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Premieres & Events

June 13, 2008

Rooftop Panorama Gets Captured For World Premiere

Clayton Patterson and mayor Rudy Giuliani in Captured, screening tonight at Rooftop Panorama (Photo: CP/Rooftop Films)

Seeing as the three-day event started yesterday, I guess I should have mentioned then that Clayton Patterson, the esteemed photographer/filmmaker/author whose tapes of the 1988 Tompkins Square Riots are perhaps the definitive record of that episode in NYC history, has his latest film premiering tonight as part of Rooftop Flims' "Rooftop Panorama" series. Captured, a screen adaptation of his 2005 book about the evolution of his beloved Lower East Side, is screening at the Open Road Rooftop above New Design High; a set by A.R.E Weapons opens the evening at 8:30 and there's an open-bar after-party down the street at Fontana's. Check out more information at Rooftop Films site, including info about Saturday's series-ending short-film program.

Meanwhile, I'm leaving town for a month and might be scarcer than usual around here for anybody still reading; very sorry about that. Do stay in touch and tell me what I'm missing -- or rather will be missing, in case I have a chance to note it here. See you in July, if not sooner...

--STV

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June 5, 2008

TONIGHT: Internet Week NY Showcases Jamie Stuart, West Side and Bug Sex (Among Others)

I know, I know -- I'm such a shill these days, but tonight's Where Internet and Film Collide event at IFC Center (8:30 p.m.) is particularly notable for a few important reasons:

1. Most notably, it's the first time the inveterate festival-chronicler and video gadfly Jamie Stuart has ever exhibited his work theatrically;


The gang's all here: A scene from Jamie Stuart's NYFF45: Part Two, screening tonight at Where Internet and Film Collide (Photo: Mutiny Company)

2. As far as I know, the same is the case for Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Leiberman's terrific "urban Western" serial The West Side;

3. After its turns at Sundance and Tribeca, tonight is likely the last chance you'll have for a while (if ever) to see Isabella Rossellini's bug-sex shorts series Green Porno outside the Sundance Channel.

4. Stuart, Bilsborrow-Koo, Leiberman and others will be on hand afterward to discuss the overlap of cinema, video and Vast! New! Frontier! of the World Wide Web. (Your scale may vary; follow the jump for the full program description.) --STV

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May 10, 2008

BAM, Clark Toast Lachman with Rare Ken Park Screening

By S.T. VanAirsdale

The Reeler dropped by BAM Friday for the opening night of its retrospective celebrating cinematographer Ed Lachman, who was on hand to introduce his and co-director Larry Clark's controversial, rarely screened 2002 directing debut Ken Park. Aside from at least one elderly patron's vocal indignance and another viewer's "OK, thank you!" as Lachman's camera lingered a few frames extra on ejaculating and/or urinating penises, the film seems to have retained an almost mythically hypnotic shock; its permutations of sexually active skaters, predatory parents and harrowing ennui in Visalia, Calif., (further distorted by the cracked lens of screenwriter Harmony Korine) seem at once transgressive and wholly conventional, as though protracted takes of autoerotic asphyxiation and attempted molestation were mere curios, like holdovers from the silent era.

For that matter, Ken Park may as well be a silent film; visual narrative coruscating off the screen, words melting in mouths, lives lived in details flung far into the margins. The title character, a skateboarder with hair the color of red apple skin and who's dead by suicide within minutes of his introduction, gives way to his surrogate family of friends: Shawn, who's sleeping with his girlfriend's mother; Peaches, whose Bible-parsing father fancies her reincarnation as her late mother; Tate, a lanky sociopath (still an understatement); and Claude, the product of parents knotted in a bleak, beer-swilling idyll. They fall into a slow orbit around happiness, eclipse in bed, then go around for another loveless pass. Lachman, Clark and their camera do the majority of the talking themselves with discipline and stillness.

