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It's probably symbolic 

Q: How do you know you’ve had enough of TIFF?A: You walk into a plate glass window.

The Varsity theatre is in a building called the Manulife Centre at Bloor and Yonge. Its entrance has a revolving door on either side and a set of automatic doors in the centre. After my first screening of the day I was headed outside to grab new editions of the alt-weeklies, looking ahead to Bloor to see if I could see any newspaper boxes, fully expecting the doors to slide open for me.


I was one panel too far to the right.

What’s worse is that, in the universe’s decades-long attempt to make me a stronger person by constantly humiliating me in public, I happened to be holding a freshly purchased green tea frappuccino in my left hand, the one that hit the window first.

I lost literally half of it in a very conspicuous splash about five feet up from the floor, as if the girl from The Exorcist had done a drive-by puke. “OK,” I said to no one, did not look back and exited to where a guy was mopping the access ramp. I told him what had happened and while he was initially angry he looked at my half-empty, dripping cup and the splotches of green over my shirt and sweater and tried not to laugh.

I think it’s best for everyone that today is my last day here.

But first, here’s some stuff that happened yesterday.

The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond is a lost screenplay by Tennessee Williams starring Bryce Dallas Howard as the debutante daughter of a Tennessee farming dynasty. The whole town hates her father because by blowing out a section of a levee he flooded a bunch of other farms, ruining most of the land “to the south.” Howard is Fisher Willow, one of those blowsy Southern girls who drives her own car, drinks a lot and doesn’t hold her tongue. She decides that local farm boy Jimmy Dobyne (Chris Evans) will be her escort in the upcoming debutante season—she’s spent her college years overseas so she was never properly presented, much to the consternation of her aunt (Ann-Margaret). So we follow Fisher and Jimmy along the party scene—she likes him more and more, he is rightfully wary (bitch crazy).

Howard gets more and more likable with each role but this movie’s a bit of a mess. The directorial debut of actress Jodie Markell (she plays Bill’s meddling assistant Wendy on Big Love), it’s a bit of a muddle pacing-wise, but the most curious thing is that a handful of scenes are reduced to stage lighting for no reason I can ascertain. Yes, Williams was a playwright, but this is a movie, and there were enough bad dinner theatre scenes in Mamma Mia. With some judicious editing this could be a moderate hit—it looks lovely (mostly) and the performances are great across the board accept for Ellen Burstyn’s two useless scenes as a former wild girl stopped in her tracks by a series of strokes.

It was out of the South and across the Atlantic for the very buzzed-about JCVD starring Jean-Claude Van Damme as himself. “Jean-Claude’s packing them in,” said the man next to me. “The irony is bothering me, I have to say,” I replied. The movie opens with a long tracking shot of Van Damme kicking a bunch of asses, only to have the whole thing blown by a piece of the set falling over. “It’s very difficult for me to do this in one shot,” an out-of-breath Van Damme tells the indifferent Asian director in one of the few English lines. “I’m 47 years old.”

Cue the first laugh. Cut to LA, where he’s just lost his daughter in a custody battle. (She chooses Mommy because she doesn’t want the kids at school to make fun of her for her father anymore.) Then to a Belgian post office, where shots ring out. “Van Damme’s robbing the post office!” comes to the report, and soon it’s a whole hostage situation and a horde showing up with FREE JEAN-CLAUDE signs. What’s actually happened is that JCVD has stumbled into a robbery in progress, and the starstruck criminals force him to take credit for it with the police.

It’s a bizarre, wry little movie, with a very game Van Damme taking great swipes at his old image. He even impresses a little bit in a long, one-shot monologue about how if he can make it, anyone can, and he’s sorry he fucked it up, but all he wants is love and to loved.

“If you’d told me a week ago when I came up here that this would be in my top 5,” said my neighbour, “I would’ve called you a liar.”

Hard to say what will happen with it—these festival buzzers either flame out never to be heard again, are released for a week in New York, or become tiny juggernauts in the mainstream. JCVD definitely has the potential to do the latter.

A side trip to the Hard Rock and the annual Canadian Music Café, a very important showcase for music supervisors. I saw Al Tuck wandering around (he’s on tour here this week) and had a good chat with Allison Outhit, whose departure years ago has left an unfilled hole in Halifax. She’s at Outside Music now. I saw some people you might recognize:

Two Hours Traffic. Sorry ladies, Liam’s getting married in October.

Jill Barber performed songs from her new record Chances, out October 14.

Here are some other music things I’ve done this week:

Kevin Devine performed at The Mod Club and told me he would love to come back to the Halifax Pop Explosion.

Even at karaoke I look for the indie rock.

After the Café my last stop of the day was the heinous AMC Theatres complex at Yonge and Dundas for Lovely, Still which left most of the theatre with wet eyes. Starring Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, it tells the story of two people meeting very late in life and falling in love. It’s funny and sweet and beautiful, and holds a surprising twist I’m still thinking through but is definitely the source of the sobs. It’s the first time I’ve been moved since Rachel Getting Married almost a week ago. It’s set at Christmas—hopefully you’ll get to see this terrific present in a couple of months.

Tomorrow: the end.

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Vol 26, No 42
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