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San Jose fest: 10-year itch

'The Big Kahuna' opens event

SAN JOSE — The first 10 years were easy — but the birthday was very, very hard.

Cinequest, the San Jose Film Festival, opened its 10th-annum sked last Thursday with Sundance-preemed Kevin Spacey starrer “The Big Kahuna.”

That and most of the subsequent weekend’s events came off smoothly — apart, that is, from a power blackout that scratched Saturday p.m. screenings at the Towne 3 venue. The Towne, located nearly four miles from downtown San Jose, had been a last-minute replacement for the UA Pavillion, the glossy but money-losing multiplex located one block from traditional fest locale Camera 3.

The UA facility abruptly shuttered several weeks ago, giving neither the fest nor the city of S.J. any notice before clearing out.

Those poorly timed traumas boondoggled Cinequest’s much-expanded 2000 showing, which leaps from seven to 10 days, and for the first time features parallel programming at the AMC 14 in nearby burg Saratoga.

However, all this and rain to boot didn’t much dampen spirits overall, as the initial weekend saw full houses for several leading titles in Cinequest’s Latino Celebration sidebar.

Helmer Robert M. Young (“Nothing But a Man”) accepted the fest’s Maverick career nod and presented his 1977 indie classic about illegal Mexican-border crossing, “Alhambrista!”

Like Young, other high-profile guests spread words of wisdom at their public and press-confab appearances:

  • Alec Baldwin noted his hopeful future projects include playing George in a revived stage “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” and making his screen directorial debut. He mused on the different satisfactions of his work as actor and producer, on studio and indie pics.

  • Peter Fonda revealed pa Henry’s pre-release response to “Easy Rider” in ’69: “I know you have all your eggs in this basket, and I’m worried.”

    While he still gets shout-outs on the street as that pic’s “Captain America,” Fonda credits thesp daughter Bridget with “tapping me on the shoulder and saying ‘You’ve been on that bike a long time,'” prompting his recent resurge as a stellar character actor.

  • Producer-helmer Cass Paley (of tragic-pornstar docu “Wadd: The Life and Times of John C. Holmes”) experienced interviewus interruptus from his cocktail-lubricated traveling companion Al Goldstein, Screw mag tycoon and 1st Amendment champion.

Clad in an electric blue suit, Goldstein dispensed pithy words on everything from marijuana legalization to Rudy Giuliani, few of which are printable here.

He mimed backdoor intimacy with a bemused Paley, duly ennumerated the many things “never to say in a room full of feminists,” and noted “I invented sex.”

Among the first few days’ Cinequest unspoolings, good buzz gathered around Snjezana Tribuson’s Croatian romantic comedy “The Three Men of Melita Zganjer” and Anno Saul’s fantasy-tinged German domestic drama “Green Desert.”

The fest continues through Sunday, with weekend appearances from cult Italo horror director Dario Argento, “Scream” maestro Wes Craven and Amer-indie vet Jon Jost.

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