Tuesday, October 4, 2011

NYFF 2011: Susan Orlean, Rin Tin Tin, a big thank you and other tales

This is not going to be a straight review. As we wind down our last week of dedicated New York Film Festival (we shift gears Saturday with the first of the two live action Tin Tin films plus a review of End of Animal, the next film at the Korean Cultural Service next Tuesday night) I'm going for something a little different.

First and foremost I should take this time out and thank the staff and particularly the volunteers of the New York Film Festival. I may be mixed about the films at this years festival but everyone from the festival has been great. They have made the experience in both the public and press screenings a true joy. Why anyone would give them a hard time beyond me, and when it's happened (I've seen some really bad behavior) they have dealt with it with grace and smiles.(I'll relate an example in a bit)

Today was a long day, starting with press screenings for two films I'll have reviewed in the next couple of days This is Not a Film , which is one of the best films I've seen, and A Dangerous Method which is good but being over praised.

After that I went off to lunch and for a long walk before heading back to Lincoln Center.

Standing on line to get into the Susan Orlean talk I had to deal with some rude behavior from one lady who refused to get into the line. She wanted to know what the line was for, so I told her...over and over again...she then insisted she didn't have to wait because she had a ticket. I said so did I, and then she said, no she had a ticket and showed it to me, so I and several other people showed her ours. Undeterred she headed in until she was gently steered to the back of the line by a volunteer. (Inside this person tried to take other people's seats because she wanted an aisle one...that lasted until she was yelled at by another patron)

The thing I bought a ticket for was Susan Orlean:A Lecture on Rin Tin Tin plus a screening of 1925's A Clash of Wolves. What I got that had almost nothing to do with Rin Tin Tin, and a great deal to do with Ms Orlean. (Ms Orlean is the author of a recent book on Rin Tin Tin that has just hit the bestseller list.)

We first got a video that told briefly of Ms Orleans' interest in Rin Tin Tin and a very very cursory bio of the dog.

Then we got some thank yous and Ms Orlean introducing one of the dogs from the NYPD canine unit (who has no connection to Rin Tin Tin other than being of the same breed)

Ms Orlean then read a couple of passages from the book, about her travel to find Rinty's birth place, a passage about her going to find his grave and a passage about how Rin Tin Tin will last forever. There was only fleeting references to the bio of the dog. And when it was over I learned almost nothing about Rin Tin Tin, but a great deal about Ms Orlean and her travels. (I've read a couple of reviews for the book which indicated that her book was the same way)

It was, simply put, the biggest waste of time I've ever had at the New York Film Festival (and possibly at a Lincoln Center event of any sort). It was hands down the most inane talk I've seen. While I think that the idea of a talk on Rin Tin Tin in connection with the film festival is a great one, I think someone should have checked her notes and kept her on point. I paid to hear a talk on Rin Tin Tin and not on Ms Orlean's travels.

After almost an hour she said that they were going to start the film and that she would come back with a Q&A and a book signing.

Clash of the Wolves is a once thought lost film that was found in South Africa in the 1970's and restored a couple of years ago by the Library of Congress. It's the story of Lobo (Rin Tin Tin) a half wolf half dog who along with his pack is forced into the desert from the forest by a forest fire. The wolves begin hunting cattle, however Lobo becomes domesticated to a certain degree when he is helped by a tender foot looking for borax. Add into the mix a romance, a dopey ranch hand and a claim jumping chemist and you have the making of a good, but not particularly great comedy western.

For me it was nice to see a Rin Tin Tin film on the big screen. Is it the best I've seen? No, but it still was a great deal of fun. If you get the chance to see it do give it a shot.

When the film ended Ms Orlean reappeared and started a brief Q&A. I on the other hand disappeared, I had no more patience for her self-centered nonsense.

For me it was a day of good films ruined by some idle chatter.

Sorry Ms Orlean I wanted to hear about the dog, not you.

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