Recently I seem to have resorted to alcohol as the universal panacea (a far cry from the homemade hooch that attracted Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Lancaster Dodd to Joaquin Phoenix’s Freddie Quell, scary concoctions that seemed to promise brain damage as surely as any bathtub gin – paint thinner strained through bread? Hey, guys, prohibition is over!). Last night I was floating on a gin-and-tonic, a Bloody Mary, and white and red wine poured à volonté; tonight I’m writing on a glass of prosecco poured at the Women and Hollywood and the Female Eye Festival, now celebrating its tenth year in Toronto, and a subsequent bottle of Sangiovese (follow the flag!) consumed with dinner afterwards, with Kay Armatage, former University of Toronto professor and TIFF programmer, currently researching a series of articles on women’s film festivals around the world, and Lucy Virgen, programmer and radio journalist from Guadalajara.
Today I made the film festival mistake – showing up half-an-hour early – that I prefer to its alternative (showing up late, of course. I have not yet this year shown up at the wrong venue. But there’s still time.) Therefore I duck into Costa-Gavras’ “Capital” for half-an-hour, which looks and sounds like a lurid, simplistic TV movie about a child’s fantasy of how Big Business – investment banking – works. CEOs taking a job before negotiating their salary, for example, and flying to Miami en masse on the whim of a stockholder, who stocks his yacht with high-class hookers who stand on deck posing like the Winged Victory of Samothrace. We’re a long way from “Z.” Many good actors (Gabriel Byrne, Gad Elmaleh, Hippolyte Giradot) helpless without a script.
But maybe things got great in the next 80 minutes. I was down the hall, in Marco Bellocchio’s “Dormant Beauty,” three stories intertwined around the real-life Eluana Englaro case (much like the Terri Schiavo right-to-die travesty in the US). A senator has to vote on the case in parliament, while his daughter, pro-life, fights against him (and hooks up with a guy who accompanies his unstable brother to demonstrations); famed actress (Isabelle Huppert, who gets a laugh every time she passes a mirror and can’t resist sneaking a peek) is caring for a beautiful blonde daughter in a coma at home and has given up her career (if not her histrionics); and a beautiful methadone addict tries repeatedly to kill herself, prevented by a watchful doctor. It is noteworthy that everybody in Italy, Bellocchio’s Italy, seems to be gorgeous: even the homeless junkie, addicted to cutting, has a perfect manicure and a full head of glossy hair. The themes are serious, but Bellocchio tucks a lot of sex in and around them.
Afterwards I slide from Sleeping Beauty to Snow White: programmer Denis DeLaRoca has told me that I mustn’t miss “Blancanieves,” aka Snow White, and I’m so glad he did. It’s a brand-new black-and-white silent movie made in the style of the Twenties – it’s like a movie that George Valentin (Jean Dujardin in “The Artist”) might have starred in. The wife of a famous matador dies while giving birth to their daughter, as the matador is being operated on after a sever goring in the ring. He marries the evil nurse who looked after him in the hospital, who keeps him under her thumb while the girl is trained in flamenco by her flamboyant grandmother (the divine Angela Molina). The girl, secretly trained in bullfighting by her father, joins a troupe of traveling bullfighting dwarves (hello, Erich von Stroheim and Tod Browning – there are five, not seven) and gains fame in the corrida as Snow White. I immediately email Anita Monga, programmer for the SF Silent Film Festival, in the hopes that she can perhaps show the film for her upcoming midyear program. I would love to see it again.