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in Filmmaking
on Sep 6, 2008

Yesterday walking from one theater to another at the Varsity multiplex that houses the Toronto International Film Festival’s Industry Screenings, I thought that things seemed a little quiet, missing the usual crowded hub-bub. No one seemed to agree with me, though. “This will be a rebound market,” predicted one sales agent friend, who thought that a nice flurry of sales would materialize from the screenings this week. Another shrugged at my observation. “Everybody is here,” he said. And later even I didn’t agree with myself after I wound up at two very crowded parties filled with industry players. The first was Focus’s bash for the Coen Brothers’ Burn After Reading, their slyly loopy CIA comedy which mines a lot of humor from both the craziness of American political decision making (or lack thereof) as well as a whole host of mid-life anxieties. Taking place at the Spice Route, attendees from the film included the Coens, Brad Pitt and Tilda Swinton, the latter her usual sartorially stunning self. Seeing her glide into the room I flashed on one of the things I especially liked in the film: Swinton’s aggressively plaid, impossibly stylish wardrobe. I grew up in D.C. — people are not that well dressed there. (And certainly not for the last eight years.) But that’s okay. Swinton is that rare female star who makes the character come to her, not the other way around. And the viewer is always the richer.

The second party of the night was a jam-packed rooftop agent soiree with many hoisted glasses to the tune of “I Want to Rock and Roll All Night.” But, as Peter Bowen, who wrote about the evening for Film in Focus, and I agreed, the party we went to early in the evening had a lovely, intimate quality quite unlike most film festival parties. Astra Taylor threw the after-party for the premiere of her philosophy documentary Examined Life at a second floor Chinatown restaurant. The party boasted a nice intimate crowd of supporters, including several key members of the documentary community, as well as a beautiful surprise: Astra’s husband, Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Magnum, played a short, sweet set of covers and standards, songs like “You Do Something To Me,” backed up by a small ensemble. Since Neutral’s groundbreaking In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, Magnum has been an elusive, reclusive performing presence even as his work continues to influence a whole new generation of musicians. As Taylor waltzed with friends and family, a doc festival programmer turned to me and said, “I feel very privileged.” I did too.

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