DAILY | BAMcinemaFest 2012
There really is only one major story today, the loss of the great American critic Andrew Sarris. But cinephilia thrives on, particularly in New York as this year’s BAMcinemaFest opens.
“Brooklyn is giving Gotham’s big-boy cinema galas a run for their money with the return of the annual BAMcinemaFest,” begins Keith Uhlich in Time Out New York. “Now in its fourth year, this indie-flick jubilee is as tightly programmed (22 features) as the New York Film Festival, with less of the intensely variable quality of Tribeca. You can catch deafeningly buzzed-about properties like Benh Zeitlin’s Beasts of the Southern Wild or Craig Zobel’s Sundance cause célèbre Compliance.” He decides to focus instead on “six more off-the-grid titles”: Melanie Shatzky and Brian M. Cassidy’s Francine and The Patron Saints, Keith Miller’s “moody and mesmerizing” Welcome to Pine Hill, Dan Sallitt’s third feature, The Unspeakable Act, Zach Weintraub’s The International Sign for Choking, and Tim Sutton’s Pavilion.
In the Voice, Nick Pinkerton picks a different batch to highlight: Ry Russo-Young’s Nobody Walks (“what is most pleasing is the quiet professionalism of the filmmaking”), Bill and Turner Ross’s Tchoupitoulas (“another happy case of artistic progress”; Miriam Bale interviews the brothers for the L), and Bart Layton’s “true-crime documentary” The Imposter, which “takes the simple tack of working with a fascinating story and not screwing it up.” He breezes right over several other titles, including “Brooklynite Cory McAbee’s cutesy magic-realist home movie of his own children, Crazy & Thief—a stern warning against maintaining a steadfast buy-local policy—and Tim Sutton’s Pavilion, a studiously arty MFA-photo-program portfolio of abstruse, shallow depth-of-field images documenting a teenage BMXer’s move from green upstate New York to barren Arizona.” But he does recommend Roberto Rossellini’s “playful dark comic fable of 1952, La macchina ammazzacattivi—the title now giddily translated as The Machine That Kills Bad People and the film beautifully restored.” It’s “part of cinemaFest’s small repertory slate, along with Lotte Reiniger’s entirely delightful 1926 cutout animation, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, and Frank Tashlin’s last collaboration with Jerry Lewis, The Disorderly Orderly.”
“BAM powers-that-be show and prove once again that when it comes to American independent cinema, they are completely in tune with the most ambitious, exciting, and adventurous work of the very moment.” A gung-ho Michael Tully introduces Hammer to Nail‘s extensive preview.
IndieWIRE‘s Eric Kohn writes up five “must-sees”: Crazy & Thief, Pavilion, The Unspeakable Act, and Jonathan Caouette’s Walk Away Renee, and Josh and Benny Safdie’s short, The Black Balloon. While there’s no consensus on Pavilion (I quite liked it when I caught it at SXSW), Filmmaker has not only a new trailer but also editor Scott Macaulay‘s endorsement of this “beautifully shot and tantalizingly subtle tale of the fragility of adolescent friendships.”
“These writers and directors absorb influences from Iranian and Argentine cinema, from television sitcoms and avant-garde video, as well as from the new Hollywood and Off Hollywood canon of the 1970s,” writes A.O. Scott in his overview of the festival for the New York Times. “The results of their experimentation include highly personal, free-form narratives concocted with groups of like-minded friends, documentaries that are poetic as well as journalistic, and idiosyncratic reinventions of durable genres like the romantic comedy, the coming-of-age story and the road-trip buddy picture. Maybe we can find a label for all this activity among the cultural buzzwords of the moment. Post-mumblecore, locavore, Brooklyn, artisanal, occupy, Kickstarter, Lena Dunham—pick any two from that list and see what sticks. Seriously, though, if you are looking for evidence of (yet another) new American cinema, skeptical of Hollywood and critically engaged with the private and collective realities of contemporary life, Fort Greene should be your destination between now and July 1.”
Updates, 6/21: Beasts of the Southern Wild “aside, the most exciting movies in the festival don’t have distribution,” notes Amy Taubin, writing for Artforum. In fact, their makers—Tim Sutton, Keith Miller, Dan Sallitt, the team of Melanie Shatzky and Brian Cassidy—ignore the rules that have turned the once promising independent film moment into Hollywood cheap and lite. Only one of them, Sallitt’s The Unspeakable Act, has a hopeful ending; only one, Shatzky and Cassidy’s Francine, employs a ‘name’ actor. All of them eschew glamour but have moments of rare beauty. And one of them, Sutton’s Pavilion, is exquisite beginning to end.”
Glenn Kenny on Dan Sallitt’s The Unspeakable Act: “I think it’s an absolutely remarkable film, one of the best of the year so far, and if you’re around, you should definitely see it. I’m hoping it gets wider distribution, because, not to be crass or anything, I think it more than establishes Dan’s bonafides in terms of deseving a wider audience, funding for more films, and all that sort of thing.” He also considers Sallitt’s first and features, Honeymoon (1998) and All the Ships at Sea (2004). For MUBI’s Notebook, Craig Keller interviews Sallitt, “an underseen, major American filmmaker.”
And at Hammer to Nail, Adam Schartoff talks with Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky about Francine, while, at the Playlist, Cory Everett talks with Ry Russo-Young about Nobody Walks and, for the L, Miriam Bale talks with Rick Alverson about The Comedy.
Updates, 6/22: The New Yorker‘s Richard Brody recommends The Comedy, “a work of poignant extravagance in performance” (Tim Heidecker of Tim and Eric plays the lead), The Unspeakable Act, “an impressive, original, and memorable movie,” Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa’s featurette Jerry and Me, “a personal memoir, in which she traces her affinity for Jerry Lewis and his movies from her childhood and incipient filmmaking career in Iran through her emigration to the United States and her career and family life here,” and Frank Tashlin’s The Disorderly Orderly (1964).
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