[photo via Getty Images]
"With less than one hour to go and no restraining order in place, I feel comfortable now letting you all know that this film was the subject of legal threats and was almost not shown at all here at the festival ... This version will probably never be seen again. I am hoping that Paris will see, with the audience tonight, that there is nothing to be afraid of here. And will eventually let the film be distributed ... I can guarantee you three things: you may be the only people to ever see this version, you will not be disappointed, and everyone will be asking you if you saw it."
-- William Morris agent Cassian Elwes in a Sept. 9 e-mail to acquisitions and buyers before yesterday's 6:00 screening of Paris, Not France at the Ryerson.
Any film festival needs some hullabaloo, some hint of scandal, some touch of trouble; this year, at TIFF, it came with word that all but one screening of Paris, Not France, Adria Petty's documentary about the life and times of Paris Hilton, had been pulled from the schedule with the threat of legal action; Nonetheless, there was one screening of the film left, with Ms. Hilton in attendance. (I encourage you to briefly try and wrap your head around the narcissism and gall it must take to make an appearance on the red carpet for a film you do not want shown.)
And, much like the controversy in 2006 over Death of a President, the Hilton hullabaloo turned out to be much ado about very little; Paris, Not France is a step above a home movie, and doesn't eviscerate Hilton's public persona so much as gives it a tummy rub, doesn't examine Hilton's role in the distraction-industrial complex so much as it helps expand it. And yet, there I was -- knowing that the film would make good copy, feeling unclean as I took a snap of Ms. Hilton, depressed about the fact I had chosen to be there instead of seeing an actual film, enduring a glossy, glib pseudo documentary, a cheap shabby tribute to the false gods under whose yoke we endure. Ms. Hilton, it seems, will go away only when we stop talking about her; with that in mind, and with the sad knowledge that this piece has now been served up like fresh meat for anyone who types Ms. Hilton's name into Google, I'm going to enjoy real films made by real talents. I may be one of the only people to see this film; yes, people are asking me if I saw it; as for not being disappointed, Mr. Elwes, well, you got two out of three.
The view from inside the theater ...