Posted: 05/12/2006

 

Tribeca Film Festival – 2006

by Aaron Riccio



April 25 - May 7, 2006


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Has it really only been five years since the Tribeca Film Festival first began in response to the post-9/11 decrease in downtown arts-related activity? Whether it’s the street cred of founding fathers like Robert DeNiro or the high quality of premiers screened at the festival or just the paucity of other high-profile venues for an avid movie-going public, 2006 looks to be a huge year for the festival. They’ve expanded their screenings almost as far uptown as 14th Street in order to accommodate the high demand and the 150+ films (not counting the shorts, the panels, the retrospectives, and enough other features to give even the hardened moviegoer a filmgasm).

One of the nicest features of the festival is the way that it really celebrates the New York spirit, with “Midnight” appeals to the crazed film students of the many universities right up there with “Family Films” for whatever type of family unit you’ve got. Another bonus is the way that Tribeca stays true to its roots, holding separate competitions for both NY and International films (divided once more into Narrative and Documentary). As if all those films weren’t enough, this NY-grown festival also hosts a Discovery section, which aims to give new directors, controversial subjects, or experimental formats a welcoming audience, along with a Spotlight section for the more established or star-studded features.

The staff operating the festival also goes above and beyond making the festival navigable: their guide (available online at http://www.tribecafilmfestival.org, under “Films and Events”) includes a MyFest selection of other films of interest once you’ve found the ones that sound interesting. The catch, of course, is that almost everything looks and sounds great, with the cinematic selections ranging from 9/11 documentaries to noir thrillers, and covering everything in-between.

And of course, now you have me, as well. I’ll be your friendly neighborhood cineaste, running up and down West Broadway in an attempt to cram in as much as I can while my press pass is still good. Though the best thing you can do is to just experiment with as many different flicks as you can, here are a few highlights that caught my eye and which you may have missed in all those tempting movie summaries.

First off, let’s hit the big budget: “The Promise,” China’s most expensive film ever, promises to be a great epic, almost as exquisite in cinematography as exciting in action, and if the plot is anything more than paper-thin, it’ll be an incredible experience.

In the opposite direction, “Sheitan,” a supposedly ultra-violent film from France, could be a viscerally stunning combination of their country’s notorious beauty and simplicity along with some notoriously bloody influences. How’s that for Asian fusion?

Another blood-boiler is the imaginative “Lunacy” (“Silenci”), a film from the Czech Republic from a director known for pushing the visual envelope into animation, when necessary. Considering that this one’s a philosophical horror film, the possibilities are endless.

Let’s come back to American shores with an American comeback: “Lonely Hearts” not only features one of my favorite actors, Jared Leto, alongside Salma Hayek as the well-known murderous 1940s couple, but has John Travolta and James Gandolfini hot on their trail. The time-period offers director Todd Robinson a lot of opportunity to shine, and he really couldn’t ask for a better cast, and that makes this almost a surefire success.

Another intriguing feature is “Street Thief” which is either really a documentary, or a clever fiction involving a supposed documentary of an elusive Chicagoan thief, Kasper Carr. Either way, it’s bound to be an exciting, gritty, urban film that illustrates the seedier side to the “Ocean” series of high-stakes theft.

It occurs to me that I could keep at this list, but don’t miss the Bill Plympton-hosted “Animated New York,” the crazy musical documentaries, like “Air Guitar Nation” (yes, they do compete), or the mockumentaries, like “Brothers of the Head” (about glam/punk conjoined twins) and “Pittsburgh” (yet another opportunity for Jeff Goldblum to do self-parody, though he hardly needs to).

On a personal note, try not to miss the star-driven performances of “First Snow” (I’ve never seen a bad independent film with Guy Pearce in it) or “Civic Duty” (a chance for Peter Krause to show a wider range). And if you’re looking for catchy premises: “Five Fingers” and “The Free Will (Der Freie Wille)” sound absolutely nuts.

Looking back over all this, it’s clear to me that you don’t need a list, so much as you just need lots and lots of time. Then again, if there were ever a time for the frenetic New Yorker to relax for a moment, or a need to sit back, relax, and enjoy the show, this is it. Grab your tickets now and be a part of the experience.

Kiss Me Again
Aaron Riccio

William Tyler Smith is a strange person. As a writer, he explores the illogical emotion called love, watching a “perfect” relationship succumb to the lust of bigamy and the thrill of experimentation. But as a director, he keeps everything as logical as his protagonist’s demeanor: he talks a good game, but when it comes to exploring the exotic and the irrational, he’s as scripted and solid as a Showtime special. Kiss Me Again is nothing special: it’s tame, and it’s safe, and it’s boring.

One scene stands out, in which the married couple, looking for a way to spice their way out of a romantic rut, visits a house of couples to participate in some weird communal orgy. The whole scene runs like a carnival freak show, replete with weird angles, illusions, and a whole tray full of sex toys. This sequence is disturbing and excellent … and it doesn’t fit the rest of the movie at all. Does Smith want to show us deviants or to does he want to peel off that stereotype, to show the normalcy beneath our sexual urges. Does he want to show us that maybe monogamy isn’t for us, no matter how good we have it?

I couldn’t tell you. Kiss Me Again is a rough hodgepodge of scenes that dance around the edge of a touchy subject. The dance all too rarely gets erotic, and the dancers stay far from the flames of passion. Casting Darrell Hammond as the best friend is an act of desperation: yes, he makes Jeremy London look better (and he’s a dead ringer for Brendan Frasier in looks only), but not that much better. By the end of the film—as the threesome gets more complicated, tangled in heartstrings—everybody is in tears, but that’s just a poor makeup job. Good news for the ASPCA, I guess: no hearts were harmed in the making of this film.

Aaron Riccio is a freelance writer and film and theatre critic in NYC. Check out more of his writing here.



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