Moonlight in Venice

December 20, 2023
Box of Moonlight premiered at the Venice Film Festival in September 1996.
As I headed to the theatre, all I could think about was how, just two months earlier, the head of another festival had screamed at me, “If you think your film will get into Venice, then you must still believe in Santa Claus!”
Indeed, the whole trip was like a dream. Outside the crowded theatre, a woman thrust a microphone at me and yelled, "Ah, Tom; can you tell us now what is the meaning of your title, Boxing Moonlight?" The answer I gave was such stuttered nonsense that even I didn’t understand it. I suddenly realized the strange music that was coming from a long row of loudspeakers was Jim Farmer’s luscious score.
The theatre was sold out. Looking down at the 1500 people spread out below me prompted a trickle of cold sweat to run down my ribcage. The lights went down, and the film started. There was absolutely no response for the first 20 minutes. The sweat increased. Then suddenly, after Kid pushes the cop car down the hill, a sharp burst of applause.
There was more applause when Turturro started dancing around the fire, but the mood had quieted again by the time the film ended. I felt the horrible dread begin, anticipation of faint, polite applause dying out quickly; me, rising from my seat with a stiff, frozen smile on my face, trying hard to conceal my disappointment.
The applause began and, to my astonishment, continued to grow. In disbelief, I watched as people stood; I thought they were getting up to leave. Instead, more people rose, turned to where I was sitting, and continued to applaud. I suddenly heard a festival assistant yell at me, “Stand up, you idiot!”
When I did, the applause swelled louder. I turned to look at Jane to keep myself from bursting into tears. I had to look away quickly; she was crying, smiling at me. I urged Marcus (my producer) to stand, then Camilla (my editor), and then my composer, Jim Farmer. Glancing behind me, I saw the whole theatre was on their feet, beaming at us in adoring delight. I felt like I was flying.
Out in the lobby, a crush of people surrounded us. Teenagers stuck autograph books at me. An older couple rushed up, the man yelling, "Thank you, DiCillo, for this Boxing of Moonlight!" Out onto the street, more autographs, more yelling, laughing, hand-shaking strangers.
Back at the hotel, I left the group and ran to a phone on a lower floor at the end of a long, empty corridor. I called Turturro in NYC and left a dazed message telling him what had happened. Just as I hung up, a crowd burst through the far end of the corridor. I started laughing, thinking, "My god, how did they find me?!"
But it was Julian Schnabel. His film Basquiat had also just screened. About forty photographers and journalists surged in with him, yelling and flashing cameras as he marched toward me like a proud king down the corridor.
I had to step aside to let his procession pass. They continued down the hall and ascended the stairs leading to the main lobby. Staring after them from the now-deserted corridor, I suddenly saw the ceiling above the staircase blossom into a continuous stutter of blue–white flashes from another huge group of photographers who had been waiting for Schnabel in the lobby.
The precious jewel of my own triumph, only a half hour before, crumbled into dust so quickly it left me stunned and gasping, like a junkie for his next fix. Fame is the purest dope there is. One single hit, and you’re addicted. A moment later, it’s gone, and instantly you need another.

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Independent Filmmaker & Musician