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Karlovy Vary: Jacqueline Bisset and Luc Besson are no show

Actress Jacqueline Bisset and French director Luc Besson called in their
regrets, cancelling their expected visit to Karlovy Vary, but the celebrity
slack has been taken up by the arrival of somewhat less shining lights of
interest, and the party scene surges on unabated. The latest arrival was
rapidly rising British actress Saffron Burrows, here to present her new film
"Gangster No. 1" which, she says, is perhaps too violent for her own taste.
I‘m worried about the audience watching it today, because I had to close my
eyes the first time I saw it. In a quick pre-screening interview at the
Grand Hotel Pupp Saffron was asked about her role in the recently released
Raul Ruiz biopic Klimt“, in which she appears in her birthday suit opposite
John Malkovitch. Regarding her role in "Klimt" the actress said. "I play a
woman who has five personalities. In one personality she sounds French, one
Russian, another one Italian --- according to whatever dream the director
had the night before". The movie "Klimt" is a long pretentious bore with a
much-too-American Malkovitch playing the Viennese turn-of-the-century
artist, but the pic is almost worth the boredom for the sexy and charismatic
presence of La Saffron.

Burrows is no stranger to Karlovy having made a strong impression here four
years ago in an Australian film noir opposite Burt Reynolds in which she
received my vote for sexiest actress of that year's fest. The film entitled
"Tempted" (Bill Bennett, 2001) was off in a sidebar section and was not seen
by many but those who did see it (such as myself -- pant -- pant) could not
help coming away impressed. In her 2002 Karlovy press conference, then at
age 28, she came off as extremely poised and professional. Since then she
has appeared in blockbusters such as "Troy", and has been cast as a femme
fatale type in other films. She is such a strong screen presence that it
seems her breakthrough to top stardom can't be too far off, the clock
however is ticking.

Toys From The Future

In town to pick up a Crystal Globe for his "outstanding artistic
contribution to world film" is Robert K. Shaye, who founded NEW LINE CINEMA
39 years ago and, more recently, rose to producer stardom as the producer of
the mega blockbuster "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. New Line started out as a
very small company importing foreign films for niche distribution in the
States and operating originally out of Mr. Shaye's own small New York
apartment. His early titles included a number of Czech classics which is
partly accountable for a special connection with this country right up to
the present. New Line began to grow when Shaye picked up highly popular
way-out directors such as John Waters (Hairspray and Polyester) and George
Romero's infamously famous horror film "Night of the Living Dead", then such
famous big box office horror movies as Wes Craven's "Nightmare on Elm
Street" and its sequels.

Sitting on top of the world as a producer at this point, Mr. Shaye suddenly
decided to return to his first love, directing, and has just finished
directing a film entitled "MIMZY" which harks back to a line in the
seemingly nonsense poem "the Jabberwocky" from Alice in Wonderland. This is
to be a science fiction drama based on a most intriguing premise. Some very
young children, so young that their brains are still forming and have not
yet become "hardwired" to adult reality and who are consequently still wide
open to receive and absorb any kind of new information, come upon toys from
the future! When it turns out that these toys are actually learning devices
the consciousness of the children quickly expands far beyond the 'normal'
people around them. The cast, says Shaye, is composed mostly of new faces
with the one exception of veteran Hollywood actor, Timothy Hutton, who plays
the father of the wunderkinder. Mr. Hutton, a very young Oscar winner for
Redford's "Ordinary People" back in 1980, now a still youngish,
ordinary-looking middle aged man you probably wouldn't notice on the street,
accompanied Shaye to Karlovy and shared the press conference table with him.

Robert Shayes did most of the talking while the assembled Czech press
politely avoided asking Mr. Hutton what ever was the cause of his sinking
into all but oblivion after that peak year of 1980. Actually Hutton has been
working all along, as the partner of Sean Penn, for example, in the 1985
dope smuggling thriller "The Falcon and the Snowman", and he was Meg Ryan's
disagreeable husband in the romantic comedy "French Kiss" of 1995, but he
just doesn't seem to pack the charisma to make himself memorable. So, how
did he get this job in "Mumzy"? "It was just a question of casting. Robert
thought I was right for the part, offered me the role, and I accepted",
states Timothy quite matter of factly. As for who else is in the picture,
a big surprize is the casting of real life string theorist and top level
physicist, Brian Green, as the scientist of the piece. Green is a best
selling science author world-wide, his cosmology tome 'The Elegant Universe¨
having been translated into zillions of languages and, moreover, this
leading theorist and authority of the new physics is no stranger to the
media either. He was the narrator, explicator and star of a two part BBC
series on String Theory and Cosmology that was seen around the world. In
fact Brian actually looks like a movie star --- let's hope the lure of the
silver screen doesn't pry him away from his true Cosmological calling.

