But the showgirls had the night off, and CineVegas took over. Festival chairman Dennis Hopper kicked off the event in true Vegas style, rising from a trapdoor in the stage to the accompaniment of "Born to Be Wild." I noted that he pronounces the festival's name "sinny-vegas," rather than "sin-uh-vegas." His version sounds more cheerful. Vegas is sinny! Come visit!
The opening-night film, a comedy called Saint John of Las Vegas, was introduced by its writer/director, Hue Rhodes, who reiterated Sinny City's showbiz roots. Good or bad, funny or serious, scary or tame, Las Vegas is all about puttin' on a show. He said that his own film "is not always gonna be a safe ride," but assured us it would be a crazy one.
Which it is. Steve Buscemi (pictured) stars as a former gambler who now works at an insurance agency and must return to Vegas to investigate a possibly fraudulent insurance claim. What's interesting, perhaps, is that the movie is set up as a parallel to Dante's Divine Comedy: Buscemi's character's last name is Alighieri, same as Dante's, and his partner is named Virgil; they encounter people and situations similar to those described in the old Italian poem you were supposed to have read in high school. Buscemi and co-star Romany Malco are good, of course, but the film feels slight and forgettable. I wonder if greater familiarity with Inferno would increase one's enjoyment of it. Curse my inattentiveness in eleventh-grade English!
The after party was at Planet Hollywood's swanky Privé nightclub, sponsored by Stella Artois and Grey Goose vodka, which resulted in every Vegas-goer's two favorite words: OPEN BAR. The DJ actually got some people on the dance floor, too, with an irresistible mix of new stuff and old stuff that included -- flashbacks to freshman year of college! -- "Rump Shaker" ("Check baby, check baby, one two three four"). A glance at the room confirmed that many rumps were indeed being shaken, and they shook well into the night. That's Vegas in a nutshell: glitz, showmanship, hit-or-miss entertainment, alcohol, and parties. Best of all, I still remember everything the next day.