The Toronto International Film Festival

A first-timer's diary

Cannes is accessible in a number of ways, but it plays to the international film community elite. Telluride is film-centric, but it isn't a poor person's event, its offering brilliant, but narrowly curated. Sundance is superimposed on Park City. A week before or a week after, the only film activity is a fourplex showing the latest Hollywood studio releases. If you're a local, not willing to either buy a registration or get up very early, you're not going to see any movies. Those last two American Festivals offer an exciting but limited sampling of international films.

Toronto in the past decade has emerged as one of the top film festivals in the world: industry-friendly, yet also welcoming to local film fans. It offers an astonishing 336 films, well over 200 of which are features. This year, my first, programs included major studio releases with appropriate stars in attendance, the majority of important upcoming American independent fall releases, as well as a broad range of new Canadian films and a Canadian retrospective of silent actress-writer-director Nell Shipman. There was a program of new Brazilian films, international documentaries, and a program of films from Africa complementing the rest of the breathtaking world-cinema selection. Which doesn't mention the Discovery series, the innovative Visions celebration or the Masters tribute to great directors. Now, if you have an expensive sponsor or festival badge, you're getting into an astonishing collection of films. But you can order single tickets in advance, or take your chances on the rush line for last-minute tickets: The odds are best for some of the most talked-about screenings because they're in the biggest theatres. Consequently, along with the film industry and media mobs and the moneyed elite, the place is packed by local folks thrilled to see the range of films offered, the very audience mix that makes for the best kind of viewing experience.

The Toronto International Film Festival is awe-inspiring, well-run, and stocked with enough films to program an arthouse for half a decade. The only downside is that you know you're not going to get to see it all. The greeting here, in at least a dozen or so languages, isn't "hello," it's "What have you seen? What are you seeing next?"

Though this was my first time at the film festival, I had been coming up to Toronto at least once a year for a decade for North by Northeast, run by my friend Michael Hollett. The publisher and editor of NOW Magazine, Toronto's weekly, Michael and I met at the annual conference of newsweeklies years ago with our friendship deepening over the years with our respective families growing close, as well. Since this was my debut TIFF, I spent a lot more time observing than going to films, but next time, and that'll be next year, I'm taking the plunge.

Thursday, Sept. 4, 2003

Marge Baumgarten and I take a cab in from the airport. The press office is at the Delta Chelsea, my hotel, so we go there first. As we pull up, we run into New York Times film critic Elvis Mitchell and industry legend Elliot Roberts, Neil Young's manager. We are planning on seeing Young's performance that night and chat for a couple of minutes joined by Roberts' friend Sally Jo Effenson, who lives here in Austin and works with a number of filmmakers.

I settle into my room and call Ron Mann. He says come over. I go downstairs, grab a taxi, heading over to the Sphinx production offices. Go Further, which had its world premiere at SXSW Film 2003, is a major film event at the festival, and Ron is a much beloved Canadian documentary filmmaker and community leader. The film follows Woody Harrelson's West Coast pro-environment and Earth-friendly lifestyle campus lecture tour traveling with family, friends, co-conspirators, and eventually strangers on a Merry Pranksters-style bus. Harrelson and family have been in Toronto for a month as he is directing a play for a small local company that invited him.

The office is crazed: The Go Further screening and afterparty are so very hot that the phone never stops ringing. Ron is currently working on a documentary on Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, the car guru; his past works include Comic Book Confidential, Twist, and Grass. Go Further, shot on the tour and documenting it, is a departure from his previous more historical works, constructed from interviews, archival footage, and existing materials.

After about an hour, we head out, Ron is a little dazed from all the activity, but he offers me a ride back to the hotel. As we're walking to the parking lot, we pass a stretch limo and a fancy black Hummer parked on the street with drivers and security guys standing around. A guy dashes out of the limo and hugs me. It is Jake Gold, longtime manager of the Tragically Hip (the biggest band in Canada by and far, you have no idea), but last I heard they fired him and he was devastated. Yet he seems in such a great mood, more exuberant than I've seen him in years, and if you know Jake, you know that's a lot of exuberance. It turns out Jake is now a judge on Canadian Idol, one of the biggest TV events in Canada, and a bigger star than ever! If I had come a week earlier, I would have seen billboards all over Toronto featuring Jake's giant face. Ron and Jake also turn out to be old friends: As teenagers, they worked together delivering TVs for Ron's dad's store. For the rest of the stay it seems that whenever I turn on the TV, there's footage of Jake and the other judges at some party or another.

