Thursday, May 31, 2007

SIFF #5 - Severed heads and Hannibal Lecter

By Tuesday, I was back to work, after having a huge struggle to get out of bed in the morning. I was groggy during the whole day, and I have to admit I had decided early that I just couldn't see a two-hour SIFF movie that started at 9:45pm. I just... couldn't... do it. I felt bad because this Movie Which Shall Not Be Named got a full pie from Vickie at the Toronto Film Festival last year. I apologize, Vickie. On some days, I'm afraid, I'm just not made of The Right Stuff.

However! In the meantime I picked up a free screener ticket for a screening of Severance at 7, which played at SIFF over the weekend. It may not have been an official SIFF screening, but I'll count it. Let's just say that I was expecting a black comedy, but not a freakin' blood-splattering horror film! Luckily Moviepie Tim came with me as my +1, but even he was hiding his eyes a few times. Thankfully, Severance (6/8) DID have the dark humor, so that made the movie bearable. All I can say is that the foley editors much have had a field day figuring out how to make all of the various deliciously wet, ripping, and bone-crunching sounds that fill the movie. Blech. With Severance, 28 Days/Weeks Later, The Descent, and even Shawn of the Dead, it seems the Brits are having a bit of a horror resurgence. This is very welcome, as Hollywood filmmakers, having exhausted the Americanizing of Japanese horror, have now resorted to remakes of classics and repetitive sequels that are guaranteed to rake in big bucks.

Speaking of horror, I had a date with Hannibal Lecter on Wednesday night! A Tribute to Anthony Hopkins: SIFF Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient (6/8) had probably generated the most early excitement at SIFF, and certainly had the longest name of any event. Advanced tickets were sold out well in advance, and several of my friends were left out in the cold for not being on top of it.

Press received a note that there was going to be a "red carpet photo opportunity" between 7 and 7:30, just before the event started. I brought along my digital camera, just for the heck of it, donned my press lanyard for the first time this fest, and joined a dozen or so people milling about the front of the theater, including my friend S, who also has a press pass. S and I were praising the glories of prescription sunglasses (as it was a glorious 85-degree evening in Seattle), when we finally saw some hubbub come down the sidewalk. It was a little confusing what was going on, as a small mob of people jostled our way, and then whisked right into the theater. Uhh... what? S was poised, still holding his camera, and said, "What the F..K just happened?" I snapped a couple pics, aiming generally at the mob, and caught poor "Tony" (as he likes to be called) in the midst of... yes... an entourage. I left S cursing on the sidewalk, looking stunned and pissed, and darted into the theater.

I almost went to my seat, where the audience was milling about, clueless to the mild ruckus that just ensued at the entrance to the theater, and noticed some flashes coming from near one of the side exits. Well, there was Tony again, this time trying to look pleasant while he stood with SIFF Artistic Director Carl Spence in front of a SIFF backdrop that may have been made just for this event. He was there literally seconds, then whisked away again... but not before a fan reached out to shake Sir Tony's hand. The SIFF Secret Service panicked for a moment, then someone said about the perpetrator, "It's OK... he's a real person." Hmm. Needless to say, a couple other fans managed to say "hi" and get an autograph or two before the SS hauled him off to apparently a small closet to the side of the stage. He was apparently hidden there until, right on cue, he emerged onstage at 7:30, right after a rambling introduction by Carl Spence.

Luckily for all of us, despite all the weird chaos beforehand, Anthony Hopkins proved to be quite a charming man (and not scary at all!). He prefers to be called "Tony" especially over "Sir Anthony", and he sat in a La-Z-Boy chair on the stage, with his feet up like an amiable uncle full of stories. Alas, this style of Q&A was much more suited to a smaller, more intimate venue than the 800-seat Egyptian theater. The microphone amplification was inconsistent, probably partly because Tony like to move around and be expressive when he talked... so within a sentence it would be the level of an under-the-breath comment to a big boom of a single word hitting the mic wrong. Luckily, it seemed to get more under control as the evening went on. Tony was a great and warm storyteller, and surprisingly good at hilarious impressions of anyone from Katherine Hepburn (whom he worked with on The Lion in the Winter) to his frequent collaborator director James Ivory.

To the audience's credit, people asked him not about big hits like Silence of the Lambs, but his smaller and more obscure movies like The Edge (with Alec Baldwin), Magic (with a puppet), and his own directorial debut Slipstream, which also played at SIFF this year. I was pleased to see that during an opening montage, the only film where people burst out into applause was for the lovely and underappreciated The World's Fastest Indian, a movie that I thought was adorable. Tony, you, too, are adorable, and the audience appreciated your easygoing persona. He talked and talked, and even preferred to keep answering questions when the SIFF folks tried to wrap it up on time. After two hours, the Q&A finally wrapped up. There would be short break, then Remains of the Day (8/8), the most fabulous and melancholy repressed film by Merchant Ivory, would screen. But, once again, the idea of watching an over-two-hour movie starting at 9:45 on a school nice proved too much for me. Like many others, I opted to leave the evening at that.

COMMENT FOR SIFF: Why oh why was such a huge chunk of seating reserved for phancy pants industry folks and other important "friends"? I should have counted, but there were some 6 or 8 full rows of prime seating real estate cordoned off for the event... and at least a third of those seats remained empty for the evening. I know several people that had planned to shell out the $35 to see Sir Tony, but could not get tickets because the evening was "sold out". It's a crying shame that this event seemed catered more to pleasing the sponsors or industry folks rather than the fans. :(


Vickie said...

re: your comment for SIFF

The *exact* same thing happens at TIFF.

And is that a Caesar haircut Tony is sporting?!

Jennifer said...

The fact that those pictures came out of your camera makes me want your autograph! I'm pretty sure being that close to megafame makes you a little famous by default :-)