In a way, the biggest opening-night premiere at this year’s Karlovy Vary film festival wasn’t the feature film that officially launched the 48-year-old Czech festival. Rather, it was the one-minute trailer unveiled during the opening ceremony of the week-long festival, which concludes on Saturday.
The big film, Michel Gondry‘s “Mood Indigo,” stars Audrey Tatou and played to a decided mixed reception – but the trailer, featuring Helen Mirren in a 75-second comic mystery, got rousing applause and continued the festival’s annual tradition of trailers that steal the spotlight.
“I have seen a lot of good stuff at #KVIFF,” tweeted British reviewer Guy Lodge toward the end of the festival, “but nothing I love quite as much as this year’s hilarious festival promo ad with Helen Mirren.”
Jude Law, John Malkovich, Milos Forman (left), Harvey Keitel and Danny DeVito have all shown up in Karlovy Vary trailers a year or so after receiving the festival’s Crystal Globe award – and this year’s recipient, John Travolta, has already started talking to fest officials about his trailer, which they hope to unveil next June in the spa town west of Prague.
Starting in 2008, Karlovy Vary has created 10 of the stylish trailers, all shot in black and white by directors Ivan Zachariáš and Martin Krejčí and all containing playful riffs on the idea of what happens to the large, heavy trophy when it leaves the Czech Republic.
Stars don’t take themselves too seriously in the trailers, and neither do the promos act too reverential toward the fest’s lifetime-achievement award, which is often subject to a fair amount of abuse at the hands of its recipients. (Warning: The language would get some of these trailers a red band in the U.S.)
One of the trailers is shown before every film at Karlovy Vary (more or less randomly, though the most recent one gets the biggest play), and it invariably draws a healthy round of applause … sometimes more applause than the feature films that follow, which should not be considered a slap at the generally strong programming.
Here’s Helen Mirren’s offering, filmed in London by Krejčí while the actress was appearing on the West End:
“When Helen saw it, she loved it and said, ‘Thank you, I’m happy to be part of this beautiful, unique collection,'” KVIFF executive director Kryštof Mucha told TheWrap.
Mucha helped formulate the idea for the trailers with festival president Jiří Bartoška and noted commercial directors Zachariáš and Krejčí. The idea of involving directors and actors was inspired by a 60th anniversary Cannes poster on Bartoška wall, and Zachariáš came up with the basic concept: What happens to the award after the recipients get home?
Or, in the case of John Malkovich’s trailer, what happens on the way home? “He was totally into it from the first moment we mentioned it,” said Mucha of Malkovich. “He said, I’d love to do it, and I have an idea … ‘”
Of course, the stars’ enthusiasm for the trailers isn’t always shared by the award’s creator. Photographer and designer Tono Stano “was a little bit upset with some of the stories about what people like Jude Law were doing to his award,” admitted Mucha. “He said, ‘It’s my award!’ We said, ‘It’s not about your award, it’s about the festival and the people. It’s fun, and we are not too serious.'”
When KVIFF organizers first began asking their honorees to do the trailers, they began with Czech director Miloš Forman, a longtime friend of the festival. “Of course we had to start with Miloš,” said Mucha. “And he said, ‘Yeah, that’s a good idea. Come to my house and let’s do it.'”
After Forman, Mucha said the second call was to Danny DeVito, a recent recipient. “We called Danny and said, ‘Miloš is doing it.’ And he said, ‘If Miloš is doing it, I’m doing it!'”
Also in 2008’s inaugural batch of trailers, along with Forman, DeVito and Czech director Věra Chytilová, was Harvey Keitel, who was part of a three-day blitz of trailers that Zachariáš directed: DeVito on a Saturday in New York, Forman on Sunday in Connecticut and Keitel on Monday back in New York.
Czech director Jiří Menzel, meanwhile, was in his 70s when the festival asked him to participate … and he willingly spoofed his own image as something of a ladies’ man.
Actor Andy Garcia also participated; Czech writer-director Otakar Vávra died after receiving his award, so a trailer was made using the Crystal Globe as a candleholder on his grave.
While Travolta has already agreed to make his own trailer, KVIFF is still looking to get a few past winners to do their own. Judi Dench and Antonio Banderas have agreed to take part, said Mucha, and Robert De Niro said he wants to do one, even if he’s been putting them off for a couple of years.
“We have a beautiful script and he’s agreed to do it,” said Mucha. “But we keep pushing him, two or three times a year. The last time I saw him, at the Golden Globes, he said, ‘Yeah, I’m going to do your documentary!’
“He means the trailer, but for some reason he calls it a documentary.”