We go to an opening party for the festival. In the world of independent and foreign films, there's less than a couple of dozen major players -- mostly the distributors. Sony Classics' Michael Barker and Tom Bernard, along with Marcie Bloom, are among the most revered -- put simply, they love movies, following their heart as much as their box-office instincts. Two decades back at Orion Classics, they helped pioneer the modern art/independent/foreign market. When Orion folded, they moved to Sony. Michael Barker is not only a UT ex who used to help program the Student Union film series, but also an old running buddy of the Dallas crowd, some of whom helped launch the Chronicle. I've always gotten along well with both Barker and Bernard.

Bernard, however, is an ice hockey enthusiast, which has led him to become ever closer to Hollett, who began skating when he was 4. Michael has invited Bernard to his regular weekly hockey game, as well as some of their more ambitious hockey excursions taken by Michael and his hockey mates. As folks circle Bernard, anxious to talk to him about films, Hollett and he are leaned into each other endlessly rehashing previous games.

Then we are all off to catch Neil Young's concert. I end up sitting alone, in a perfect seat, in the second row side balcony. Having read many of the reviews and heard from friends, I expect nothing from Greendale, his new narrative song cycle. I love it. Almost every criticism I've heard or read makes sense, but none really carries any weight. Its such an exuberant performance, not just Neil and band but everyone involved seems to be having a hell of a time. It's a high school play, a community theatre presentation written by one of their own, presented with relish, This isn't about slick or overly polished, it's about fun. The songs are sometimes dumb or at least obvious, but other times wonderful. Truly a conceptual package, Young & Crazy Horse at the front of the stage, the songs acted out behind them, the cast sometimes mouthing the words as Young sings them. Sitting there with an idiot grin, I'm totally delighted. Young rocks out, the band right with him. After Greendale, Young & Crazy Horse punch out his classics through two encores.

Afterward we go to a backstage bar, hang out for a while, then Young shows. Hollett really wants to meet him, but for the first time since I've known him, he shyly stays back. Laughing, I drag him over. Elliot, delighted to see us, introduces Neil. Young is friendly, smiling, and warm. His wife remembers meeting me in Austin when SXSW showed. I make my dangerous joke: "Neil, you know, whenever I talk about you to Michael, I have to refer to you as Scott Young's son, or he's not sure about who I'm talking about." Neil laughs. Scott was a very famous sportswriter, especially on hockey. Michael is part of a regular Monday pickup game (to which Bernard's been invited) along with a changing roster of players including rockers (the Cowboy Junkies, the Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo) as well as ex-NFL players (when Phil Coffey joins the game, Michael is bitterly disappointed that we have no idea who he is). But you never know how a son feels about dad.

We chat with Neil for a while until he goes off to say hello to other guests. I talk to Elliot, who has great stories; he managed Joni Mitchell for 20 years; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; Tracy Chapman; and now Zwan. We talk about the pleasures of doing your job right and righteously.

Michael and I finally leave, walking off into the night.

Friday, Sept. 5, 2003

The next day, Elvis interviews Young. Even after the warm greeting last night, my expectations are low: We're assuming Young will be diffident and disinterested. Instead he is very funny, articulate, and passionate. The stories are fascinating; he details a lot of thought and emotion that goes into his creative decision-making. Greendale was put in a whole new light as Neil lights up every time he talks about how great it is to go on stage to do 10 new songs in a row on a tour. You read the reviews of the release and the shows. In the day-to-day world of criticism and marketing, much of the negative reaction made sense, seeming thoughtful, but after listening to Young, that response is so mundane and shallow. Listening to him is hearing an artist who is removed from those considerations, his work guided by neither what critics think nor what marketers want. Instead, it is a joyous adventure, an ever-recreated artistic gamble and creative exploration.

Neil Young has become so Neil Young over the years, not just as a legendary rocker but even more so as a resonating icon, a mystical, incense-scented balloon in the great parade of daily cultural meaning. Not Neil Young as a person, a musician, but as a meaning, a symbol.

It's clear he so loves what he does, but to do the same thing just to do it doesn't make sense to him, it has to be challenging, it has to be new, it has to be exciting. He gets up in the morning each day to have the best possible time he can making music. Trans makes sense -- Young loves the idea, the energy, the heart, and the new. He did Greendale differently. Switched people's jobs, rethought the process, he wanted to have fun, to try some new ideas, some unexplored paths. He found Greendale.

