Sunday, June 15, 2008

The French Were...Confused

Last night I attended the Closing Night Gala for the 2008 Seattle International Film Festival. It was held just a block away from my work at the Cinerama a true historic landmark that was revamped by the illustrious Paul Allen in the late 90s.

I remember going here with my dad to see Jurassic Park when I was just a kid just about 14 years ago. The only way my mother would let my dad take me to the film was to make him inform me prior to the film that *Spoiler Alert* the kids in the movie do not get eaten by the dinosaurs *End Spoilers*. This experience was also recently revisited by a midnight showing of Jurassic Park at The Egyptian Theatre which has a new midnight movie every Friday night and also screens on Saturday. So technically that would make it Saturday and Sunday morning. Anyhow.

I realized after this year's Closing Night Screening that you can tell quite a lot about the movie you will be seeing that night before you ever see a thing on it. The movie is going to be sweet, a little more Hollywood-like, mildly dramatic, beautifully shot, funny and an all around crowd pleaser. Last year we saw Molière which was a visual pleasure and a thoroughly enjoyable farcical retelling-what else for a play about Molière?-of the famous French playwright's life. The movie chosen for this year's Closing Gala regaled on all accounts. The film was Bottle Shock starring Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez and one of our two favorite slayers, Eliza Dushku.

Bill Pullman, Freddy Rodriguez, the director Randall Miller and his wife were all on hand to present the movie to us. My friend and I were sitting in the third row because at least half the-ginormous-movie theatre was reserved for SIFF sponsors and the entire board of directors, so we were definitely feeling "in" the movie, but it was a great spot to be when the cast and crew were brought up to the stage before and after the screening.

In Bottle Shock, Alan Rickman always manages to steal the show with perfect wit and character as he plays a British ex-patriot living in Paris running a small wine shop. He ventures stateside to investigate the new viniculture going on in California in the year 1976 and comes across Bill Pullman's character running an up and coming winery called Chateau Montelena-all this is based on a true story and the winery is still producing. Rickman's character is sampling wines from California in order for them to go head to head with some of France's greatest bottled libations. I won't spoil the events of the movie, but I will say that one of the joys of the film was of course, seeing Eliza Dushku on screen again as Joe, a hard-edged bartender, working her trademark tough and sexy attitude with the patrons of the bar as she sets up a series of blind taste tastes. The film is set to have a wide release in October of this year after a couple of tiered release dates throughout the summer.

At the end of the show, Carl Spence, one of SIFF's Artistic Directors, came up to the stage again to re-introduce the cast for a Q&A session. There were the typical audience questions at these things ranging from "How did you find *blank* actor?" "Um...casting" is the general response to that one from directors-to "When will this be released to audiences everywhere?" There were a few interesting questions and subsequent responses however.

One audience member asked if the movie had been screened in France-an apt question since the premise of the film rests on attempting to debunk the myth of the "irreproachable French vine." Miller responded and said that the film had indeed been screend to several distributors in France. "Some of them were very offended" he said. In regards to others he explained, "the French were...confused," a line at which the audience laughed. There were a few other French quips but nothing that I wouldn't laugh at along with everyone else.

When the cast was asked "How have your drinking habits changed since working on a film involving so much wine? Do you drink more now? Are you a snob?" Miller responded that he and his wife had always been content with "Two-Buck Chuck" and the others agreed that once you have really good wine it is very difficult to go back. When Pullman was handed the microphone he put his hands up in front of him and backed up a few steps. He was not going to touch that one. I was very surprised, actually, at how shy Bill Pullman was in general. He answered questions with incredibly brief answers and even looked visibly uncomfortable. I'm not sure why. We all loved the movie from what I could tell of the audience reaction-the director said we gave exceptional response, which is natural since most of the people there have been faithful SIFF-attendees for the last 25 days!

After the movie and Q&A session we all headed down the street to the Pan Pacific Hotel at the 2200 block of Westlake for the beloved Closing Night Gala Afterparty with free flowing champagne, drink tickets for the bar, excellent food and a couple movie stars-we may have stalked Freddy Rodriguez and the Editor on Dream Boy. Although the venue was the same as last year, the event planners had done a far superior job at keeping everything organized and moving. They also had more space as the restaurant next door to the event space in the Hotel was opened just for the event. A kind gentleman provided my friends and I with additional drink tickets for the event, keeping us tipsy and dehydrated for a couple hours and providing us with sufficient headaches the next day. What a guy.

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