New Directors/New Films
(March 24th - April 4th, 2010)
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**Please check back soon for reviews of 19 more films.**
Bill Cunningham New York (*Opening Night Film*)
Directed by Richard Press.
Bill Cunningham New York, the Opening Night film, follows the life and work of Bill Cunningham, a New York Times photographer who rides around Manhattan on his Schwinn bicycle while taking photographs of everyone old and young, rich or poor, famous or not. He gets invited to many fancy parties where the hosts are happy for him to take photographs at the event which he does pretty non-stop. Not surprisingly, his bicycle has been stolen over two-dozen times off the street. He’s so passionate about his work that he has never drank or eaten at the parties because he’s there simply to work. Director Richard Press, in his feature directorial debut, captures Cunningham’s warmth, charisma and sense of humor as a human being while showing precisely how brilliant, passionate and articulate he is as an artist. If you're wondering why he has never had a love interest throughout his entire life, you'll get the chance to find out why, which won't be spoiled here. It’s equally moving and engaging to watch as Cunningham has to face being relocated to a new apartment overlooking Central Park instead of staying in small, cramped yet cosy studio he has in Carnegie Hall---as he candidly admits, he doesn’t need to move to an apartment with a bathroom and kitchen because that would just mean more rooms for him to clean. This documentaryfinds just the right balance between entertaining the audience and provoking them intellectually as well as emotionally. You don’t need to be an avid fan of photography or fashion to enjoy it.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0
No distributor yet.
I Killed My Mother (*Closing Night Film*)
Directed by Xavier Dolan.
The New Directors New Films series culminates with the terrific Closing Night film, I Killed My Mother, a French-Canadian semi-autobiogrpahy centers around a teenager, Hubert (Xavier Dolan), who gradually realizes that his mother (Anne Dorval) doesn’t quite know how to be a good, nurturing and caring mother. She certainly provides for him when it comes to giving him a roof, clothes and food on the table, but she doesn’t know how to reach out to him emotionally and doesn’t even realize that he’s homosexual. Just as Hubert keenly admits, she probably wasn’t meant to be a mother to begin with; she merely became one because she had to. Writer/director Xavier Dolan blends deftly blends drama, tragedy and comedy in a way that makes for a poignant, refreshingly witty, well-acted and profound character study of not only Hubert but also his mother. The dynamics of their relationship are complex and there’s more to both of them than meets the eye, which makes them all the more human and believable as characters. One moment, you feel that Hubert is behaving immaturely while in the next scene, his mother’s suddenly the immature one. Dolan also incorporates stylish cinematography and editing that invigorates the film, especially in the black-and-white scenes during which Hubert faces the camera to intimately confess his thoughts and feelings.
Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Regent Releasing.
No release date yet.
Directed by Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani.
Amer, which means “bitter” in French, follows three stages in the life of Ana: first during her childhood, second as a teenager, and third when she grows into an adult. As a child, she must deal with some kind of perversion that she witnesses taking place in her parents’ creepy-looking mansion. As a teenager, she’s a sex object for men, and, finally, in her adulthood, she’s tormented by an unknown killer that stalks her. If you think none of this really sounds like a standard narrative, you’re absolutely right. Writer/directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani essentially channel Dario Argento by way of Brian De Palma by way of David Lynch on crack. The musical score along with the pretentiously stylish cinematography from the lighting, odd and dizzying camera angles with too many extreme close-ups, colors and editing hit you over the head so often that it feels like an assault on your senses. You’ll find yourself with a headache instead of merely trying to scratch your head to try to figure out the meaning and purpose of what you’re watching because the laconic dialogue probably won't help. Perhaps Amer should be required viewing for all prisoners in Guantanamo as a means of torture because it just might turn them crazy if they were to watch it repeatedly. The film should at least come with a warning beforehand, like in the hard-to-find experimental film The Flicker, which states that audience members easily prone to headaches and/or seizures should be accompanied by a physician while watching it. Number of times I checked my watch: 8
Released by Olive Films.
No release date yet.
Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling
Directed by James Rasin.
