Tribeca 2011

TRIBECA 2011 Day 7: Friday April 29, 2011

The World Premiere of Joseph Maggios’s The Last Rites of Joe May hits the screen with Joe (Dennis Farina) clipping his nose hairs (a frequent occurrence), slipping into his brown leather jacket (a frequent occurrence), and slipping on his jewelry. Joe is leaving the hospital after seven weeks with pneumonia. When he gets to his apartment, it turns out to be occupied. The landlord has thrown out all his ‘junk’, (except his opera records) claiming that he thought Joe had died. When several people first see him, they tell him they thought he had died.

Joe is a (very) small time “short money” hustler. Not a great way to make your fortune, but Joe has always felt his big score was just around the corner. It never happened and Joe is desperately at the end of the line: little money, little prospects, failing health, a son who hates him, and nowhere to live.

The woman (Jenny Rapp, played by Jamie Anne Allman) who is now in his old apartment (with her little girl)  takes pity on him, and eventually rents him her little girls room (Angelina will sleep with her mother). The three of them (and especially little Angelina) develop a fondness for each other.

It quickly becomes apparent that Jenny’s boyfriend (a violent, brutal detective) abuses her. Things eventually come to a head, and Joe’s last rites are his parting gift to Jenny and Angelina.

The director originally developed the project as a New York setting, but when he got Farina on board, he realized he had to move the shooting and script to Chicago. A good decision. Maggio’s film is an homage of sorts to those naturalistic, gritty hood films of the eighties (The Friends of Eddie Coyle especially comes to mind). Not a deep film, but an entertaining one, and worth a look if you like this genre.

TRIBECA 2011 Day 6: Thursday, April 28, 2011

So there are still films being made for which the appropriate comment is: “You’ve got to see it stoned.” There were even a few questions for the director in that vein after the screening, such as: What kind of drugs do you do? For the record, the answer was “I haven’t done drugs since high school.”

Canadian Director Panos Cosmatos’ International Premiere of Beyond the Black Rainbow was an obvious amalgam of all (and I mean all) his influences. The director grew up in the eighties, and so was highly influenced by the horror and sci-fi of Croenenberg,Kubrick, William Castle, etc. The film is set in 1983, but not the 1983 you may recall. This is the 1983 of the directors fantasy world. A young woman by the name of Elena is imprisoned in a bio-dome like experimental facility and later escapes into the real world. The real world being an equally scary place, of course.

This is a schizophrenic film. The sci-fi atmosphere of the experimental facility is the fantasy world of the director’s imagination. It’s plodding (I’ve never seen an entire cast move so ponderously) and slow and…well, not all that interesting. When Elena finally breaks out, the movie becomes a horror film (laughs and stabbings included). Two unsuspecting campers are in the wrong place at the wrong time, but aren’t they always?

The ending is just too happenstance to make any sense. Technically, there were some interesting film school techniques, but as entertainment? Uh, no.

Veteran French film director Cédric Klapisch has brought My Piece of the Pie (Ma part du gateau) to Tribeca fresh from its opening in France a month ago. It has a light touch and seems topical and/or challenging only in a cursory way. Nothing too controversial here. It’s all lefty politically correct.

The ‘mise en cine’ concerns a single (divorced) mother with three kids who is layed off from her job at the shipyards in Dunkirk. Layed off due to the world financial crisis and those who profit from it at the expense of the working class. Through family connections she moves to Paris and trains as a housecleaner. Then boom. She gets a job with a very rich trader, and is well paid by him as he comes to rely on her more and more. You guessed it. The trader turns out to be the one who (in his words) “iced” the company.

The trader is a self-centered A-hole who cares more about fortune than about relationships. Even with his own son (he’s divorced as well). The denouement stretches the imagination, and veers to an unsatisfyubg conclusion (a conclusion that the director defended at his Q&A). His defense was rational, and generally I agree with artists who prefer to leave the hard conclusions to the audience. Here though, it seemed just a lame ending.

The film is rescued from total mediocrity by a vibrant performance from Karin Viard (wonderful in Jeunet’s Delicatessen). Viard lights up the screen as the free spirited, hard working mother. A little more looseness and honesty would have gone a long way in this disappointing effort.

I was very much transported by the indie effort from Brady Kiernan and moved it to the top of my list for this year’s festival. Talk about saving the best for last, I only have one more film to view here. Stuck Between Stations is the near perfect indie film: well acted, well-written, well directed and one which is so honest that you cannot help but be impressed and moved.

I’m sure that one of the things that made this the film so effective is the sense that the director (Brady Kiernan), the writers (Sam Rosen and Nat Bennett) all grew up together in Minneapolis, where the story is set. These guys know each other so well that the collaborative aspect is never noticeable.