"We didn't want to do kind of a hand-held, emotional realism, but more like Eastern European films," Lachman said after the film. "We'd use a longer lens, so it's more like a portrait of the people. The camera is the eye. If you come into the room and you're observing something, it makes choices about what you're seeing. We felt that gave the development of your belief in the performance -- you're not cutting the performance to belief the credibility of what they're going through."

Not that that'll make it any easier to literally see Ken Park, which had screened only once previously in New York (in the 2003 edition of Film Comment Selects), never obtained US distribution and is available only via online bootlegs and foreign-region DVD. An admittedly disapponted Clark countered the popular theory that its explicit subject matter was responsible. "It wasn't censorship," he said. "That wasn't the issue. I'll just tell this quickly, because I don't even wanna talk about it, but we had a producer who didn't pay for the music rights. Over a year period, he told us everything had been cleared and paid for. Some of the music -- like the country music from estates like Lefty Frizzell's? That song 'Mom and Dad's Waltz'? There are a couple of other songs, but they're very conservative estates, and it took us like a year and a half to get those tunes cleared. Then the producer didn't pay for them. We found out way after the fact. So there are more big problems now, but maybe some day we'll be able to do that. ... They only come after you in England and America."

Follow the jump for more background about Ken Park as well as the relationship between Clark and Lachman, the latter of whom will be in attendance at several more screenings featured in the BAM program -- including David Byrne's directing effort True Stories on Sunday, May 11, at which the ex-Talking Heads leader will join Lachman for a discussion. Check out BAM's site for more information.

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April 22, 2008

One Day Only: From Badlands to Sea!

Please forgive the prolonged absence, but, well, hey. My best intentions have found little to no quarter in this two-front war, but there is this: Saturday, April 26, promises two must-see film events in New York. Both have tickets on sale now, and neither have anything to do with a certain high-profile festival hijacking NYC film culture from its festering base in a triangle below Canal Street.

Wait, where was I? OK: First up on Saturday afternoon, Sissy Spacek and executive producer Ed Pressman will visit IFC Center for a special screening and discussion of Terrence Malick's Badlands. The theater snagged a studio archive print of Malick's debut, starring Spacek and Martin Sheen as young lovers (based on Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate) on a crime spree across the Midwest. The show is at 1:05; tickets are $15, and as far I know (i.e. I just bought one) they're still available.

Later that night the Walter Reade Theater is hosting a benefit screening of Glory at Sea!, whose filmmaker recently incurred a few thousand bone fractures and many times more dollars' worth of medical bills in a car accident before Glory's premiere at SXSW. Tickets for this one are also going fast; they're technically pay-what-you-can, but don't be a cheapskate -- Zeitlin needs your help, and by all accounts the film is something to behold. The Reeler will proudly represent at this one too, so I'll know if you punk out. Follow the jump for more information about the program and film, and clear your schedule for the 26th.

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February 19, 2008

Amy Ryan Gets Involved

All eyes on her: Amy Ryan in Gone Baby Gone (Photo: Miramax FIlms)

By John Oursler

As recently as three years ago Amy Ryan was little more than an extra in Steven Spielberg's gaudy War of the Worlds, credited only as "Neighbor with toddler." Now on the cusp of stardom with an Academy Award nomination for her role in Ben Affleck's directorial debut Gone Baby Gone, she visited her hometown of Queens on Monday to discuss the film and her character at the Museum of the Moving Image.

"She's not the greatest woman out there, or the greatest mother out there," she said of Helene McCready, the vulgar, drug-addled mother of a missing girl in South Boston. "But I couldn't wait to start working on the character. I like characters that scare me a little bit. In a way, I felt like I understood her. I couldn't wait to get involved."

Knowing that her multifaceted portrayal could have bordered on caricature, Ryan compassionately balanced the character's vulnerability and confidence throughout. She noted that co-star Ed Harris sensed the entire film hinged upon Helene's believability. "When I first met Ed Harris in Boston, I shook hands with him and he said, 'That's some part you've got there,"' Ryan recalled. "It was really like a line in the sand -- like, 'Try to keep up.' It was friendly, but a gentle warning." Affleck later echoed Harris' remarks by divulging the proverbial elephant in the room: "'If your part doesn't work the whole film doesn't work. Good luck!"

