BAM saw critics discussing directors discussing critics discussing directors at BAM in Brooklyn. And, as it turns out, they were critical... The Outfest Legacy Project gave a hometown premiere to its restoration of Bill Sherwood's beloved "Parting Glances," co-hosted with NewFestand the crew discussed the surprising demands of the late director. At the IFC Center, Douglas Pray showed off his "Big Rig" as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series. And BAM has a big night in store for Brooklyn on Saturday.
Critics give another rant at BAM
On Friday night, BAM Cinematek celebrated the oft-maligned role of the film critic with a showing of Maria "I want a pot belly, like Madonna" de Medeiros' 2004 documentary "Je T'aime...Moi non Plus," a collection of interviews regarding the special, unstable relationship between film directors and critics filmed during the 2002 Cannes Film Festival. The film screened as part of BAM's five-film series of New York premieres "New French Films" and was followed by a panel discussion with film critics Melissa Anderson, Kent Jones, Dave Kehr and Dennis Lim about the role of the critic in the film industry.
"The biggest joy of being a film critic today is if there's a small film that you really, really love, and you can champion it. That may really have some impact," said Anderson. "The 100 words I wrote about Tyler Perry's latest movie is not going to make or break it."
Dave Kehr, the panel's resident crank, complained, "I get a little tired of these incredibly wealthy filmmakers whining about how abused they are. I see David Cronenberg in the movie, complaining, 'Oh, I'm so misunderstood, I'm a suffering artist,' and I just can't help thinking, 'You know, you make a million dollars a movie, man. I don't want to tell you what I make, it's embarrassing. But he's the one who loves film, and I'm the nasty cynic who thinks he's a hack."
The critics acknowledged that the internet has changed the face of film criticism, to the point that the profession is losing its meaning in the face of ever-growing dilution. "I dissuade my students from trying to become critics," said Lim. "These days, there are more outlets than ever for film criticism, and as a result there are fewer ways than ever to make a living at it."
NewFest and Outfest celebrate "Parting Glances"
On Monday night at the Walter Reade Theater, Newfest partnered with Los Angeles' Outfest in a presentation of the Outfest Legacy Project's restoration of Bill Sherwood's 1986 film "Parting Glances." The film's story is modest -- yuppie boyfriends Michael and Richard experience relationship angst in the last 24 hours before the latter goes abroad for work -- but the significance of the film is huge, most particularly in its matter-of-fact view of New York's gay life at the onset of the AIDS crisis.
The true emotional center of the film belongs to Michael's ex-boyfriend Nick (played perfectly by Steve Buscemi in his first on-screen performance), a young man dying of AIDS who has been ostracized by his friends. Afterwards, a number of the film's actors discussed the film and the director, who died of AIDS in 1990 without completing another feature.
"The thing about this movie that made it special, the gayness wasn't a big deal in it," said actor Richard Ganoung. "It wasn't a coming out story, it wasn't a 'gay' story. There was no explaining to do."
"Bill would expect everything from you," said actress Kathy Kinney, and producer Yoram Mandel backed her up with a story of when production shut down due to lack of funds. "Bill asked me to go out and get money whatever way I could," said Mandel. "It was the only time in my life that I actually slept with people hoping to get money out of them."
"Bill didn't know, but he really thought he had [AIDS]," said casting director and friend Daniel Haughey. "He wrote the script partly as a way to deal with his fears. I don't even know if there was test then, though."
The Outfest Legacy Project is currently restoring Rob Epstein's 1978 documentary "Word Is Out: Stories of Some of Our Lives."
Keep on Truckin'... Sort of...
On Tuesday night, programmer Thom Powers' weekly "Stranger Than Fiction" series at the IFC Center paired with the Silverdocs Documentary Festival in presenting "Big Rig," Doug Pray's rather dreamy documentary portrait of American truckers. Pray profiles a few dozen truck drivers, riding with each long enough for them to express their distress at finding themselves in an increasingly precarious social position, between restrictive regulations, increasingly demanding employers, and the soaring price of fuel.
"This was completely 180 degrees different from what we set out to do," said Pray after the screening. "We never set out to feel sorry for truckers, but when we went out there, we thought we'd make a kick-ass hookers-and-speed doc, but it just wasn't the case... We found out that truckers have just had it, they feel completely misrepresented in the media."
Pray and his producer Brad Blondheim shot the film almost at random. "We decided to do this all with no schedule, no plans," said Blondheim. "We'd go to a truck stop, and stand by the gas pumps, and we'd go and ask people for interviews. That was our casting couch."
Coming up on Saturday, BAM will open every bit of its public space for its first "BAM Takeover," an all-night extravaganza of music, film and drink. On tap are DJs and dancing in the cafe party as well as video and art installations throughout the building, an all-night music show feature Dirty on Purpose and Be Your Own Pet, among others in addition to four wildly eclectic screening series running simultaneously. One on screen will be Nicholas Winding Refn's violent cult classic "Pusher Trilogy," another will feature such rock documentaries as "Ziggy Stardust" and "Gimme Shelter." Still more are features on animals, and the last is a mid-career retrospective of, um, Lindsay Lohan.
"The Lindsay Lohan is slightly ironic," says BAM's Lisa Mallory, "but not totally. The curator, Florence [Almozini] really likes her earlier work, and yet these are not the movies that are expected to play on a serious Cinematek screen, but that's the whole point of the night. It's a party."
The party is expected to sell out, and spirits are high around the institution. "You know it means something when the entire staff wants to be working that night," says Mallory, adding "The entire Cinematek team will probably be in the Pusher Trilogy theater all night. Except for Florence, who will be watching 'The Parent Trap.'"