23-Sep, 11:05

13:27, February 26 236 0

2017-02-26 13:27:13
Party Coverage: Scene City: Nicole Kidman, Adrien Brody and Ruth Negga at Chanel Pre-Oscar Dinner

LOS ANGELES — “I missed acting,” the actor Adrien Brody said on Saturday night as he wedged himself into a celebrity mosh pit at the restaurant Madeo and back into the Hollywood mix.

For the past two years, Mr. Brody has been on self-imposed hiatus, focusing on the paintings he creates in a Manhattan studio and at the castle he owns in upstate New York.

But as Mr. Brody knows, the entertainment business is like the mob. Just when you think you are out, “they pull you back in,” to use the famous “Godfather” formulation.

Is that such a bad fate? It seems not when, on the night before the Academy Awards, Chanel and Charles Finch hold their ninth annual pre-Oscars dinner, gathering into one subterranean restaurant so many boldface names that the wattage of any individual star seems to dim amid the ambient celebrity radiance.

Let’s name some of them. There is Nicole Kidman, tall and milky pale in a strapless bubble Chanel confection. There is Pharrell Williams in a quilted beige tweed jacket, politely demurring when a reporter inquires what names he and his wife, Helen, have chosen for their triplets and then thanking him “for allowing us to hold onto our privacy.”

There is Matthew Modine, unaccountably describing, with the precision of a fashion professional, someone’s outfit as being “like old Givenchy from the ’40s.” There is Michael Keaton, in a suit and white shirt into whose open neck he has knotted a cravat. There against a mirrored wall is Harry Connick Jr., screwing up the courage to approach Mr. Keaton, of whom he says, “I used to know him a long time ago.”

There, crammed against a bar at Madeo — an Italian standby favored by the entertainment crowd, and not necessarily for its branzino or tiramisù — is the entertainment lawyer and philanthropist Eric Eisner expounding on the importance, greater now than ever in an era of fake news, of “people learning how to doubt.” There is the director Nick Broomfield remarking on the metaphorical whipping he took from a dominatrix featured in his 1996 documentary “Fetishes.”

And there, wherever the eye alights, are dozens of the poreless, unlined and impeccably groomed women who abound in this town, warriors in a never-ending battle against time. Clad in Chanel or georgette numbers from the socialite designer Rosetta Getty, they sip vodka sodas and cluster around the stylist and reality television star Rachel Zoe — who, with her blond hair styled in finger waves, might be said to bear some resemblance to a Hollywood siren of another era, provided that she never opened her mouth.

And there is the lovely British actress Ruth Negga, nominated for an Oscar for her role in “Loving,” descending the stairway past the musicians from Mexico en America, a local mariachi band that plays at weddings, quinceañera celebrations and, somewhat unaccountably, this annual Chanel gathering. On this occasion, she poses for the celebrity photographer Billy Farrell who, once a stealthy presence at these events, now seems to direct them with the unquestioned authority of Cecil B. DeMille.

“Ruth, up a step!” Mr. Farrell barks. “Look to your right! Beautiful! Up a step! Give us a little smile.” For her part, Ms. Negga, a breakout performer on the verge of a big career, smiles, nods and follows directions with the clear understanding that, like everyone else here, she is acting a part.