Having won Best Supporting Actress awards from film critics' organizations in both New York and Boston, Ryan is considered a front-runner in her category this Sunday. When asked who among her fellow nominees gave the "second best" performance in her category, she paused. "Art and competition is a strange thing," she finally replied. "It's almost like a political campaign [in] the months before the awards. You see the other actors at these parties, and you become comrades to each other. It's exhausting and its nerve-wracking. I told my dad that whoever's name is called will just be the spokesperson for the group."

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January 28, 2008

Chop Shop Actor Gets Rich Quick

(L-R) Alejandro Polanco and Ramin Bahrani discuss Chop Shop last weekend at the Museum of the Moving Image (Photo: STV)

By S.T. VanAirsdale

Without much fanfare, Ramin Bahrani's Chop Shop had its hometown debut Saturday at a preview at the Museum of the Moving Image -- mere miles from Willets Point, Queens, and the blown-out rows of auto body shops where Bahrani and Co. shot in the sweltering summer of 2006. After a Cannes premiere and Toronto bow in 2007, the director and his young star Alejandro Polanco dropped by Astoria for a glimpse in advance of opening Feb. 27 at Film Forum.

I'm a Bahrani follower from way back but never tire of hearing stories from his informal yet wildly rigorous sets, where he'll never say "Action" or "Cut" but will run through scenes as many as 50 takes at a time. Polanco, portraying a homeless orphan hoarding cash by working odd jobs in the neighborhood, earned money between scenes by enticing cars into his movie boss's shop. Bahrani's rehearsal process is equally exacting and -- to hear him and Polanco tell it -- was almost as lucrative for the 13-year-old actor.

"I don't really know how, but we did get permission to shoot on the G train,' Bahrani said, responding to a question about a scene featuring Polanco and his friend Carlos (Carlos Zapata) selling candy in the subway. "The [Mayor's] Film Office has really been nice to me, and they got it for us somehow. But we shot that scene on Handicam in advance of making the film, so Ale and Carlos and my cameraman and I would shoot them selling candy on the train. We would film them this close --" Bahrani held his palm inches from his face -- "so they would forget all about us by the time it came to making the film. They kept the money from that time."

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January 24, 2008

Weiner Takes All

(Clockwise from left) Tony Long, Coosje Kapteyn and Beatrice Conrad-Eybesfeld in A Second Quarter, screening as part of Anthology Film Archives' Lawrence Weiner series (Photo courtesy of Moved Pictures Archive and Lawrence Weiner)

By Miriam Bale

It's the week of the disconnect in repertory film in New York. Film Forum is showcasing Alain Resnais's 1961 film Last Year at Marienbad, the epochal representative of '60s bourgeois hysteria that splinters off into mirrored images of a divided emotional state. The film constantly circles around rigid spaces; this is true both in the playful way the plot approaches narrative cliches and also in the way the camera innovatively moves around the stiff set. Either way, it's dizzying. There's never a reconnect, and, of course, that's the point.

But Lawrence Weiner, a conceptual artist from the Bronx, made movies beginning a decade later that suavely weave in and out of familiarity and distance. Sometimes his work dwells in a white-walled prison of mental play, but -- at its most successful -- it is warm, oddly familiar, textural and rhythmic. (And sometimes a little hot, too, like a song by The Rolling Stones.) In conjunction with a retrospective of his work at the Whitney Museum, Anthology Film Archives is presenting a rare chance to see his film and video work that spans from 1970 to last year. Weiner and his wife Alice worked with Whitney and Anthology programmers to present seven programs comprising shorts, feature films and varying lengths in between.

