Director: Mike Leigh
Screenwriter: Mike Leigh
Producer: Simon Channing-Williams
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.”
Continue reading NYFF 08- Review: Happy Go Lucky
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.
Continue reading NYFF 08: Che, Cantet, Rourke And….David Bowie!
I am on record as saying that my favorite film festival party of the year is opening night of the New York Film Festival. It’s like the prom but with (slightly) better food, fewer zits, better tuxes (more on that, later) and you get to go every year. Oh, and you don’t have to spike the punch.
It’s also black tie and I love that. Black tie parties are a chance for everyone to dress up and look snazzy and are really for the women. The men are supposed to all look relatively the same in tuxedos and the women get to shine. That’s all history, now. These days standards have been lowered slightly, so that “black tie” can mean a nice suit for men, in place of a tux. I’m not in favor of this, but that’s not really the point.
The point is, and I am sad to say this, the standards of dress at this party have been declining steadily over the past 8 years or so and have now gone far beyond a “nice suit and tie” into the realm of sovenly. The thing is, this isn’t Cannes and well, the Film Society of Lincoln Center isn’t going to send people home if they show up without a tux, nor should they. Additionally, the event has become increasingly inclusive of the independent film crowd and that’s fantastic. Not everyone owns a tux, and a nice suit and tie are fine. That said, there were quite a large number of people dressed, well, rather less formally. Unlike this nattily dressed gentleman:
indieWIRE’s editor in chief Eugene Hernandez leaving Tavern on the Green.
Continue reading NYFF 07: Opening Night Party: It Says “Black Tie,” Schmuck.
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (ThinkFilm, October 26th)
Dir: Sidney Lumet; written by: Kelly Masterson
NYFF public screenings: Friday, October 12th: 6pm, Saturday, October 13th: 12:45pm
Master filmmaker Sidney Lumet latest effort, Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, is the tautest melodrama I’ve seen in quite some time and at 83, Lumet has lost none of his edge. While I didn’t necessarily find this new picture, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, and Rosemary Harris, to be on the par with, Dog Day Afternoon or The Verdict — both among my all-time favorite films — it certainly kept me in its grip from the moment go. The difference between this one and the other two is that this film is story driven while the others are character oriented. The story is as close to Greek or Shakespearean tragedy as one can get and at times the characters seem to be little more than vehicles propelling the storylines forward. But what storylines there are!
The opening sequence finds married couple Andy (Hoffman) and Gina Hanson (Tomei) in an exceptional moment of blissful passion while vacationing in Brazil and their post-coital dialog reveals a clearly unhappy marriage Andy is a real estate executive with a cushy office over looking Manhattan and an unhappy wife, Gina, who replaces feelings of emptiness with expensive meaningless objects and sex with her brother-in-law, Hank (Hawke). This is as much bliss as the picture is going to offer and over the course of the next 110 minutes there is just a sense of menace and dread. Tomei, naked through most of her scenes, might just get her career back on track with this role. Not sure if that’s a good thing or simply a sad case of what an actress has to do get herself noticed these days. Finney plays Charles, the stoic patriarch. Whoever came up with the idea to cast Albert Finney as Hoffman’s dad had a gem of an idea and the relationship between the two is a key element of this tale.
Continue reading NYFF 07 Review: Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead