Sunday, June 19, 2005

Watching Pantelis Voulgaris' "Brides" framed between two giant Oscars

The bad thing about S sleeping in our one and only room (it's a studio) is that I cannot read my books there. The good aspect is that I have unlimited access to the computer (which is in the kitchen! yes I know, weird). And at this hour I don't have to worry about blocking out calls by hogging the dial-up connection. Hence a post at such an ungodly hour. Oh and I had some espresso, so I'm unable to sleep. I had been thinking of posting on a bunch of topics, including my potentially earth-shaking commentary on wine-snobbery and my over-generalized, sweeping, non-nuanced take on the state of contemporary Indian literature.

But let's be done with nitty-gritties first. So yesterday I dragged S over to the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences for volunteering for a special screening of a Greek film, "Nyfes"(Brides) that has apparently generated quite a buzz in the homeland. No we are not overflowing with camaraderie and the milk of human kindness, the volunteers got to attend the screening for free. So we arrive to find organizers in some disarray, and I think I had a better appreciation of Christina's directorship of the Indian Film Festival and the smooth volunteer coordination. Anyway, things got sorted out and we were incharge of managing the VIP entrance and allowing in people on a VIP list to a pre-screening reception.

So a VIP/Guest list is a strange beast. Under normal circumstances, people might care two hoots about some cheap wine and nibbles and mingling with folks they know well enough already. But attach the exclusivity tag to it, and watch the fun as folks try to lie, intimidate, finiegle, and sweet talk their way in. So we had all sorts of "I'm the producer's buddy", "The Greek consul-general is my tennis partner", "I cannot believe you won't let me in", etc.,etc. Two women huffed and puffed and told us that they were the guests of Father Bakkas, the Bishop of the biggest Orthodox Greek Church in LA. Well, Father Bakkas was not on the list, so I don't know if he was planning to attend. There were some frantically calling friends inside to come down and rescue them from the infamy of VIP list rejection.

So after manning the gates for more than an hour, we finally went in for the screening. The film is long by European standards, more than two hours long. The subject was the tale of mail-order brides from the turn of the century (around 1920s) who were sent off to marry men in America whom they had never met and hardly seen pictures of. The film focussed on women from Greece, and there were some from Russia and Turkey as well. The heroine of the story, Niki is one such bride, from the island of Samothraki, journeying to a distant land to fulfill a filial obligation to a man she doesn't love, but then she has never loved anyone. The focus of the film is the relationship between her and an American journalist Norman, whom she befriends on the ship she travels in. I liked the film, a simple story well told, with competent performances and some breathtaking shot selection. At times it verges on the maudlin and indulges in caricature, especially with the character of a Georgian immigration agent, but never really goes over the top.

After the screening the director of the movie, Pantelis Voulgaris, and the screenwriter, his wife Ioanna Karystiani were present to answer questions. Mr. Voulgaris spoke exclusively in Greek, and his wife spoke in English. I really liked both of them, because they seemed to come from another era of filmmaking, serious, refined, reflective about their art. They reminded me of some of the left-leaning intellectuals I knew in India, quietly determined and yet liberal souls, not imprisoned by ideology. Even though I understood very little of what Mr. Voulgaris said, I felt that he spoke well, choosing words carefully, in lucid, yet erudite Greek.

After the Q and A ended, as always there was a general mission to push E-M to get acquainted with the couple and give them her resume. E-M is so shy when it comes to networking for potential work. After she overcame her hesitation and walked upto Ioanna with her demo DVD, Ioanna was so warm and generous to her. It was really obvious that she inhabited another world of filmmaking, far far away from Hollywood.

Speaking of which, gossip of the night was that we finally got to see the woman rumoured to be sighted doing some heavy duty making-out with Mr. Director, now that he is wife-less and free to scope out other women. She's attractive and intelligent (a professor at an LA university, not one of the big two) and if she's able to take this through, we just might see her at the Oscars next year. Her dress for the night sure did look like an Oscar night dress rehearsal, billowing fabric, lots of beadwork and totally over the top.

The night ended with nosh at a Thai joint (bless the Thais and their nocturnal lifestyles), with more gossiping about the night, and then off we went home.

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