TORONTO – At the V. I. P. screening for Wonderland, Salma Hayek sniffs the air. “Does it smell bad in here to you?” she asks.
I allow that it does.
Satisfied, she sits back and declares, “It smells like cat p ***.”
It’s not me, I add.
She does not, I hasten to point out, leave immediately. She stays for an hour or so, and leaves only because she’s got an obligation to attend to, some gala screening to attend or something. Besides, it really does smell like cat p ***.
Hayek clearly enjoys Wonderland- at least the beginning of it, with the T. Rex soundtrack and the bathroom sex – and she’s reluctant to skulk out after an hour, before the ultra-violence starts. Speaking of the old ultra-violence, it is kind of cool to watch Malcolm McDowell go off on a limo driver in the lobby of the Hotel Intercontinental. I even scratch it down in my notepad. “You’re driving for us. When Bob Altman tells you to do something, you bloody well do it. You don’t question the man. This is f ****** ridiculous,” he snaps.
This is what it’s like at the Toronto International Film Festival, at least if you’re a credential-carrying member of the press, with a badge with your picture on it.
Nicole Kidman – or, more to the point, Nicole Kidman’s people – may expect special treatment.
To ensure that none of the inky ilk got too close to Ms. Kidman, her handlers insisted that reporters turn on their tape recorders and position them a full 15 seconds before she entered a news conference. And they were not to touch those recorders again until after she’d left the room. And they were not to touch Ms. Kidman, or even approach her.
To be absolutely fair, Kidman was apparently a joy to interview anyway. (I wasn’t there, but it was in all the newspapers and everyone was talking about it.) She talked about things her people said she wouldn’t talk about – like her busted-up marriage and her bowing out of In the Cut and letting Meg Ryan take her clothes off for a change. And I wouldn’t want the ilk to get too close to me either.
Speaking of ilk, most of it was fairly well-behaved this year. Or maybe it just seemed that way because I didn’t spend that much time doing anything other than watching movies. I did manage an interview with Josh Lucas, because he was born in Fayetteville and spent a couple of preschool years in Little Rock.
He doesn’t really remember much about Arkansas. Sorry.
Lucas, who was quoted by another journalist as saying that his role in Wonderland – he plays an ill-fated drug dealer who keeps porn star John Holmes (Val Kilmer) around as a kind of mascot – really “messed with him,” had nothing but good things to say about the movie to me. But that might have been because I told him up front that I enjoyed the movie, a position that may turn out to be a minority opinion. Wonderland is violent and graphic and filled with a kind of irrational exuberance that sort of replicates the experience of getting high – and I think that puts a lot of people off. Still, I liked it a lot – even if Lisa Kudrow, who was also in the film (she plays Holmes ‘ estranged strait-laced wife), says she couldn’t have done it if her character’s scenes weren’t isolated from the main storyline.
With promotion like that, who needs sneering critics?
Whether any of the ilk actually wind up writing nice things about Wonderland or not, it did sound a keynote for this year’s festival – almost every film I saw was replete with sex and violence. Graphic sex and graphic violence, with a little frontal male nudity sprinkled in.