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RSVP / INTO THE NIGHT

Which Century Was It?

More Renaissance Faire Than Age of Enlightenment, but No One Noticed

June 14, 1996|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Scene: Wednesday's premiere of MGM's "Moll Flanders" at the Avco in Westwood. A party followed at the Armand Hammer Museum. The film faces a demanding task at the multiplex bazaar: It sends early 18th century literature up against an invasion of Alcatraz, killer tornadoes, pyrotechnic Arnold and a demented cable-TV installer. "There's a strange, sane insanity to going out right now," said director / writer / producer Pen Densham. "There is no other movie like this."

The Party: In keeping with a period piece, musicians played dulcimers and costumed dancers performed jigs in the Hammer's courtyard. Buffets offered roast turkey, grilled salmon and chicken pot pies. It might have been a little more Renaissance Faire than Daniel Defoe's Age of Enlightenment, but who in Hollywood can tell the difference?

Who Was There: The film's stars, Morgan Freeman and Robin Wright Penn (the name change debuted on a recent "Tonight Show"), with husband Sean Penn; Densham; plus 700 guestsincluding Jodie Foster, Dennis Hopper, Lloyd Bridges, Beau Bridges, Mike Myers, Jackie and David Foster, Bryan Singer, Bernie Brillstein and studio execs Frank Mancuso, Mike Marcus, Robert Relyea and Larry Gleason.

Overheard: One British woman said she thought Robin Penn's English accent was "quite good. They usually end up sounding like Dick Van Dyke in 'Mary Poppins.' "

Noted: A number of guests mentioned they weren't aware that Wonderbras were so commonly available in 18th century England.

Small Mercies: There weren't any pedantic comparisons between the film and Defoe's 1722 work. It's safe to say that absolutely no one in the crowd had read the novel. The closest anyone got was one woman who said, "The book is, like, a total classic."

Quoted: Freeman does not relish seeing himself in films. He looks away. The actor said he prefers the theatrical experience when his performance is reflected in the crowd's response.

"I'd much rather live with the arrogance that I get from the mirror of the audience than the humility I get from seeing myself on screen."

Hollywood Wisdom: When one savant was asked about the current state of the film marketplace, he said: "Big movies do big business; little movies pray."

* MOVIE REVIEW F1

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