Ever since it won the Golden Lion at this year’s Venice Film Festival, Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler has beet hotly anticipated and those not lucky enough to catch it in Toronto or at the NY Film Festival should now understand why. While The Wrestler is continually being referred to as the filmmaker’s return to form or other such hogwash from people who didn’t see the beauty in his last film, The Fountain. Thankfully, his latest has no such barriers to its success and this exceptional film is one of the best-reviewed films of the year. The Wrestler is being compared to Rocky and while it is similar in a few superficial ways, its core message and lead character are distinctly different. Rocky was a bum. He wasn’t a had been, he was a “never was.” He’d never been close to a contender and was more like On the Waterfront‘s Terry Molloy (except that Rocky eventually became “somebody,” of course). On the other hand, The Wrestler‘s Randy “The Ram” Robinson (achingly played by a resurgent Mickey Rourke) was a superstar.
Director: Mike Leigh
Screenwriter: Mike Leigh
Producer: Simon Channing-Williams
Cinematography: Dick Pope
Editor: Jim Clark
Music: Gary Yershon
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman, Samuel Roukin U.K., 2008, 118 minutes
Mike Leigh is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers and I recently had the pleasure of making his acquaintance. I mentioned in a brief conversation just prior to a press conference for the 2008 New York Film Festival screening of Happy-Go-Lucky, that I had been obsessively watching his BBC “television plays” from the 1970s (Abigail’s Party, Nuts in May). While he expressed his appreciation, he also expressed some rancor. He was very frustrated with the quality of those tele-plays we have over here, complaining that they were unauthorized and of terrible quality. Attempting to be as upbeat as possible, I exhorted how the impact of the dramas shown through and, really, who cared about the quality. He thanked me tersely, and I could tell that he was somewhat less impressed. When moments later I asked if I could take a quick photo of him and his star, Sally Hawkins, they politely looked my way and I could hear him mutter to her, “he writes for a web site.”
So it’s that time again. It snuck up on me because I was unable to make it up to Toronto this year which is in and of itself, a minor tragedy. I love the Toronto International Film Festival and all its attendant studio pomp and circumstance. But that’s no matter. What’s passed is past. It’s New York Film Festival time and for pure film geek glee, it’s right up there. Sure, some films suck and the program is often lacking in real surprises, but honestly, that’s not what I really look for in the festival. Should it take more chances? I think so, yeah. For example, the omission of Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche, New York has ruffled a few feathers this year and the the overall predictability of the selection from year to year has been bemoaned on the circuit for years. That said, it’s not an industry event. It’s for the public and none of these films have played in New York. All in all, it’s one of my favorite film events of the year and not just because I love the opening night party/after party.
I don’t always go to Cannes or Toronto and as a result, the NYFF often has 15-20 films I haven’t seen and this year, it’s got more than that. Not only that, but almost every film in the main selection has a full press conference following the press screening, something which only a handful of festivals provide. It has also provided me with one of the more surreal moments of my life in the form of John Ritter in 1996.
• My absolutely favorite picture of the night. A beautiful woman, lost in thought, oblivious to all around her.
• Hi, Dana.
• Tom says it’s time to go to bed, Holly looks like she’s still got some mischief up her sleeve and Jessica proves that tired can indeed be bautiful.
• Our dapper host.
jusqu’à l’année prochaine…..
In the Q&A for his hysterically funny new doc, Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project, director John Landis gave the best Q&A I’ve seen in ages. Here he riffs on Debbie Reynolds and Robert De Niro and makes us all very impatient for the DVD release of this film. Unfortunately, this is the only clip I have that really illustrates what a great storyteller and genuinely funny man Landis is (Not the best in-camera editor am I). I am willing to bet he could do a week of 90-minute one man shows and not repeat one story. There’s definitely a book in there, somewhere.
Mr. Warmth screens on Saturday, Oct 13 at 9:30pm and on Saturday, Oct 13 at midnight