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Nobody left during a screening of the riveting “If Beale Street Could Talk,” held Saturday night at the New York Institute of Technology. The new film, directed by Barry Jenkins (who won Oscars for best picture and adapted screenplay in 2017 for “Moonlight”), is based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel about a young African-American man wrongly imprisoned by a racist system.

“So much about the story is still relevant today,” Mr. Jenkins said. “It just shows how pervasive some of these problems have been.”

The after-party was at P.J Clarke’s on West 63rd Street, where the film’s cast — Stephan James, Kiki Layne, Colman Domingo and Regina King — mingled with guests including John Cameron Mitchell, Kenneth Lonergan, Alex Gibney and James Schamus, the former chief executive of Focus Features.

“I’m probably one of the few people that knew James Baldwin,” said Gay Talese, 86, over a gin martini with a lemon twist. He described a 1966 dinner at his Manhattan home attended by Baldwin and Tom Wicker, a celebrated columnist for The New York Times.

“Baldwin got into an argument with Wicker about race, and Wicker’s wife, Neva, said, ‘Jimmy, you can’t talk to my husband that way.’ She was crying and he said, ‘I can talk to your husband as I wish,’” Mr. Talese said.

“She ran from the table, into the living room, and grabbed the curtains,” he added, miming Neva burying her face to dry the tears.

Did the curtains have to go out to be cleaned? Mr. Talese paused at the question but did not answer. Great men pay no mind to the drapes.


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