Ten days of non-stop Tribeca Film Festival has left me weary (jumping on my Citybike four or five times a day and rushing between 23rd St. and Battery Park theaters), but pleased to have found so much to be excited about—including the discovery of a young filmmaker from Costa Rica.
Her name is Paz Fabrega. Her Godard meets Truffaut is called Viaje. It is a love story as universal as time itself, yet is so much of this particular 21st century mating dance ritual. I also witnessed a very intimate conversation in public between Ava DuVernay (Director of Selma) and Q-Tip from A Tribe Called Quest (https://youtu.be/4UGMSdbc0Mg).
Here are a few films I was glad I saw at TFF:
director David Holbrooke (HBO)
In this father/son story played out against a background of world crisis, Richard Holbrooke, a career diplomat with an ego and a passion for diplomacy, negotiates peace agreements in oft-thought hopeless conflicts like Bosnia. His son David says he made the film to find his father—who was absent from the family so much in order to make the world safe for other families.
director Patrick O’Brien
(Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award Winner)
No, it is not about a pre-op, overweight person! It is about young DJ TransFatty (aka Patrick O’Brien) who is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). Please don’t turn away as I was tempted to do—I am so glad I did not. It is about human spirit and artistic vision trumping physical disability. TransFatty Lives is about a dying man leaving a cinematic message to his son. It is also about family and the ability of humans to find humor (trust me there are a lot of laughs) in the worst of times.
Requiem for the American Dream
co–directors: Jared P. Scott, Kelly Nyks and Peter D. Hutchinson
The Emperor’s New Clothes
director Michael Winterbottom
These two films take on how to save both American democracy and the world from the conquest of capitalism. Requiem features excerpts from a series of conversations with Noam Chomsky alongside almost perfect graphics that excite the eye with their direct illustration of his words. Emperor’s New Clothes is one of two films about Russell Brand (the other is Ondi Timoner’s Brand: A Second Coming)
Brand is a Brit comedian, married for a short time to pop chanteuse Katy Perry, and he self –identifies as a public intellectual. In Emperor, Brand does a Michael Moore “I am the center of this film” imitation in a whirlwind of actions and insights as he travels back and forth between Wall Street and London’s Fenchurch Street. Winterbottom edits with the manic energy of Brand and the occupy movement.
As serious as Brand attempts to be, he is also hilarious! Timoner’s film is far superior because it is actually personal. I liked Brand: A Second Coming a hell of a lot more than Emperor. But of the three, Requiem is by far the best because it is Chomsky who soars with his clarity of language and grounded response to crisis.
director Laura Bispuri
(The Nora Ephron Prize)
Italian director Laura Bispuri’s insightful look at how misogyny traps women in no-exit roles. Set in an Albanian village, it concentrates on two women trying to escape the roles they are expected to play. One swears to remain a virgin to the village Elders and is treated as if she is a celibate man, while the other flees from an arranged marriage.
Sworn Virgin is not just a simple feminist polemic. Bispuri brings a formal eye to a cold and beautiful landscape, allowing the land and the people to inform her story. Indelible performances and beautifully created. The cold and brutal village life generates emotion despite the cold, grey-feeling hard life portrayed.
director Matthew Heineman
On both sides of the border, Cartel Land shows how citizens—rather than government—are fighting the cartels’ drug smuggling, Mexico has a charismatic Che-like doctor and Arizona has ex-military patrolling the border. Vigilantes? Heroes? You decide.
Among the Believers
co-directors Hemal Trivedi and Mohammed Naqvi
True believers and religion are an extremely dangerous mix. Children indoctrinated at an early age—when, as the film describes, “they are malleable”—become soldiers of hate, whether they are trained in the Red Mosque schools in Pakistan (where their principal education is memorizing the Koran by rote), or the Orthodox Settlements in Gaza, or the home school education of right-wing, fundamentalist Christians. Among follows one boy and one girl taken from their impoverished families by the Red Mosque. Necessary viewing.
Director Felix Thompson
Tribeca Film Festival Audience Award Winner Narrative Film
Australian ex-pat and NYU Film School Grad Felix Thompson has managed to tell the story of young Jack, who is a sensitive boy—not gay, just different—while also revealing how teenage bullies operate. We watch him learn to stand up for himself even when it hurts.
It includes star making roles for the two young actors Charlie Plummer (Jack) and Danny Flaherty (the principal bully, Shane). Flaherty, a regular on the cable series The Americans, was so believable in his role that the audience booed him at the screening I attended. He beamed, showing us he was not the character.
The Adderall Diaries
director Pamela Romanowsky
Just when I was hoping I would not have to see another James Franco film for at least six months, his best work in six years arrived—The Adderall Diaries, based on Stephen Elliott’s best seller. His no-holds-barred performance is a riveting father/son battle. And his is not the only performance that rises above the sometimes cliché story of a dot-com executive accused of killing his wife.
Franco plays a writer in search of a follow up to a hit novel. Ed Harris lets his inner menace fly, and Amber Heard channels Lauren Bacall. Christian Slater is perfectly cast as the Dot-com executive on trial. It was no small task for a first time feature director to get such nuanced performances from her big name actors, but director Pamela Romanosky knows how to corral talent and be in charge—including in the kinky S&M scenes Franco appears to relish.
Let’s Go to the Movies
Welcome to this House
director Barbara Hammer
Our neighbor at Westbeth, experimental filmmaker and festival programing favorite Barbara Hammer’s latest work will premiere at MoMA May 26-June 1st. In her ever-curious quest to reveal sapphic lives, Hammer examines the shadow life of well-known poet and novelist Elizabeth Bishop (1911 -1975).
Hammer posits that the places people live in carry secrets long after they depart and in cinematic silence the camera reveals the memory of life lived in a location. Never one to be obvious or simple, Hammer speaks to the beauty of the repressed and the erotic passion of lust and love. Bishop lived many places, having affairs with women and the occasional man, and Hammer follows her path out of NYC to places like Brazil and Canada. Go expecting to be challenged by a master cinema trickster—and be prepared to never look at a trysting room in the same way again.
director Bertrand Bonello
Yes, more Yves Saint Laurent. After L’Amour Fou, and the Pierre Bergé “authorized” Yves Saint Laurent” by Jalil Lespert, we now have the most scrumptious and decadent narrative bio film of all three: Saint Laurent, directed by bad boy Bonello and featured at the 2014 New York Film Festival.
As expected, the clothes are beautiful to look at with the attitude and style of a French Vogue perfume ad. Free of Berge’s hand, we meet Saint Laurent at the height of his success and discover the man all rich women wanted to wear created everything for his very first and only real model—his mother. Genius that he was, he also was a petulant mama’s boy. Under the watchful eye of Berge, he fell into drug stupor and dangerous promiscuity.
Perfect French high art, it plays with “novella” salaciousness, name dropping like a Fran Lebowitz story. While it is based on actual events, it heightens them in the way a Girodias (Olympia Press) novel would have. Sex, fashion, money, drugs—the international traffic of beautiful, loyal models—hustlers and tacky business people are all in full frontal. Needless to say, I loved it.
The real surprise is just how well Louis Garrel plays Jacques De Bascher—Saint Laurent’s lover as well as the great love of Karl Lagerfeld—bringing alive the sexual tension and desire that kept both Lagerfeld and Saint Laurent vying for his affection by trying to outdo the other in gifting him.
Now that TFF is over, I am looking forward to the film programming at the New Whitney Museum opening in the Meat Market.
(cc) jim fouratt, firstname.lastname@example.org http://jimfourattsreeldealmoviesrthatmatter.blogspot.com .