26 September 2007

My encounter with the two smallest non-midget humans + Wes Anderson (also very small)

Last night I went to a film screening, followed by a Q&A with WES ANDERSON (!!!), Jason Schwartzman (!!), and Natalie Portman (!). I knew Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman were small, but sweet jesus, not pixie elves. Luckily, short people don’t scare me, so their physical stature doesn’t affect the high esteem in which I hold both of them. Jason’s long been in my top 5 list of favorite actors, and has been holding steady at #1 ever since I saw the grossly underrated movie Slackers. As for Natalie, I’ve always respected her role choices and she gets even more points for her boldness last night. Read on.

Last night I attended the SoHo screening of "Hotel Chevalier," Wes Anderson’s 12-minute prequel to "The Darjeeling Limited" (out in limited release this Saturday). More so than the news that FOX cut the short film from the theatrical release of "Darjeeling," "Hotel" is making headlines for bringing us Portman’s first nude scene. While it was done extremely tastefully, you have to be super bold to sit in front of a room and answer questions from a crowd that just saw you totally naked.

I LOVED the film. But since I saw it in an atmosphere chock full of Anderson superfans that waited 3+ hours in line for 12 minutes in cinematic heaven, it’s hard to say whether that assesment is based on the film itself or the shared experience of laughing at every dry line that more often than not goes over the head of a typical moviegoer. Also, I saw in the credits that Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton had something to do with the costume and luggage design for the project. Soooooo, you can imagine that my state was somewhere between overstimulation and blacking out from hyperventilation.

Wes is known for his visually spectacular presentation, and although the entire movie was shot within the confines of a Parisian Hotel room (a real room/set- i.e. no fake walls), he still managed to pull it off. True to form, it also features quirky music. In fact, during the Q&A, Wes admitted that the song that plays throughout, "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarsted, was the inspiration for the film. In fact, Jason said Wes played the song in the background when he called him with the idea.

Before I go on, I must give credit to Sarah D. for calling me Monday night to give me the head’s up on this event. She’s quickly securing a spot as my “Person of the Year,” between her wingwoman skills and the Wes/Jason alert. I was nervous I wouldn’t get into the screening, as the policy was first come first serve and the earliest I can get out of work is 6. The event was at the Apple store on Prince Street (SoHo) and I rolled up around 6:30. Success! Full success! I got a wristband and a guaranteed spot inside. And if you wanted a shot at actually being able to see the screen, the Apple staff advised us to stay in the line. So I did. Until 9:45. When they finally let us in. 45 minutes late.

Capacity was 200, and I was number 132. The Apple store has a decent sized screening area if you’re entertaining, say a 3rd-grade field trip. There were 5 rows of theatre-style seating which I’d guess fit about 75-100 viewers. The rest was standing room only. I got a halfway decent spot behind the event photographers. I could see the film fine, although once Jason, Natalie and Wes came out, I had to shift and tip toe. I’m going to blame that on their height, though, not mine.

I had prepared two questions, which ended up getting asked, albeit by other people. The first question, the obvious one, was addressed in Wes's first answer. “Which came first the chicken (Darjeeling) or the egg (Chevalier)?” Wes said the “prequel,” Hotel Chevalier, was originally shot before Darjeeling was ever written, not as an afterthought of the movie, and not as a part of the movie. He also once considered making it a part of the full-length film, but then thought it might be cooler to show a 12 minute short, have a little break for people to check their cell phones and get some snacks and then show Darjeeling. But then he realized that didn’t really work in a theatre setting. Hotel will be a feature on the DVD though. I also heard it might be made available for free download on iTunes.

The other question I had jotted down (also keeping in mind Natalie Portman’s recent participation in "Paris Je t’Aime," a collection of short films by various directors shot in exclusively in Paris) was whether or not Wes would ever consider doing a collection of short films. As an afterthought now, Hotel Chevalier was shot in Paris. That totally could have been a part of "Paris Je T’Aime." Anyway, Wes said he would love to do a film composed entirely of shorts. And I would love it if he did, too.

My favorite question, though:

Guy: "Is Kumar in Darjeeling?"
Wes: "Um, I don't think most of the people here know what you are talking about and I'm not going to explain it, but yes. He has a brief part."

NOTE: I knew what he was talking about. And I suspect any Wes Anderson fan would. You underestimate your following, Wes. You really do.

The Q&A lasted about 30 minutes and, for me personally was a once-in-a-lifetime experience not only to gain insight to my all-time favorite director’s perspective, but just to see Wes and Jason banter back and forth from, like, 20 feet away.

Even though I spent three and a half hours waiting in line, I have zero complaints. The people watching was second-to-none. The screening might as well have been co-sponsored by NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts and whoever produced that “Hipster Olympics” video that’s so damn popular on YouTube. In front of me were two female students/American Apparel employees, one sporting a platinum blonde faux-hawk and silver lamé bike shorts, the other rolling her own cigarettes. The guy behind me wore thick-framed glasses, tight jeans, brought dinner with him from Dean and Deluca, followed by a can of beer wrapped in a brown paper bag. I ended up chatting a bit with the guy standing next to me when I first arrived, who appeared to either be a reporter or a very diligent note taker. He was kind of cute in a retro-nerdy way but he definitely had some kind of nervous tick, so I assumed he was probably some brand of psychotic. Later on in the night his friend, a white guy with an Afro (who via eavesdropping I found out later was an actor/comedian/bandmember with no dayjob...which I think is the norm here) showed up on his bike and reported that he had a 24 ounce beer and four chocolate chip cookies for dinner. MAN! I was starving. I must have looked it too because the girl working at the Alessi coffee bar that I was situated just outside of in line gave me my choice of pastries they had left at closing. So I chowed down on slice of Almond Brioche and looked forward to the evening to come…

Appendix: My favorite lines from Hotel Chevalier.

Jason’s character: [On the phone with room service, ordering in French] “…oui, et pain avec frommage…Um. How do you say grilled cheese in French?”

Natalie’s character: “If we fuck I am going to feel like shit tomorrow morning.”
Jason’s character: [long pause] “That’s OK with me.”

Update from my "Person of the Year:"
Marc Jacobs meets Wes World: http://www.observer.com/2007/welcome-wes-world

Other press:
Pictures of the line from last night (I was at about the spot where this picture cuts off):

Pictures of Jason, Natalie and Wes at the Apple store last night:

LA Times on "Hotel Chevalier": http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-darjeeling24sep24,1,3665790.story?coll=la-headlines-entnews&track=crosspromo

Guy who got the actual quotes right from last night because he is a reporter with a notepad:


Sarah said...

So perfect for you... What a great start in NYC!

Rachel said...

alright i watched the movie. the movie itself i liked. her appearance...not so much. First off she has beautiful hair so why cut it all off!!! second the scene where she's profile standing naked really isnt attractive...she kinda looks like a duck whose feathers have been removed...you can see every rib and other bones....also as far as risque nudity goes...it seemed very tame to me. she was way more risque in closer even though you didnt see as much.

LG said...

she had shaved her head for V for Vendetta, if you'll recall. It was just growing back. Did you see Darjeeling?!

Rachel said...

i havent seen darjeeling yet, but its playing right by my house so i intend to.

yeah i know she shaved her head for V for vendetta, but she could have worn a wig or something...take a cue from Britney ;)

also her tooth pick fettish reminded me of big baby bare :)

Anonymous said...

I love toothpicks and Natalie.