Russell Crowe brought rock and roll to the opening night of the 57th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (KVIFF), playing a 90-minute set having earlier accepted the Crystal Globe for outstanding contribution to world cinema.
Crowe and his band Indoor Garden Party combined their own music – including new single ‘Let Your Light Shine’, the title track from their upcoming album, and ‘Southampton’, about the English city – with covers including Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’, Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘A Hazy Shade Of Winter’, a Crowe-solo ‘Romeo & Juliet’ by Dire Straits, and closing number ‘Valerie’ by The Zutons.
The set also featured an original song written and performed by Crowe’s son Charles Spencer Crowe, who rejoined his father for the final song. In a 10-minute interlude, Crowe Sr. told a story about filming Clare Peploe’s Rough Magic in Mexico in 1994, when he had to run multiple takes with a live, large spider climbing up his neck and into his mouth. “I’m the only Oscar winner in history to be f**ked in the neck by a tarantula!” came the punchline.
Crowe also had a camera crew filming the show, for a documentary titled Last Breath that he has teased on Twitter recently. The gig was the final in a 23-date international tour for Indoor Garden Party.
Accepting his honorary award earlier in the evening in the main hall of Karlovy Vary’s Hotel Thermal venue, Crowe said he had been “unaware of this festival until recently” but was impressed with how “the festival runs like clockwork – everyone is on time.” He closed his brief speech by quipping “Awards are very nice and I am truly humbled. However, I am here for the gig.”
The ceremony was hosted by Czech television personality Marek Eben, who began by welcoming the large number of foreign visitors to the festival. “We [the Czech Republic] are a small country that can be proud of the fact that it has never sought to conquer the territory of another state,” said Eben. “Human life is precious here. It’s not because we’re noble; it’s because our numbers are dwindling, and we can’t afford to shoot each other,” joked the host.
Continuing Karlovy Vary’s tradition of festival trailers featuring renowned guests from the past, Eben introduced this year’s version starring previous attendee Johnny Depp. The trailer appeared to poke fun at the controversy surrounding Depp’s presence at the 2021 festival, with a skit about how he attended but was not an honouree, and did not receive a Crystal Globe.
Eben also touched on the withdrawal of a Chinese film from the main Crystal Globe competition, leaving it with 11 titles instead of the usual 12. “The Chinese government intervened and banned any Chinese film from being exhibited anywhere in the Czech Republic,” said the host. “I suggest we ban the screening of the Czech Communist classic Anna The Proletarian in China… but then I thought it would be much better to allow it,” he joked. “It is unfortunate; hopefully these things will no longer be around.”
Screen spoke to a Competition jury member following the ceremony who said the jury had not been informed what the film was, and that the issue was regarding all Chinese films in the Czech Republic, not this one title.
Swedish actress Alicia Vikander accepted the President’s Award from president Jiri Bartoska. Accompanied at the ceremony by her husband, actor and producer Michael Fassbender, Vikander recalled shooting her breakthrough role, 2012 period drama A Royal Affair, in the Czech Republic. She then introduced the opening night film, Karim Ainouz’s Cannes 2023 Competition entry Firebrand, in which she plays Katherine Parr, the final wife of Henry VIII and the one to survive him.
KVIFF continues today with world premieres including Itsaso Arana’s The Girls Are Alright in competition, and Naqqash Khalid’s Proxima entry In Camera.