“It’s about friendship, it’s about art, it’s about fear of failure, and it’s about maybe waiting to be recognized after you die,” observed Diane von Furstenberg at a screening Wednesday of “Cezanne et Moi” at the newly opened Whitby Hotel in New York.
The screening of the film, which traces a stormy lifelong friendship between 19th-century painter Paul Cézanne and novelist Émile Zola, was fittingly hosted by the designer who has maintained a more than 40-year bond with the movie’s director and writer, Daniele Thompson.
“When we met we were in our 20s and [our friendship] is part of our youth,” explained Thompson in a delicate French accent. “To keep a friendship alive is very hard, but I think we are both very wise women. We look [at the world] alike, which is the opposite of these two men [Cezanne and Zola]. As Diane and I grew older, we had parallel ideas and parallel choices.”
As important to the film as its dynamic characters is the majestic cinematography shot on-location in Paris and Provence, which von Furstenberg described as “like being in a painting” by the post-Impressionist artist.
“I’m jealous of the entire 19th-century painters,” said performance artist Marina Abramovic ahead of the screening. “They live in the south of France, good wine, lots of women. You didn’t have to hustle and have all the hell we have today.”
But the Yugoslavia-born artist realizes that being born a century earlier would likely have prevented her from practicing her often radical works like a 2010 MoMA performance entitled “The Artist Is Present,” which saw Abramovic sit silent and static for more than 736 hours.
“I would be burned like a witch,” she continued. “I am even now the black sheep. I probably would be a warrior and dress in men’s clothes and have a sword and go to the wars for the justice.”
Following the screening guests filtered upstairs to The Orangery, an airy enclosure being used for the first time for the cocktail reception. As guests including Ellen Burstyn and Jessica Joffe filtered upstairs to the chilly space, writer Fran Lebowitz wearing her signature blazer and jeans marched firmly through the lobby clutching a pack of Marlboro Lights. “I have zero sympathy for anyone who voted for [Trump],” announced the outspoken author to friends at the intimate soiree. “You are not entitled to that level of ignorance.”
“I’m so cold,” exclaimed von Furstenberg who didn’t remove her fur-collared jacket throughout the party. Across the rectangular gallery, von Furstenburg’s billionaire husband Barry Diller lamented the progress of a yet-to-be-completed floating park in the Hudson River for which the couple donated an unprecedented $113 million to the city.
“I keep using this word ‘ambition’ and now it’s starting to scare me,” he revealed to pals. “What the f–k have I done?”
This grand public project, which is slated to open by 2020, is a certain way for the power couple to ensure a lasting legacy far more quickly than Cezanne or Zola could have ever imagined.