Blow by Blow

Jean Luc-Goddard vs Toronto
December 26, 2009, 9:56 pm
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[This first submission to the Blow by Blow pantheon comes to us courtesy of the proprietor of the apparently defunct …And Another Thing blog, which hosts a fair amount of fine rants and a lovely piece of Alice Cooper worship, wherein our scribe succumbs to “temporary insanity” when face-to-face with the effervescent golfer, Vincent Furnier.
Unlike that particular event, this anecdote deals with unworshipped celebrities and unlike everything else to date at this site, actually happened. This also deals with acclaimed film directors (another first), namely one Jean-Luc Godard, who is not this guy or this guy.
When you think film festivals and Canadians, you generally think of well-behaved people applauding politely and furthering the film community in general. You won’t find any of this in here. Enjoy.]

I’ve been a regular attendee at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) since 1989, yet given my geeky ways I’m more interested in the films than the celebrity hoopla. There have been a number of garden variety star sightings over the years, yet all that changed at the 1996 festival. A friend and I had tickets to see French director Claire Denis’s film, Nenette et Boni, and we arrived about 30 minutes before the screening was to begin.

The theatre was already quite crowded, so we chose seats in a row behind a roped-off VIP section. We assumed the roped-off seats would be occupied by Ms. Denis and her entourage, yet 15 minutes before the film was scheduled to begin our jaws dropped when Jean Luc-Godard strolled into the theatre. He was accompanied by at least half a dozen attractive and impossibly chic women, and the boisterous group were talking a mile-a-minute in loud voices. My friend David, who worshipped Godard, managed to find out that the famous French director was there as a special guest of Claire Denis. She arrived shortly thereafter, and after much cheek-kissing and even more excited chatter Ms. Denis bid adieu to Jean-Luc and company and moved to the front of the theatre.

It should be noted that the screening was sold-out, yet minutes before the designated start time a dribble of rush-line ticket holders were admitted. A middle-aged couple took the two empty seats beside me, and they thanked us in a thick Gallic accent for shifting our bags out of the way. They were thrilled to have nabbed rush seats, and we were about to tell them about our famous neighbour in the row ahead of us when the festival handlers brought Ms. Denis up front for her introduction.

A few minutes later the film began, and almost immediately Monsieur Godard and his bevy of blondes and brunettes started chattering to each other. Shortly thereafter a couple of the women stood up and moved to the aisle to continue their conversation. David and I looked at each other in shock, as film festival audiences were usually painfully polite. One of the women in the aisle came over and tapped Godard on the shoulder, and he stood up and joined their conversation on the sidelines. A few minutes later he and one of the women returned to their seats, and they continued their conversation in fits and starts. The man beside me was becoming increasingly agitated about this behaviour, and the normally vigilant festival volunteers were no doubt hesitant to intervene.

After what seemed like ten minutes the group in front of us finally fell silent, and we were able to concentrate on the film again. This respite was short-lived, as the missing member of Jean-Luc’s group returned and noisily made her way down the aisle and sat down beside him. My seat neighbour to the left moved forward in his seat, looking like he was going to make a comment. His companion put a hand on his shoulder and he shrugged in resignation and sat back in his chair.

Godard spoke to the woman for a few minutes, and then they stood up and left the theatre. I felt terrible for Claire Denis, yet perhaps Mr. Godard was off dealing with a personal emergency. A few people in the group changed seats and chatted quietly for a few minutes, and to our great relief they all fell silent.

Much to our amazement Godard returned and took one of the empty seats approximately ten minutes before the film was scheduled to end. I was shocked, as he’d already missed most of the film. When the film ended and the credits started rolling, Godard began talking to his companions again.

The man seated beside me could contain himself no longer, and he tapped Jean-Luc on the shoulder and said in a loud voice, “Monsieur, you are a very rude man!”. Godard avoided making eye contact, and he and his stunned companions quickly gathered their belongings and exited the theatre. David and I grinned broadly at each other, and the brave gentleman looked very pleased with himself.

When the credits ended my friend and I thanked this courageous fellow for taking a stand, and I asked him if he knew the identity of the loutish man. Both he and his female companion shrugged their shoulders. David grinned devilishly and said, “This story is going to get you into a lot of dinner parties. The man you just told off was Jean-Luc Godard.” The man and his companion looked stunned, and she started laughing. She then said in thickly accented English, “He loves Godard. How perfect!” The poor man put his head in his hands, and softly repeated, “Non. Non.” He looked mortified, and we quickly assured him that Godard had been extremely rude, particularly given the fact that he was a special guest of the director. He finally smiled, and both of them laughed softly for several minutes.

Gail Fielding


December 18, 2009, 11:16 pm
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I’m sure everyone out there has at least one celebrity story packed with humiliation and stupidity. Don’t let the lack of a URL to call your own stop you from telling that story.

You’ve got a brawl on your hands? A misunderstanding-turned-fatal/arrestable? Pete Doherty saying anything at all? A “discussion” with Sean Penn about your photography skills and how you “liked his early work”?

If you’ve got something you’d like to see sprawled across these developing pages, just send your submission (and any other info, preferred intro, pictures,etc.) to:

At this point, I won’t add all kinds of legal mumbo-jumbo because I don’t think I’ll be needing it. Your submissions will be credited to you and if you ever want the post altered or deleted, I’m your man.

Thanks for reading (and writing),