International man of film Gabe Klinger, who I last saw wandering the streets of Bologna in search of an open bar, and his Sight and Sound colleague, Camelia Gray, show up and join me to wait for “L’amour.” When Gabe says “Is this the rush line?,” I suddenly realize that indeed that’s what I’ve been standing in for the past two days. We’re standing by a sign leading into a Grand Hotel Pupp café that warns us that it’s a Private HOLLYWOOD COCKTAIL PARTY, from 7:30 to 10 p.m. – a running time longer than the movie we’re waiting for, Gabe points out. There’s some talk of a party afterwards, reachable only by funicular (hey! I love funiculars!), to which I have not been invited. I intend to hotfoot it back up to the Thermal to see Thomas Vinterberg’s "Jagten," anyway, at 10:30 p.m., which is only playing once during the festival.
As the minutes tick by, Gabe and Camelia seem increasingly anxious about whether or not we’ll get in. To distract them, and control my own contact anxiety (nobody likes to wait for an hour to get into something and then not get in) I tell them about the time I was refused entrance to Steven Sodebergh’s “Schizopolis” one year at the Toronto, International Film Festival when they instituted a policy of not letting people in once the movie had started. An officious usher barred my way even though introductions were still being made from the stage. I turned away, distraught and dejected, and ran into Kay Armatage, a Festival programmer, on the stairs. When she heard why I was leaving, she offered to pull rank with the usher, but I didn’t want to cause any trouble, so I said thanks but no.
Months later, the film opened in Los Angeles, and I went to see it at the Nuart. Long story short: I HATED it! To this day it remains not just my least favorite Soderbergh movie, but one of my least favorite movies of all time.
Anyway, we get into “L’amour.” Except I don’t get into it, really. Maybe I’m suffering from the land of over-anticipation; I like Haneke’s work, this just won the Golden Palm at Cannes, and everybody I knew who’d seen it liked it. But I remain curiously unmoved. It seems rote, cold, by-the-book.
As we walk out, Gabe sees a director friend walking in to the Hollywood Cocktail Party we’d been making fun of, and in mid-sentence I see him disappear from my side and slip in alongside his pal. I’m nonplussed. I don’t want to go to a party, per se, but I could sure use a cup of coffee. This fancy hotel is charging 80 crowns ($4), not evil by Starbucks standards, but when one 5-euro note bought four assorted coffees last week in Bologna, I figure I’ll look for a cheaper coffee outside.
But it’s pouring out, which deters me both from coffee and the hike up the hill to see the Vinterberg film. I trudge back inside and get in the rush line for Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradies:Liebe.” Some kind soul gives me an extra ticket, and Gabe joins me after his Hollywood cocktails.
It’s a bright, sunny, cheerfully transgressive take on plump middle-aged German fraus buying sexual favors from young, well-muscled black men while on holiday in Kenya. The transactions seem clear, but our heroine wants more: real connection, even love. I’m reminded of Laurent Cantet’s “Vers le sud” (“Heading South”, 2005), starring Charlotte Rampling and Karen Young, buying sex in Haiti.
As we walk back to our hotels, I’m feeling glum, more from the underwhelming Haneke than the Seidl, which is skillful, if disturbing (but then I like to be disturbed by Seidl). But I’m considerably cheered up when Gabe tells me about some of the highlights from the fabled Midnight Sun Film Festival he’s just been to in June in Finland. His descriptions of Cavalcanti’s “Rien que les heures,” a city symphony film; films by Jean Mitry, an early film theorist; and watching an hour or so, drunk with friends, of Joe Dante’s 4 ½ hour “Movie Orgy,” a montage of found footage, is enough to get my inherent cinephilia feverish again. Gabe tells me he’s leaving Chicago for New York, and a job in the Museum of Modern Art film department, where he’ll be working on, among other things, a month-long preservation festival. It seems a perfect fit.
And tomorrow I have to try to find that funicular.