The story concerns a soldier, Casper (Sam Rosen, who also co-wrote) who is home only for a few days because of the death of his father. He’s alienated from his old home, not having been around for several years. By chance, he runs into a woman who he had quite a crush on in high-school, Rebecca (Zoe Lister Jones). Rebecca has her own life changing issues going on, and has trouble remembering him. Eventually through the course of the evening (they hang until daybreak) they get to reacquaint and get to know each other as they really never did before.

Now here is a film that does not come to a set conclusion either. This is how it’s done. We believe (and dearly hope) that it will end well for them, but it, as life, is uncertain. Through the night they move around old (and new) haunts in Minneapolis, and each shares their thoughts on each others current situation. They are both “stuck” between points of life, and need to resolve new (and old) issues before moving on. Don’t think that this is a “talky” film, which turns some movie-goers off. All the talk is set against the movement around the city (to some really great venues) and it really works as background and context to their conversations. They relate things to each other that they’ve never told anyone before, and open up as if kindred spirits.

With cameo appearances by Michael Imperioli and Josh Hartnett (also a Minny guy), the movie is propelled by the chemistry between Rosen and Zoe Lister-Jones. Jones is a rare screen presence: not a classic beauty, she does have those penetrating eyes, and she’s capable of quite a range of emotions, from acerbic humor, to rage, to tender understanding. I think this is an award-winning performance. I just loved this film.

TRIBECA 2011 Day 5: Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The husband-wife team of writer-director James Westby and producer-actress Katie O’Grady has delivered a subtly seditious black comedy that trashes the concept of returning to your roots: the World Premiere of Rid of Me. If your roots were rotten before you left, they will have just rotted further during the time spent growing up. This is a film about regression, of the enslavement of marriage that is based on a one-way compact.

When Mitch (John Keyser) loses his company, he has to return home to the Pacific Northwest and take his old job back. His old friends welcome him back – but not his new wife, Meris (Katie O’Grady). Somehow they blame her for Mitch’s abandonment of them. These are the Stepford wives, and the director plays this aspect up big-time, with dark exterior shots of the houses, and foreboding music. His so-called friends even throw him into the arms of his old high-school flame Briann (played by someone with the unlikely name of Storm Large). Briann’s mother, by the way, has a brief but smoky cameo from Theressa Russell.

Katie O’Grady uses her expressive face and innocently shy smile to project all the fears, disappointments and lack of self-confidence her role demands: she wants nothing more than to be the perfect wife: The life the Stepford Wives live. When her husband virtually abandons here, she doesn’t fade into the background, or move away. She stays and tries to find her self. This involves experimentation and hitting bottom, before finding her true self. A special mention for Orianna Herrman who plays a co-worker at the candy shop where she ends up. Trudy becomes her friend and encourages her to become herself. For awhile she becomes the image of Trudy (all the filters off), but even more so. Orianna Herrmann did a great job.

This is a talented director working on a low-budget. Hope that it will have distribution, but if not, put it in your Netflx queue, as it is likely to show up there at some point.

Rwandan filmmaker Kivu Ruhorahoza directed this mix of autobiography and genocide. The World Premiere of Grey Matter (Matiere Grise) is the story of a filmmakers quest to complete a projected film of the Rwandan genocide. The first part of the film is the story of the difficulties of getting the film made (the ending circles back to the beginning). The middle – and most of the film – is taken up with the subject itself, in the form of one families loss and pain. The film within the film begs the question of whether what we are seeing was ever actually made. But here it is.

I was distracted by two goons in cheap suite that stood at the end of my row (against the wall), constantly checking their cell phones. Of course, the audience is reminded before each film to turn their cell phones off. I guess this warning did not apply to these animals. I don’t know what the fuck they were there for, but the Rwandan Ambassador was introduced after the film. Maybe that. These guys looked like two South African mercenaries. Completely ruined the experience for me. I was not pleased, and I complained to some one with a tag around her neck. When I came back inside for my next film (same theater) there was the person I complained to and one of the goons talking. Old friends apparently. Hey New Yorkers! Allso outside the theater before I went in was a rather large contingent of cops with military grade automatic weapons. What’s going on?

My third and final film of the day was a beautiful movie from Mexico, the North American Premiers of Yulene Olaizola’s Artificial Paradises (Paraísos Artificiales). The paradise is the coast of Veracruz, Mexico, a stunning rundown slice of seacoast. It’s quiet, serene and beautiful to look at, but artificial in the sense that it some ways it’s just not “real”. There is only poverty, and the few inhabitants spend their days stoned on marijuana or liquor or both. The exception is Luisa who has come here strung out on heroin. As she runs out of her monkey junk, she attempts to take a cold-turkey cure, and whether this works (she leaves for a hospital at the end) is up to the viewer to decide. These are all locals, with no acting experience (one exception), which gives the film a documentary like feel – especially when Saloman speaks directly to the camera.

