IN STARLIT NIGHTS I SAW YOU

You know when you get invited to a cool party (a too cool party) where you’ll barely know anyone and you get anxiety about standing around awkwardly with no one to talk to and checking your phone incessantly just to have something to do? That was my worry going into this event last night, an after-party for the New York premiere of a new film called Cabaret Maxime, which I reviewed positively in yesterday’s New York Times and thus was asked to join last minute. The main draw: Michael Imperioli, who stars in Cabaret Maxime, would be there. (What was left out was that, like, five other Sopranos cast members would also be in attendance.)

The evening went spectacularly in the opposite direction than I initially feared—a kind of magical, cinematic whirlwind of a night that felt very old-school New York. (To my delight, I barely checked my phone.) It felt very much like the film itself, which pulses with a bright, bleeding, neon heart and is centered on a nostalgic night club scene—all shot on 35mm. After the Q&A, the director, Bruno de Almeida, immediately greeted me with two cheek kisses, dragged me outside for a cigarette break and when I told him I don’t smoke, he said “you’ll be my cigarette buddy anyway.” He told me he lives on espresso and cigarettes, only watches movies late at night, and goes to bed no earlier than 5 a.m. (He was disappointed to learn I had caught a morning press screening of his film.)

At Metrograph, John Ventimiglia (The Sopranos’ Artie Bucco; also in Cabaret Maxime) lit his cigarette inside the lobby then spilled out of the theater, while violently smacking the theater’s glass doors. A crowd immediately gathered around him to ask for his autograph and he yelled “HOW DO YOU GUYS KNOW WHO I AM?”

We eventually migrated to Pretty Ricky’s, a bar nearby that had their back room reserved for the film’s cast and crew. There I met Michael Imperioli, who is very sweet and much smaller than I expected. He recommended that I watch the French crime thriller Série Noire, one of the best things he had seen at Metrograph. We exchanged hugs, but Michael was busy being pulled left and right by people who were eager to congratulate him. I went up to the bar to order a Sauvignon blanc and Artie (sorry, John) came up next to me and started yelling along to “The Killing Moon,” which was playing on the speakers, while petting my fur coat. “You love Echo & the Bunnymen, huh?” “YES! I NEVER GET TO HEAR THEM!” (He talks in caps lock and has a mischievous grin.)

I had three sips of wine before Bruno dragged me out for another smoke break. He currently resides in Lisbon but told me about living on 2nd Street, between Avenues C and D—“between crazy and dead”—in the ’80s, when it was really crazy and dead. “I heard gunshots every night.” Then he moved to a loft in Tribeca, before it was the Tribeca it is now, and used to host a cinema club—he’d invite friends over and project 16mm film. We talked about our favorite filmmakers: I love the Koreans and the French; he loves the Italians. He was curious about my Jacques Demy reference in the review; I cited Une Chambre en Ville. And of course, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. “I love Catherine Deneuve,” he said. I showed him my phone background: Deneuve smoking on set while shooting Cherbourg.

At 5:49 a.m., I received an email from Bruno (naturally still awake): “I’m gonna send you some Italian movie names for you to watch,” he promised, but for the moment, he had attached a trailer for Il Sorpasso.

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