHumanite). A Los Angeles couple (the guys carefree; the girls got serious issues) head for the desert and spend most of their time working on their relationship and sexual technique. At the end of the poetic and alluring movie, something devastating happens. Dumont expertly captures the mellow California lifestyle and then jolts you. He leaves you thinking about punishment and retribution.
All in all a good festival. Next years event begins September 9th. Toronto 2003
By Michael Calleri ALT Movie Editor
Well, youve got to hand it to Buffalos Vincent Gallo; he sure has a handle on how to draw attention to himself. Gallos personal melodrama, The Brown Bunny, was a hot ticket at this years Toronto International Film Festival (the 28th annual). Already excoriated as one of the worst movies ever made based on its blisteringly negative reception at this years Cannes Film Festival, Gallos self-directed and self-acted road movie created a buzz that was badly needed at Toronto. There may have been nearly 300 movies being shown, but few generated much heat. Granted, there were a lot of good films to see and discuss amongst the tens of thousands of media members, industry personnel, and movie lovers, but not too many features were the talk of the town. Gallos effort, with its endless scenes of cross-country driving and the film-ending fellatio (supposedly not simulated) between his character and a woman played by Chloe Sevigny, was all that and more.