Tribeca Film Festival might be just around the corner, but this unique week in New York saw a film society saluting art, an art museum paying tribute to film and a music academy summarizing the best cinema of the year. And, on the premiere front, Magnolia Pictures rolled out "Diggers in limited release this week with a party in SoHo.
Katherine Dieckmann's "Diggers" had its celebratory unveiling with a screening and soiree in New York, livening up a Monday evening. The Toronto '06 feature starring Lauren Ambrose, Paul Rudd and Josh Hamilton is a coming-of-age story about working-class friends growing up in Long Island, NY as clam diggers... Following the screening, Dieckmann and the cast headed downtown to Lure on Prince Street in SoHo (below the Prada store) for a party billed as a "Clambake." And, well, it was... Scrumptious oysters, shrimp and even an occasional lobster tray floated by as the crowd guzzled away... Some pretty hot looking specimens of humanity too (but not on trays).
Pervs in the Movie
In an extensive tribute to the pedantic mind of philosopher Slavoj Zizek, the Museum of Moving Image hosted a series of screenings in this week centered around Sophie Fiennes's new documentary, "The Pervert's Guide to Cinema", a three-hour filmic lecture taught by Zizek on the history of dreams and voyeurism in film. Coming fresh off starring in two other documentaries of his life and work - including the aptly titled "Zizek!" by Astra Taylor - Zizek has plenty to say and says it all with ferocity and grace as Fiennes' accents each scenario by placing the philosopher in the setting of the film that is being discussed (the scene where Zizek proliferates from the boat in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" is hilarious).
In addition, MoMA screened several of the films sighted in the doc, including David Lynch's "Wild at Heart", the aforementioned "The Birds" and the Marx Brothers' classic "Duck Soup", which Zizek himself introduced a screening of last Thursday, greeted by a warm response from an elderly crowd of educated patrons who seemed eager to view the classic from behind Zizek's excitedly curious eyes. The always passionate Zizek claims to have never seen any of the documentaries he's in because of the stressful process of watching himself. One might infer from his Freudian musings in "Pervert's Guide" that it would simply be too surreal of a masturbatory experience. Nevertheless, the film and series were all in good fun and one would simply have see the glow on Zizek's face to partake.
In an ironic twist of simultaneous programming, The Film Society of Lincoln Center kicked off their tribute this week to filmmaker Carlos Saura. Saura, who's prolific body of work extended him awards at the Berlin Film Festival, the Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Awards, is perhaps best known for his penchant for documenting art and dance on celluloid. Masterpieces like "Carmen" and "Goya in Bordeaux" display his whimsical sensibilities, but this comprehensive retrospective dates far enough back to show Saura's emergence from the "Spanish New Wave", a perfect piece of 60s cinema too often forgotten by the global film community.
With Saura at the forefront, followed by a devoted group of artists which included Victor Erice, Basilio Martin Patino and Manuel Gutierrez Aragon, the movement challenged the censorship restrictions of the Franco regime by continuously pushing the boundaries, often with allegorical tales like "Garden of Delights". The strong storytelling sense that Saura developed in these early stages is what gave way to the powerful narrative tropes that eventually shaped Saura as a filmmaker and served his style well in the post-Franco years. It is these tropes that make films like "Flamenco" a perfect, intimate portrait of this amazing piece of Spanish culture. The Film Society of Lincoln Center's tribute to Saura continues on through the next week.
"Best Films" Concludes
Over at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, critic Dennis Lim concludes his series of the Best Films of 2006 (based on the results of an indieWIRE critics poll taken four months prior). Many of the hits popular on the wrap-up circuit so far, like Julia Loktev's "Day Night Day Night" and Nori Bilge Ceylan's "Climates", could be caught again here. But the series really came into its own with the little touches - the addition of Eugene Green's new short "Les Signes". Ninety percent of the audience stayed for the first thirty minutes just to check it out, but left before another repeat showing the NYC popularly programmed Manuel de Olivera's "Belle Toujours". Lim's program favors quality over diversity by highlighting works from new American indie sensation Robinson Devor ("Zoo" and "Police Beat") and veteran Korean auteur, Hong Sang-soo ("Tale of Cinema" and "Woman on the Beach").
The series also included a week long run of Mohammad Saleh-Haroun "Daratt", a simple story of family and revenge in war-torn Chad that was commissioned by the city of Vienna for this year's cinematically fruitful Mozart's New Crowned Hope project - a series of films about nationality and culture. But the cherry on top of the cake was the closing night screening of the crowd pleasing Richard Wong's "Colma: The Musical". This venerable love-letter to Colma, San Francisco, is a touching, soaring coming-of-age story about post-high school relationships and changing lives. After bouncing around from festival to festival, "Colma" will finally find its home in a US theatrical release courtesy of Roadside Attractions. Judging by the warm reception of this BAM sneak preview, it should be a hit.
In Theaters This Week...
"Jindabyne" (April 27), directed by Ray Lawrence. Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics. Official website
"Poison Friends" (April 27), directed by Emmanuel Bourdieu. Distributor: Strand Releasing. Official website
"Diggers" (April 27), directed by Katherine Dieckmann. Distributor: Magnolia. Official website
"Zoo" (April 25), directed by Robinson Devor . Distributor: THINKFilm. Distributor website
[Brian Brooks contributed to this article.]