When the flu flattened me at SBIFF’s midpoint, my only recourse was to decamp to my couch, where I shivered — despite cranking heater and layered blankets — and hallucinated odd little vignettes that were part reality, part fever dream. By Wednesday, I’d recovered — in terms of basal body temperature, anyway — though I experienced the festival’s remainder as a strange exercise in did that really happen?
Take the Tarantino tribute: For a creative genius, he seemed profoundly normal, dissecting his writing process, confessing that he prefers actors take no liberty with his words (“Actors aren’t there to riff; they’re there to say my dialogue. … That said, if they riff genius, I’ll take credit”), writes longhand (“I can’t write poetry on a fucking computer”), and can’t resist watching when he sees one of his films on TV.
But who was that shadowy figure running to him whenever the lights went down?
At the after-party I learned the figure was no figment: It was Roger Durling, filling the chalice from which Tarantino sipped throughout with margaritas fetched from Opal. Tequila may explain the honoree’s weepiness in the face of Durling’s sweet (“You made being a film geek cool”), leather- and F-bomb-laced speech — and might further explain why Tarantino skipped the after-party — venturing, instead, to Restaurant Roy, where (sleuthing revealed) he downed three dinners.
Thursday’s tribute to Amy Adams began with what was likely a hallucinatory moment for SBIFF security, when director Paul Thomas Anderson, there to present Adams her award, approached the back door accompanied by another shadowy figure, to whom the gatekeepers said, “Sorry, you’re not on the list.” Stepping into the light, this figure was revealed to be Joaquin Phoenix. He hung awhile, catching Adams laughing about a stint at Hooters, tearing up after a poignant clip from Junebug (afterward, moderator Pete Hammond told me: “You never know when that’s gonna happen; all I knew was next I have a clip from Talladega Nights”), and inspiring dreams of BFFdom from all. (Or perhaps just me.) Anderson began by saying Adams’s talent is nice, but he admires her most for “her ability to overcome her meth addiction. Heroin, Percocet …” He segued into more appropriate fawning, before declaring Adams indispensable “if you ever want a hand job delivered with maximum efficiency.”
(Yes, I later confirmed; that really happened.)
Saturday brought film’s current golden girl Jennifer Lawrence — and a supremely tough interview; Lawrence’s reflexive rebuff of compliments and penchant for self-deprecation borders on the pathological. Durling moderated; the most he could get out of her was when she admitted, “Everybody has different gifts; I’m just lucky mine’s very lucrative.”
No matter — Durling already declared Lawrence his cinematic crush of the year and asked me to meet them in the greenroom post-tribute, for snaps and Champs. I made my way to the appointed place at the appointed time. But, climbing the darkened stairwell, I realized I was being followed by yet another shadowy figure. He looked familiar.
“Are you taking me?” he asked.
“I don’t think so,” I replied.
He passed me and strode through the greenroom and onto the stage. This figure was David O. Russell, Silver Linings Playbook director, here to present Lawrence her award.
The space filled and just as quickly was empty again — save for me, left with my camera and notebook: evidence of a Festival that might never have happened … but, I’m pretty sure, it did.