Film Scouts Diaries

1998 Karlovy Vary Film Festival Diaries
Day 6 - July 8

by Henri Béhar

Day 6 - Wednesday, July 8, 1998

So Brazil beat Holland. We're not talking movies, but football. Sorry: soccer. Last night, people were throwing World Cup parties here or, preferably, gathered in the lobby bar of the Thermal Hotel where, right next to the Cyber Café, stood a big TV which, a good hour before kick-off, Milan, the waiter, switched on. Beer was poured by the gallon, and so was the Becherovka.
You don't know the Becherovka? It's a local, lethally seductive liqueur that is among the most treacherous in the world. You drink one shot, nothing happens. A second shot? Nothing happens. A third shot, nothing happens -- except you can't get up and your worst enemy looks positively gorgeous. That certainly helps the overall entente cordiale -- and Israelis were seen cheering at the same table as Egyptians. The crème de la crème of international festival organizers and programmers were behaving like, well, soccer fans, shouting at the screen and all. All that was missing was hot-dogs. Somehow, Czech sausage doesn't quite do the trick.

In the streets of Karlovy Vary, along the canal, people are slapping each other's shoulders and buttocks. The reason being, Every one togged out for a party celebrating the renovation of the City Theater in the presence of the mayor. Built in 1883, the City Theatre is an architectural gem -- and will be restored to its original splendor, to the tune of $ 2 million. (Moving Pictures, the Festival's English-language daily, gave $ 5000). Meanwhile, lean against the wall and your Donna Karan black number (or your Armani tux) came off with chalk stains until someone gave you an energetic body-rub. Speaking of which... Oh, never mind.

Variety, a trade publication that is the industry's bible, has been touring the world's festival with its Ten to Watch series. Ten producers to watch at Cannes 1998, ten (actually eleven, but hey) films to watch in Karlovy Vary's Critics' Choice, to be followed by Ten Screenwriters to Watch at the upcoming Venice Film Festival, Ten Actors at Toronto, Ten Directors at Sundance 1999, Ten Cinematographers at Berlin 1999.
Supervised by lead critic Todd McCarthy and Managing Editor, Special Reports, Steven Gaydos, (whose wife is actually Karlovy-Varian), Variety's critics throughout the world selected eleven films made in the past year, most of which by young and promising directors just beginning their careers in France, Italy, Hong Kong, Russia,... and the US of A. Among them, Christopher Cherot's "Hav Plenty", Darren Aronofsky's "Pi" (both from the US), Peter Chan's "Comrades, a Love Story" (Hong Kong) and Terry Jones's "Wind in the Willows" (UK)
Tomorrow, a petite pour will gather filmmakers, VIPs and critics. We'll all be there. The following day, there will be a panel. Some of us will be there.

Don't quite know what to make of Dutch film "Winter". Danniel Danniel (yes, twice) focuses on the doomed marriage of Maria, a student (read: rather liberal) to Karel, an officer with the secret police, so obsessed with his work (arrest and torture included) that she emigrates to Holland, leaving behind husband and, more importantly, a teenage daughter in emotional turmoil. Suffice it to say that it requires an angelic touch to deal with the "Executioners, too, are human beings" theme and that I'd have to see this film again to make up my mind.

Tonight, the Festival world-premieres Sandra Goldbacher's "The Governess", starring Minnie Driver. Too bad, We'll catch up with it at the press screening in a day or two, for tonight we've all planned to gather again in front of the TV set at the Thermal for the World Cup semi-final pitting France against Croatia. We'll catch up with "The Governess" in a day or two. One has to set one's priorities right, hasn't one?

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