British actor, author and comedian Stephen Fry came on a brief visit to Israel over the weekend to promote his new film Bright Young Things that is being screened as part of the British Film Festival.
Fry, 46, directed the film and wrote the script based on Evelyn Waugh's book Vile Bodies, set in the 1930's.
This is the story of a group of famous young people, living in a frantic jazz-fevered whirl of endless costume parties, treasure hunts, sports-car races and other hedonistic pursuits (alcohol, drugs etc.).
Fry introduced his film in the Jerusalem Cinematheque last night beginning with some pleasantries in Hebrew, with an impressive accent. He then switched to English, saying that these were the only words he knows in Hebrew, except the most important, and with this he took a long pause, "glida" - ice cream.
He said that working on and directing this film had given him more pleasure "than any other activity except those involving a water-based lubricant."
Fry, who in many ways is part of our contemporary "celebrity" culture, said in Tel Aviv on Friday: "We flatter ourselves - flatter is not the word, we condemn ourselves - that this is the age of celebrity culture. But it started so long ago, in the day when Lord Beaverbrook, himself a Canadian, was for 10 years the most powerful man in the world by the power he had over the political establishment of the British empire. These bright young things - this being a cliche of the popular press - were the first generation of party animals simply because they were celebrities. For the first few years it was simply fun. They didn't know the price to be paid."
Indeed, one of the film's protagonists, a socialite and gossip columnist, commits suicide while another character goes mad.
"You kind of hope that when you show people a slice of history or in that case a kind of contemporary life, they will see the parallels in the celebrity culture and be fascinated by it. And this is the knowledge that our culture is not something we have invented but has grown like a polyp on a coral and the coral is a living thing."
Fry has family in Israel. In England he is considered an institution and now hosts the comic show QI (Quite Interesting) in addition to his prolific career as writer and actor. Since the publication of his autobiography "Moab Is My Washpot" (from Psalms 60) in 1997, in which he describes growing up as a Jew and a homosexual in a boy's boarding school in England, he has been living as a declared gay with his partner. Fry, who enjoys considerable popularity in the mainstream of British establishment, commented in an interview that he holds an unusual record - the most times (17) anyone has said the word "fuck" in the shortest time (1.5 minutes) on the BBC.
Fry is leaving Israel today. Bright Young Things, which was screened in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem cinematheques last night, will be screened in Haifa's Cinematheque today, tomorrow in Rosh Pina and on Wednesday in the Sderot Cinematheque.
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