Register Thursday | June 27 | 2019

CBC-Approved Porn and the New Pilates

Day Two at the Toronto International Film Festival

The paparazzi clustered like hungry wolves before the stage, in anticipation of Penelope Cruz and Pedro Almodovar, at the Volver press conference. I wanted some of those fabulous Almodovarian aerial perspectives, so I shimmied halfway up the scaffolding with my camera, just in time for their grand entrance. Penelope was radiant in a black and white sundress and teetering heels. There was a wild machine gun volley of shutters and a chorus of "Penelope, Penelope, over here Penelope." She turned around slowly, like a ballerina in a music box, so that everyone could get their shot. My voice soared from above as I zoomed in and cried,

"PENELOPE! UP HERE PENELOPE!"

From the small windowless room to the side of the press conference hall, where I was detained for the subsequent hour, here is what I could make out. Firstly, Penelope has been praying that Almodovar will get an Oscar this year. Almodovar is also praying for Penelope. I pray for them too, and if God has any time and energy leftover, I pray that he will go on to help victims of wars, famines and natural disasters.

I also learned that for her role in Volver, Penelope was donning a strap-on posterior. This was modelled on the fake buttocks of Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie. Almodovar was hoping to create a strong, voluptuous, big-haired character for Penelope, reminiscent of Sofia Loren. Almodovar's preference for strong female characters in his work comes from being raised village-style, not just by his mother, but also his aunts and all the local women. The village where he was raised, La Mancha, is where Volver is set. It is known for the fiercely superstitious beliefs of the locals, violent winds and high rates of insanity. Almodovar is paying homage to his own mother's violent winds in the scene where Penelope Cruz sits on the toilet and mysteriously detects the odour of her dead mom's lingering farts.

I was released without charges in time for the following press conference. The film I was to learn more about was one I have yet to see, Shortbus. I had heard that this film featured some remarkably gifted young actors, including a lady from the CBC, who, according to my press kit, presents an intelligent yet hip show by the name of Definitely Not the Opera. Marvellous, I thought. As we awaited the arrival of the cast, I made small talk with a gentleman from a well-known tabloid newspaper.

"Have you seen the film?" I enquired politely.

"Sure have," said the gentleman, with a leer.

"Sook Yin-Lee gets it three different ways in the first two minutes."

Reddening, I feigned absorption in my papers, Sook Yin-Lee? Wasn't she the one from the CBC?

The cast trotted onstage and for the next hour laughed heartily about their explicit carnal exploits in the film. By all accounts, it is a most scandalous work of pornography, yet these lust-filled thespians insisted that the underlying theme of the film was learning to connect with other human beings in meaningful relationships. Director John Cameron Mitchell also explained, "Most films, because they can't show sex, have metaphors for sex-trains going into tunnels, candles being snuffed out, window treatments in the breeze-but in our film, sex becomes a metaphor for trains."

Surprisingly, I actually enriched my vocabulary at the Shortbus press conference. A great deal of discussion was had over something called "self fellatio," apparently an extraordinary element of this film, lauded by the public and critics alike. I tried desperately to grasp the meaning from the context. The gentleman who does the self-fellatio in Shortbus reported spending three months in arduous training for the scene. Three Korean distributors, after seeing the film in Cannes, are reported to have returned to their hotel rooms and tried it for themselves. The only one to have succeeded, explained the lady from the CBC, had much experience in yoga. I deduced that it was probably a new Hollywood exercise fad and made a mental note to enquire about classes at the Y.

Back at the guesthouse I recover my press bag from the previous day and slather my face in anti-aging pomade. Tomorrow is the big day for my interview with Cillian Murphy. I will also have the chance to photograph Brad Pitt on the red carpet. In passing through the bookstore today, I noticed that Star Magazine's cover read "Angie and Brad Say 'I Do.'" Life & Style, however, proclaimed "Jen Says Brad Will Leave Angie." It is all so confusing. Just in case Brad is not about to hit the singles market again, I have pencilled in an hour with Vince Vaughn tomorrow afternoon. Sloppy seconds, I know, but beggars cannot be choosers.