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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brian De Palma was a surprise guest Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival's Talent Lab, which took place September 9-12. According to Catbird Productions' Twitter page, De Palma, actress Tilda Swinton, and director Scott Hicks all showed up on the last day of the lab, which offers development opportunities to up-and-coming Canadian filmmakers. De Palma has participated in the event a number of times over the years.

According to the Globe And Mail's Johanna Schneller, De Palma liked Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank (pictured above), which won the Jury Prize at Cannes earlier this year. The film stars Katie Jarvis, who had never acted before this, as a foul-mouthed 15-year-old who dances with headphones on and has a crush on her mom's boyfriend. The newcomer is said to have been approached by the casting director on a railway station platform. The trailer can be viewed here.

Meanwhile, the Globe And Mail's Rick Groen reports that Gaspar Noé was excited to hear that De Palma was at the Toronto press screening for his latest film, Enter The Void, which features, we hear, the most extreme use of subjective point-of-view camerawork possible, moving from death to womb. Noé and De Palma shared an interesting link in 2002, when each of the films they released that year (Noé's Irreversible, De Palma's Femme Fatale), which were both made in France, featured Jo Prestia as a menacing rapist (although in De Palma's film, Prestia's character is no less than a tool used by the femme fatale to provoke Antonio Banderas' Nicolas into a rage). Here is what Groen posted on Saturday:

"Did you see Brian De Palma in the audience for my film?" The question bubbles up in a boyishly excited rush, which both charms and surprises me. That's because the questioner is French director Gaspar Noé, the last guy you'd expect to give a tinker's damn about the audience or anybody in it. His approach to filmmaking, in Irreversible and now again in Enter the Void, is, well, combative, assaulting us with triple-barrelled bursts of brutal imagery and fractured time-frames and kaleidoscopic effects. All sighted through his talented eye, the result is riveting to some and revolting to others. People get mesmerized by his movies, people walk out of his movies, and Noé has always seemed delighted with either reaction. Clearly, though, this is an exception: He wants Brian De Palma to have been there, and he really wants Brian De Palma to have stayed.

So Noé continues in the same bubbly rush: "Someone told me he was in the audience yesterday. At the press and industry screening. So I rushed over and looked at the seats but I couldn't see him." A pause, then he repeats: "Did you see Brian De Palma in the audience for my film?"

Okay, I was there, the theatre was maybe half-filled, and, since poor Noé seems on the cusp of imploring, I'd love to give him the right answer. But. "Um, sorry, I did not see Brian De Palma in the audience. But I was looking up, not around, and I've heard that De Palma, even when he doesn't have a film at the fest, has a history of coming to Toronto anyway just to watch lots of movies, so, you know, maybe he was there."

Noé, who spent several years raising the money for Enter the Void and two more years shooting and editing it and who doesn't yet have a North American distributor for his prodigious labour of love, tries to take heart from that "maybe." And who can blame him?

The Film Farm, which announced yesterday that De Palma's Tabloid is currently on the company's production slate, produced Atom Egoyan's Chloe, which had its premiere in Toronto Sunday. The film is a "reinvention" of Anne Fontaine' Nathalie..., with an all new screenplay by Erin Cressida Wilson (Secretary, Fur), that is said to have more Hitchcockian overtones than the original film. Amanda Seyfried, who also stars in Jennifer's Body, is said to give a breakout performance in Chloe. She and De Palma were spotted by The Star's Rob & Rita at a Toronto party the other day.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Stephen Rea spotted De Palma "walking from one screening to another, and then later out in Yorkville, sitting on a rock in a pocket park in his trademark safari jacket, adjusting his iPod." Rea added that "De Palma is one of the fest's annual fixtures." The opening of Rea's post offers an interesting contrast of viewpoints:

Never mind health care, here's the real difference between the United States and Canada: Driving into the country from the States side of Niagara Falls, you pull up to the customs officer's booth; he asks you the purpose of your visit, and when you say you're covering the Toronto Film Festival, his next question is, "What's your favorite movie?" And then he tells you his (Raiders of the Lost Ark), and then he wants to know what's up with James Cameron's Avatar because he'd heard that it's going to revolutionize the moviegoing experience.

And then: What are you looking forward to seeing in Toronto? Are there going to be a lot of stars?

Somehow I can't picture the Homeland Security dude on my return through New York asking me if the new Pedro Almodóvar is as good as All About My Mother.

And finally, Bill Chambers of Film Freak Central tweeted yesterday, "I think I just pissed off Brian DePalma." After someone asked him for more details, Chambers wrote, "It might be too abstract to sum up in a tweet. I should add that my DePalma encounters are always fantastically unpleasant."

Posted by Geoff at 6:11 PM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, September 15, 2009 6:20 PM CDT
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