Usually the festival is winding down at this point, but it’s still going full-tilt (full-TIFF?) for me. Thursday, my final day, could be a four-movie day if I let it.
Anyway I get to do something really cool today. Every year the festival presents a handful of special screenings called Dialogues, where they have luminaries – usually a director, actor or writer – introduce and discuss an important film of theirs. This afternoon I watched a print of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore as presented by Ellen Burstyn.
I haven’t seen the movie in a very long time, and it’s one of the few kindler, gentler Scorsese outings. Harvey Keitel shows up with a knife but that’s as harsh as it gets.
Afterwards there is a Q&A and Burstyn says some fascinating things, like how in 1975 when the film was made – she turned down the directing job – she had to beat out Anne Bancroft for the role, and that in the cock-swinging 70s Alice was one of the first feminist pictures since the women’s lib movement began to take hold. She noted that at the time there were zero women directors, a couple writers and editors, and one studio exec, so this was a trailblazing film, which is kind of crazy to me because when I think “feminist director” Scorsese isn’t exactly, you know, on the list. Anywhere.
She added that her last two films, as well as her next project, were/are directed by women. Two weeks ago I was all in a tizzy about this being a terrible time for women in film, and this week you can read in the paper about how this festival has changed my mind about that.
Burstyn also said no actor ever does a movie without thinking about whether they could get an Oscar. “It’s part of the dream,” she says, then tells a story about accepting her Oscar in the tub as a seven-year-old. And you know I had my shitty camera ready for the inevitable Jodie Foster question:
Here’s some shaky video taken from my fifth row seat in which Burstyn discusses the difference between Foster’s audition and the character she became in the film. This camera has the worst sound ever.
Otherwise it was a day of docs. Obscene is a great portrait of Barney Rossett, who ran Grove Publishing, which published some controversial books in its day, from the likes of Burroughs, Ginsberg, Kerouac, the American edition of Tropic of Cancer , the autobiography of Malcolm X (dropped by its publisher the day he was shot) and so on. Very stylish and fun, filled with great interviews -- Ray Manzarek, Erica Jong, John Waters of course – I’ll be surprised if it ever makes it past cable, but keep an eye out.
On the more depressing side – and the cable side; it was produced by Showtime – was Very Young Girls, about teenage prostitutes in New York City and a woman who’s trying to save them all. (Like SVU’s Sister Peg for teens. But not a nun.) The average prostitute in America is 13 years old. It’s hard to take – some of the girls get out, some don’t, but what’s hard to comprehend in the first place. One teen drove me to tears explaining how she ended up on the street, and every night she wondered about her parents – “Why won’t they save me?”
Instead of leaving on that depressing note, here’s a dumb sign in Yorkville.