A word about the Luisa’s. Luisa is the 25-year old character heroin addict played by the only professional actress in the film, Luisa Pardo. She wants to kick, but cannot summon up the courage or will to do so. The director captures this helplessness perfectly, and Pardo is terrific in the role. The other Luisa is cinematographer Luisa Tillinger, who shows us the lush jungles, seaside hills, and panoramic sweep of the Pacific coastline in gloriously muted, misty color. The scenery is the real star of the film. It’s really breathtaking.

There are infrequent scenes of detailed dialogue, but mostly the film is a quiet one, with some local singing mixed in. One of the earlier scenes remains in my head. Luisa is sitting on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, as a herd of cows wander by. The last cow stops and seems to be studying Luisa, who pays no attention to it. The cow stares (as it appears) for some time, and finally wanders off, slowly. An exceptional film to look at.

TRIBECA 2011 Day 4: Tuesday, April 26, 2011

New York is A-Z. Which means Boston is G-T. This is an extreme city, all the bases are covered.  All the gamuts run. What is a gamut anyway? For sale at Union Square today: Stimulus Package underwear.

Sitting down at my film for the day (only one) a guy walks into my row (I’m three seats in, five rows from the front), and he wanted to get by. He’s carrying a bottle of water, a large drink and a popcorn. The bottle of water makes it. Most of the popcorn makes it. None of the large drink makes it. All over the floor and the cup is now empty. When the staff called down the director to introduce the film, you could see him look down at the floor and back up. The soda had travelled all the way down front.

Oh, the movie.

Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard) has been a roadie for Blue Oyster Cult for over 20 years. He’s let go for reasons that we can surmise, but Jimmy needs an answer. Why? He ends up at his boyhood home to reassess his next move. Planning to spend only the day, things don’t turn out as planned. He meets his old high school flame (Nikki, played by singer-actress Jill Hennesey) and his old nemesis Bobby (Bobby Cannavale). The two are now married, but Jimmy realizes he still has feelings for her.

Jimmy continues to spin his success as the manager and part-time songwriter for  the band, failing to come to grips with reality. Nikki, has never  fulfilled her promise, either as a mother (they are childless) or as     an artist. She’s preferred the safety of home turf. Her marriage to Bobby is a compromise, an arrangement. Both are unhappy, though neither of them seems to understand the source of their core ennui. It’s apparent that they have never moved out of their high school mode. But has Jimmy either, living as he does his adolescent dream – a rock ‘n roll fantasy?

In Roadie, Director Michael Cuesta has crafted a solid film that captures these characters barren lives. The ensemble of Eldard, Hennesey and Cannavale are terrific. Both Cuesta and Eldard were there for the Q&A, though Eldard just made it. Unbelievably, in a scene nearly right out of the movie, he was late because his cab was stopped for speeding.

Cuesta has directed episodes of some of best television shows on cable: Dexter, Six-Feet Under and even a True Blood. There are some very good extended scenes here, a credit to the director and Eldard, that combined scripted action and improvisation.

The soundtrack is fitting, especially the closing song – one perfect for this film, a nice version of Jackson Browne’s Load Out. A song and a film that were made for each other.

I had wanted to rush Bombay Beach (with music by Beirut and Bob Dylan) but I had written down the start time incorrectly. Discovering my mistake, I got in line real late (it was a long one). I got up to the second position before they told us that the theater was full up. Damn!

TRIBECA 2011 Day 3: Monday, April 25, 2011

Are there differences that I see in New York from the last time I visited (only last year at this time)? Seems to me that the city has become more bicycle friendly. I don’t remember the bicycle paths, and the parking spots on the other side of the paths, between the paths and the traffic. Is it just my imagination? And does the F train always have interruption of service notices?

The pre-screening images and short ads before each film are similar to the experience I have at TIFF. Heineken and Cadillac seem to have the sponsorship of film festivals as a corporate initiative. I’ve no problem with that. Then there’s the trivia. Multiple choice questions flashed on the screen. By day three I have the answers all memorized and can identify the answers without even reading the question. Yes, 30+ 3-D films are slated for release this year, and Coal Miner’;s Daughter was the story of Loretta Lynn, etc., etc. Now I’m wicked smaht!

