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FLIFF Friday Festivities
Friday, November 3----The theater was packed on Friday evening at the historic Parker Playhouse for the highly anticipated Festival Centerpiece Film, PITTSBURGH, a deliciously funny mockumentary that spotlighted the comic sensibility of actor Jeff Goldblum. Although the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (affectionately known as FLIFF) has been showing films for more than two weeks now, it is the next 10 days that are the meatiest, with the addition of the Parker Playhouse and the Las Olas Riverfront multiplex as key screening venues, along with the Festival's main venue, the Cinema Paradiso.
The evening began with the ever dapper Gregory von Hausch, the Festival's long-time director, addressing the sold-out crowd and giving them a preview of some of the exciting films and social events that are on offer through the Festival's closing date of November 12. For the "world's longest film festival", that is not an even an end date. Starting November 13, twenty highlights from the Festival will be shown in the resort town of Key West....a first for FLIFF and a way of bringing the excitement of this unique event to an even wider audience.
Von Hausch then introduced a very entertaining short film, which he also produced, that highlighted the many well known films that have used Florida as their key location. Running the gamut from the John Wayne World War II film THEY WERE EXPENDABLE (1947) to the classic "spring break" romp WHERE THE BOYS ARE (1960) to more recent films including Martin Scorsese's CAPE FEAR and Brian De Palma's SCARFACE, von Hausch promised that this would be an on-going treat at future festivals, as Florida continues to be a prime location for movie producers to shoot their films.
Von Hausch then introduced Chris Bradley, one of the co-directors of the Festival Centerpiece Film PITTSBURGH. Bradley, who also served as cinematographer on the project, thanked the Festival for the honor and was clearly still beaming from the previous night's gala screening of the film in its native PITTSBURGH, where it had a special resonance for its audience.
PITTSBURGH is a deviously hilarious mockumentary, in the style of the films of Christopher Guest (THIS IS SPINAL TAP, BEST IN SHOW, etc) that mixes documentary realism with dramatic license to wonderously entertaining effect. The film spotlights the decision of Hollywood actor Jeff Goldblum to take a breather from his busy A-list career to star in a local theater production of the musical classic THE MUSIC MAN.
Goldblum, who is known for his wry sense of humor and impeccable comic delivery in such mega-hits as JURASSIC PARK and INDEPENDENCE DAY, is not exactly known as a song and dance man, particularly for a very demanding part that requires an excess of creative energy and tunesmithing.
Goldblum takes on the assignment mainly as a way of providing work for his then fiancee, a Canadian actress in need of a "green card" to continue to live and work in the US. Goldblum enlists the support and participation of his good friends Ed Begley Jr and Ileanna Douglas, who have their own agendas and particular neuroses to work out. That this folly is perceived by Goldblum's high powered agent Keith Addis as a suicidal career move only ramps the satirical element, as we see how the decisions of a movie star effect the hangers-on who second guess every decision.
The film follows Goldblum through the rigorous rehearsal process, where the director almost mocks him for his Jeff Goldblum shtick and predicts that the whole enterprise will be a disaster. Goldblum eventually finds his rhythm and returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh with the sense of a local boy who has done well for himself. In the process, the filmmakers create a hilarious pastiche of the actor's mix of boyish insecurity and over-the-top self-confidence that gently lampoons the glass box mentality that surrounds most Hollywood stars today.
The film was warmly greeted by an enthusiastic audience, who clearly were in on the joke and relished the sight of a Hollywood veteran sweating in anticipation of perhaps biting off more than he can chew. Co-director Chris Bradley then returned for a question and answer session, which illuminated the behind the scenes drama of the laconic shoot, stressing that many things were not planned but simply happened organically and added unexpected depth to the storytelling.
The audience then moved across to the cavernous War Memorial Auditorium, a space usually used for trade shows, for the Centerpiece Gala, presented by Entre Nous, the Festival's civic support group comprised of local politicians, business and cultural leaders. Local glitterati rubbed shoulders with visiting filmmakers at an event that brought the glamour of Hollywood (not Pittsburgh) to South Florida.
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