Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#TribecaFest Report: Day 6

I forgot to snap any new pictures at Tribeca today, so here’s a photo of my cat. You’re welcome.

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Everything Must Go, writer/director Dan Rush’s adaptation of the Raymond Carver short story “Why Don’t You Dance,” is a lovely, melancholy little picture—it’s a small film, in scope and ambition, but unexpectedly rich. It is anchored by a first-rate performance by Will Ferrell, doing a variation on the unassuming work he did so well in Stranger than Fiction a few years back; there’s a delicacy to his performance, a grace that prohibits him from reaching for effect.

He’s ably supported by the wonderful Rebecca Hall (they have a nice, easy chemistry) and an unaffected young actor named Christopher Jordan Wallace; Laura Dern only has one scene, but it’s a beauty. The film could have been self-satisfactorily whimsical; instead, Rush (and Ferrell) look this fundamentally silly situation dead in the eye, and play it without the cloying preciousness that we might expect. It’s a quiet little charmer, and it sticks with you.

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No single entity is producing more great documentaries these days than ESPN Films (here’s where I throw in the required mention of their 30 for 30 series), and no filmmaker is directing more great documentaries than Alex Gibney (whose recent output includes Casino Jack and the United States of Money, Client-9, and a segment of Freakonomics), so it should come as no surprise that their collaboration, Catching Hell, is so unabashedly terrific—a potent stew of everything that is great about both parties.

The primary subject is Steve Bartman, the Chicago Cubs fan who became an object of the city’s derision when he reached for a foul ball in game six of the 2003 National League championship and screwed up a potential easy out. But the real subject is the psychology of fandom: Why do we get so invested in these teams, in these games? Why do they mean so much? And when those teams fail, what determines where we place the blame?

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Maybe I’m just not the audience for L’Amour Fou. I will admit to the vast indifference of my feelings toward the world of high fashion; I’m a guy who favors hoodies and jeans and movie poster T-shirts, so a biographical profile of one of the biggest names in haute couture was probably not created with me in mind. But I’ve been riveted by documentaries concerning subjects of little to no interest before. This is not one of those times.

L’Amour Fou is ultimately a standard though competent documentary. As a biography, it imparts many facts but no real sense of who it subject, Yves Saint Laurent, reallywas; he remains a cipher, in spite of the best efforts of the interview subjects. Director Pierre Thoretton’s seems more interested in gliding his camera through their habitat; Look at their pretty houses, he seems to be whispering, look at their pretty things. It’s designer porn. The film ends with the auction at Christie’s; the pieces from the late designer (and his partner’s) art collection all sell, for very high prices. And what are we supposed to feel? Relief? Jubilation? Envy? Anything? Who knows. Who cares?

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It’s just too damn late to tell you about Shakespere High, so I’ll do that tomorrow, along with the new documentary on Carol Channing and the biographical drama Black Butterflies. G’night.

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