The documentary Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling focuses on the ephemeral life of Candy Darling, a transsexual born as James Lawrence Slattery, who rose to fame as an Andy Warhol Superstar during the late 60’s and early 70’s before dying of cancer before the age of 30. Director James Rasin combines fascinating interviews with Darling’s good friend and former roommate Jeremiah Newton along with archival footage of her and passages from her diary and letters read by Chloë Sevigny. Audiences previously unfamiliar with Candy Darling will learn about her emotional struggles during her adolescent years as well as how she became an Andy Warhol Superstar who always wanted to look like Marilyn Monroe. You’ll find yourself thoroughly captivated and even a bit moved by this very well-edited documentary. Number of times I checked my watch: 1
No distributor yet.
Night Catches Us
Directed by Tanya Hamilton.
In Philadelphia 1976, Marcus Washington (Anthony Mackie) returns to his neighborhood after being away for many years. He learns that his brother, Bostic (Tariq Trotter), has sold his home, so with nowhere left to stay, Marcus crashes at the home of Patricia Wilson (Kerry Washington), his longtime friend. She also happens to be the widow of a member of the Black Panthers who the police gunned down many years ago after someone snitched on him that he had shot a police officer. According to the remaining Black Panthers, that snitch is Marcus, so now Marcus has to deal with many people who have turned their back on him and become his enemy thereby putting his life in great danger with the gang members. Meanwhile, Iris (Jamara Griffin), Patricia’s daughter, bonds with him, and he and Patricia find themselves gradually falling in love. Writer/director Tanya Hamilton deftly creates an authentic mood of the era and culture through the set designs, costume designs, hair & make-up, and, most noticeable, the inclusion of music by The Roots. Both Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington give convincingly moving, well-nuanced performances that demonstrate how well they can handle a role that involves deeply-buried emotions that gradually rise to the surface. It’s unfortunate, though, that Hamilton’s screenplay feels so dull and, at times, even anti-climactic, given so many awkward moments of silence, needless slow pacing and not nearly enough flashbacks to fill in the gaps of Marcus’ past which remain a mystery. Why not provide the audience with more leeway into the mind of Marcus and Patricia? Night Catches Us could have been much more powerful and riveting with a tighter and more compelling screenplay. At a running time of 1 hour and 28 minutes, it’s a poorly-paced, bland and underwhelming drama that can’t be saved by its authentic production values nor by Washington and Mackie’s strong performances.
Number of times I checked my watch: 5 Opens December 3rd, 2010 at the Cinema Village.Released by Magnolia Pictures.
Women Without Men
Directed by Shirin Neshat and Shoja Azarie.
In Persian with subtitles. Based on the novel by Shahrnush Parsipur. In 1953 Iran, the Americans and British led a coup d’état against the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mossadegh, thereby leading to the dictatorial Shah’s rise to power. Before the coup, the lives of four Iranian women intersect. Fakhri (Arita Shahrzad), a middle-aged woman, lives with her husband, a general who’s about to become the Prime Minister of the Shah. She’s unhappily married to him and refuses to have sex with him, so, soon enough, she leaves him and retreats to a mystical orchard. 30-year-old Munis (Shabnam Tolouei) yearns to break free from her domineering brother who condescendingly tell her that she should get married instead of staying single all this time and that she doesn’t have the right for certain freedoms that men do. He even goes to the extent of imprisoning her indoors without access to a radio for any news from the outside world. Little does she know that her friend, Faezeh (Pegah Ferydoni), wants to get married to her brother. Finally, Zarin (Orsi Toth), the fourth woman, a prostitute, escapes from a brothel where men had degraded her. Co-screenwriters Shitin Neshat and Shoja Azarie have woven a very lyrical, sensitively layered drama combined with a very imaginative sense of magical realism every now and then. You won’t find yourself moved to tears per se, but you’ll nonetheless feel engrossed as the tragic lives of these four women gradually unfold. The slow pace makes it easier to get gradually immersed into the story and to pay attention to all the nuances and intricate details while contemplating on the magical realism elements, which won’t be spoiled here. It’s also worth mentioning that the exquisite cinematography breathes life into the film and adds a level of richness. At a running time of 1 hour and 39 minutes, Women Without Men manages to be quietly engrossing, lyrical and visually sumptuous without veering toward melodrama or pretension. Number of times I checked my watch: 2 Released by IndiePix Films. Opens May 14th, 2010 at the Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas.