Here I am, completely and utterly (but also nicely) exhausted. I'll try and give you my account of my last 30 hours or so. Being completely unaware of the fact that Fade To Black was scheduled to run at the Hamburg Film Fest (yes Nat's message was a surprise for me, too) I was under ongoing astonishment that this gem would be shown only - what? - 200 kilometres from me. The feeling lasted for the rest of Monday morning. Thank goodness there are mobile phones, the internet, ICEs and hotels. I made some quick decisions and found myself on a spontaneous trip to Hamburg right after I finished my work.


The woman at the ticket booth in Hamburg was a bit taken by surprise when she saw my home address on the reservation for my ticket. But she took it well and added that I'd have a jolly good evening. And how right she was.

The screening started rather late in the evening (21:30) with Oliver Parker attending and sitting in the same row as me. He was - understandably - quite nervous. Anticipation was high and although the festival was coming to the end of it's fifth day people showed a great interest in this one. Festival-goers do get tired after such a marathon of movies to watch. I mean it can be exhausting, let me tell you from my heydays at the Berlinale. Well anyway, after the emcee was through with his little speech (ouch, well it wasn't a world-premiere, but the European one) the theatre was getting dark and the movie finally began.

Btw. did I mention that nice and friendly cine-fanatic who took his seat right beside me? He reminded me of those Berlin days. Obviously not having slept for ages, drinking strong black coffee and after having realized that I was feverish with joy, trying to spill out the beans about the plot - which he actually couldn't do to perfection because he didn't have a clue about the movie… He was also trying to give me some of his "hints" during the screening - this guy was very amusing. One of his best shots was: "Ahhh, Danny Huston - he's so similar to Orson Welles without even trying to imitate him." Yep - he did hit the nail straight on the head. But that constant German sub-commenting was a bit irritating I have to admit. While trying to concentrate on a non-dubbed and non-subtitled movie which uses and plays a great deal with different accents (that's being American and Italian accents mostly).

To describe the movie itself is an almost unsolvable task to do, especially when taking into account that I've seen it only once right there and then. Maybe I do get some things wrong - but I think I should try and give my first impressions. Fade To Black works on many different levels of story lines. The ones I can remember or that I felt to be important may be irrelevant to other people - so hey I don't have the ultimate truth in my hands, right? One thing I am certain of is that you'll have to watch that movie more than once. Which is leading me to the remark that Fade To Black will be screening once more on October 11, 2006 from 21:15 in Hamburg. For those of you who are able to attend: go and buy yourself a ticket!

As I said, the movie works on different levels - I think I spotted at least half a dozen of them and therefore it's hard to pigeonhole it into one specific film-genre. First and foremost this movie revolves around its central character Orson Welles, the genius actor / director who's career is at an all time low, just having had the break-up with Rita Hayworth and not finding any decent projects to work in nor having enough money for developing his own stuff.

Danny Huston's Orson Welles is a very dry, charismatic and ironic man - as Mr. Welles was, obviously. Sometimes he really doesn't give a damn about the people around him, sometimes he does. Why and who he chooses as "friends" - well you never can tell. Actually he seems to be drawn to the more interesting people with slight defects here and there. He's got some lovely lines spreading his words of wisdom randomly all over the scenery. He's also got one running gag going on about his failed marriage - one nasty journalist keeps on calling him Mr. Hayworth. He's also the quintessential slightly self-centred artist you'd expect as a cliché when thinking of movie people in general. There are some scenes were you can almost hear him scream "How was I"? Well he never does actually. He's also a man who's very aware that he is getting older and his fear of loosing his magic to impress people with his art is becoming evident. One deeply touching moment comes when he meets a former silent-movie-star. He's trying so hard to make her feel important - very funny in the first place but on second sight very haunting. Of course he's trying to heal her with his means, and one might argue that he's quite successful at that.


On different levels the story lines evolve and twist and decline as you'd expect it from a tribute to the film noir genre. You do have a murder mystery here entangled in a tense political atmosphere in Italy right after the war, there are blasts from the fascist past which is only a short three years away and the Americans trying to (say it politely) "influence" the Italian people to vote for the right (that word you may take literally) party. Did I forget something? Of course there are attractive and mysterious women, there's a gun-running story line, gangsters who appear from out of the blue, threat and then disappear. You've got corrupt police men - you name it, it's all there.