My first viewing of the day was an Egyptian film, Cairo Exit. Amazing what a different perspective this film gives us from Cairo Time. Here, the director’s experience is even more interesting than the film itself. HESHAM ISSAWI, Egyptian born and raised,  “exited” the country to study in America in 1990. When he came back to make an “independent” film, the changes in the country in the period he was an ex-pat stunned him. Thirty years of the country’s history had vanished. The middle class had disappeared, leaving only the very rich and the very poor. Recipe? Revolution. The lack of freedoms under Mubarak, the police state atmosphere, were quite apparent. The story of how he got the film made, circumventing the censorship, filming clandestinely without approval, cutting corners with permits – is a story unto itself. Many of these themes are portrayed in the film.

The film itself is the story of “star-crossed” lovers, Tarek and eighteen year old Amal. Amal has been raised a Coptic Christian, and Tarek is her Muslim boyfriend. Neither of their families are happy, nor will they accept the marriage of the couple. They both feel the need to get out, to exit. America, or anywhere. by boat to Italy perhaps. Director Issawi (an accomplished short film director) explores the particular cultural and political repressions in depth through the stories of the couple and their families. Tarek faces extreme pressure from his Muslim brother for hanging out with “pig-eaters”. Amal’s sister has sacrificed her body for the sake of her son, hoping to have him at least “exit” to a better life. Her mother has lost her husband, and is bound to a no-account drunkard. Her best friend is marrying a man she does not love for security. But first, she has to secretly undergo a “temporary hymen reconstruction”.  Although her husband to be already has other wives (no virgin he), her friend must appear virginal or the whole thing falls apart.

A topical look into the current state of Egypt just before the collapse of the Mubarak regime, the narrative does suffer from an unlikely conclusion, that is slightly cringe-worthy (some of the audience laughed). Back to the former “Cairo” film for a sec. That one was a portrait of a lovely Cairo with the citizens living contented lives. But here, Cairo is more complex. Instead of the sun setting behind the beautiful and ancient pyramids, here the ancient civilization is shown as sometimes squalid, but always crumbling. Filmed in a small town in the outskirts of Cairo, Dar El Salaamher, the directors images are far superior to the narrative.

A note about the primary actors. Mohamed Ramadan (Tarek), an actor of some experience, is now somewhat of a superstar in Egypt. Maryhan (Amal) had no experience, yet does a credible job. She’s engaged and asked the director to forego any kissing in the film. He honored her request. Both of them however were active in the Tahrir Square occupation at great peril to their careers. It was a gamble which they won. Props.

Expectations, expectations. The second film Love Always, Carolyn was a slight disappointment to me, but only because I was looking for something else. What I was looking for was almost the antithesis of the documentarian’s intent. Like a Trekkie, I had on one of my Jack Kerouac 5K t-shirts, with an image of Jack on the front. The film was only minimally “about” Jack Kerouac and NealCassidy. It was mostly about Neal’s wife and later Jack’s lover, Carolyn. Carolyn lives a lonely life, a self-chosen exile in England. She’s lived there for some time, in an attempt to escape the hovering presences of the two bohemians over her own life. She loved them both, and has written a few books (another is due) to combat and correct the “misconceptions” and falsities of who Jack nad Neal were.

What a treasure trove of books, images, and especially letters she had accumulated (they were all packed off for posterity, as shown in the documentray) over the course of her life. As she is followed around there were several times at book fairs or signings that she upbraids the booksellers for using images that they have not paid for. She had need of money and was seriously low on funds at one point, but the documentarians (two Swedish women, Maria Ramström and Malin Korkeasalo) said in the Q&A that she is doing ok now (though she yearns for companionship, even though she feels that no one would be able to likely cope with her constant musings about her former life). Captured reading snatches of letters from both Neal and Jack, these were some poignant moments. Raised in a strict Victorian household, one has to admire the life she lived. The loss of both men in their early forties from drugs (Neal) and alcohol (Jack), was related with dry-eyed wonder. There were no tears and no regrets, because what good are they?

The night was finished off with a no-brainer, manic comic-action film from Chinese auteur Wen Jiang. Let the Bullets Fly is a seriously fast paced and highly  entertaining film starring the director himself along with the venerable Yun-Fat Chow. It is said to be the highest grossing film of all time in China. This is action from the age of the warlords circa 1920, where guns are the prominent weapon, replacing sword-play.

Man, forget car chases. Check out the spectacular train hi-jacking in this film. This one gives drum-beating a whole new meaning, and it’s full of identity switches, masked action, body doubles and humor. I fear I missed much of the wit, as the subtitles were not of the boxed variety , and it was so fast paced that they were there and then they were gone. But I can’t fault the director for that. A highly enjoyable take.

