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Saturday, September 17, 1994

Grad school 4 at Toronto Film Festival

Sept 17   Last night got out to the festival and saw Darryl's film. I look forward to seeing it in class and talking about it. I felt very disturbed by the laughter by the audience AT the subjects of the two films. At least in the first one (on folk artists) the subjects recognise that they are selling their personas along with their art so would be prepared to be laughed at. The collectors on the other hand did not invite public scrutiny into their lives. I wonder what Darryl thinks about this.
     Also saw Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman", at a regular theatre but it was a festival film 6 days ago so I guess it will count for me seeing a festival film. I typed up some notes about it; feeling nervous about what to say about films in front of classmates. I don't know if I could defend my opinions against some of them. Here is what I was struck by in the film:
- Technically speaking, this film is very simple. Conversations between pairs of characters are commonly covered in long (up to 2 or 3 minutes) unbroken, static shots. The camera rarely moves. One of the rare moving shots, a hand held shot quickly moving through a gigantic kitchen, appeared to me to be just that, hand held (no dolly and probably no steady cam) through a real kitchen (floors, ceilings, stoves, and 100 people working).
- The process sequences showing how the food is prepared give the film the most 'flavour'. I remember that a common first year production exercise was to show "how something is done". Through a series of simple shots a complex procedure can be clearly depicted. In the film, lavish gourmet chinese cooking unfolds theatrically, As we the audience watch the chopping and frying and ladling, we feel drawn in. The simplicity of the film techniques lend to the apparent simplicity of the cooking process, it brings us in close; allowing us to understand as if we were there. As a result, the food seems very real and very appetizing.
- It is during the conversations and the cooking that we feel closest to the film. Some other scenes (ie: the teacher with her students and the growing relationship with the volleyball coach) are covered in a more common way with more intercutting and thus do not seem as intimate as the aforementioned scenes.

- The intimate nature of the film leads us to believe in the characters and to care about their dilemmas.

Post script: Darryl is Darryl Varga and his film was Hunters and Collectors. The "festival" was  the Toronto Film Festival. 

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