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TRIBECA ’08 DISPATCH | Clive Owen, Film Critics and “Squeezebox!”

TRIBECA '08 DISPATCH | Clive Owen, Film Critics and "Squeezebox!"

Recalling a night at former New York City club Motherfucker back in 2002 where he watched early footage of “Squeezebox!,” Tribeca Film Festival programming head David Kwok saluted a group of local filmmakers (and their fans) for their perserverance and patience in bringing the documentary to the big screen. At the time, the group — including directors Steve Saporito & Zach Schaffer and producer Lyle Derek — expected to finish their film by the end of 2002. Yet, even back then they warned that it might take longer than that, “This is a personal project for all of us,” Derek told indieWIRE six years go, “We want to really just take our time, this is a labor of love.”

Built around live performance footage and interviews shot back in the spring of 2001 on the final night of Lower Manhattan’s weekly drag-rock extravaganza, the team conducted additional interviews and have woven in a look at how New York City has changed since the club emerged downtown in the mid-90s.

“Squeezebox was a filthy, sweaty, glam, trash joint where boys could slamdance with boys and the homoerotic subtext was a supertext,” John Cameron Mitchell told indieWIRE back in 2002, “I felt comfortable in a bad wig doing underrehearsed punkrock karaoke to Fleetwood Mac, Pere Ubu, and Debbie Boone.” Concluding he underscored, “It was an oasis of Heaven in Hell.” He developed his “Hedwig & The Angry Inch” character at the club and on Friday night here in NYC, JCM performed with key “Hedwig” collaborator Stephen Trask at a lively post-screening concert celebrating the film’s premiere.

A few of the famous acts who had graced the venue Don Hill’s stage for the Friday night Squeezebox party back in the day joined the fun after the enthusiastic world premiere, including Deborah Harry, Justin Bond, Lily of the Valley, Karen Black, and of course, the event’s longtime figurehead, Mistress Formika. To those who had frequented the club back in the ’90s it was a moment to look back, while younger folks got a taste of some fun the club’s regulars offered.

Tribeca Film Festival programmer David Kwok with “Squeezebox co-director Zack Schaffer and producer Lyle Derek at the “Squeezebox” after-party. Photo by Brian Brooks

“You don’t make a documentary film for the glamour,” noted “Squeezebox” club night creator Michael Schmidt, relucantly taking the stage prior to the doc screening at the Tribeca fest and commenting on the long road to get the film made, “You do it because you have an incredible story to tell.” [Eugene Hernandez]

Chatting with Clive

“Human beings are complex individuals that follow all sorts of things,” noted actor Clive Owen late Friday afternoon, asked by filmmaker Mary Harron about his role in Tony Gilory‘s next film, “Duplicity,” currently shooting here in the city. “I never ever think of my characters as good guys or bad guys.” But Harron, moderating the first in a daily series of Apple/indieWIRE Filmmaker Talks taking place all week at the Apple Store, Soho, posed that the British actor has a tendency to portray “good people with a side that can be dangerous.”

The actor responded by noting that “if a character is overweighted toward being good or bad,” it doesn’t appeal to him because he doesn’t find those characters particularly believable.

One character that certainly exemplifies Harron’s suggestion is “Children of Men‘s Theo, a role that was discussed during the conversation. “I was a huge Alfonso [Cuaron] fan,” Owen about his thoughts on taking the role. “I read the script and I loved what it was about. But it was the first time in a film that I didn’t have a strong grip on the character because it was kind of vacant in a way. But I knew he was the eyes in which you were going to see this world that Alfonso wanted to explore.” Cuaron gave Owen a copy of “The Battle of Algiers” (which he’d never seen), and said, “This is the era of thinking I was to portray.” Owen watched 30 minutes of it and told Cuaron he wanted the part.

In addition to Cuaron, Owen has built a career on work with a wide array of talented directors. When an audience member asked if there was anyone else he’d like to work with, he said he felt too privledged as it was. “To be honest with you, the level of people I’ve been working with in the last few years… I’m not wanting for anything,” he said. “People like Spike Lee and Alfonso and Tony Gilroy… I don’t need anything more than that at the moment.”

“I think we’re in a incredibly healthy time regarding film,” Owen added, “I would say last year was one of the best years for movies in a very, very long time. There were a number of movies that were seriously fantastic. There’s a lot of very great directors out there so I feel lucky that I’m around a lot of them.” [Peter Knegt]

The Apple & indieWIRE Filmmaker Talks during the Tribeca Film Festival continue through the end of the festival. For more information, check out the schedule here at indieWIRE.com>

Clive Owen at his Apple chat hosted by indieWIRE. Photo by Eugene Hernandez

Lounging With The Critics

Lounges have re-emerged at the Tribeca Film Festival this year. Veterans of the seven year-old event will fondly recall when TFF sponsored a filmmaker/industry tent (complete with free food/drinks and even professional massages) on vacant land in TriBeCa now occupied by a hotel owned branded lounges with festive gatherings and the ever-welcome rounds of free sustenance. (Target seems to be developing a full-on marketing blitz with its fest lounges thath first appeared at the Los Angeles Film Festival).

And bringing in audiences are events, such as the a panel on film critics over the weekend at the American Express Insider Center (open to Tribeca pass-holders and AMEX card members).

“Critics serve as a way of looking at a movie in a different way,” noted People Magazine film critic Leah Rozen at the beginning of topical panel discussion moderated by the Tribeca Film Institute‘s Brian Newman on Friday at the Tribeca Film Festival. Joined by fellow panelists Elizabeth Weitzman (Daily News) and Bilge Ebiri (New York Magazine). The discussion inevitably turned to the decline of jobs for critics nationwide amidst the wider syndication of a few writers in many local alternative papers.

In five to ten years, the L.A. Times, New York Times and the A.P. will have film critics, but since all papers are pretty much owned by three companies, the [same articles] will appear everywhere…,” commented Rozen. “Critics are important because they can champion a film,” said Weitzman. The group cited “No Country for Old Men” as an example of a film that performed well with the early help of critics first in Cannes, while Ebiri credited bloggers for films such as “Funny Ha Ha.” “‘Funny Ha Ha’ first got buzz from Internet film websites and bloggers, then it attracted the attention from [the New York Times’] A.O. Scott and others in mainstream publications.”

The group also took time to lament the practice of studios to wine and dine naive or less scrupulous critics in order to create “critical spin” in order to maximize profits for mediocre product.

“Studios will do the weekend press junkets for select press,” says Rozen. “They fly them in and pay all the bills at a hotel…they get to meet the stars, and of course they’re more likely to write something nice…” Added Weitzman, “If you see someone’s name in a pull quote on a film advertisement all the time, then you know something’s wrong.” [Brian Brooks]

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