Film Scouts Diaries

1996 New York Film Festival Diaries
Desperately Seeking Wim (by Cinderella)

by Karen Jaehne

New York, September 27, 1996

On Friday afternoon only hours before the Opening Night of the New York Film Festival (do you hear the trumpets?), I was not going to the Ball. Having been told that I would not be given an invitation because I was a mere and scuzzy press person and the Festival only invites donors, patrons, stars and respectable people, I felt like your garden-variety Cinderella. I was not rich, not a star, barely respectable.

Those who organize the festival keep saying things like, "there are too many of you cyberfolk, and the internet is" They can't find the word, but what they mean is "obscure, unintelligible, arcane." Which is sort of how I feel about most of the films they're showing, so I guess you could say we both suffer from a sympathy gap.

Anyway, my fairy godmother/web-mistress Mayra appeared on my computer screen and waved her magic wand and, voila! A little card all sparkly and silver that said "Invitation for One to the Utterly Exclusive Opening Night Big Bash for Big Egos at our Big Night...." or something like that.

Then the same fairy godmother/web-mistress waved her wand again - voila, voila! - little black dress, pretty pumps, flashy earrings - everything but a tiara. So I strolled to the corner where my yellow cab chariot screeched to a stop and I told the driver (who was a Pakistani mouse in livery), "Tavern on the Green, please" and off we sped. I swept out of the cab - I mean, chariot - and waltzed through the door, flashing my little silver card. It was magic, and the sea of posh patrons parted for me to approach the bar.

There I was among the glitterati - 1,000 of New York's most ambitious film lovers. (The ambition has to be there to manage to get an invite to this joint.) I was dazzled by the glow of Max Factor and Revlon. I was impressed by the stentorian tones of film critics who have yet to publish a single word. I nodded wisely at statements of producers who said, "We're in development at Tri-Star." I couldn't believe how exalted it all was.

Then I remembered why I came. No, not to meet Prince Charming. I was looking for Wim Wenders. Because Wim is the kind of filmmaker that the New York Film Festival specializes in. Deep, long, and metaphysical. Mostly long. (Remember it was the NY Fest that inflicted the New German Cinema on you only 20 years ago.) But Wim has survived that flash-in-the-pan stuff, and I figured he wanted to see all these movers and shakers too - maybe to find financing for his next film. Right? Right.

"Wo ist Wim?" I asked one of the festival organizers. No answer. She just looked at me like I was from cyberspace.

"Wo ist Wim?" I asked a critic. "Oh, he's over there talking to Jim Hoberman from the Village Voice." I looked but J. Hoberman was as intelligent as ever and talking to nobody.

"Wo ist Wim?" I asked William Wolf. "Oh, he's going to come to my class and dazzle New Yorkers with his German charm," said Bill, adding that most of his guests are quite reliable.

"Wo ist Wim?" I asked one of the enthusiastic dancers cutting a rug in front of the Lester Lanin Orchestra. "Vim?" she yelled above the dulcet refrain of "When they begin the Beguine." "I got vim - I got vitality! You too straight to dance with me?"

I waltzed away by myself. Try as I might, I found no Wim. If he were in New York, he'd be among his own filmmaking kind. Standing beneath the tree sipping Grand Marnier, I surveyed the crowd. No Wim. Not even anybody wearing white, as Wim does. Just a mass of chattering homo sapiens looking like a very toney funeral.

The clock struck. Dong, dong, dong... before it hit its twelfth dong, I was outta there. Into my cab, my dress turned to rags, leaving my borrowed slipper on the green indoor/outdoor carpeted entryway of Tavern on the Green. Will Wim find it? Will he say, "An American friend - perhaps from Paris, Texas - named Alice, who lives in cities and on occasion floats on wings above Berlin - she fled. To her I will explain the essence and meaning of festivals. If the shoe fits, will she wear it?"

As they say in the New York Film Festival Press Conferences - that's a good question.

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