TRIBECA 2011 Day 2: Sunday, April 24, 2011

A gloriously sunny, warm day (but not too hot) in New York. I bought another Metro Card to have for those late nights back to the hotel. Mostly I do walking, listening to my music, about an hours worth to my first venue (if I’m going directly there. This day I walked back to Union Square (a non-market day) and enjoyed the sun on my  face (but not on the top of my head).

continuing my fascination with the world of Balkan film, the first movie I attended was a wondrous and bold effort by Serbian Director Oleg Novkovic, with the title  White White World (Beli, Beli Svet), the North American Premiere. Bold because it was filmed as a Greek tragedy, and a tragedy (with all the aspects of classical tragedy) it was. It took me by surprise (and I assume much of the audience) when the first character began to sing. When it happened with all the main characters (all of whom were wonderful actors, although not great  singers) I realized what I was watching. And great singing is not the point: it’s the raw emotion that mattered, and the emotions on display have to have been some of the rawest ever filmed.

A former boxer called King (Uliks Fehmiu), (just so you know where he stands) is now the owner of a popular bar. His former coach was killed by his wife Ružica,  (Jasna Djuričić), and she is just now being released from jail after serving ten. Her release is quickly followed by King’s affair (although I hate to term it that, as brutal and perverse as the relationship is) with Ružica’s daughter, Rosa (Hana Selimović). Rosa has been without her mother for the past ten years and her father is dead, so she’s looking for something, desperately seeking love and caring in her life. Ruzica is desperately in love with King, so he has two women obsessed with him. As for himself, he essentially seems to hate women, and merely uses them for objectified sex. And this love triangle is even more classic-tragic than I’ll reveal here.

Filmed in the once robust mining town (copper) of Bor, the atmosphere is post-apocalyptic   industrial. Slag heaps, molten metal sliding down the side of a mountain, smoke fills the air. The director and producer/translator confirmed the vision of a world sliding into chaos and doom, and that it was almost impossible to breathe the air in Bor. Actor Uliks Fehmiu was also on stage for the Q&A, and explained (after a question) the significance of the title, which is apparently  a common Serbian phrase for all our hopes and dreams, that pure world of our aspirations.

There is plenty of ‘story’, but the exposition of the characters is really moved ahead by the wonderful and dramatic song-soliloquies each uses to tell about themselves – how they see themselves, what their fears are (and joys, if any). The dramatic conclusion has the King going blind and exposing his true soul to the audience, followed by the Greek chorus grand finale, in which the director has what seems like the entire town singing against the mountainous and ruined backdrop. It’s a breath-taking conclusion to a film experience I won’t soon forget.

I’ve already forgotten much of the following film, the North American premier of  Korean director Park Jungbum’s The Journals of Musan. In this sad tale, dog really is man’s best friend.  Jeon Seung-chul is a North Korean defector from the repressive north to the capitalistic south and the adjustment for him is not easy. This is a depressing vision of loneliness and the failure to find human companionship of any kind. An off-putting film for me, in that the protagonist drifts into church for an answer and connection (and a lovely singer in the choir). Too much time is spent of the subject and it all just seemed to me a bit preachy. A quiet, sad ending left me with a sense of the characters bleak life, but not enough to have really appreciated the film. The director may have put me right, but he missed his flight and was unable to attend. I missed the poetry that the film was straining for.

Poetry, in the form of vicious violence and hopelessness, was achieved with the US premiere of NEDS, an acronym for “non educated delinquents”. There are plenty of those in this vicious and visceral tale of coming of age on the street and in the strange world of the Scot system of education. Directed by PeterMullan, this film set in 1970’s Glasgow (thankfully the Scot accents were subtitled) is a bleak coming of age story.The hope is that John will not follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Benny. He’s a bright kid, with an intellect that should carry him far. Unfortunately there are obstacles: an abusive home life (drunker, cruel father) and a class system that seems to refuse to accept excellence from the working class. Two strikes against poor John before he even gets started. He doesn’t stand a chance in Mullan’s vision. You can tell where this is headed, when a seminal event with his upper class classmate and would-be friend leaves him banished to his own kind. His own kind are thugs and thieves. Despite what little support and guidance he can get from his thoroughly cowed mother (and her Americanized sister), John’s path is set out before him, seemingly from birth. A determinist view, to be sure, and one the director makes his case for with audience head trauma.

TRIBECA 2011 Day 1: Saturday April 23, 2011

On the slow train to New York, the drizzle and greyness are complete. the landscape is barren, moon like. That’s deceptive of course. Just beyond grey, oil-slicked blocks of granite all along the tracks, there is life. There is civilization. If you consider the relentless, “old” and “new” towns all through Connecticut, civilization.

Coming into New York, the weather is the same as it has been since I left Boston. I queue up in the taxi line outside  of Penn Station, but end up taking a pedi-cab to my hotel.  I got the tourist spiel, most of which I already knew. There is a brand new bright silver statue of Andy Warhol now on display at Union Square, temporarily it is said. Life-size, it’s to scale.

