Far be it from us to suggest that you look away from the screen for one second during this year's Florida Film Festival. You paid your money, you deserve to see a full show. But truth be told, stealing the occasional glance at the human drama going on all around you will teach you more about behavioral psychology than you'd ever hope to accomplish by poring over the subtitles of any given Fellini feature. Just when you think you've seen everything comes your chance to see more.
You'll definitely see more Seymour -- Seymour Cassel, that is. The midlevel movie star and buddy of the late John Cassavettes has been a festival fixture for years now, setting up mini-residency in Orlando for the full run of each year's event and turning heads with his adherence to a code of conduct that's wonderfully his own. Cassel has been known to pull chairs out from under the posteriors of strangers who rub him the wrong way; if he takes a shine to you, however, he's liable to engage you in an unprovoked, nearly impenetrable conversation that may or may not have something to do with his golf game.
Last year the disheveled thespian explained his tardiness at his own Q&A by stating that he was about to leave town and didn't have "a woman to pack for (him)." This time, Cassel arrives in the company of fellow Cassavettes crony Gena Rowlands. Expect him to suffer at least a poke in the ribs if he tries to float a similar apologia.
Tongues are still wagging about Peter Fonda's infamous appearance of two years ago, in which the aging Easy Rider took off on a ramble that held the awards gala audience hostage as it waited for his introduction of Roger Corman to come in for a landing. Sometimes, though, a guest's incoherence is vastly preferable to the alternative. Perpetually smirking director Todd Phillips made no effort to win friends at the 1998 festival, ending his weeklong tour of duty by snickering his disdain for our alleged one-horse town (someone had taken him to Church Street Station on a day off).
A scant year later, Phillips' career has stalled in the wake of allegations that his documentary "Frat House" was a work of fiction, not fact. With no new projects on the horizon, he hasn't been invited back -- but look closely at your waiter the next time you order an Enzian Chicken Sandwich.
And watch what you say while you're at it. The 1998 premiere of Slums of Beverly Hills sent one captivated audience member into a fit of nostalgia that had grave consequences for the strangers at her table. After the film's teen heroine was seen wrestling with the emotional trauma of her first menstrual period, the matronly viewer was inspired to loudly share the details of her own "first time" ... as a theater owner seated to her right bravely attempted to gulp down the final bites of his lunch.
Have fun, but try to keep the messy personal details on the QT. At least until we've all finished eating.
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