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1996 New York Film Festival Buzz
The Party Scene (Sept. 28)

by Kathleen Carroll

New York, Sept. 28, 1996

Brenda Blethyn was the most sought-after guest at the festival's glittering opening night gala. The name doesn't ring a bell, does it? But it surely will.

For by early February the whole world is likely to hear Blethyn's name listed as one of the nominees for best actress of the year. Her heartbreakingly vulnerable performance as Cynthia, the love-starved Cockney heroine of Mike Leigh's "Secrets and Lies," is a wonder to behold. And Leigh's unique film, which was the opening night selection, had the festival's notoriously tough audience singing the praises of this astonishingly gifted British actress.

In the film Blethyn dresses for failure in loud, overly tight pants and straggly hairdos. Last night, while basking in the glow of the Tavern on the Green's magical lights, she looked right smart in her brand new New York haircut. Only one guest dared to say anything bad about "Secrets and Lies." "It's a tribute to family values," said one man, making it clear that in his view at least this was not a compliment.

Family values were not the main topic of discussion at the packed party as you might imagine. The main topic was food as the starving guests arrived from the late screening to find a hungry mass of festival goers blocking their way to the buffet tables.

There were not many bona fide celebrities in attendance. I did meet a celebrity doctor who happily dropped the names of all his famous patients. Actor Michael Rappaport, a special favorite of mine who stars in Nick Gomez's "illtown," a festival film that has attracted few fans, walked by. "How ya doin'," asked Rappaport who, as Blethyn's Cynthia might say, is a friendly bloke. The evening's most stimulating conversation was provided by my cab driver who discussed "that writer Jane Austen," the late Burt Lancaster, and Kirk Douglas, while taking me home.

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