I check in (I’ve stayed at this hotel before), get my gear together (I forgot my Metro Card. Damn!) and now I’m ready to start my fest. First up,

The world premiere of Blackthorn, directed by Mateo Gil (France, Spain, USA). Gil’s quest-western is a what-if. What if Butch Cassidy did not die in Brazil as legend has it? What if Butch survived and lived a quit life in exile from his home? Magnificently photographed in the unbelievably stunning landscape of Bolivia. Gil does justice, and in a way pays tribute to this environment and the stoic people who live there. As with many films, the setting is the real “star”.

The story is told in cross-cuts of the past and the present, so that the history is filled in that way. Butch (living under the pseudonym of Blackthorn) has  decided that it’s time to move on and close the circle, even though his life is somewhat idyllic, tilling the soil of a small subsistence farm, breaking and training horses, his old life calls. He sends letters to a son he’s never seen, who may or may not be his (it could have been the kid’s – Sundance). When Butch receives word that the mother has just died, he decides to reunite with his son. But there’s a whole lot of roadblocks before that can happen.

The flashbacks are extremely well done, never (like some film scripts) leaving us a step behind). They’re entirely porganic. It’s here too, that the themes of this western are layed out: loyalty, friendship, the true worth in life, which is not money, but honor and truthfulness. Sam Shepard is terrific as the gruff but straight shooting Blackthorn. He’s got the look and the gravelly voice that just screams “cowboy”. Spanish actor Eduardo  Noriega complements Shepard nicely as the mine robber who first shoots at him, then befriends him, then saves his life, then…well, he has that prefect blend of ingratiating and shiftiness that is hard to pin down. A great performance. Stephen Rea has a small role as Mackinly, the Pinkerton agent who tracked Butch to Bolivia many years before, never able to capture him, though he came close. Disillusioned, he ended up exiled in Bolivia himself, the opposite end of the looking glass from Butch, drunken and dispirited.

Blackthorn is  a film of loyalty, the yearning for home, the value of friendship, of rectitude, of doing what is right. It’s a film that nods to the place of money in our lives, and stands as a warning that there are all sorts of more important ‘commodities’ that we should value above lucre. So. A morality tale.

The director took questions from the audience very graciously and with good humor. He called Eduardo Noriega to the stage (he came down front reluctantly) and in turn Noriega called down Stephen Rea, who came down even more reluctantly. But all in good spirits, as the audience had received the film very well. For both actors, this was the first time they had seen the film. It’s always strange to hear this: that actors spend so much time on a project, and the first time they really see the finished film is when the audience does.  Stephen Rea, by the way, gave a shout out to Sam Shepard who was not in attendance. Gil answered questions about the hardship of filming in such extreme conditions, but he said you get used to it, you adapt. The ‘you’re thinking to much question’ of the evening was “Did you have Homer’s Odyssey in mind when you wrote the script?” Ok, I can see what may have prompted the question, but Gil honestly had a “say what?” response.  Nervous twitters from the audience.

From a truly American genre cinema experience to the manic, aptly titled Neon Flesh (Carne de Neon) was quite a leap. But since the leap was from early evening to the midnight hour, I was ready. Director Paco Cabezas was the real show here, answering every question with a stream of consciousness vibe and a story. The film is highly autobiographical in a sense, though the details are fictional (“my mother was not a whore”). This s not a film for everyone. In fact, it’s not a film that most folks would care to see, yet in its graphic naiveté, it has a certain innocent charm. If you can believe it! It’s not just a pimp, street grimey druggie flick, but a buddy film at its core. Strange to say.

Ricky wants to open up a whore house/club (standard in Argentina apparently) for when his hooker mom gets out of the slammer. But when mom gets out, she claims not to know who he is. She’s got Alzheimer’s. The film is an amalgam of violence, slapstick humor (the core trio reminded me of the Three Stooges in some respects).

So. This may be the best way to capture the “flavor” of the film. In one scene, the three are priming their group of newly purchased hookers by having them watch a porno movie. Unfortunately, the porn is of the bestiality variety, which doesn’t do much for the hookers desire to continue with the life. Cabezas related this story at the Q&A. He actually had to film the scene himself, with a dog and a woman. To get the dog to cooperate, the womans privates were smeared with  foie gras to capture the “moment”. The dog, according to Cabezas, just couldn’t get enough of that foie gras. It’s that kind of movie. Soon opening at a theater near you!

April 4, 2011

Today was fulfillment – the day in which package purchasers do their selections. I have to say, this went off without a hitch, unlike last year when the server just couldn’t handle the volume. I made my selections (from my 10-film package), got everything I wanted, and printed my tickets from the comfort of my own home.  I’ll probably buy a few more tickets when the single ticket purchase period begins on the 18th.