Orson Welles starts out to solve a - what he is convinced of - a murder case. His private investigations lead him to a list with politically "important" victims, his name being the last one on it. So Orson tries to solve the riddles that lie before him. Why? Out of pure curiosity, out of consternation or out of simple boredom with his low-budget and third class scripted movie he's just shooting at Cinecittà studios? Maybe he wants to impress the beautiful Italian leading actress (Paz Vega) he's constantly trying to seduce - who knows? He's got an Italian driver right by his side (Diego Luna) who has some training in the investigation business - so naturally after the first things happen Welles finds himself being the detective-hero in his very own drama.

Of course he's being warned more than once and in different degrees of violence to stop his snooping around - even some US attaché (Christopher Walken) warns him. This eerily nice and yet, well, disturbingly cold as ice man who Welles thinks is a friend will play a greater role than he thought. Well, I'm not trying to get any deeper into the plot because I'm afraid I'd ruin your fun of watching the movie yourself. Spoiling all the twists and turns of the story would be a real shame.

As for the movie-people that are portrayed and debunked here - let's not forget to mention Nat's Viola. His Italian gay movie producer is surely fascinating to observe and to listen to. The accent is such fun to hear coming out of that "Lynley" face. Don't get me wrong. It isn't a caricature. I think it would have been too easy a way out for Nat to do just that. This Viola is gay, yes, but not in an overdone way, his accent is Italian but without mocking it. And yep, he has some Italian lines, too. He's convincing as this guy who's trying to make things happen in Cinecittà.

The fun is being made out of the pure, sometimes odd circumstances and occasions the figures find themselves in. What really started me giggling like nuts (now it was my turn to irritate my seating neighbour) was the scene where Danny and Nat were trying to decide which Shakespearean play Welles would film in Italy and the ensuing scene with an investor for that very plan is simply done in an adorable naive and childish style of a filmmaker's dream on how to raise money for such a project - yes it was Othello. If only money would grow on trees... Within these moments (where he's dealing with the (non?) art of filmmaking and acting) lies - Oliver may pardon me - the essence and strength of this movie. The film, having all those storylines is actually a tale about the fate of an illusionist and a larger than life story teller - which in this case is this movie legend called Welles with all his tragedy and glory that are combined in this one man who's vita is deeply routed in every film-fans heart and therefore in movie-history. Not accidentally the narrative brackets start and end with Welles dry comments on him being an actor and not having the strength to actually change anything, not even his own fate. But more on that later.


For those of you who like to dwell on outer appearances: You'll hate Nat's hairdo. It is one of the worst I've ever seen. End of comment on that. The design and costumes are superb. The camerawork is very stylish and I liked the whole feel the movie has to it.

After the final credits the audience gave a warm applause and Oliver started to answer the audience's questions. One thing that might interest you most is the one on a distributor. Up to now the movie has none. Oliver hopes that by showing the movie during occasions like the Hamburg Film Fest, the distributors will find it easier to make up their minds on how to "sell" the movie. He also said that he was surprised on how this audience got the underlying humour so much better that the first public audience it had.

Lo and behold I had to have a closer look at the time. Actually I was planning to get the last train back, but decided differently, wanting to hear what Oliver had to say. I told myself "there are hotels in Hamburg..." Clever idea. So after a few questions I decided to ask one on Oliver's motivation for making this movie and if there are the parallels between himself and Welles. He was kind enough to give a longer answer during which I had to smile a great deal because he was very open and honest about himself and about being someone (like Welles - or anybody else) who's afraid that people solve the riddle of ones own mystery. Very poignant and very heartfelt. The Q&A went on for about half an hour. Some thanked Oliver for making this movie and congratulated him. There was a sort of open-for-all chat-invitation in a local pub after this, but I had to leave, finding myself a place to rest my head. Go figure I found one way after midnight!

Now I'm on my train back home, it's 05:30 in the morning - and I am utterly happy to have had the chance to have a look at Fade To Black in Hamburg. Having had the opportunity to listen to a nice and relaxed live interview chat with Oliver and his audience was the second highlight of this trip. I do hope this movie will soon come out for you all to enjoy - like Nat wrote: It deserves that.

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