Tiny but feisty, Alton was clearly enjoying himself to the fullest before the big crowd.

"What do you think of the films made since you left the business?" Tavernier asked.

"I never look at them," Alton shot back.
"And why did you decide to leave and never come back?"
"It's simple. The people making movies had one aim: to make money. I had one aim: to make beautiful pictures. It was time for me to move on."
The house lights went up. The big crowd stood as one to give the old man a standing ovation.

He strutted down the aisle. Flash bulbs popped as his picture was taken over and over again. There was a broad grin on the old man's face. He raised his hands over his head in triumph, as if he were playing the title role in Rocky.

@rule:
@body:Why do I think that Jennifer Jason Leigh is the single best actress now working in American films? I normally would resent hearing her being compared to Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich and Shirley MacLaine.

Leigh's portraits of prostitutes and sociopaths, all created since 1982, are remarkable. Nobody, not even Jodie Foster, has created a woman of the streets as memorable as her Tralala in Last Exit to Brooklyn.

I went to the tribute to Leigh held on the festival's final morning. Clips from films like Fast Times at Ridgemont High, The Men's Club, Miami Blues, Rush and Single White Female were shown.

Leigh is so strong in Single White Female that I think she deserves the comparison to Bette Davis. The house lights came on after the showing of the film excerpts, and there was Leigh, sitting alongside Roger Ebert. There was no Gene Siskel.

Ebert was magical with her. He let her do most of the talking.
"I remember," she said, "one day I saw a woman standing behind a cameraman on the set. She was just hanging out, smoking cigarettes like a chimney. She looked like shit. She even had a tooth missing in the front of her mouth.

"I heard her say: 'You know what I did today? I got my man a $500 ring.'"
Leigh grinned.
"And I just thought, 'I wanna play this woman.' I fell in love with her, you know. Just this one moment made me feel like I can play these kinds of women the rest of my life."
This may be the year Leigh becomes a big name. First of all, she will appear in director Robert Altman's Short Cuts, a version of the short stories of the great Raymond Carver.

Leigh stars as a brassy reporter in the Coen brothers' new film, Hudsucker Proxy. And she also has the title role in the biography of the late New Yorker magazine writer Dorothy Parker.

They showed film clips from all three. She was remarkable in each.
I left the festival carrying with me the memory of an incredibly poignant scene in which Leigh, as Parker, asks her psychiatrist to explain her unhappiness.

"Please tell me why I'm so goddamned unhappy and why I can't write anymore.

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