Park City magic returned to Brooklyn's BAM with Sundance highlights, while in Manhattan, '60s music magic returned to the big screen at the IFC Center. Uptown, a groups of the most important directors working today gathered in two very different series at Lincoln Center and the Museum of the Moving Image focusing on Italian cinema and horror.
Sundance at BAM Cranks it Up
The Sundance at BAM series started last year in an effort to showcase work from the country's most prestigious film festival. Though an admirable goal at first, the 2006 program seemed a little slapped together, featuring a wide range of genre and quality. This year, they stepped it up a notch, bringing the most talked about, award-winning best from the Sundance Film Festival, which takes place annually in January. Opening with the pure fun of Garth Jennings' "Son of Rambow," the series was off to a running start, featuring must-sees from David Gordon Green's "Snow Angels" to Dror Shaul's "Sweet Mud." Guests like Craig Zobel, director of "The Great World of Sound," and Green himself were in attendance, speaking to packed houses all weekend and brining a little piece of cold Park City to warm Brooklyn.
If you are looking for some screen-time stimulation, run out and catch the tail end of the series in the coming days, particularly the screenings of Jason Kohn's doc jury winner, "Manda Bala" and best narrative feature winner, "Padre Nuestro" by Christopher Zalla, both screening with the directors in attendance.
Reliving "Monterey Pop"
On Tuesday night, the IFC Center celebrated the relentless passing of time with a 40th anniversary screening of D.A. Pennebaker's breakthrough rock documentary "Monterey Pop," filmed during the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, the world's first major rock and roll fest, and the Bay Area precursor to Woodstock. On hand to mark the occasion were two of the festivals principal organizers, producer Lou Adler and Michelle Phillips, talking with Rolling's Stone's Anthony DeCurtis. When asked why the festival proved such a launching pad for its participants, Adler mused "the bigger acts allowed us to present the acts that were not known. Most of the audience came to see the headliners, but...nobody could go to the lobby. They stood there and they soaked it all in."
Decurtis commented on the film, "this is certainly one of my greatest rock movies, a far better movie than Woodstock." One does have the impression that while Woodstock may have been the defining cultural moment, this was the better concert, offering possibly the best concert footage on record of Janis Joplin (the film's most human moment, a close-up of 'Mama' Cass Elliot, watching her for the first time, mouthing an amazed, "Wow!"), Jimi Hendrix covering the Trogg's "Wild Thing" by playing the guitar behind his back before fucking it against the speakers, dousing it in lighter fluid, torching it, and smashing it against the stage. The Mamas and the Papas, Jefferson Airplane and, standing out even from its stellar company, perhaps the greatest five minutes of music ever filmed with Otis Redding's soaring, scorching "I've Been Loving You Too Long", which had the audience applauding multiple times throughout its duration. "They've got such a diversity on that stage of wonderful music," said Phillips, "they've got jazz, and blues, and Ravi Shankar, and Janis Joplin, who was the first white woman that I ever saw singing black woman blues, so they got their money's worth, even though it was $6.50. They got it."
Enjoying a little Italian
Wednesday saw the kick off of two major film series, boasting large special events. The first was the opening night of The Film Society of Lincoln Center's Open Roads program, a survey of current Italian cinema. Film Socity members, and as slew of talented Italian directors had a busy day between a savvy meet-and-greet lunch, a handful of screenings (including the opening night gala) and an lively after party. And what better way to start such an event than with the latest film from prolific Italian auteur Mario Monicelli.
Monicelli, probably best known for his intensely directed hilarious social parodies such as "Big Deal on Madonna Street," spoke at a luncheon about his new film, "Desert Roses," a period piece about a group of Italian medics waiting in the Libyan desert for what they think will be the end of WWII. "There aren't really any other Italian films about (it)," commented Monicelli about the film. The series will run for another week in the Walter Reed theater, with a little slice of Italy for all types of filmgoers.
Getting a little "Hostel" in Times Square
The Museum of the Moving Image kicked off its horror series "It's Only a Movie," which runs for the next six weekends and features double and triple features of horror movies from the '70s and today. The opening event took place at the AMC Empire on 42nd St. in Manhattan where queues circled the block hoping to see the New York premiere of Eli Roth's "Hostel 2." The screening, packed with press friends of guests and museum members, went off fabulously, garnering intense audience reactions, including both screams and laughter.
Though the film itself seems to be generating a lot of controversy due to a pretty misogynistic killing sequence, Roth didn't bat an eyelash in the Q & A. "I knew I needed to film the deaths of the women differently than I treated those of the men," Roth said, referring to a more theatrical approach he takes here. "It's like the difference between hunting a wolf and a deer...Everyone is like, 'Look at the poor, defenseless deer.'" Though these comments may have not have acquitted Roth from the recent accusations of sexism, it is clear that he has a certain love for his actresses, claiming over and over how beautiful their performances were in the most painful sequences. "What some of you might not know," said "Hostel 2" actress Heather Matarazzo, "is that Eli is one of the sweetest, most caring people in the world and took every effort to make sure I was comfortable at every moment."
[Charlie Olsky contributed to this article.]
In theaters this week:
"La Vie en Rose" (June 8), directed by Olivier Dahan. Distributor: Picturehouse. Official website
"Belle Toujours" (June 8), directed by Manoel de Oliveira. Distributor: New Yorker Films. Distributor website
"You're Gonna Miss Me" (June 8), directed by Keven McAlester. Distributor: Palm Pictures. Official website
"12:08 East of Bucharest" (June 8), directed by Corneliu Porumboiu. Distributor: Tartan Films. Distributor website