In ways in live performance he had become a Neil Young cover band, and now there were these new songs. God, I fell in love with falling in love again, just listening to him helped with a difficult big life decision. His joy in the new showed me the way.

I used to compare NOW to The Village Voice in terms of import and impact, but NOW is really beyond even the Voice, as it is not only Toronto's weekly but the most important and influential weekly in Canada. NOW traditionally throws the opening Friday night party at TIFF. Between film and NOW folk, I know lots of great people at the event. It is a preparty for the screening of Bon Voyage being distributed by Sony Classics.

After the party we head inside to watch the film. In my typically dyslexic way I keep referring to it as Now Voyager. Not a Bette Davis classic but a rich French melodrama, it is set during WWII as France is being invaded and occupied by the Nazis. Coming from a point of view we're not used to, the film is as fascinating politically as dramatically.

Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003

We catch an afternoon show of Gus Van Sant's Elephant, his very thinly disguised take on the Columbine tragedy. Some weeks before, a few of us sat around talking about films where you can't make up your mind as to whether you like them or not, sometimes until the very last shot. The only example I can think of is Dirty Mary Crazy Larry where I sat there unsure how I felt until the last shot when I decided I didn't like it, a decade later I saw it again and decided I did.

In the beginning I'm thinking I don't like the film, that it is an exercise of style over narrative, ideas over characters. Endlessly long tracking shots of kids walking through the halls of their school, occasionally saying a few words to each other or interacting with teachers. Aesthetically it's bugging me, but I find I've grown to really like the leisure of the shoots, the look of the film, the minimal action. They walk through the halls, go to lunch, go to class. Then it really begins to get to me: I like these kids though I don't know much about them, they pleasantly travel through their mundane school day. As the climax approaches, the violence nonchalantly ordinary in its bizarre ripping of the daily fabric rips my heart out. I'm overwhelmed the kids have become so real in a way that more pronounced action or dramatic constructs would not have allowed. At the end I'm a devastated mess.

The evening's big premiere is Mann's Go Further screening. Not only Woody, but also many of the bus-trip participants are there. The screening is packed. This is a very hot film. Appropriately, Ron gives the film a classic Mann spacey introduction, even thanking me. (The film premiered at SXSW.) The audience loves the film, which is so hard to describe. Everything you would think it would be it isn't, instead a genuine celebration of people and ideas and the ongoing fun of just living. The Q&A afterward is a bit outrageous, the bus gang clearly having a great time.

Afterward, Michael and I pick up John Sayles and take him to the afterparty, which, of course, is all fresh organic fruits and vegetables. John is in a great mood and talks to all who come over to say hello. Woody holds court. Over the years, Michael's pal Jim Cuddy, who heads up Blue Rodeo, and I have come to enjoy each other's company, and I finally get to meet his wife, whom I've heard so much about. Cuddy is also a major Canadian rock star. Really. It's strange to watch people off to the side inadvertently pointing at him and whispering to their friends. Michael introduces John to Woody, Daryl Hannah floating in the background, but there's too much crowding around Woody of those wanting to talk to him, so they don't get to spend much time together. Later I take Ron over to meet John. In the more than 16 years I've known John, I've never seen him take a drink or a hit. But he tells Ron how much he loves Grass (which he must, or he wouldn't be saying it). Fascinated by the information, much of which he didn't know (this is amazing as John's depth of knowledge is beyond encyclopedic), he admires the politics and is especially taken with the graphics, having given the art department on his new film the DVD so they can emulate its style. This praise has Ron floating as he really admires John's work.

Sunday, Sept. 7, 2003

Michael H., Marge, and I go see an afternoon screening of Francis Ford Coppola introducing a new, slightly revised print of his One From the Heart, a box-office failure that we all regard as a neglected masterpiece. One From the Heart is a film I've long been passionate about, though I've never seen it on the big screen -- only on video. It is a masterful film; a proletariat romance set against an outrageous baroque background. The film defends Las Vegas more than it attacks it, suggesting that illusion and belief are needed to sustain love. Its class message is that this is true among every economic group, that the very crassness of Las Vegas is not an indication of the corruptness of American culture, but its genius. It is not just the upper class, the educated class, the dreamers who are looking for dreams, but all of us. To begin grading dreams, this one is art and this one is plastic, is inherently corrupt.

