FILMS

Maturing—with growing pains

MARK CZARNECKI September 27 1982
FILMS

Maturing—with growing pains

MARK CZARNECKI September 27 1982

Maturing—with growing pains

Toronto’s Festival of Festivals came of age last week with 170 wide-ranging films including the late Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss, Michelangelo Antonioni’s Identification of a Woman and Jerzy Skolimowski’s Moonlighting. But maturity means growing pains, too. Along with the usual scandals and stars, wheeling and dealing reached a new pitch among buyers for burgeoning pay TV markets in North America. Says festival director S. Wayne Clarkson: “They

didn’t come up just to sit in the bar — they came to see movies.”

The lineup for the opening night gala was in question until the last minute. Clarkson went all out to get the most eagerly awaited Canadian production in years, Robin Phillips’ The Wars. But distribution for the film has not been settled, and its main producer, Torstar, despite the urgings of its coproducers, the National Film Board and the Canadian Film Development Corporation, refused a screening. Says Clarkson, who

has seen it: “I rarely get passionate about anything, but I’m sure it would have brought the house down.”

Still, there were many compensations. An innovative series, Author as Screenwriter, matched films with personal appearances, among them John Irving for The World According to Garp and Nobel Prize winner Czeslaw Milosz for The Issa Valley. Video finally caught the public eye, as did West German director Lothar Lambert, whose raw films brought down the puritanical wrath of the Ontario Censor Board. John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands graced a retrospective in their honor, and glitz lovers were ecstatic

about the special tribute to Martin Scorsese, with surprise guest Robert De Niro. A Brazil retrospective revealed a heady combination of sex and politics, but the U.S. profile was low: Hollywood weighed in with Hammett, an uneasy collaboration between director Wim Wenders and producer Francis Coppola, and Paul Mazursky’s Tempest.

As the festival’s trade forum made clear, pay TV’s insatiable appetite has made it the shining hope for independent film-makers. All six Canadian pay TV licensees showed up with acquisition and production plans for the Feb. 1, 1983, start-up.

The festival also provided impromptu arenas for political jawboning. At an informal dinner hosted by director Nor-

man Jewison, federal Communications Minister Francis Fox sat down with Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti to smooth feathers ruffled by the ministry’s apparent desire to bring Columbia Pictures’ Canadian distribution subsidiaries under Canadian control (Maclean’s, Sept. 20).

The sudden transformation of the festival into a major buying mart took organizers by surprise, and the onslaught poses a dilemma. Asks Clarkson: “Do we want to serve this interest or do we want to retain the cultural focus?” Serving two masters may not be impossible, however. For one thing, a massive Canadian retrospective, postponed this year because of a lack of funds, is now planned for 1983. If the rush to buy is still on, pay TV purchasers, the independent film industry and cultural objectives might all, surprisingly, be accommodated.

-MARK CZARNECKI in Toronto.