August 12, 2017. Can one Canadian man’s vision bring relative prosperity to the poverty-ridden island of Flores, Indonesia? An inspiring story in discouraging times, “A Bridge Between Two Worlds,” is a documentary film that follows the innovative work of Quebeçois Gilles Raymond. Screened at the Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema before an appreciative audience, we see a man with no personal wealth of his own create an autonomous movement among agrarian villagers in Flores through micro-lending. Read the rest of this entry
August 11, 2017. “Off the Rails,” a documentary feature shown at the Kew Gardens Film Festival, is an extraordinarily compelling film about a man with a compulsion. Darius McCollum, now in his 50’s, has been obsessed with the MTA subway and bus system since he was 15. Dubbed a “train in the neck” by a local reporter, he has been imprisoned 32 times, more than half his life, for impersonating train operators, bus drivers, and even a superintendent! But, the film asks, does McCollum’s Asperger’s Syndrome (which is characterized by an intense interest in one subject, often leading to obsessive behavior), exempt him from responsibility for his criminal acts? Is prison an appropriate punishment for someone with a neurological disability? Ironically, though the MTA refuses to hire him, because he “doesn’t follow the rules,” he seems to know the rules and the workings of the transit system better than just about anyone else. He is even called upon by the MTA, while in prison lock-down (!), to reveal possible vulnerabilities within the system. Read the rest of this entry
August 10, 2017. The Kew Gardens Film Festival, in its first year, is chock full of little gems that the average filmgoer would not get to see otherwise. Here are two.
“Dancing Day,” which clocks in at only four minutes, was directed, written by and stars Tytus Bergstrom, an incredible dancer who creates a joyful fantasy through the magic of video technology. He emerges from his house, moving to some happy grooves, when another Tytus emerges from the same doorway, followed, surprisingly, by three more in succession. They dance separately, yet echo one another’s movements flawlessly as the five dancers periodically come into sync. Bergstrom’s carefree choreography and technological skill combine to create an unbelievably happy tour de force. Read the rest of this entry
August 9, 2017. The ”Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema,” continues now through August 13. Film festivals remind me of the story of three blind people describing an elephant. The person at the pachyderm’s trunk describes it one way. The person at the tail has a different point of view. Still, the person in the middle has a completely different experience. Considering that the festival is presenting 150 films from 24 countries, over a 10 day period, everyone who goes will come away with a different point of view. Read the rest of this entry
August 9, 2017. Presenting 150 films from 24 countries, the ”Kew Gardens Festival of Cinema,” the first ever film festival to be held in the borough of Queens, is now running through August 13. It is a veritable cornucopia of films which run the gamut from documentaries to narratives to experimental, feature length films and shorts. It is a varied collection which has something for every taste. This festival is a great way to see a lot of films in a short amount of time, but, most of all, it is about discovery.
I have, so far, seen many films at the festival, but feel I have not even scratched the surface of what this unique and eclectic festival has to offer. Then again, that is what a film festival should be. While one cannot see everything, I will admit to being partial to documentaries. Read the rest of this entry
Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood in “Unforgiven.”
August 3, 2017. Director and actor Clint Eastwood’s 1992 quadruple Oscar winning movie (including Best Director and Best Picture), “Unforgiven,” will have a run at Film Forum, in a stunning 4K restoration, from August 4 – 10. “Unforgiven is a dark, violent western that explodes the mythology and violent glamour of the old west. It is a story which movies in directions that are unpredictable and which defy expectations of the western genre.
“Unforgiven” is a fascinating meditation on the nature of violence, specifically the ideal of a “shoot ‘em up” versus the reality of actually killing someone. The difference between the “good guys” and “bad guys” in this film all depends on whose side you’re on. In this regard, “Unforgiven” is reminiscent of the Italian westerns, called “Spaghetti Westerns,” in which protagonists were not necessarily the “good guys,” a genre in which Eastwood made his bones as an actor. This influence is particularly felt in the film’s final credit, “For Sergio and Don” – Sergio Leone and Don Siegel. Leone directed Eastwood in his Italian westerns – “A Fist Full of Dollars” (1964), “For a Few Dollars More” (1965) and “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” (1966). Siegel directed some of Eastwood’s movies state side, including the iconic “Dirty Harry” (1971), in which Eastwood plays a police inspector who lives by his own code. Read the rest of this entry
July 30, 2017. In the new documentary, “Brillo Box 3c Off,” filmmaker Lisanne Skyler has created a fascinating, playful, energetic, funny and highly enjoyable, multi-faceted, personal documentary about pop art in New York City in the 60s, her childhood, her parents and her family’s relationship to art, one piece of art in particular.
Ever since humans applied paint to cave walls some 40,000 years ago, people have debated the question, “What is art?” “Brillo Box 3c Off” addresses this question, as well as the ongoing controversy over who, or what, determines what art is worth. Skyler’s story revolves around pop artist Andy Warhol’s practice of re-creating the design of cardboard Brillo Boxes, in wood, and calling them art. In one of the film’s many archival interview clips, Warhol is asked why he doesn’t simply create art that is original instead of copying other’s works. Warhol, nonchalantly, and with easy candor, replies that it’s just easier to do. Warhol, notorious for his artistic appropriation, is probably best know for his paintings of Campbell’s Soup cans. To this end, one critic, upon attending one of Warhol’s shows quipped, “Is this an art gallery or Gristedes’ warehouse?” Read the rest of this entry
July 19, 2017. “Ford to City: Drop Dead,” New York in the 70s is a movie series playing at Film Forum now through July 27. The 70s, considered to be the last golden age of American cinema, is filled with some of my favorite movies, many of which were shot in New York. The titles in this series include “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Saturday Night Fever,” “The Taking of Pelham 123,” and many others.
On the one hand, this is a series tailor made for me. On the other hand, since I already own many of these movies on DVD, why should I pay to see them in a movie theatre? Still, as a practical matter, how often do I actually watch the movies that I have on DVD? I think it’s an existential issue. In other words, having lots of movies on DVD means that I have the possibility of watching them, even if the reality is that I rarely watch them. This is the dilemma presented to the movie aficionado in the digital age, in which almost everything is available at his, or her, fingertips. Had home video and all its variations – VHS, laser disc, DVD, Blu-Ray, streaming – not been invented, then Film Forum’s series would be a “no brainer” for me. Of course I would go. So, saying I wont see a particular film when it plays in a theatre because I have it on a DVD that I almost never watch, means running the risk of not seeing the film at all! Read the rest of this entry
As someone who came of age at the tail-end of the second wave of feminism, the documentary film “She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry” has a special resonance for me. Featuring interviews with women who were involved in the movement and stirring archival footage, often featuring those same women, the film takes us back to a time (not that long ago) when equal rights for women was a radical idea.
The antiwar, civil rights, and free speech movements were at their peak in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, but while the male activists formulated policy and held press conferences, the women found themselves relegated to sealing envelopes and making coffee. With an evolving understanding that female disempowerment is systemic and institutional, women within those movements began rising up to claim their rightful place alongside the men. For many of the men, though, this new liberation movement hit too close to home. In one scene, shocking by today’s more enlightened standards, Marilyn Webb bravely advocates for women’s equality before a gathering of hundreds of “New Left” men, only to be ridiculed, cat-called, shouted down, and even threatened with rape. Read the rest of this entry