Film Scouts Diaries

1996 Venice Film Festival Diaries
Day 6

by Howard Feinstein

Tuesday, September 3

I hit the buffet table at the fashionable terrace restaurant of the Hotel Excelsior. Most of the power players and stars eat their lunch here, because so much of their business is conducted upstairs in the false-Egyptian style rooms. Everyone pretends to not be looking around at who is there, and no one interrupts the conversation at other tables.

Well, almost no one. Andie MacDowell is the exception - and it was at my table. Okay, so maybe former models have a sense of entitlement that they feel allows them to create their own rules of social conduct. But on my time? My close friend Helen von Layers, who is an expert at rules of etiquette, was absolutely horrified when I told her of the intrusion.

Here's the scenario: I was biting into my cold calamari at a nice little table for two. Opposite me was Allison Anders, the warm, earth-mother-like director of "Grace of My Heart", the lovely female-oriented movie about a woman songwriter in the '50s and '60s - supposedly modeled on Carole King - that has received a very good response at the festival. (Says Allison: "People go through their day and don't realize that their five favorite songs were written in the same building by 18- and 19-year-old kids." She is talking about New York's Brill Building, where much of the movie s drama takes place). I have a notepad on the table, and Allison, whom I knew before, and I are speaking in a way that announces, "Leave us alone to do our work."

Then Andie, dressed in the middle of the day in a fancy black dress, comes over. She says to Allison (with her shoulder to me), "Excuse me for barging in, but I want to tell you I love your work and would like to work with you one day. I really loved 'Household Saints'."

When Andie moved back to her table, Allison looked at me and said, "I'll have to call Nancy Savoca when I get home and pass on the compliment." Andie had mentioned a film directed by someone else!

My intimate friend Helen was even more appalled at dinner tonight. We were with some old festival friends in the garden of a lovely trattoria, munching on tagliatelli and grilled fish, when Andie, way overdressed in black lace and a leopard coat, arrived with beefy bodyguards (hardly necessary here) and sat at the very next table. What a sight! She told her friends how much her husband likes to snowboard. And here are Helen, our friends, and I trying to carry on an intellectual discussion about the state of the cinema, American involvement in Iraq, and the new fall colors.

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