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A Clamorous Reception for “Honeydrippers” And a Stream of Walkouts on “Jesse James”

Thessaloniki day 9 :
A Clamorous Reception for “Honeydrippers” And a Stream of Walkouts on “Jesse James” --
November 25, 2007

PHOTO: Georges Corraface, festival president, and Despina Mouzaki, artistic director of the festival, looking on at Glover/Sayles joint press conference for ”Honeydripper”

Day number nine was largely dominated by the Dynamic Duo, director John Sayles and actor Danny Glover. The day started with a Master Class by Glover (attended by Sayles) which was followed by a massive lunchtime press conference for the new Sayles film, "Honeydripper", and the main event of the evening in the ΟΛΥΜΠΙΟΝ (Olympion) Auditorium was a ceremony bestowing an Alexander statuette (lifetime achievement award) on Glover, followed by a screening of "Honeydripper" in which Glover is the leading actor, and which received a clamorous foot-stomping hand clapping ovation at the end. Overwhelmed with joy at the response to the film, as his final words Director Sayles, leaning up against the stage swamped by photos with Glover at his side, said simply "I have nothing else to say!" -- as the crowd filtered out onto Aristotle Square with a collective "AMEN Brother". If the film is received in the States with half the enthusiasm it generated here in Northern Greece, Mr. Sayles won't have to worry about financing again for quite a while.

Upstairs in the same building an hour earlier a more restrained crowd watched the Polish film "Sztuczki'", (Tricks), with obvious pleasure and addressed questions to charming 22 year old Polish actress Ewelina Walendziak in a slightly bewildering Q&A session which was conducted in a mixture of Polish, Greek, and English. There was no bewilderment, however, as to the quality of her captivating debut performance. Both actress and film are in the running for prizes in the "Independents" section. "Stuczki" is the film of the year in Poland and young Ewelina is a truly promising pretty new face in that vodka-fueled northern clime.

The Late Show, prominently billed and overflow SIA (Sitting-in-the-Aisles) attended, was the two and a half hour New Zealandish interpretation of the Death of Jesse James as told to the inmates of ...hmm, some institution, somewhere -- by New Zealand director Andrew Dominik, with both the director and supporting actor Sam Rockwell on the scene. Dashing festival president Georges Corraface, dashing over to Warehouse-C from the "Honeydiggers" shindig on Aristotle Square, handed little scruffy looking Sam an award plaque of some kind in recognition of his multi-layered thespian career until now. George then stated enthusiastically that Sam "is the future of Hollywood and is bound to leap into leading roles from here on out". Good luck Sammy -- what makes you run? In the film Rockwell is, incidentally, not the assassin Robert Ford, but his brother Charley. The dirty rotten coward is played by Casey Affleck, brother of Gossip Column Ben.

The picture itself, bearing the long-winded title of "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" was so spread out and long winded (with dialogue often so "blurred" that I found myself scanning the Greek subtitles in desperation) that it started generating walkouts (or "anklings" as VARIETY would put it) at around the twenty minute mark. By the forty-five minute juncture this was becoming a steady stream of shadowy figures slipping out through the side doors.

I endured it myself for nearly an hour, figuring it was my duty to do so, but after Brad Pitt beat the s--t (faeces deleted) out of a little kid to find out where Jim Cummings was hiding, I had had enough and decided I needed to catch up on lost sleep more than I needed to find out in just which particular format Jesse was going to get his -- in this shaggy-dog re-telling of this oft-told tale. In general the film is a gross demystification of the "Robin Hood" myth of Jesse James ("He never expressed any regret for the seventeen killings he was personally responsible for", the narrator tells us dryly) and has been getting various kinds of raves (both positive and negative) on the festival circuit.

Brad Pitt won the Volpi award for Best Actor at Venice for his Jesse James reincarnation (like James he hails from Missouri, so it was maybe in his geographical genes to undertake this "role of a lifetime"), but myself -- call me 'old-fashioned' -- I'll stick with Tyrone Power, the unforgettable Jesse James of my Philadelphia childhood -- and that skinny, sinister, wicked, cowardly, John Carradine, who done shot him in the back while he was straightening out a picture on the wall in his happy little home on the prairie. I'll also take handsome Henry Fonda over saturnine, dour, Sam Shepard, as Jesse's brother Frank, and I didn't really need all them other interchangeable characters who over-populated the Dominik edition.

Sunday will start off with an address (theoretically, a "Master Class") by Fox Filmed Entertainment (20th Century Fox) CEO, Jim Gianopulos, a second-generation Greek-American, who will presumably provide us with some insider insights into what goes on in the back rooms of the Hollywood studio world. Among the mega-hits Gentleman Jim has co-signed as president of 20th Century are "Titanic", "Star Wars" and "Independence Day", so he should know something about the big-bucks background of Mainstream Entertainment. The festival prizes will be announced at the closing ceremony tonight to be followed by the screening of “Darjeeling Express”. (I WAS TOO TIRED SO I STAYED IN MY hOTEL ROOM AND WATCHED SOME OF THE CEREMONY ON TELEVISION BEFORE CRASHING, AND FIGURED I CD LIVE WITHOUT DARJEELING EXPRESS FOR THE TIME BEING)

By Alex Deleo
Sunday, November 25, 2007

At Thessaloniki '48'

An enthralled admirer (ME) moons over Polish actress Ewelina Walendziak, star of the film “Stuczki” («Κόλπα»)


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THE FESTIVALS BLOG by Alex Deleon. Watch for festival coverage from the circuit.

Ambiance and reviews from the hot spots. Welcoming your comments too.

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