Body-painted models, bikram yoga practitioners and a look at supercool technology that makes high-definition look old-fashioned. Yep, it's opening night at Cinequest, Silicon Valley's sometimes kooky but always fascinating film festival.

The fest, now in its 23rd year, opened Tuesday night at the California Theatre in downtown San Jose with a screening of "Ginger & Rosa," a coming-of-age tale from director Sally Potter that takes place during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Feel like you've seen that story? Well, this tale about two girls place in war-weary England and has a few twists.

"Human Canvases" pose for photos during the 23rd annual Cinequest film festival opening night gala at the California Theatre. Some of the
"Human Canvases" pose for photos during the 23rd annual Cinequest film festival opening night gala at the California Theatre. Some of the industry people and actors who were among the arrivals were Jessalyn Gilsig, of "Glee" fame; Ryan Merriman, who starred in "Final Destination" and "Pretty Little Liars;" "Weeds" actor Aubrey Dollar, and Cinequest co-founder Halfdan Hussey, who was escorted by two body-painted "human canvasses. (Patrick Tehan/Staff) ( Patrick Tehan )

There was the usual fanfare -- spotlights framing the California Theatre, a red carpet and a paparazzi walk for filmmakers and actors. That group included Chinese director Yang Shupeng, here for the North American premiere of his film "An Inaccurate Memoir" actor Ryan Merriman, who was in "Final Destination 3" and has stuck to the thriller genre with the festival entry "Dose of Reality,"; and the group behind "Somewhere Slow," writer/director Jeremy O'Keefe and actress Jessalyn Gilsig, who is still despised by legions of teenage girls for her role as the naggy Mrs. Schuester on the first two seasons of "Glee."


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This being Silicon Valley, there were lots of oohs and ahhs for a video about Sony's use of 4K technology, which takes resolution to new levels. Festivalgoers will get a look at three classics -- "Lawrence of Arabia," "Taxi Drive" and "Dr. Strangelove" -- next week.

So where did the body-painted models come in? They were part of the preshow entertainment. Trina Merry of Art Alive Gallery painted them to represent the various aspects of the festival embraced by "Cinequesters": Love, Life, Celebration, Innovation, Inspiration, Thrills and Laughs. The eye-popping models, wearing only the skimpiest clothing and painted head to toe, posed on stage. They were later replaced by a group demonstrating bikram yoga, which could come in handy after several hours sitting in theaters.

STREET WARS: There was no shortage of transportation -- including a Vegas-style party bus -- to the after-party, which was about seven blocks from the California. As the audience streamed out of the theater, the pedicab and taxicab drivers were competing for customers who didn't walk or get on a party bus to the after party. One of the taxicab managers told the pedicabs to beat it, saying they'd bought out the entire loading zone in front of the theater.

I'm not sure how that turned out, but I saw enough people arriving in pedicabs to make me think the pedal pushers did OK.

PICTURE THE PARTY: The cavernous Corinthian Event Center turned out to be the right venue for the Opening Night Party, which was packed to capacity with revelers who really appreciated the sponsorships of Stella Artois beer, Fortino winery and Tito's vodka all night.

Coolest non-movie part of the party was the set of seven artistic pinball machines -- including one with a clear glass case that left all the wiring and mechanics visible -- brought in by Fil Maresca.

UNLEASHED: The theme of this year's festival is "Unleash," and I asked festival co-founder and director Halfdan Hussey what that meant for festivalgoers.

"What Cinequest is always about is people getting together and sharing a profound experience, whether it's through the films or the parties," he said. "For them, 'unleash' is them opening themselves up to that connection."

Get schedule and ticket information at www.cinequest.org.

Contact Sal Pizarro at spizarro@mercurynews.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/spizarro.