There’s little doubt that the film festival was a big success.

Was it well attended? I have no idea. Did it make money? I hope so. It’s grown within recent memory from a fringe event to the central artistic experience the city has to offer. It will not be long before this is how most outsiders identify us-that Cannes-like California town where celebrities gather just before Academy Awards.

Many factors, including Roger Durling’s friendly sway over both Hollywood studios and city purse strings and his sparkling raw enthusiasm helped boost this event though most people probably believe the fest runs on Roger’s nerve impulses alone. There is the tremendous cooperation of Metro Theatres, widespread volunteerism and the changing demographic of the town itself, which has shifted toward us a large group of people who have enormous ties to the movie industry but chose to half-escape here. And our hotel industry is overjoyed to add an extra No Vacancy weekend.

I don’t really like crowds, except at a baseball game. I’m not that fond of the galas with their klieg lights and pressing hopefuls. My favorite part of this fest has always been skulking around at midday to sneak into a movie by yourself–pure fun unless the film is a dog. (And there were a number of those.) Conversely, I like the newfound camaraderie around the fest-people asking, ‘What have you seen?’ Telling them, exchanging complaints, and hoping that they share your opinion. I like the Fest because it sanctifies what I love to do anyways–escape and then talk about it.

I’m also not crazy about many of the films that won awards, either, but that’s okay: the Fest I loved took place in my time when I was allowed to let it take place. I made choices and saw five films I loved, four I thought were stupid and maybe 15 that were good enough. I got tired of suicidal angst after a while-too much Beautiful Bitch sociology, but I appreciated a surprisingly sophisticated moral streak running through the body of film. My picks were In Bruges, Alexandra, Short Circuits, XXY, and Triangle. For documentary, I liked D Tour. That’s about as idiosyncratic a list as is possible to assemble.

My favorite event was not a celeb appearance. I missed Durling and Bardem and heard that was good, but after a while these things all sound alike. I feel sorry for the poor interviewers, so awkward up there most of the time. My happiest moment was the movie Best Hopes for Tomorrow followed by a Q&A run smoothly by my friend Barney Brantingham. Bobby Lesser who is also in the film, is my friend, too. Roger Durling, through intercessions of Fest staffer Mike Takeuchi and others (also pals) let the film in though it was not reviewed very favorably by the panel that reviews, I was told.

A larger pleasure thus was served. This was a world premiere, the first time it was ever shown outside of Japan. This film had a one-person link-Lesser-to this funny city we live in that’s rapidly becoming a movie town. While it was on the big screen we came closest to dissolving the weird fourth wall of the screen and suddenly the director, who had worked with Akira Kurosawa for almost 30 years was in a room and I bet he was as nervous as was Lesser, and, for that matter, to a lesser extent (yuk) so was I.

But the nervousness turned into pride at an accomplishment so great and yet so intimate. We were absorbed in the bigger illusory world, the recreation of history full of pain and beauty, even while we sat next to the people who painstakingly built that illusion for our edification and pleasure. I ate popcorn alone in the dark. Later out on State Street we all talked about it.


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