Film Scouts Diaries

1997 Miami Film Festival Diaries
Day Four

by Karen Jaehne

The weekend had lots of action, what with seminars called "Sex and Cinema" with the estimable Carrie Ricky setting us straight on anything we had not understood about that conjunction. After the seminar, Carrie disappeared with her husband and new baby to Key Largo or somewhere nearby, because she's smart enough not to take herself too seriously. And the rest of us staggered to the beach for contemplative walks.

Monday gave us a day to be good little drones. Because we can't afford to let the festival get in the way of our regular jobs, we went over to Coconut Grove to a press screening of the kind of film you would never find in a festival: Clint Eastwood's "Absolute Power."

Peter Travers (Rolling Stone and a popular blurb name from movie posters) and I were driven over there by Monte, who drives guests around but who is also a rock-n-roll drummer who knows the difference between life and film. Life is about music. Film is what you do when you don't have a music-gig. What a shock to discover such a person at a film festival, but then it just shows how flexible Miami can be.

"Absolute Power" is produced and directed by Eastwood. And guess who's starring in it? Doesn't that make Eastwood the ultimate auteur? So why can't he play with the festival kids? Maybe because the screenplay was written (or at least word-processed) by William Goldman. It's hard to mess up a story this good, but they did it.

Everybody loves Eastwood, and everybody loves a cat-burglar. And everybody believes the President of the United States is a sex maniac. So where did they go wrong? The characters are paper thin and spouting cliches that make you laugh and crave popcorn for the first hour, then make you feel like you've seen all this before, and it's really too bad you can't do something useful like balance your checkbook during the second hour.

Thank goodness we found a bookstore when the movie came to an end, and we enjoyed the sunshine of Florida for a bit and got back in time to see an equally bad movie that will only play the festival circuit because it's called "Festival." It's about the Venice festival and a washed-up comedian who hopes to make a come-back at the festival, at least in the affections of his wife and son. Director Pupi Avati got so carried away with all the in-jokes about festivals that he neglected to tell an interesting story about his actor, and it just left us in need of some good Cuban food.

Dinner at "Los Mariscos" proved once again that low-budget cafes where stars don't go often have the best food. We ate well among the nobodies of Miami and never loved the city more than when the waiter brought us our bill - four people for less than $50. For plantains and seafood as unforgettable as "Like Water for Chocolate."

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