The sun continues to shine in Vladivostok, but otherwise it’s been one of those days.

After a hearty breakfast at the hotel and establishing that I could indeed use my laptop for free wi-fi in the press room (in room internet costs 200 rubles per hour), I thought I’d pop in and see Catherine Deneuve strut her stuff at a press conference. Guarded by some heavy duty friends, Madame walked right by me and into a throng of every journalist in Vladivostok – and maybe a few people who weren’t. It’s always astounding to see how a star commands a room. Predominantly in French, but occasionally slipping into anglais (a playful way of confusing her Unifrance translator?) she immediately confused everyone by sitting at a different seat than the chair allocated, because the light was better. My star-struckness began to wear off as Madame more exclusively spoke French (and I gotta say I was surprised she spoke English to the audience at all) and je ne parle pas bien Francais so I drifted off to the US Consulate reception at the Ocean theatre – which offers a panoramic water view that is more impressive than most films could dare to be – for  the visiting astronaut and retired cosmonaut.

At the reception, over fresh fruit speared by plastic swords I met the acquaintance of a twentysomething translator with a passion for photography called Ivan. He studied – amongst other things – English on a US Fulbright scholarship and then took another grant to study at Melbourne’s Monash University. It turns out he was based at my old campus at Caulfield and proceeded to give incredibly detailed information about everything we spoke about including the original name of the institution which has long been forgotten by people who lived there in the 80s! A mind like a sponge and recall that goes beyond the HAL 9000 (to say nothing of my battered old mac which amused Oleg the VIFF press room co-ordinator no end -though he did say it was so old it was ‘cool’). For someone who has trouble remembering my mobile phone number, I was very floored by the interpreter’s memory capabilities.

After a walk thru town across the harbour front, I scaled the hill for my return to the hotel for a Masterclass held by Russian animator Ivan Maximov. Same room as the Deneuve press conference and twice many people, the workshop was clearly an instant success. Beginning by showing a couple of his short films (including  his Berlin 1993 short film winner Bolero).  Wearing a skull-adorned bandana tight over his scalp, he had the audience of mostly youthful Russians completely enthralled. The room was so crowded that I could not see the screen (not just because of towering Russians, but a camera crew who was right in my sight line) so I had to watch the films via the reflecting glass covering a large painting on the wall. So when I say that I know the man’s work backwards you better believe that I am telling the truth.

With his use of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five and Ravel’s Bolero, the work is self-explanatory that is somewhere between Michael Leunig and “Yellow Submarine” (which coincidentally is the name of a Vladivostok nightclub), but again a lack of english interpretation left me out in the cold as far as enlightenment about Maximov’s creative process.

Skipping tonight’s vodka-fuelled escapade to finally see Departures which I have missed in about four different countries so far.

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