At its center it is a simple romantic story. A couple, Frederic Forrest and Teri Garr, quarrel. They each go seek a friend, he Harry Dean Stanton, she Lainie Kazan. Then they each fall for another, in each case an almost too perfect pinup model's representation of the appropriate sex: For Garr, it's Raul Julia and for Forrest, Nastassja Kinski. They live in an ordinary house; they work regular jobs, he in a junkyard, she in a travel agency. But Coppola tells this plebeian story in the most divine terms: A giddy celebration of neon and color, the elaborate artificiality enforces rather than contradicts the story.

Although it might not be readily remembered, early word on the Godfather was that it was a disaster, which apparently the first rough cut really was. By the time the finished cut was screened for critics, however, they were enthusiastic and some even rapturous. The Conversation got mixed reviews and did disappointing business. The Godfather II opened to mixed reviews, including some outright negative ones, though did great box office. Apocalypse Now was one of the most troubled and reported on productions in Hollywood history, with Coppola reportedly still juggling possible endings until just before it was released. Though it also did good business.

One From the Heart was another storied production, with the word being that Coppola was so into new technologies that he was directing from inside a trailer, where he watched monitors. Supposedly this technology would save millions by making the film not only easier to shoot but by significantly cutting down the time needed for postproduction. Then Coppola decided against actually shooting on location and instead built sets in the studio. Nothing worked out right; both shooting and editing went on forever despite an unusual lengthy preproduction. The film opened to vicious reviews: Even longtime Coppola loyalists didn't like it, and only several weeks into release Coppola yanked it from distribution. The financial loss cost him his Zoetrope Studios. I didn't even see the film on the big screen, but with no expectations, rented the video. And watched it again. And again. In a decade, 1972 to 1982, Coppola made five great American films The Godfather, The Conversation, The Godfather: Part II, Apocalypse Now, and One From the Heart. Despite some excellent work after, he's never again matched the genius of those five.

In the Q&A, Coppola claimed that he hadn't done much to the film, just trimming some early on. Marge and I have to look at the old videos, because it seemed to both of us that the trimming went on throughout the new cut. Rewatching a much-loved film is always dangerous; its majesties often fade. I remember first watching Five Easy Pieces again, a decade after it had ripped my skull opened, and being disappointed in how pedestrian it seemed.

One From the Heart is better than ever, not the least because it is so opulent, dripping color and atmosphere that it demands to be seen on the big screen. The romantic story certainly had more resonance.

end story

After the screening I go back to the hotel planning on a nap but call Ron first just to check in. He asks what I'm doing, and when I admit "nothing," he urges me to join him on his way to a late afternoon garden party. Oh well, sure. The house belongs to the guy who owns Roots. Robbie Robertson is there (I've met him before but don't talk to him), Bernard, Barker, and other film people. We stand around talking enjoying some great sushi. After a while Ron and I are thinking of leaving. We're tired, and the evening is before us. Just then Francis Ford Coppola, Ivan Reitman, Fran Drescher, and a stunning blonde walk in. I talk to Coppola (a personal god) telling him how much I loved seeing One From the Heart again and talking about Robert Rodriguez, whom he had brought up during the Q&A. We're interrupted when they bring over a huge tray of sushi, which diverts Coppola's attention. I'm introduced to Reitman, who tells me his son's short played SXSW. Fran Drescher is very interested in Go Further and eager to see it. Ron, she, and I stand there talking, her voice and laugh exactly what you'd expect. The blonde keeps attracting my attention: I'm sure I should know who she is, but I don't. I ask Ron, but he's as dense as I am. A great party, Ron and I head out a bit later.

The next morning, reading the paper, I realize it was Kim Cattrall. Look, we don't have cable, so I just haven't seen her, OK?

end story

The School of Rock, Richard Linklater's newest film, is scheduled as a gala presentation. Only Rick won't be there, as he's in Paris filming a sequel to Before Sunrise. When I mention this to one of the TIFF directors, he seems quite surprised, though Jack Black and much of the rest of the cast are here to present it. The high level of interest has Paramount scheduling several extra screenings of the film for critics held at non-film festival theatres elsewhere in Toronto. Rather than tackle the gala, we decide to attend one of these.

