One of the great pleasures of Barney's Version, the opening night feature of the Hamptons International Film Festival, was the parade of Canadian filmmakers in cameo roles: David Cronenberg, Atom Egoyan, among them. It's as if this funny, sad, smart film set in Montreal andbased on Mordechai Richler's last novel, had its own inside jokes.
Producer Robert Lantos told a packed audience on Thursday night in East Hampton, he shepherded this film into creation after Richler's death. The two had formed a friendship and realizing that this was probably Richler's finest work, Lantos persevered through severalscreenplays and a number of key changes. One was moving the locationof the protagonist's early years and first marriage to Rome instead of Paris. While giving readings in Italy, Richler had been surprised thathis book had become a huge hit there. Here in Canada, I am a novelist, he told Lantos, but in Italy, I am arockstar. And so this change had the author's blessing. The moviepremiered in Venice and made front-page news for days.
Paul Giamatti plays the protagonist of the title, a Jewish producer of shlock television; his shlemiel persona rivals that of Larry David. Ironically lucky and luckless in love, he is married first to a painter who commits suicide, then a Jewish Canadian Princess (Minnie Driver), and then to the elegant Miriam Grant. British actress Rosamund Pike who ages miraculously through this story, based herrestrained performance on Richler's widow Florence who at 80, said Lantos, still has the stately demeanor of her youth. Pike'sperformance anchors a cast that also includes Dustin Hoffman as Barney's father, a Jewish cop. Hoffman will surely be nominated for a Best Supporting Oscar. Even dead in a tawdry brothel, he steals theshow.
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