Jim Fouratt's Reel Deal : Movies That Matter
We cinema lovers are so lucky to live in NYC. We have the best movie choices of any city I know. We have art houses, multiplexes, museums, colleges, and presenting organizations. But what actually makes the us Cinema City is that almost every week. The most visible are the New York Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Festival. However, there are literally hundreds of smaller, more niche audience-directed examples such as NewFest, Human Rights Watch, Havana Film Festival, 3 Jewish/Israeli Film Festival, animation, children, and African festivals to name just a few.
March brings two of the most stimulating and provocative film series of the year that will make any movie lover au courant with the best of the new and foreign films that have not been yet released in the US.
The Rendez-Vous brings the best of new French Cinema as selected by the InFrench Film Office and the Lincoln Center Film Festival for ten days at three locations (Lincoln Center, BAM, and IFC) giving the public the chance to discover and debate these films.
New Directors/New Films (ND/NF) offers a series hosted jointly by Filmlic (New York Film Festival) and MoMA, whose curators literally scour the globe from Sundance to Rotterdam to look to fresh new film makers as to what will be the next big cinema discovery.
I would not miss either festival and consider both essential viewing.
The Rendez-Vous of New French Cinema
With three locations, The Walter Reed and Monroe Theater at Lincoln Center, IFC in Greenwich Village and BAM in Brooklyn, nine films are available, with stars and directors for most of the new films in person. Gallic art will be everywhere March 1-10; and what a lineup. Look online to see the screening schedule!
Here are two that I have seen that I recommend:
Augustine dir Alice Winocure
Professor Jean-Martin Charcot, the founder of modern neurology in the 19th century challenges theories about women, hysteria, and sexuality. His studies set the stage for Freud and Reich to conceptualize modem psychology based on repression of emotion and body held feeling. Two world class performances, Vincent Linden (Charcot) and Soko (Agustine) hold this complex historical film together. Augustine does raise questions of how men see women, particularly women out of their control. It left me thinking about women and how the medical industry has treated them historically.
A Lady in Paris / Une Estonienne à Paris dir
Do you know an old, cranky queen of any gender who finds themself alone and does not want help nor knows how to ask for help if they do? I do. And they had a life that many would envy. A Lady in Paris is about that kind a woman played with extraordinary courage and energy by the legendary couture-clothed Jeanne Moreau who brings sexual longing in an old woman's body vividly to the screen when she sees her former younger lover. He is trying to care for her but not on her terms. The other woman is an Estonian widow, played with delicate fierceness by Laine Magi,
who has always longed to visit Paris and is offered the job to care for the old woman by the former lover. Two bravura performances. Ms. Moreau and A Lady in Paris prove that human beings can be difficult, even when they don't mean it. Ilmar Raag's Paris is as Parisians, not Woody Allen, see Paris!
The New York Film Festival closes the year's major world film festivals by showing the best films chosen mostly from all the festivals that have preceded it. However, their curators and the film curators of MoMA join forces to find the best new filmmakers from around the world, all year round. At ND/NF, you will see challenging new work from directors not known, but in these curators opinion you should know them. A very eclectic and challenging collection will surprise and confound you. If you care about the future of cinema and what new are doing, ND/NF is the festival for you. It features 19 narrative films, 6 documentaries, and 17 shorts.
Of what I have seen, I recommend in this year's ND/NF:
Blue Caprice dir Andrew Moors
Controversy broke out when Blue Caprice, premiered in January at Sundance, over the question of whether Moors had done justice to the complicated back-story behind the 2002 Beltway sniper attacks against random individuals around Washington DC. Moors, whose previous work had been making rap music videos, brings a visual sensibility to the film that is vivid and pulsates with tension. However, I felt, unlike many other critics, he skimmed the surface of the angry husband on a rampage and a lost, fatherless teenage boy he befriends. The boy, played by Tequan Richmond, is intense yet vulnerable in showing devotion to his surrogate father, Isiah Washington. He is mesmerized and like a rescued puppy dog, sticks close and learns to obey without question. This is serial killings like no other. The script fails to explore the complexity of the family dynamic and the insanity of the killings in my view. As a result of Moors having worked mostly on music video, the film is almost overwhelmed by music. Blue Caprice is a perfect ND/NF choice. It is a film with difficult subject matter and visual beauty and topical because of the violence of gun use.