In Broken Off, playing in a program of his early work on Saturday, each shot ends with something being broken off -- a branch, bark or the video camera itself turning off and into static. In each, a line becomes a viscerally felt jagged edge. "My whole existence is based on material," Weiner said at a recent gallery tour through the Whitney exhibit. "Material in relationship to the world and in relationship to other people." It's key that the relationship itself -- the infinite variety of familiar experiences once viewers takes responsibility to bring to the work their own personal associations -- is the focus.

Language is another place where this approach to the familiar breeds surprising infinities. Weiner is very attracted to idiomatic expressions in his art. Phrases like "water under a bridge," "hard as a rock / soft as silk" and "some of this some of that" are scattered across the walls of the Whitney galleries. "Everyone thinks they know what they mean, but they don't," Weiner said. He approaches pornography with a similar attitude. In the 1976 hard-core video A Bit of Matter and a Bit More, faces are not hidden but semi-obscured. As couples get it on, letters appear on the bottom of the screen that come close to words and names we recognize but actually mean nothing at all. Similarly, the couples' body rhythms are familiar yet distant from our own direct experience.

Weiner will be at Anthology in person on Friday to present his "fuck film" as well as three other films that are especially representative of themes in his work. Another selection worth seeing is the feature A Second Quarter (the last in an intended series of four); its gorgeous color cinematography consists of compositions so static that every movement within the frame is emphasized. The movie is the distillation of a feature film -- any feature film -- to the basics of its own rhythmic progression: a mysterious plot unfolds dramatically but is communicated solely through lists, question/answers and recitations of the alphabet.

Seduced and Abandoned is a regular feature about repertory cinema highlights in New York. Miriam Bale programs the monthly series The Movie Night Disco at Frank's Lounge in Fort Greene.

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January 12, 2008

The Kind-ness of Gondry

By Ben Gold

To anyone who has seen his sci-fi relationship drama Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or his dreamy romantic comedy The Science of Sleep, of course it's nothing new to say filmmaker Michel Gondry is a man of ideas -- unhinged and inspired ideas. His endearingly absurd yet home-grown universe has gained a cult of fans, many of whom were in attendance at the Apple Store SoHo Friday night to catch a few scenes from Gondry's latest film, Be Kind Rewind, and to catch a glimpse of the director as he discussed Rewind and its inspirations with indieWIRE editor-in-chief Eugene Hernandez.


Jersey Boy: Filmmaker Michel Gondry on the makeshift Ghostbusters set-within-a-set featured in Be Kind Rewind (Photo: New Line Cinema)

A typical Gondrian farce, Rewind features Jack Black as a man who somehow becomes magnetized and accidentally erases all the VHS tapes of his local Passaic, N.J., video store, clerked by his pal Mos Def. Under pressure from customers and the booming DVD market, the friends decide the best solution to their problem is to remake all the erased tapes -- films like Ghostbusters, Rush Hour 2 and The Lion King, all of which become more popular than the originals.

The idea for these remakes, or "swedes" as Gondry calls them, is rooted in modern-day remakes and sequels. "All the sequels and remakes are always more expensive than the original movie now," Gondry said. "20 years ago the sequels were getting cheaper and cheaper. So I thought it would be interesting to reverse the concept -- do a remake of a very expensive movie on a very little budget." Surely, the idea of Jack Black and Mos Def acting in a homemade production of Driving Miss Daisy is enough to sell tickets. For Gondry though, it is not the heart of the story.

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January 10, 2008

Storm-y Weather

By Miriam Bale

Ang Lee's 1997 film The Ice Storm, which screens Jan. 15 at the Walter Reade Theater, is successful for what it isn't more than what it is. For a drama ostensibly about suburban swinging in Connecticut in 1973, it's remarkably restrained in its use of retro color and soft rock. Smirk or celebration are not part of its nostalgia; nostalgia is instead transformed into a more ageless sense of loss.


Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline in The Ice Storm, screening Jan. 15 at the Walter Reade Theater (Photo: Barry Wechter / Kobal Collection)

Lee sustained this mood by a remarkable discipline, trimming scenes and performances (including one that he described as the best acted and directed scene of his career at that point) that trailed off even slightly from the slow slide into tragedy. According to scriptwriter-producer James Schamus's notes in the published screenplay, Lee cut scenes throughout production and post-production in a general movement away from the script's social satire. A strained, familiar send-up of Benjamin Hood's (Kevin Kline) superphony Midtown office life was edited to just his commute -- reconceived, as Schamus describes it, as more of a melancholic interlude than a comedic sequence.

While the Rick Moody novel on which the film is based often draws comparisons to Cheever and Updike, the film doesn't retain the tone of these authors' work --always a cocktail of humorous disassociation, sexiness and withdrawal. Instead of trying to represent this milieu in a watered-down form for the screen, Lee chooses to concentrate on one note of this genre: the Cheeverian sadness of the commuter train. Spiritually, both the film and most work by Cheever pivots on this commute. They're not so much about the hypocrisies of leading two lives -- in Connecticut or New York, as husband or adulterer -- as about the ride in between those places where you're left staring out the window, contemplating and roleless.

The shiny crimson-and-navy vinyl of the train seats are the heart of Lee's movie. While those colors and the textured teal and brown prints in the film's interiors seem restrained and more realistic than in other movies that depict that era, the colors seem gauchely bold and generic compared to interiors described in the novel: puce with grey, or lavender with ocher. While The Ice Storm avoids social satire to evoke something more timeless, the emotional structure of the novel is built entirely on analyzing the social class that was obsessed with that ostentatious display of restraint and forward thinking: the too quiet WASPs of New Canaan.

But, as Moody (who will introduce Tuesday's Lincoln Center screening) commented in an afterward of a recent edition of the novel, the movie is the fraternal twin of the novel. He recalls crying at the end of the his first viewing of the film, partially out of relief that the film was so good that he wouldn't have to fake pleasantries but also because, "I had successfully given away my book, and this was a bittersweet thing."

The Ice Storm screens Jan. 15 at the Walter Reade Theater as part of the Young Friends of Film program; visit the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Web site for ticket information.

Seduced and Abandoned is a regular feature about repertory cinema highlights in New York. Miriam Bale programs the monthly series The Movie Night Disco at Frank's Lounge in Fort Greene.

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December 13, 2007

There Will Be Bruises

By Ben Gold

Like a prospector traveling to unknown territories in search of riches, The Reeler journeyed to the Upper East Side of Manhattan for the 92nd Street Y’s preview screening of There Will Be Blood. Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson and actor Daniel Day-Lewis joined moderator Annette Insdorf for a discussion afterward, revealing a pair of down-to-earth fellows whose creative collaboration sounded strikingly like its lead character's own harrowing journey through the hellish depths of humanity.


"Partners in crime": (L-R) Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Thomas Anderson on the set of There Will Be Blood (Photo: Paramount Vantage)

Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview, a character even more ferocious than his Bill “The Butcher” Cutting in Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York. A self-described “oil man” in early 20th-century California, Plainview is concerned with little besides making money; he conjures an unearthly growl throughout, in direct contrast to Day-Lewis’s gentle, refined English accent. He described his tradition of creating his characters from the ground up, going as far as to invent Plainview’s back story. “There’s no choice, really, but to do that work," he told the audience. "Not only because you need to do it, but because the only way of convincing anyone else that I’ve found my way into another life is, firstly, to convince myself. And there’s no possibility of doing that unless I understand everything of what lead that man to the place you discover him.”

Anderson loosely based Blood on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, but for the actor that is where the relationship ends. “The novel had no relevance when we were making the film,” Day-Lewis said. “As much as it might have started Paul off on his journey, which in turn lead to our partnership, and me embarking on mine in a different way, we had to separate ourselves from anything other than the very specific world we are trying to imagine. From that point of view, even if there had been some connection, one would resist, very much, the conscious sense of that.”

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