Montreal fest spotlights auteurs

Steve Buscemi to event to support 'Handsome Harry'

MONTREAL -- The Festival du Nouveau Cinema in Montreal has a reputation as a Canadian festival that allows auteur directors to seize the spotlight weeks after the Toronto International Film Festival has wrapped and rolled up its red carpet for Hollywood A-listers.

"We all got our start here. It wasn't always about business," New York-based filmmaker Bette Gordon says of fellow indie veterans like Wim Wenders, Atom Egoyan, Jim Jarmusch and Peter Greenaway who have long shown their work at FNC.

Gordon has brought her latest film, "Handsome Harry," and its all-star cast that includes Jamey Sheridan, Steve Buscemi and Aidan Quinn, to Montreal for another festival screening before Mark Urman's new distribution outfit Paladin releases the picture in early 2010.

In a recession-conscious decision, Gordon opted to debut her low-budget friendship drama about ex-Vietnam vets at Tribeca rather than Toronto so her entire New York-based cast could attend the premiere.

"It was the right decision for me to make. Every actor was on the stage," Gordon recalled of the Tribeca launch.

Another discovery title in Montreal is French documentarian Lea Rinaldi's "Behind Jim Jarmusch," a portrait of Jarmusch at work on the set of his latest film "The Limits of Control" in Seville, Spain.

Jarmusch gave Rinaldi creative carte blanche, but also no movie script or shooting schedule on set. So the French filmmaker remained in the dark as she completed her rear-guard portrait of the indie pioneer directing Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and Jarmusch favorite Isaach de Bankole.

"I followed him, but I didn't know what was happening, how long each scene would take to prepare and shoot. It was very intuitive," Rinaldi said of her own three-day shoot.

What she discovered was the importance of serendipitous craft as Jarmusch found images and details in what otherwise appears a plot-less, slow-paced avant garde drama.

"He (Jarmusch) doesn't like analysis of his work. He just wants to experiment," Rinaldi said.

Montreal also offered a second look at Quebec director Alexandre Franchi's "The Wild Hunt," which last month came away from Toronto with the juried best Canadian first feature award.

"We left Toronto on a high," Franchi says of flying largely under the radar at the Hollywood-dominated TIFF festival.

With the Toronto trophy in hand, Franchi looks ahead to possible international sales for his fantasy role-playing drama.

At the same time, as producer and director of the low-budget indie pic, Franchi also knows to downplay expectations during the current industry downturn.

Besides having no recognizable stars, "The Wild Hunt" also confounds by playing with genres. The film portrays ordinary people reenacting Medieval battles in the woods north of Montreal.

At first the role-playing games between battling Vikings and Celts recall "Braveheart" or "Lord of the Rings". But as the "larping" game comes to a climax, the film turns suddenly violent and gruesome, providing a sobering finale that thrills younger cinema-goers and shocks older ones, Franchi says of festival screenings so far.

"People regress and it's a free-for-all," the director says as reality and fantasy collide during the wild hunt's dramatic conclusion.

The Festival du Nouveau Cinema began Oct. 7 and runs through Oct. 18.