Friday, April 30, 2010

Tribeca Report No. 7

I’m starting to get that sinking feeling—the end of Tribeca is in sight, with only three more days until I can no longer flash a laminated badge and see several movies a day for free. I’ll let out a heavy sigh and soldier on, doing my best to enjoy the six movies left on my itinerary (and trying to come up with new and interesting things to say about them—god I hope I’m not repeating myself in these reviews).

Day number eight was won by the British comedy The Infidel, a spirited, ballsy picture that takes on a tricky issue (the friction between Jews and Muslims) with edgy vigor, cloaked behind its broad humor and jovial leading man. This gentle tale of a British Muslim who finds out that he was not only adopted, but born a Jew, dodges charges of anti-Semitism primarily in the deftness and good humor of the playing. David Baddiel’s script sets up the pins of the story smoothly, gingerly, and then knocks them down with precision; he and Josh Appignanesi know how to build a comic sequence and pay it off. Indeed, much of the picture functions as a series of comic blackout sketches, held together by the broad strokes of the narrative and several well-cultivated running jokes. It’s a little edge, a little provocative, and a lot funny.

Also worth seeing is Beware the Gonzo, a high school comedy that is smart and connected, with a real authenticity—I’m not sure if this is what high school is like now, but this is a lot like I remember it. Performances from the gifted cast of young actors are all sturdy (particularly those of Ezra Miller and Zoe Kravitz), and the film gets some laughs while never cheapening its “fight the power” spirit. Some of the writing is a little soggy, but likeability counts for a lot here, and while Beware the Gonzo may not be the best film I’ve seen at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, it’s one of the more charming ones.

Clash is constructed with an abundance of slick Hollywood style, all quick cuts and hot, saturated lighting and tough-guy sunglasses attitude. What’s different is that when the characters open their mouths to speak, Vietnamese comes out. Clash, from director Le Thanh Son, is a clever mash-up of John Woo-style gunplay and whiz-bang martial arts, whipped up at top speed with the help of rapid-fire editing and a pounding, pseudo-techno soundtrack. It has its moments, but it is one of those films that seems to benefit from its international pedigree; take off the subtitles, and you’ve got The Losers—and if you didn’t notice, The Losers didn’t play too many film festivals. Clash is a sturdy action picture, and it gets the job done. But let’s don’t go confusing it with art.

Then there’s William Vincent, which is neither fun nor art, though it certainly thinks it qualifies as the latter. Indeed, it looks like a work of art—the thicky, chewy cinematography is striking—but it’s a film that appears to know exactly how to achieve a look and no idea how to tell a story. The endless narration is drab and colorless; the dialogue scenes are turgidly paced (If they took out all the pauses, the movie’d run about 20 minutes). Some of the performances are interesting, but William Vincent is ultimately a flat, flaccid, self-indulgent picture.

Three more movies tomorrow: Idris Elba in Legacy, the Spanish neo-noir Blood and Rain, and one of my most eagerly-anticipated titles: Bill Murray and Robert Duvall in Get Low.

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