Upstream Color dir Shane Carruth
Shane Carruth won the SUNDANCE Grand Jury Prize for Primer, a complex science mystery narrative in 2004. Upstream Color is his first film since. Carruth wrote, directed, co-produced, co-edited, composed the score, shot, and starred in the film. It was a very hands-on project. Again, it is a complex, romantic mystery steeped in science and the biological connection of attraction. Amy Seimtz is as mesmerizing in her performance as the woman of desire as is the complicated multi-level plot is to the viewer. Everything about Upstream frame by frame is seductive, if at first confusing. By confusing, I mean complex and demanding. Every element on screen as done to indie film perfection including a sound design that is revelatory. Upstream Color is not only a perfect festival film, but of all the narrative films seen at Sundance, it most spoke to me about the possibility of intelligence, intrigue, and romance returning to the core of cinema currently serrated in technological advances that blur the essence of storytelling.
NOW LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES:
Gut Renovation dir Su Friedrich
Prize winning experimental and avant-garde filmmaker Su Friedrich is best known for making art-driven narrative films based on her experience as a girl, daughter, woman, and a lesbian. She seems to be inspired by the storytelling technique of sapphic savant and award winning filmmaker Barbara Hammer. Yet her new film is anything but arty. Gut Renovation is a study of the policy of Mayor Bloomberg and City Council under the leadership of Christine Quinn that allows real estate developers to go on a rampage of destroying neighborhoods like in Coney Island, Hunters Point in the Bronx, and parts of Brooklyn in order to let real estate developers build luxury housing. This is just like what happened in Greenwich Village with St. Vincent's Hospital.
Gut Renovation is not shot in a traditional documentary format. It is more personal and intimate. Friedrich puts herself front and center as she sees the working class neighborhood she had moved to with her partner, after having to flee SoHo rising rents. The place is Williamsburg where she had moved in 1989. At first she and her fellow working artists were invisible in the manufacturing-heavy, working class family community. However, as she integrated into her community together with her partner, her roommates, and other artists, they became more visible. Things really began to change in 2005 when City Council made a major change in the zoning, opening up the largely manufacturing neighborhood to residents. The changes started almost immediately. Buildings mostly owned by members of the Orthodox Jewish community started to be sold and the businesses they housed were forced out. Freidrich has two stories she is documenting. Firstly, the change in the physical neighborhood and secondly, how it was affecting her home, her relationship, her roommates, and her friends and neighbors.
jim fouratt interviews Su Friedrich director of Gut Renovation
Nothing about Gut could be called "arty;” and yet it is artful. It certainly has the clarity and sensibility of an artist. Friedrich also has a sense of humor which permeates through the reality of the destruction of neighborhood. She began, with her partner, mapping the zone boundaries and labeling the buildings and warehouses around her as they were sold, cleared of tenants and renovated, When she got to 173 ... yes, 173 buildings, she knew it was time to move as she would not be able to afford the new building. A sad story rooted in politicians’ insensitivity to what makes a community and how greed ruins almost everything. Sad, yes, but necessary viewing if you want to fight NYU or know we need a full service hospital back in the Community
. Gut Renovation trailer
The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek
dir Wendy Jo Cohen
A fabulous send up of the oh so serious Ken Burns like historical documentaries one sees on the History Channel or Public Broadcasting Channel or pay cable. Complete with a voice of God narration, to lead the audience to believe that The Battle of Pussy Willow Creek saved the Union, three completely bizarre soldiers are the heroes of this battle. The unlikely trio is a very narcissistic, opiate addicted, gay, pretty boy Colonel, an elderly Chinese immigrant, and a cross-dressing former teenage, female prostitute with one arm. Wendy Jo Cohen has assembled a world of craft people who seamlessly authenticate and rusticate the landscape and the players so you will find yourself, as I did, forgetting this is a confabulation. Hilarious and at the same time raises a very serious question of why do we believe what we see in documentary if it looks right and has the voice of authority all over and under it.
It’s a hoot!!!
Think Jon Stewart making a documentary. It is that funny!
Think Jon Stewart making a documentary. It is that funny!
(cc) jim fouratt
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