As a rule, I hate movies. They are just so stupid. I mean, like that movie with the blue people this summer—I barely made it through that, and agreed completely with the viral mash-up video that showed it was largely the same as Disney’s Pocahontas.
But every now and then you see a really meaningful film—invariably not a mainstream Hollywood production—and you think, “Gee, that was something.”
The opening-night film of the Hamptons International Film Festival (October 7 to 11), Barney’s Version, was one of those films. It stars Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman, and someone named Rosamund Pike whom I had never heard of (though she looked familiar). It was funny, sometimes outrageously so, as well as intelligent, sad, challenging (best friend sleeps with wife, hero picks up another woman at his wedding, hero kills best friend—or does he?), and even a tad suspenseful.
The movie had followed a perfectly lovely afternoon of reacquainting myself with the festival; it had been a few years, and much had changed.
For starters, the event headquarters moved to the recently refluffed C/O the Maidstone, and it is a beautiful setting. A welcoming cocktail party in the hotel’s yard was everything you dream an intimate film festival will be.
First of all, there were stars. Marcia Gay Harden, with a purple streak in her hair. (I keep seeing this in otherwise completely sane-seeming people. Did I miss the memo?) She’s friendly, until you offer her children a nonvegetarian hors d’oeuvre.
Paul Giamatti chain-smoked nervously and told anyone who was listening that he was 1) happy to be there, 2) just back from Germany, and 3) new to the Hamptons even though he lives in Brooklyn.
An event organizer approached him and the film’s producer Robert Lantos with the particulars about who would speak before the premiere, but the star couldn’t have been more nonplussed. It all felt very inside baseball.
Second of all, the festival offices were in little bungalows. The press office was particularly cozy and inviting.
But most important, everyone was so nice. It makes such a huge difference.
The event firm Blue Cashew has worked on the event side of the festival for a few years now, and partner Gregory Triana genially greeted people, but stayed in the background. Both the hotel and event staff were friendly and informative, and the media from Frank Publicity were patient when I had to be informed for the third time how my pass worked.
Only the food disappointed, uniformly so. But the wine was good; sometimes food doesn’t matter, does it?
While the festival feigned being a Hamptons-wide effort—the opening night party was at Gurney’s Inn in Montauk, and films are shown throughout the weekend in Southampton—this was really an East Hampton scene.
But because the summer scene desperadoes were gone, you could park 50 yards from most of the events. And walking around the town had a real buzz to it. I variously saw Judith Giuliani walking to Guild Hall from the Maidstone, Peggy Siegal clutching her cache of V.I.P. tickets outside the U.A. East Hampton theater, and the Hamptons-ubiquitous Alec Baldwin everywhere. The Guild Hall V.I.P. lounge was another good place to sit with your schedule and program to plot your next film, which takes more time than you think.
Television personality Judy Licht complained about having to walk from the theater to Guild Hall so many times and asked why there were no shuttles, to which there was no good answer. Maybe next year?
My least favorite part of the festival were the big parties, which can have a little cattle-call vibe. Fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time of the filmmaker’s party on Saturday night, not one guest had yet been admitted. I definitely felt like mooing.
What festivalgoers love most are the Sag Harbor “Conversations With…” This year’s hot ticket was, of course, pansexual James Franco. Why does everyone find him so dreamy? Maybe because he makes everyone feel like they’ve got a shot.
And in many ways that’s why this festival is still so good. For a second there, you’re a part of it all.