Saturday, April 23, 2011

Swell Season, Blackthorn, Limelight and Underwater Love or April 23 at Tribeca

Before I get to today's installment of the Tribeca story,I want to mention a couple of films that have premiered in the last couple of days, but which I've had to hold off reviewing until the the big reveal.

First up last night a documentary premiered on the duo,Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova, who call themselves The Swell Season, which is also the name of the film.You probably know the pair starred in the film Once and won an Oscar for a song used in the film.

The film nominally covers the duo's tour across the world and the US after the Oscarwin during which we watch how the pair falls in and out of love.

The film was shot in a moody black and white that looks great. The music is wonderful. The film itself is okay.

The trouble is it's clear that not everything that happened during the timeframe covered by the film was recorded. There are time periods where there was no coverage and we have to go on references (there seems to be vast passage of time where Glen's dad dies, but we don't have any sense of it). It's also plain to see that Marketa Irglova didn't really want to be on camera so at times the film comes off as the Glen Hansard show.

It's not uninteresting but if you are a fan of the pair odds are you won't have any surprises. I liked the music but felt there was no point to it since there is nothing really new here.

The film is worth a look if you like the pair, but I would wait cable or Netflix. On the other hand the final number before the end credits of Glenn playing Say it to Me Now at Radio City Music Hall is almost a good enough reason on it's own to see this on a big screen (It's one of those this is why I go to the movie moments we get so rarely these days).

Earlier tonight was the world premiere of the western Blackthorn. This film was at the top of my must see list for the film festival. It was the one film I was going to see come hell or high water.

It stars Sam Shepherd as James Blackthorn, a horse breeder in Bolivia. Blackthorn is getting up in years, and he just wants to go back to the States to see the son he never really knew he had. He knows a trip home might be dangerous because he is really Butch Cassidey, and while he's believed dead, if anyone finds out he's alive, his life will be in jeopardy. Selling his last bunch of horses he takes all his money out of the bank and heads home. Along the way he loses his money when a young mining engineer tries to steal his horse. The young man, himself a thief, having stolen money from the mine owner, promises to return his money if Blackthorn keeps him alive long enough to retrieve it. They get the money and a bond forms between the men. However the rightful owner of the cash wants it back and they have sent a bunch of killer after it.

Don't worry, it's not that exciting, rather its a meandering "thoughtful" western that keeps insisting it's about something other than the illogical plot. It's a film that thinks an out of left field turn and some disconnected flashbacks give weight to the proceedings. Sadly it doesn't. The press notes I was given talks about how westerns are a moral genre, but I can't find one here since the plotting is so haphazard. Think of it as the work of one of the new generation of filmmakers who love westerns and their ability to deal with larger issues as mythic stories, but who truly don't understand the genre's rules (you can't bend the rules if you don't know what they are to begin with).

Personally if it wasn't for the excellent cinematography and the award worthy performance by Sam Shepherd this film would be disposable. Shepherd is so good,he's almost iconic, I can almost consider recommending the film. Almost, but not quite.

Okay onward and sidewards to today's brief offerings and odd adventures.

The day was supposed to begin with a visit to see a crime film called Neon Flesh, but I was too tired and the film is available streaming on line so I decided to sleep in. (And if you were keeping my schedule you'd want to sleep in too.)

First up for me was Limelight, a film about Peter Gatien, the owner of legendary New York nightclubs like Limelight, The Tunnel and the Palladium. The film documents his rise and fall from the 1980's through the 1990's.

I was hoping to see a film that was a detailed the clubs and their owner. Instead I got a film that seemed to be a mix of footage from inside the clubs, period local news stories and some new interviews. Little of it was much more detailed than the brief news stories that punctuate the film. Its the sort of thing that you'd see on say the History Channel in a segment on the 1980's but stretched to 90 minutes. Threads are left hanging, people are mentioned and then fall by the wayside (the evil girlfriend for example). I was disappointed, there wasn't much here, though I suspect that if you were a club kid or followed the club scene you might get something more out of it in nostalgia value.

Admittedly I did walk out on the film in the final half hour, but by that time it was clear that this was not going to give me the meat I was craving.

I should say that the film isn't bad it just isn't all that detailed. I would have been happier if I had seen this at home on the couch instead of a movie theater...which is how some people are going to see this since the film has been picked up by Magnolia. Why did they pick it up? I don't know since I think the people who really would like this, and will be willing to pay to see it will be the ex-club people or those with a real nostalgia for New York in the 1980's which is too small an audience to make this pay as a theatrical feature.

Once I was done with that film I dashed across the floor to see the Japanese Pink Musical, Underwater Love.

For those who don't know what a Pink film, its a softcore sex film with lots of T and A and implied sex, though this film doesn't have as much as many other Pink films.

The plot of the film has a young woman working at a factory seeing kappa, a river spirit. The kappa is actually the reincarnation of a high school friend who died when they were in their senior year. The kappa is actually there to try and save her from the God of Death who has come to take her away.

There's a bit more to the plot, but not much, mostly there is comedy and music as the cast bursts in to odd songs at seemingly random times. It's very off beat and very funny... I don't know about erotic.

Sue me I had a good time. This is a just mindless fun.

(I should also point out that even allowing for the small theater the screening took place in, the place seemed rather crowded. Which makes me wonder what it takes to fill a press and industry screening.)

With the end of Underwater Love, my day at the movies was done and I headed home.

Walking out of the Chelsea Cinemas I was taken aback by what appeared to be a full scale police tactical operation with men with big guns and dogs hanging out on the sidewalk. I asked one of the Tribeca staff why they were there and she didn't know but she speculated that it was either they wanted to see celebrities or they were just hanging out at the donut shop a couple doors down....

That's it for right now. But there is more coming. I have a review of Turn Me On Goddamn It is going up in a little while, plus there is more screenings tomorrow and Monday. I also have to pull a post together about some of the sites and sounds of the fest so far. (Hopefully something will go as planned since I've had three days of screenings and nothing has gone exactly as expected...which has caused me to cancel several interviews for later in the week).

And now...dinner and some rest.

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