On the cab ride up to the theatre, Marge assures me there won't be many critics there because it is too far away. She proves more than correct when we are among the half-dozen critics seated in the three or four saved but empty rows. There must be some radio or print promotion, as there is a line waiting to get in, and every other seat in the theatre is full. Gradually, the critics' seats are released, the theatre completely full when the film starts.

The screening is a huge success; it is great to see the film with non-industry folks. They love the movie, laughing and clapping. The ending credits are shown over a scene featuring Jack Black, and for one of the few times I can remember, not a soul leaves the theatre until the credits are completely over and the lights come up. The audience offers thunderous applause: What a great dose of rock & roll energy.

At the gala it gets a standing ovation.

Monday, Sept. 8, 2003

I sleep late, watch TV, read the program book, spend a bunch of time on the phone taking care of Austin business. One of the great things about Toronto is the street life: There is an amazing amount of small retail stores, block after block, in a surprisingly clean city where the people are very friendly. Taking the time, I go for a long walk, stopping in a few shops but mostly just soaking in the atmosphere and watching the people.

Michael Hollett and I go off to have lunch together, some spectacular sushi in a place that has already closed after its lunch trade but opens for Michael. He is very much the unofficial mayor of Toronto, well-known and easily recognizable with his long hair and glasses. As is too often with Michael and I, we end up with far more sushi than we can consume, and, sated, we wander off. John Sayles' Casa de los Babys has an afternoon screening that I plan on making, but by the time we get there, I realize there are very long lines in several directions (each line for a specific crowd, those with tickets, those hoping to buy tickets, etc.). Given that I was hoping to buy an extra ticket, there is no chance, and, if memory serves, when I checked with John's office before the event on his Toronto dates, he's already gone back to Colorado where Maggie Renzi and he are in preproduction. Sticking with Michael, we go to NOW's office, where I hang out for a while. Once on a vacation trip, I asked John if he wanted to drop in on the location where Robert Rodriguez and Elizabeth Avéllan were shooting Desperado. "Louis, butchers don't visit butcher shops on vacation," John answered. Here I am visiting a butcher shop. A few years back NOW bought a building, completely renovating the interior. Given the Chronicle's lab rat's nightmare overcrowding, the open, bright, smartly laid out NOW offices bring a tear. They've been an annual destination for so many years, I know a lot of the staff. Regrets are soon swamped by conversations catching up, talking music, film, and politics. After a while, I check in with Michael, who agrees to pick me up before tonight's screening of Company, Robert Altman's new film, I head back to the hotel for a nap.

end story

Hanging out in the green room before the film, Tom Bernard and Michael H. continue an ongoing hockey discussion -- "No one was feeding me the puck, even after I scored, but did you see the way I checked that guy so Jim could grab the puck? Brad's game was so off." Legendary indie lawyer and producer John Sloss is there, who I've known forever. (Twenty years ago, my sister and he were at Morrison and Forester's New York office together). We catch up, though it's always more fun to see John out at Linklater's place just because there are such extraordinary demands on his time at a festival. It is hard for casual chat when invariably there's someone off to the side hoping to get a couple of minutes with Sloss. After a while, Robert Altman and his wife emerge from a back room and head toward the door. Company is a Sony Classics release, Tom introduces Michael to Altman, I don't think they talk hockey, but don't know, as I only catch the tail end, I had gone upstairs to find Marge and pass her a ticket.

Company is a project that Neve Campbell, former dancer and proud Canadian, helped nurture and had nursed along for a while with her creative partner before they got Altman interested and the film made. Undeniably a deeply brilliant, innovative, and expansive filmmaker, Altman's work can be frustrating, disappointing, and infuriating. Often, I feel as though he doesn't like most of his characters, which undercuts the cinematic brilliance of many of his films. At times his works are stunningly innovative, operating in ways and offering narrative and atmospheric strategies so deep they make many others directors' work appear shallow and unambitious. Other times, the same techniques allow Altman to be lazy and incomplete. Company tells the tale of a company preparing a dance with much of the film being its performance. Altman offers bits of narrative, scenes of the dancers at home or at class. Some of the scenes are normative, the ongoing work process of preparing a dance, others are dramatically charged. But in Company they are bits of punctuation, never really tied together, issues and conflicts raised never resolved. More than usual in a film where so much time is taken up with a noncinematic work, in this case the dance, Company is fascinating but ultimately frustrating.

end story

Afterward, we go to the party at a three-story club, which is way too packed. After hanging for a while in typical festival-party-canned-sardine intensity, Marge and I are thinking of leaving when we get invited to the after-party-party in a hotel suite.

