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Toronto, Lining Up for the Festival, Loves Its Movies


TORONTO — "I'm not going to Toronto!" screamed actress Rebecca Pidgeon during David Mamet's "The Spanish Prisoner," and this city's film festival audience nearly fell out of its collective seat. Of course, when Michael Moore's book tour actually did get to Toronto toward the end of his film "The Big One," the gleeful outburst was just about the same.

So: Are Toronto International Film Festival audiences soft? It's hard to say, but they certainly go to the movies. As one hardened habitue of such affairs was heard to comment, it may be among the most public-friendly festivals there is. Regular people, going to the movies. And--at the evening screenings, at least--lining up around the block to do it.

They lined up, in flannel shirts and occasionally carrying guitar cases and a groovy vibe, for Jim Jarmusch's new "Year of the Horse"--a concert documentary about Neil Young and Crazy Horse, which proclaims itself "proudly shot in Super 8" and is meant to be played loud; Jarmusch stayed at the screening long enough to make sure it was, in fact, loud enough.

"It's the band's spirit, that's what the film is about," he said later. 'I'm just the filmmaker."

There are plenty of them here, and plenty of other people with designs on their films. Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of Miramax, was seen in heavy conversation with Moore and was reportedly buying Moore's film for a rumored $1.5 million. Castle Hill Productions acquired "Insomnia," a psychological thriller from Norway starring Stellen Skarsgard ("Breaking the Waves").

More than 700 members of the press are here, and they're not immune to star power. At Miramax's cocktail party, it wasn't Kate Capshaw or Helena Bonham Carter who got tongues wagging but Mick Jagger, who came, schmoozed and then presumably went back to rehearsals with his fellow Stones, who are in Toronto preparing for their coming tour.

Films are all over the map. The Mamet movie (he wrote as well as directed it and may have been watching a lot of Coen brothers lately) was getting what seemed to be rave reviews as well as generating a great deal of conversational debate about its intriguingly byzantine plot.

"The Wings of the Dove," which is helping perpetrate the Henry James-is-the-new-Jane Austen theme, features a lot of sex that James may never have thought about, much less written about, but there wasn't much argument that it's a provocative film.

John Sayles' new movie, "Men With Guns," which is almost entirely in Spanish with subtitles, had audiences leaving the theater muttering good things. "The Hanging Garden" by Thom Fitzgerald was the Canadian film with the most buzz about it; it will get U.S. distribution.

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