For those of you still making last minute plans to occupy your weekend, I think I've found your outlet: The sixth annual Coney Island Film Festival opened Friday evening, continuing today and Sunday with over a dozen short film and feature programs and special events that actually made me look forward to the weekend train odyssey from The Reeler's uptown HQ.
Hell, I may even go back for Sunday's slate, featuring a one-two-three punch of Stephen Verona's Boardwalk (above), a walking tour of Coney Island film locations and David Wachs' documentary Holes in My Shoes. The hyper-rare Boardwalk in particular, starring Lee Strasberg, Ruth Gordon and Janet Leigh, signals perhaps the most alluring revival of any New York film at a festival this year. I mean, Lionel Rogosin's On the Bowery was great and everything at Tribeca, but this is a little different.
"It was a huge hit at Cannes, and then it played for a week in New York and L.A." festival director Rob Leddy told The Reeler at Friday night's opening night party. "The distributor went out of business and the film's been lost since 1979. The director, Stephen Verona, sent me an e-mail. I'd always wanted to see it. And out of nowhere, I looked in my inbox one day and it was like, 'Coney Island film,' is all it said. And I read it, and it went, 'Hi, this is Steven Verona, and I did a film called Boardwalk in 1979. I just got the rights back and I'd like to submit it to the Coney Island Film Festival. Will you send me the entry fees?' I'd wanted to see this film for so long. 'It's in,' I told him, basically."
Verona and his star's widow, Anna Strasberg, will be in attendance following the screening, after which the walking tour will commence from the Coney Island Museum. Then Wachs will present Holes in My Shoes, his film about the somewhat accomplished life of 96-year-old New Yorker Jack Beers.
"I can't even tell you this incredible life story," said festival co-director Laurie MacMillan. "This man grew up on the Lower East Side in total poverty, he became 'New York City's Strongest Boy' as a teenager -- he was a Coney Island act. He went on to get his engineering degree, was one of the engineers who built Radio City Music Hall, worked on the Manhattan Project, built the Empire State Building's spire and then acted in over 200 films. Everyone in New York knows the things that he's done, but they don't know the guy. It's an incredible story. And he's going to be here."
Tonight, meanwhile, the fest hosts an interactive screening of The Warriors with "a few surprises," Leddy promised, as well as a sprinkling of city-centric shorts like Misfortune Cookie, Perfidia, The Falcons are 3 and the New York burlesque tandem Little Brooklyn and Team Queen. The Russ Meyer-tinged exploitation epic Pervert! (conveniently taglined "The Most Outrageous Movie Ever!" lest you encounter any confusion) screens at 9 p.m. Tickets for all shows but The Warriors ($10) are $6. Just grab a book and a jacket, get on the train and go.
Posted at October 7, 2006 9:32 AM
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