So this is the confirmed slat for me:

On Saturday the 23d: Arrive about 2 PM, then in the evening, Blackthorn and Neon Flesh.

On Sunday the 24th: White White World and NEDS.

On Monday the 25th: Cairo Exit and Love Always, Carolyn.

Tuesday the 26th is an open day. What will I do with myself in the big city?

Wednesday the 27th: Rid of Me and Grey Matter.

Thursday the 28th: Stuck Between Stations.

Friday the 29th: The Last Rites of Joe May, then dinner with friends.

Saturday: Depart


March 21, 2011

First day of Spring. And it snowed. Exciting stuff! The TFF film schedule was published today with all films, venues, and times.  I can’t actually buy tickets for the films I’ve selected until April 4th, but this will help me strategize my schedule. I’ve got 23 films earmarked, and I’ll see between 10 and 20 films – probably somewhere in the middle. But these are my must sees, and I’ll consider it a successful festival if I can score all of these:

  • Grey Matter from Rwanda: “When his grant falls through a few days before production, a young filmmaker hides the bad news from his team and continues preparations on his film The Cycle of the Cockroach without financing or equipment. Reality blurs as scenes from the script suddenly begin to materialize—can this film exist only in his dreams? Assured direction is bolstered by strong and creative visual imagery in one of Rwanda’s first feature-length narrative films.”
  • White White World from Serbia: “In this beautiful and brutal drama, King, a handsome boxer-turned-barman falls for Vita, a fiery and untamable beauty in the decaying Serbian town of Bor. Their love triggers a series of events that drive the many residents of Bor inexorably toward a fateful and moving finale. Reminiscent of classical Greek theater, White, White World is an epic musical tragedy staged against the stark landscape of a small, crumbling mining town.”
  • Blackthorn from France: “Legend has it notorious American outlaw Butch Cassidy was killed in Bolivia in 1908. Mateo Gil’s classic Western, however, finds Cassidy (Sam Shepard) 20 years later living on in hiding under the identity of James Blackthorn—and yearning for one last sight of home. Joining forces with a Spanish mine robber named Eduardo, Blackthorn sets out on one final adventure across the sublime landscape of the Bolivian frontier.”
  • Love Always, Carolyn from Sweden: “They say behind every great man is a great woman. Carolyn Cassady was behind two. Wife of beatnik icon Neal Cassady and lover-muse of Jack Kerouac, Carolyn saw her life story and the memory of the men she loved hijacked by mythmakers. Love Always, Carolyn is the intimate, graceful portrait of a patient matriarch who could never escape the constant wake of her husband’s epic misadventures.”

For a minute, there was pattern developing: grey matter, white world and black thorn. Shoot, I shoulda thrown Neon Flesh in there (which I do want to see) just to keep the theme alive!

March 14, 2011

Más películas!!! Tribeca also has a “Cinemania” program: Horror thrillers and such.

Neon Flesh

Neon Flesh , Directed by: Paco Cabezas
Young hustler Ricky was left to a life on the streets at the age of 12 when his hooker mother got sent to the can, but upon learning she’ll soon be released, Ricky enlists a couple of good-for-nothing buddies to help him open a whorehouse as a tribute to Mom. This stylish, edgy crime flick plunges headlong into the fringe world of pimps and junkies where succeeding in business can cost your life…

One day I’d like to attend an entire festival of films like these. Show me!

Like Rabies, “Israel’s first-ever slasher horror film”. Ha!

Also a “Spotlights” section. The latter contains one of the films I tried like hell to get tix for last year at TIFF:

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame

Maybe better luck here.

Then there’s A Quiet Life, an Italian crime thriller Directed by Claudio Cupellini

March 13, 2011

Tribeca has announced their line-up for VIEWPOINTS, a new program this year. Viewpoints will offer 20 films, a mix of narrative films and documentaries, from Indy world cinema. Some of the narrative features,

  • Flowers of Evil (Fleurs du Mal), Directed by David Dusa, (France) — North American Premiere
  • Journals of Musan (Musal Il-gi), Directed by Park Jungbum, South Korea) — North American Premiere. Park was the assistant director on Lee Chang-dong’s beautiful Poetry. This is his first feature film.
  • Lotus Eaters, Directed by Alexandra McGuinness, (Ireland, UK) — World Premiere
  • Magic Valley, Directed and Written by Jaffe Zinn, (USA) — World Premiere
  • Maria My Love, Directed and Written by Jasmine McGlade Chazelle, (USA) — World Premiere
  • My Last Round (Mi Último Round), Directed and Written by Julio Jorquera, (Chile, Argentina) — North American Premiere. Another boxing film, but this one sounds quite different.
  • NEDS, Directed and Written by Peter Mullan, (UK) — US Premiere. Another gritty sounding tale of Scotland street life. I like the genre.
  • Rid of Me, Directed and Written by James Westby, (USA) — World Premiere. Portland underground and Cambodian rock. Yes!
  • Stuck Between Stations, Directed by Brady Kiernan, Written by Nat Bennett and Sam Rosen, (USA) — World Premiere. This film also sounds compelling.
  • Treatment, Directed by Steven Schardt and Sean Nelson,Written by Sean Nelson, (USA) — World Premiere,
  • White, White World (Beli, beli svet), Directed by Oleg Novkovic, written by Milena Markovic, (Serbia, Germany, Sweden) — North American Premiere. This one sounds like a film I really want to see. I’ve had great luck with films from Croatia and Serbia.

Those are the 11 narrative films in this program. There are nine documentaries, and I won’t name them all, but there are a few I do want to see, especially the first one

  • Love Always, Carolyn, Directed by Maria Ramström and Malin Korkeasalo, (Sweden) — World Premiere. “They say behind every great man is a great woman. Carolyn Cassady was behind two. Wife of beatnik icon Neal Cassady and lover-muse of Jack Kerouac, Carolyn saw her life story and the memory of the men she loved hijacked by mythmakers. Love Always, Carolyn is the intimate, graceful portrait of a patient matriarch who could never escape the constant wake of her husband’s epic misadventures.” I, of course, am a beat-freak. Bring it on.
  • Gnarr, Directed by Gaukur Úlfarsson, (Iceland) — International Premiere. Icelandic comedian Jon Gnarr launches his own political party, The Best Party. His platform? Free trips to Disneyland, more polar bears in the zoo, and refusing to work with anyone who doesn’t watch The Wire. I’d vote for him!

March 7, 2011

Tribeca has announced the 12 films that will compete in the World Narrative Features Competition at this year’s festival, which will take place from April 20th through May 1st:

  • Angels Crest ~ (Canada/UK): Certainly has an interesting cast, with Jeremy Piven, Elizabeth McGovern, and Mira Sorvino. World Premier
  • Artificial Paradises (Paraisos Artificiales) ~ (Mexico): drug addiction of a young woman. Not sure about this one. North American Premiere
  • Black Butterflies ~ (Germany.Netherlands/South Africa: Ingrid Jonker has been called South Africa’s  Sylvia Plath. Nelson Mandela read one of her poems at his first speech to the South African Parliament. For the literary connection alone, this one might be worth a look. International Premiere
  • Blackthorn ~ (Spain): An aging Butch Cassidy in Bolivia. Played by Sam Shepard. Yes. I want a ticket!
  • Cairo Exit (El Korough) ~ (Egypt): This is the kind of festival film I like. A film that explores cultural differences in an increasingly complex world. International Premiere
  • Grey Matter (Matière Grise) ~ (Rwanda): Looks like one of those meta-films about making a film, or pretending to make a film, or…ok, I’m generally a sucker for these. We’ll see. World Premiere
  • Jesus Henry Christ ~ (USA): THis does sound funny, and I do  love Toni Collette. On the bubble. World Premiere
  • The Kite (Patang) ~ (India): I’m always up for a big-hearted, colorful Indian film. This sounds like the ticket. North American Premiere
  • The Last Rites of Joe May ~ (USA): Funny, I was just thinking about Dennis Farina the other day, wondering what happened to him. This film sounds good as well. World Premiere
  • Romantics Anonymous (Les Émotifs Anonymes) ~ (France): A romantic comedy. I’ll pass on this one. International Premiere
  • She Monkeys (Apflickorna) ~ (Sweden): My initial thought is no thanks, but I may have to read more about it. Already played Goteborg and Berlin. North American Premiere
  • Turn me on, goddammit (Få meg på, for faen) ~ (Norway): I prefer my cinematic comedies off beat, rather than “romantic”. This seems to fit the description. World Premiere

Tribeca, it’s 1oth year, seems to have lined up a few impressive films by the sound of it. I notice that there are many female directors here. That’s a good thing.

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18 responses to “Tribeca 2011

  1. Pingback: Tribeca 2011 | Chazz W

  2. Pingback: Tribeca Viewpoints | Chazz W

  3. Pingback: Something for everyone | Chazz W

  4. Charlie, are you coming to NY? Let’s get together.

  5. PatD

    Can’t wait to hear about the Sam Shepherd flick.

  6. Pat, c’mon up to New York, buddy!

  7. Pingback: TFF Schedule now on line | Chazz W

  8. Pingback: My Tribeca Itinerary | Chazz W

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