I flew from LA to Paris en route to the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF) on a 500-seat double-decker Air France A380 that is the largest passenger aircraft in the world. Lufthansa and Emirates Airlines also fly them. It’s the smoothest, quietest flight ride I’ve ever had, you barely noticed the plane taking off.
I walked, “Snowpiercer” style, through the economy steerage, up the curved staircase at the tail and back through business and first class, which features ten full sleepers. The three-year-old jumbo jet had video footage of three live cameras mounted on the nose, belly and tail. Cool.
At Charles DeGaulle, I took an older plane to Prague in the Czech Republic, where a festival driver took me and two other fest attendees through verdant farmland to the vacation destination Karlovy Vary, home of mineral hot springs and mud baths, which the natives still call Carlsbad. The picture perfect town has a river running through the valley, which is dotted with turrets, castles and spas. In the car for the two-hour drive were filmmaker Chad Hartigan, who is returning to the Fest as a juror after bringing “This is Martin Bonner.” He’s now prepping a German-financed film (“Morris from America”) to be shot in Berlin. Toronto academic and critic Adam Nayman gave us tips of what to see and recently published a treatise on why Paul Verhoeven’s “Showgirls” doesn’t suck.
Opening night at Festival Central, at the massive Hotel Thermal featured a performance of “In the Mood” by the Caban brothers, an intro to the brainy Sundance hit “I, Origins” from writer-director Mike Cahill and stars Michael Pitt and Astrid Berges-Frisbey, and the presentation of the Crystal Globe for outstanding artistic contribution to world cinema, after an impressive reel of his movies, to Mel Gibson, who couldn’t resist flirting with his award. “It’s just the kind of thing I want, the kind of fantasy I always had: a naked woman holding a ball,” the jet-lagged star told the crowd, admitting that he had come to the Czech Republic for the first time, despite an “emergency root canal on the way to the airplane, and I’m not kidding, because it’s hell going up in altitude with your nerves going nuts. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. I’m charmed by the warm reception, and honored to be among the people here: artists, directors, diplomats, statesmen, mayors –and hot looking chicks.” He also couldn’t resist mistaking the Czech word for “thank you,” pronounced “deekee,” as another word that rhymes with chick.
Later that night I ran into Gibson and his long-time publicist Alan Nierob in the VIP basement lounge of the Grand Hotel Pupp, as the opening night party raged through many rooms above, with lavish spreads with everything from roast beef, aspic and deviled eggs to tongue-melting fresh sword steaks grilled on demand. He showed me his latest movie arm tattoo as well as iPhone footage of his walk to the front of a huge outdoor stage holding 3,000 fans before a showing of the movie that made him a star, “Mad Max.” Heady stuff. “You should post that on Twitter,” I said. They looked at me like I was crazy. We’re talking more today.