TIFF Thursday: Day 8

Editor’s note: We’re thrilled to have film writer Cathleen Rountree blogging to us daily from the Toronto Film Festival, telling us the buzz on the marathon of movies and parade of movie stars in Toronto. She’ll file her dispatches daily between movie screenings.

Much of the day I spent in interviews with Festival directors and actors.

First up was Julian Schnabel, right, director of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” Schnabel is famous for wearing a bathrobe for most of the day, when he’s at home. Apparently, he even paints in one. Rather than a one-on-one interview, this turned out to be a “roundtable” in which 4-6 journalists meet and proceed to fight over who asks questions. (It’s actually pretty civil). We waited for the big man (and he is big) for :20. When he finally entered the room, wearing Levis and a plaid flannel shirt, he suggested we lie down on the floor, a sort of “round floor,” if you will. There were very few questions, because the artist-turned-director went off on so many tangents, he even confused himself. “Now, what was the question?” he asked me, after he answered his new iPhone to speak with his son, who was calling from Beijing. “Uh, she asked the question,” I pointed to the SF “Chronicle”’s Pam Grady. “Oh, yeah” …

Another journalist asked what Schnabel would change in his film, now that he’s watched it several times. (I actually thought this was kind of a weird question.) Schnabel immediately took a defensive position, “What would YOU change??” he countered. “Ummmm,” stammered the journalist from “New York Magazine,” I don’t know. Schnabel proudly stated that he wouldn’t change a thing. He loves his movie (and so do I!).

[Funny story: immediately after meeting with Schnabel at the Intercontinental Hotel on Bloor Street, I rushed back to Sutton Place on Bay (about a mile away) and ran into John Sayles, right, on his way to a coffee shop, where we ended up conducting our interview). He asked if I was running a bit ragged and I mentioned Schnabel. John recollected that some years ago, he and Schnabel both regularly attended the Havana Film Festival (held in early-December) and Schnabel would descend the elegant staircase, where the films were shown, in his bathrobe. “Quite a character,” John chuckled, shaking his head.

We spoke primarily about the importance of music in his own films and how he selects songs for the soundtrack, especially in his current film, I mentioned yesterday, “Honeydripper,” staring Danny Glover. Sayles remains a man of genuine integrity, which manifests in his work and comes across in person. He explained that he doesn’t really make money from his films and cannot find funding for them (something I was shocked to hear). He writes screenplays for other directors, which supports both him and his filmmaking habit. Surprisingly, Schnabel had made the exact same comment. His paintings sell for “hundreds of thousands of dollars,” so he can afford a rather luxurious life for himself and his family (they live in NYC, with a house on Montauk on Long Island) AND make movies.

My third interview was a second roundtable with the cast and director of “Married Life”: Chris Cooper, Patricia Clarkson, and Ira Sachs. Rather uneventful. Cooper was pretty much as I expected to find him: a serious introvert, who offers considered and painfully honest answers to questions (“Let’s face it, we’ve all thought of ‘getting rid of’ our wife or girlfriend.” This was in response to his character in “Married Life” who plans to kill his wife. Sachs most interesting comment: “’Patty’” is the kind of person who women see on screen and say, ‘Wow, I’d really like to hang out with her and have her as a friend.’” He continued with that line of thinking by noting that that’s partly why we go to movies: we want to “hang out with certain actors for a couple of hours.” I’ve never thought about that in this way, but I think he’s right.

Ready for bed!

One more day to go …

Ciao for now …


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