The raucous period drama “Firebrand” was the official opening night film at the 57th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival on Friday night in the spa town outside Prague, but there was so much more in the Grand Hall. and its surroundings. Hotel Thermal than just the on-screen battle between Alicia Vikander’s Catherine Parr and Jude Law’s King Henry VIII.
It also included the awards ceremony for Vikander and Russell Crowe, the usual accompaniment to opening night speeches, an extended dance number that appeared to be performed on ice skates (although the fact that no one slipped on stage proved who wasn’t on ice) and, during breaks and after the film, full concerts by UK band Morcheeba and Crowe’s nine-piece Indoor Garden Party.
If you missed the last part, don’t worry: Crowe was shooting the whole thing for a documentary about his music career, which tends to be overshadowed by his movie.
That’s a lot to cram into an opening night, especially after a day that had already included 43 screenings at 10 theaters spread across the ludicrously picturesque city, for hundreds of years a popular destination for Germans, Russians and others seeking spa treatments. .
Even without the stage, Karlovy Vary is an unusual festival, with its inventive dance company kicking off each edition, with the obligatory thank you to festival patrons accompanied by the on-screen note “Thank you for your money” and with trailers teasing its top accolade, the very large and very heavy Globe of Glass.
Johnny Depp was the star of this year’s trailer, which came after host Marek Eben introduced the Czech Republic to visitors by noting: “We are a small country that has never tried to occupy another state. We have never tried to occupy Germany… or even Poland.”
The audience in the Great Hall included Patricia Clarkson, a former Crystal Globe winner who asked if she could come back and serve on a jury; veteran independent producer Christine Vachon, who will be honored at the festival this year; and producer Mark Johnson (“Rain Man,” “Better Call Saul”), who came from Prague, where he is filming the TV series “Interview with the Vampire.”
But the guests of honor were Vikander, who won the President’s Award, and Crowe, who received the Crystal Globe for Outstanding Artistic Contribution to World Cinema. In her speech, Vikander noted that the first film she made outside of her native Denmark was the 2012 Oscar-nominated drama “A Royal Affair,” in which she played 18th-century Danish queen Caroline Matilda and was filmed entirely. in the Czech Republic. .
For his part, Crowe thanked Karlovy Vary for being organized and running like clockwork when other festivals he had been to were “completely disorganized hellscapes”. He said a few more kind words and then closed with: “The prize is very good. However, I’m here for the concert. I’ll see you after the show.
But that “after” didn’t arrive for about three hours, because opening night took a break from performing indoors to move outdoors for an hour-long performance by British band of the 1980s. 90 Morcheeba, followed by a return to the theater for a well-received performance of director Karim Ainouz’s “Firebrand”.
And then it was time for the Crowe concert, which took place on a hidden stage in the Thermal and in front of a crowd of thousands that stretched out in front of the hotel and down the street.
Crowe has been making music since before he was known as an actor, first as a solo artist in the 1980s under the pseudonym Russ le Roq and then with his band 30 Odd Foot of Grunts. His current band, Indoor Garden Party, includes a trumpeter and four singers (one of whom, Lorena Rowe, also plays guitar) and plays simple rock and soul music that seemed to entertain the audience, even as Crowe left the stage to listen to the songs Rowe and Crowe’s son, Charlie.
The material on KVIFF was mostly original, though Crowe included a variety of covers, including some obscure country songs, Red Lane’s “Blackjack County Chain” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” along with a hyperdramatic version of “Leonard Cohen”. Take This Waltz,” an acoustic rendition of Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet” and an endgame through Simon and Garfunkel’s “Hazy Shade of Winter.” It’s a strange mix, and to be honest, the Indoor Garden Party is a tight-knit band whose weakest link is also its most famous member. But they kept the crowd moving until after midnight, and by all appearances Crowe was relaxed and happy to be on stage.
And happy to be in Karlovy Vary too. “By the way, this place is beautiful,” she said at one point. “It has been a revelation for me. I have been to many places, but I have never been here, and this place is spectacular.
He paused. And I’m not going to keep it a secret. I am going to tell everyone to come to Karlovy Vary and to the Czech Republic”.