The taxi comes at 4:15 a.m. and I leave Bologna with many backward glances, having fallen madly in love with both the town and Il Cinema Ritrovato. The nicest man working on the lobby desk is also the only native Bolognese employed there, and he’s been delighted by my obvious happiness here. Next year, he says, he’s giving me a scavenger hunt, so I’ll explore more of the city itself. From his lips to God’s ear.
But now for the romance of travel, which these days is more like a forced march, especially with long trudges through hub city connections and no checked luggage. Bologna to Amsterdam to Frankfurt to Prague, where the Festival, happily, has a welcome kiosk staffed by pretty young girls in chic tight black-and-white t-shirts starkly emblazoned with “47.” The simple graphics on the thick catalogue and daily program are equally chic. There are fleets of vans to drive us two hours to Karlovy Vary.
A journalist from outside of Amsterdam has already told me that he’s just come from a very hot and humid Paris, but he doesn’t like Paris and the people who live there, anyway. “I’m not a Francophile, I’m an Anglophile,” he tells me. I timidly say I think it’s possible to be both. He’s just told me that he goes to Cannes every year, “even though it’s very racist,” when I’m assigned to a van and swept away.
I’m riding with two Hungarian journalists, Karlovy Vary regulars, which is all I learn about them over the two hours, as they talk continuously to each other and ignore me, despite being rather more fluent in English and French, my only two languages, than I am in theirs. When I tell them that I love Budapest, the woman winces: she has mixed feelings, it seems, about her home town. She also tells me that I look tired, which is probably true, but usually I read that phrase as a synonym for “you look old.” She has at least a decade on me. I begin to miss my cranky Dutch Anglophile. Not for nothing, do I think, did Alan Jay Lerner rhyme “Budapest” with “ruder pest.”
We are unceremoniously deposited in front of the Thermal Hotel, the Festival center, built on a hill overlooking the picturesque Tepla river. It’s a modernistic pile, although exactly how modernistic I’m not sure – built in the 70s or 80s? My new friends disappear in a matter of seconds. It’s a hive of activity, to coin a phrase, and after standing in a couple of lines I’m sent down the hill to the Hotel Pavlov, an adorable 19th-century wedding cake set right on the river.
I spend the usual time exploring the amenities. Plus: Ethernet cable (a fixture in all hotelleries built in the 1800s). Minus: no air conditioning.
I have been given a ticket to the opening night film, “Good Vibrations,” about the punk scene in Belfast in the 80s, which looks like a good time. I’m a little taken aback by the line that reads “black tie,” but I figure I’ll put a jacket over a long t-shirt dress, wear all the jewelry I’ve brought, and fake it.
But there’s time, so I lie down on the bed for a half-an-hour.
I wake up abruptly, disoriented, groggy, and inconsolable when I realize that my half-hour nap has lasted four hours and I’ve missed both the opening-night film and the afterparty. This isn’t like me. I feel like crying over spilt celluloid.
A quick perusal of the program reveals that my only two options tonight are at midnight, playing in theaters whose locations I am unsure of. I’m busy kicking myself – it usually takes a day or two before I feel the classic festival despair set in – when I hear alarming booms. I rush to the window and find I have an amazing view, the best view possible, of the opening-night fireworks, twenty minutes of enormous highly-colored explosions directly overhead that look close enough to touch.
I’m cheered up immensely. Time now to study the catalogue seriously. Tomorrow, after all, as someone once said, is another day.