Season kicks off with massive unspoolings

A slew of film festivals lit the globe last week, from Newport, R.I., to all the way Down Under.

On June 10, the 52nd Sydney Film Festival got under way with an unspooling of Pawel Pawlikowski’s “My Summer of Love.”

At the State Theater, New South Wales deputy Andrew Refshauge raised the curtain, but not before laying into the press for printing stories about the recent decline in total box office.

“Stop that; it’s not happening,” said Refshauge, who is also State Treasurer, minister for planning and for aboriginal affairs.

“Don’t be party to the negativity. We’ve seen some good films, and more to come.”

With that solved, some 2,000 audience members settled down to watch the film.

Pic’s stars Emily Blunt and Natalie Press joined the after-party at the New South Wales Art Gallery, where Baz Luhrmann, new SFF artistic director Lynden Barber and SFF prexy Cathy Robinson mingled until 3 a.m.

Late ‘Country’

The closing-night pic of the eighth annual Newport Intl. Film Festival, Sony Classics’ “Beautiful Country,” unspooled over an hour late, but the sold-out crowd stayed in their seats until the very end of the Q&A.

Best known for its yachts and coastal mansions, the seaport community welcomed d.p. Ellen Kuras and “Beautiful Country” stars Damien Nguyen and Nick Nolte during the fest (June 7-12).

The Claiborne Pell Lifetime Achievement Award, named after the local senator who helped establish arts orgs NEA and NEH, was handed to Michael McKean. Celebrating with McKean was wife, Annette O’Toole, and longtime collaborators Harry Shearer and Christopher Guest. Week’s highlight was a performance by McKean, Shearer and Guest (aka MSG) who nixed the idea of “Spinal Tap” transferring to Broadway. “There’s something about it that set it in its own time and space,” said McKean. “Like when you dissect a frog — it’s very interesting, but it doesn’t do the frog any good.”

Other fests of late include the Jackson Hole Film Festival, (wrapped June 12); The Nantucket Film Festival (wrapped June 19); and Cinevegas (wrapped June 18).

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