Even the traffic gods were smiling
I'd like to begin by thanking the couple in the Mercedes parked behind me at the Ford Amphitheatre on Saturday night for allowing me to back up and escape the stacked parking via the row opening up next to us. I'd also like to acknowledge the two blonds in that row who, while waiting for the Acura driver blocking them, set the generous, patient tone of the moment by repeatedly saying, "Life is good!" It would also be remiss of me not to give a shout-out to the three lanes of traffic that came to a halt allowing me to exit onto Cahuenga. It didn't matter that I was heading north when I wanted to go south -- the important thing was, I was moving. A little detour through the Valley and I was home in a snappy 25 minutes.
The fear of the parking maze that is the Ford always threatens to overshadow the event, but somehow it always seems to work out in the end. The main advice for attending any of this week's Los Angeles Film Festival screenings at the Ford is to arrive at least an hour early. It will get you a preferred spot for when it's time to leave and give you time to appreciate the lush setting before it gets dark.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday June 27, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
"West Side Story": An article in Monday's Calendar section about screenings at the Los Angeles Film Festival referred to a song in the movie "West Side Story" as "I Want to Be in America." The correct title is "America."
Many people showed up early for Saturday night's "A Leonard Cohen Evening," and some were treated to a brief sighting of the guest of honor, who touched his heart to acknowledge the cheers of the mellow, wine-sipping crowd.
The tribute to the Canadian poet-singer-songwriter-Zen monk was built around the local premiere of Lian Lunson's documentary, "Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man." The screening of the film was preceded by a mini-concert featuring several performers from the movie interpreting the fractured romanticism of the Cohen songbook.
Perla Batalla opened things with "Bird on a Wire," which was followed by Julie Christensen doing "A Singer Must Die." Martha Wainwright kicked things up a notch, with sweetly haunting renditions of "The Traitor," "Chelsea Hotel #2," "You Know Who I Am" and "Tower of Song." The charming Wainwright deftly apologized for muffing a lyric and set the stage for the formal introduction by Lunson: "Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Leonard Cohen."
The self-effacing Cohen, an icon to several generations of hipsters, thanked everyone and then told us he would be retreating to the green room to confront the "inevitable moral pneumonia that follows on a blizzard of praise." Once a poet, always a poet. The lights dimmed and the film, which features footage from a Cohen tribute concert recorded last year in Australia interspersed with backstage interviews with the participants and longer discussions with Cohen, began. The sold-out crowd cheered certain performers such as Rufus Wainwright as if it were a live show.
The highlight, however, may have been when the 71-year-old Cohen makes a reference in the film to a possible return to touring. Life is good.
It really does take a village
The change of venue is a good move, and I say that as someone who's added at least 20 minutes to her drive. The old Sunset 5/DGA setup lent an air of containment to the events that you'd be hard-pressed to call festive. It felt a little like shuffling from class to class -- at a mall. Westwood Village, on the other hand -- you can almost make believe you've left town! Lines snaked around blocks at every theater I passed, but parking and eating were breezy compared with last year. And once you're on the ground, the air feels a little more charged with excitement and bonhomie (or at least as close to those things as you're likely to get around here). Maybe it's the proximity to the ocean. The air really is better! I also noticed that the crowd seemed more game to play the part of festival-goers, rather than just your average grumpy movie crowd. An all-media screening in Westwood Village has nothing on a festival screening as far as enthusiasm is concerned. And ironically, the collegiate venue seemed to draw fewer college-age types, who at this time of year must have decamped farther east. (Maybe they're at the Sunset 5.)
At the premiere of Jennifer Westfeldt's "Ira & Abby" (which was directed by Robert Cary but still feels like her movie) attendees looked older, considerably more decked out (in preparation for the party at the Viceroy) and alert in that hungry, intense Sundance way. There aren't many places in the city where you can stroll aimlessly, run into friends and even long-losts. I found myself hugging a lot of people I hadn't seen in ages and making lunch plans. I guess it does take a village.