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1996 New York Film Festival Buzz
Cocktails Anyone? (Sept. 27)

by Kathleen Carroll

New York, Sept. 27, 1996

The late Noel Coward, who, in case you didn't know, had a certain fondness for martinis, would have adored this year's New York Film Festival. For, darlings, I simply have to tell you that the festival gave a divine cocktail party for the poor ink-stained wretches of the press this past week.

New York's ever-so-exclusive festival has always been a classy affair, catering mainly to the city's cultural elite. Even the press screenings are remarkably civilized affairs. Coffee is served, along with a tempting array of muffins and croissants, each morning. At precisely 10:30 AM the by-now-thoroughly-contented press corps retreats to the deluxe comfort of the Walter Reade Theater.

The mood prior to the screening is thus fairly relaxed. While waiting for one film to start, Sylvia Miles, who's hardly shy, said "Hiya Joel" to a man seated in front of her. There was no response. "I thought it was Joel Siegel (the Entertainment Editor of ABC)," said Miles, looking somewhat deflated. But she brightened up when someone asked to see her pink press badge.

Please don't ask how the actress managed to acquire one of these coveted badges. All I know is that the name Grand Marnier is emblazoned on one side of each badge, a highly visible reminder that the liquor company is the festival's chief sponsor.

In fact never has a festival sponsor been quite so obvious. Richard Pena, the Program Director for the Film Society of Lincoln Center, even went so far as to introduce the president of Grand Marnier from the stage. It was then that the company's president invited all those attending the press screening of Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies" to sample Grand Marnier cocktails in the theater lobby.

The post-screening party was too elegant for words. The canapes were to die for. The conversation was perhaps not as witty as the playwright Noel Coward's cocktail party patter. Still if you're dying to know what critics talk about when sipping a Grand Marnier margarita, I can only say that Rex Reed was happily gushing over Gena Rowlands' performance in "Unhook the Stars," a film which, alas, is not in the festival.

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