Film Review

Beyond the Black Rainbow: Death by Celluloid

When you start viewing the selections of a film festival, the initial few will definitely color your expectations for the rest. What were the curators thinking? you might just ponder,

Happily, the first offering of this year's Tribeca Film Festival that I screened was Pierre Thoretton's superb documentary on the designer Yves Saint Laurent, L'Amour Fou, a true must-see if you adore fashion, interior design, the Sixties and Seventies, travel, and an exploration of depressed genius with guest appearances by Andy Warhol and Mick Jagger.

"He had a lot to say…"

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Some documentaries transform their subject into a sculpted statue; others bring them to life. American: The Bill Hicks Story is certainly the latter, digging through personal photos, family interviews, and previously unseen footage to resurrect one of America's most belatedly appreciated national treasures of stand-up comedy.

Cracks: Crazed Lesbian Teachers Get Their Due

Oh, my God! I was just about to rip apart Cracks when I started inquiring into the novel it's based upon. Suddenly, I went, "That author's name seems awfully familiar."

Yes, Sheila Kohler, when she was a brunette, was my creative writing teacher, and according to several reviews of her novels, she's done quite well for herself after she recovered from grading my short stories. Note the acclaim for Becoming Jane Eyre.

Heartbeats: Bang! Bang! My Baby Shot Me Down!

In recent decades there have been a handful of times we've seen a film and known immediately a master is at work here. Take the early works of Almodovar, Aronofsky, Francois Ozon, and Paul Thomas Anderson, for example.

On these occasions, on the screen, there's something that strikes us immediately. A style we've never witnessed before. A wit. An undeniable intelligence. We find ourselves laughing at a joke that's not a retread from a dozen mall comedies of the previous year. Or we smile or shiver upon recognizing a truth about the characters we see interacting before us, an honesty exposing our own little secrets that we've seldom shared aloud.

In a Better World or I Was a Preteen Sociopath

In A Better WorldThis surprise Golden Globe winner for Best Foreign Film spotlights what a delightful haven Denmark is for children with homicidal tendencies. A young boy can beat up another with a bicycle pump, blow up vans, and punch his father in the stomach, and the youth will be completely forgiven and allowed to stay in school. And in the end, he will transform into a loving lad, of course.

Moral: Coddle the potential cutthroat in your life and he'll become a pussycat, unlike in real life where bastards become bigger bastards.

The Cinema of Narcolepsy: Certified Copy and Uncle Kent

There are films about slumber such as Andy Warhol's Sleep  (currently screening at MoMA). And there are movies focusing on sleep's byproduct, dreams: confusingly manipulated ones such as in Inception or brutally fatal ones as in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. Then there are the features that you wished you had slept through such as You, Me and Dupree, the second half of Kaboom, and every work ever directed by Thailand's Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

The Last Summer Tour or The French Rock On

Bus-PalladiumAre you ready for what some are calling the very first worldwide, all-French Internet movie gala, My French Film Festival?

Yes, from January 14 until January 29th, for less than $20, you'll be able to screen and vote on the merits of twenty brand new Gallic features and shorts on your iPad or what have you. Here's a dream come true for Roger-Ebert wannabes and the more cultured among us. If you fit the bill, get your thumbs in shape and your Brie room temperature.

Romeo & Juliet in Yiddish: "Oy Vey! Thy Lips Are Warm."

romeo-and-juliet-yiddishG-d bless. It's that time of year again. Yes, The Jewish Museum and the Film Society of Lincoln Center are presenting, for the 20th time in fact, The New York Jewish Film Festival. Features and shorts, 36 of them, from 14 countries, Mexico included, will spotlight every aspect of Judaism you can think of. From a composer's problems with his wife (Mahler on the Couch), to comprehending love (The Matchmaker), to the Holocaust and the artistic impulse (Vera Klement: Blunt Edge), and even teenage friendships between Israelis and Palestinians (My So-called Enemy), all will be showcased.

Kaboom: Araki Explodes with a Pfffft!

kaboom-filmIn 2004, Gregg Araki stunned his fans and international critics with a brilliant little film, Mysterious Skin, a searing adaptation of Scott Heim's cult novel concerning child abuse, cow abuse, being gay, hustling, and grasping for affection.

Before achieving this cinematic feat, Araki helped kick off the New Queer Cinema movement with The Living End (1992), a poorly acted, technically uneven, yet audaciously brave feature about two hotties with AIDS who decide to become Bonnie and Clyde.