According to Shaye "Mumzy" is now in post-production and is set for an
Easter 2007 opening. "It just worked out that way, says Shaye. We weren't
really planning to cash in on the Bunny Rabbit connection of the Alice
story" ... I forgot to ask, but I certainly hope that Jefferson Airplane's
marvelous psychedelic Grace Slick number, "White Rabbit" will be on the
soundtrack -- This is a film which, for the intelligent subject matter
alone, I for one, will be looking very much forward TO even if a preposition
is something you're not supposed to end a sentence WITH. And what a relief
to have a real scientist playing the scientist in the film, instead of a
Hollywood clown who wouldn't know an equation from a Eurasian.

Andy Garcia who was here with one his daughters who has a major role in his
anti-Castro film, has split the scene leaving a strange after burn in his
wake. I got here too late to catch the film but am told that the Czech
audience in the massive Thermal auditorium, basically got the message,
having lived under Communism themselves for over forty years. Everyone was
impressed with the cinematography and the depiction of Youth Icon Che
Guevara as a brutal assassin, didn't seem to bother anybody. On the other
hand the film seems to have been largely shunned by American and other
western journalists, as if it were somehow beneath their dignity to even
bother seeing it. My own judgement remains reserved but a film that dares
to call "El Che" a brutal killer can't be all bad, so "Lost City" is at the
top of my Must-See list first chance I get.

Party-wise the big bash of the mid-week was the so called 'Industry Party'
attended by just about everyone in town, but especially by other festival
organizers. The location an upper balcony of the Thermal hotel looking down
on revelers below on the hotel promenade and tables loaded down with
delectable summer food and endless drinks of every kind -- wine, champagne,
cocktails -- you name-it -- but, above all, Good Vibrations. A few qotable
quotes: I asked Gregor Ullrich (or is it Ullrich Gregor?) one of the
legendary original organizers of the Berlin Film Festival, now retired, what
attracts him to this festival, and his answer was "Entdeckungen" -- there
are always discoveries to be made here. Martha Otte of Tromso said she
comes here for the waters ... and to find husbands.

Roland Rust, topper of the Cottbus festival in November revealed that the
focus this year will be on Sorbian film. Now this is one for the books.
Cottbus always spotlights some eastern Europen or Central Asian film
culture, but it so happens that Cottbus is located very close to a segment
of the Polish frontier where a most exotic Slavic language -- Sorbian -- is
still spoken. Moreover there have actually been films made in the Sorbian
language and all kinds of films about the culture. Even the street signs in
Cottbus, which are in both German and Sorbian reflect the dual culture of
the area. Of course, whoever knows Polish will recognize a strong
similarity, but the two are nevertheless distinctively separate languages.
Those who have never seen a film in Sorbian are therefore advised to make a
bee-line to the lovely East German city of Cottbus between November 14th and
18th.

At the table where I was sitting with Otto Reiter, a well known festivaleer
and party animal from Vienna, were two headscarf bedecked ladies from
Teheran, one a director, Ensieh Shah-Hosseini, of thecompetition film
"Goodbye Life", the other a producer, who assured me that despite certain
differences of opinion between President Bush and the boss guy in Iran,
Ahmediani, Americans journalists and film critics are very welcome at the
Teheran Film Festival, so, since I like to live dangerously, that's another
one to think about. And now the big surprize of the evening: A nice looking
American lady introduces herself as Catherine Wyler of the new fledging
Rochester film festival. Wyler? -- any relation to THE William Wyler of
Hollywood Pantheon fame ... and, Catherine indeed turns out to be the
daughter of this truly legendary director. I even had an authentic Wyler
anecdote to hit her with as, back in 1980, I actually met Mr. Wyler,
briefly, in Tokyo at a party given by Kurosawa on the occasion of the world
premiere of "Kagemusha". The punch line was that Wyler was just about deaf
in English, but he could hear quite well in German, which, fortunately I
speak, so we had a nice chat. Okay, so call me a name dropper -- isn't that
what these flim festibules are all about, anyway? As for Cathy Wyler, she
grew up in L.A., has lived in Washington, D.C. for years, working there in
film production and was invited to do this new women's film festival in
upstate New York. This she sees as a challenge because "Men don't go to
'womens film festivals' so I've got to figure out an angle".

This party lasted until after midnite then segued to another loud drinkathon
in a giant white tent where the major entertainment turned out to be the
impromptu oriental dances and other hypnotic gyrations generated by Jasmine,
who is not a dancer and not an actress, but the director of a full length
documentary on a famous gypsy singer. This lady with the long black hair,
remarkable facial features, super-expressive eyebrows and expansive gestures
somehow made me think of Gloria Swanson in "Sunset Boulevard" at the moment
where she says: I'm ready for my close-up, Mr. De Mille -- on which note we
close out this installment of the Karlovy Vary Follies and hope we survive
the next round of parties...

Alex, at the Thermal,
(I came here for The Waters)

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