“The Artist” kicks off the 14th annual Savannah Film Festival – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell
Hollywoodnews.com: And with that, the 14th annual Savannah Film Festival is underway.

“That” being an Opening Night screening of “The Artist” to a packed house at Trustees Theater on Saturday evening. Celebrity guest list included Alec Baldwin, James Toback, and “Artist” co-star James Cromwell, who was gracious and informative in a post-screening Q-and-A.

But pre-show conversation was more interesting, as most sitting around me – 80-90% locals who enjoy taking part in the annual film celebration – had no idea what to expect from Michel Hazanavicius’s ode to Hollywood’s Golden Age.

“Black and white AND silent?” the man sitting next to me wondered with a hint of incredulity that his wife, clearly more excited by the prospect, had convinced him to attend. Want to know the scene that won him over? For those who’ve seen Hazanavicius’s film, it was the moment that George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) hears his glass hit the table.

I was interested because, from an Oscar-campaign perspective, “The Artist” has to connect outside of the industry in order to sustain momentum, and that was one of the topics of coversation at the gorgeous, new SCAD Museum of Art, which opened only a few days ago and yet still was prepared to post the Opening Night reception, The facility is spectacular, with impressive artwork adorning the walls and plenty of space to accommodate the throngs who flocked from Trustees to ring in the start of the fest, Halloween, or both.

(If you haven’t been to Savannah, a freaky city, on Halloween weekend, do make plans. And bring a costume. Preferably something movie-related. My favorite from last night was Jules and Vincent from Quentin Tarantino’s “Pulp Fiction,” sometime after they’d shot Marvin in the face.)

But the film festival is underway. Ellen Barkin and Ray Liotta step into the spotlight for presentations Sunday surrounding their films, “Another Happy Day” and “The Son of No One,” respectively. Baldwin’s in town for a special screening of Kubrick’s “Barry Lyndon,” with Toback joining the dicussion. And the best of the fest is yet to come, with screenings of David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method,” Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” Roman Polanski’s “Carnage” and more.

I’ll bring you coverage throughout.

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