Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Nightcap 9/23/12 NYFF Memories (revised)

This is the final Sunday Nightcap for a while. Partly I'm tired of trying to come up with stuff every week but more importantly coverage of the New York Film Festival is about to amp up with the majority of posts for the next three weeks being related to this years 50th anniversary festival.

Before we wade into this years films- starting with a few reviews of some of the classic films they will be running- I'm going to take a look back at 5 of my favorite memories from the festival in years past.

5- 1991- I finally went to the festival. Up until 1991 I had never managed to go, but this year I had to go. The occasion was the screening of Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books.  Greenaway was a director I had just discovered. With my friend coming along as navigator to the theater I got tickets and went. We were thrilled to death just to be there but we were floored when Peter Greenaway walked out to introduce and talk about the film. I was a film fan who had just discovered the promised land.

4- The 2010- the screening of Black Venus. My back was out and I had spent much of the day watching the five hour long Mysteries of Lisbon  when I wandered into Alice Tully Hall for a three hour film on the life of Sarah Baartman, The Hottentot Venus. It is a god awful, uncomfortable and overlong story of the life and abuse of one person. It resulted in numerous walkouts during the film and angry words from the audience when it was over. Many people around me and in the lobby talked openly about wanting to kill the director. While I had always heard about film riots, I never expected to be in an audience that actually might have done so had the director been stupid enough to step on stage (He sent lead actress Yhima Torres, who gave such a stellar performance no one wanted to abuse her further).

3- 2011- The screening of Mott the Hoople. Why do the sidebar films almost always outshine the main slate? Because you get a a high percentage of films and nights like this.The night was magic, from Ian Hunter waiving to my friend Stan and myself as he passed us as he went into the theater, to the thunderous ovation Hunter got when he entered the actual auditorium, to the even larger round of applause when the film ended this was an amazing night . Rarely does one ever end up in an audience where everyone is in it all together. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, was singing and dancing in their seats as one. Unlike most other NYFF screening where many people are there because they have a package or because they think a main slate film is good because it's at the festival everyone was in the theater for the movie and for Hunter. Experiences like this are rare and to be cherished.
2- 2010 - Some one at the Film Society was crazy enough to give me a press pass and let me report on what was going on. Bliss bliss and heaven. It's been all down hill from there. I will always remember when I walked in to pick up my credentials and fearing it was a cruel joke. I will always equally remember the blind terror of walking into to see my first press screening,Olivier Assayas's Carlos. What was I a doing there, I mean this was the New York Freaking Film Festival, a huge to do...  what would anyone discover that I didn't really belong? No one did and after three festivals as a member of the press I'm finally beginning to feel less nervous every time I walk into the Walter Reade. Thank you guys I hope your trust in me has been repaid.

And now my favorite New York Film Festival moment....

1- 1999 - Princess Mononoke - I picked up tickets for Randi and myself to go see Princess Mononoke on the big screen. We figured that this was going to be a big to deal screening since the film, one of the Hiyao Miyazaki's best, was going to be screened with an English vocal track written by Neil Gaiman (one of Randi's favorite authors and someone she kind of knew).

The screening was held at Avery Fisher Hall and it was packed. Because I delayed in getting tickets our seats ended up in the balcony which meant we were at the back of the barn like theater a good distance from the screen and stage.

Before the film, there were various introductions,the voice cast , writer Neil Gaiman and the director Hiyao Miyazaki. Everyone said a few words before heading off the stage... and taking a seat in the side balcony not far from us.

After the film there was no Q&A. Randi had said something about wanting to see Miyazaki and Neil and get an autograph, but then poo pooed the idea since they were so far away and they were no doubt going to be lead away with our chance gone forever.

For some reason I didn't think so and I told her to follow me. We then bolted out the door and around the landing toward where they should have come out, they weren't there so.we then ran down one flight of stairss to the next level only to come out near a huge crowd made up entirely of young Japanese girls who were storming Hiyao Miyazaki as if he were the latest teen idol. Randi and I fought our way to him and got our programs signed... and then I pivoted and thrust my program in front of Neil Gaiman, who seemed to be using the Miyazaki fan mob to make good his escape. (For the record this was the first and only time I ever saw Neil Gaiman not awash in fans since everyone was there for Miyazaki, no one knew who Gaiman was or cared to know except Randi and myself) Neil signed my program and then walked off down the corridor ( For the record I think Randi and I are the only people who ever managed to get a program signed by both Miyazaki and Gaiman)

Randi came out of the Miyazaki crowd, having missed Neil and we followed him around the landing so she could get her program signed by the author.

Around the corner we saw that Neil was in conversation with Harvey Weinstein, head of Miramax, and the film's American distributor.  Neil's assistant at the time, who knew Randi, called her over and and  they began to talk, while a few feet away Neil continued speaking with Harvey Weinstien about dinner and projects, he was unaware that Randi was a few feet away from him.

Randi got lost in the conversation with the assistant. I was a step or two away since I had no idea who this person was... which was cool because I got to see Neil catch sight of Randi talking to his assistant. He then stopped Weinstein in mid-ramble and told him he had to go talk to some one. He then walked over, tapped Randi on the shoulder and gave her a hug as if she was the most important person in the world. They then talked for a few minutes before Neil said good bye and went off with Harvey and his assistant. (and yes he signed her program)

My favorite New York Film Festival moment? Seeing my best friend be greeted by one of her favorite authors when he decided that she was more important than a studio head.

It really happened, I was there.

Thank you New York Film Festival.

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