Getting to talk to Altman, despite any of my critical hesitations, is a pleasure. Extremely nice, he's comfortable talking about his work, noting that he likes all of his films and for the life of him he can't figure out why critics and/or the public like one and not another. He just doesn't get the differences and doesn't even try. Without mentioning it, I think back to a call I got years ago where they asked if they could include my negative review of Shorts Cuts on the laser disc release just to more fully round out the review section by showing a critic's hesitation. I agreed, though I never followed through to find out if they actually included it. But as usual, I'm more part of the problem than the solution.

Campbell shows up after a while, also very friendly and sweet. She is still charged by the energy of the screening, even more thrilled because several of Canada's top dancers had attended, legends she was in awe of back when her ambition focused more on being a dancer than an actress. They praised the movie: You can feel the energy of this praise still pumping through her.

Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2003

Since early on in their existence, I've been a fan of blaxploitation films. I don't even remember the first ones I saw. When I was in college in Boston, I'd call up my friend Len Maltin, telling him I was coming home to New Jersey for a couple of days so he should line up an all-day NYC film trip. Kicking off with the Museum of Modern Art's morning screening, we'd head over to another museum's screening after, then back to MOMA for the afternoon program, then at least one but usually two current theatrical releases. Finally, down to 14th Street to the Theodore Huff Film Society (hosted by William K. Everson) to watch a double or triple bill. Once, Len's friends wouldn't get us on the list for a 42nd Street-area theatre because it was showing a blaxploitation film; another time we did manage to wrangle passes to another theatre in the area hosting the world premiere of Shaft in Africa. During the early Seventies, we caught Shaft, Cotton Comes to Harlem, Come Back Charleston Blue, Super Fly, and Slaughter. Later, living in a small town in South Carolina, I'd be the only white in the once black-only theatre to watch Coffy, Slaughter's Big Ripoff, and TNT Jackson. After moving to Austin, back when the state regularly featured double and triple bills of exploitation films, I caught up with Foxy Brown, Friday Foster, Black Mama, White Mama, Three the Hard Way, Sheba, Baby, Black Caesar, Hell up in Harlem, and so many more. But over all these films, one loomed, the legendary work that had kicked off the whole cycle, Melvin Van Peebles' Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. The problem was that it had run so long at some theatres, been bootlegged to show at others, that every print was different, though all were in crappy shape, scratched all to hell, scenes chopped off in the middle, soundtracks impossible to hear. Even after attending screenings a few times in theatres in different parts of the country, I had never had a satisfying SSBS viewing experience.

This afternoon Michael picked me up and we headed to the theatre, where we met Marge to watch Mario Van Peebles' How to Get the Man's Foot Outta Your Ass, his version of his dad making Sweet Sweetback. As happens all the time at Toronto, quite unexpectedly both Mario and Melvin were there to introduce the film and conduct a Q&A afterward (the premiere screening they were scheduled to attend had been the evening before). The film started off spectacularly, though the last three-quarters were workman, not matching the explosive opening: Ironically, this is still the best directorial effort by Mario by far in his 16 years of that effort. Mostly the film is a narrative re-creation of Melvin's plotting, scheming, and obsessing to get the film made, though there are contemporary talking head interviews with some of the principals cut in. Finally, Melvin comes across as driven and visionary but so tightly focused and self-directed that all those around him suffered. When he couldn't find a lead actor, he took the role: the final step toward guaranteeing that finishing this film took not just priority over everything else to him but became more important then even his life. The richness of this tale of an important moment of film history is compounded not just by Mario's thoughtful meditation on what it must have been like for his father, but the subterranean resentments over his father. During the Q&A, Mario at first dominated only because Melvin either gave short answers or passed. He was short, white haired, wearing a beret, and reserved, especially next to Mario's charismatic, physically fine-tuned presence. Once he started talking, however, the film's dynamic resonated with Melvin's powerful self-centeredness -- an almost physical presence.

Afterward Michael and I went over to his house to have dinner with his family, whom I love as my extended family though usually don't get to spend nearly enough time with. Then back to the hotel, rather than an evening screening. I pack and get ready to head home. end story

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