BAM celebrates its tenth birthday by throwing itself a two-week party and showing five don't-miss films.
Thu Jun 25 2009
Earlier this year, BAMcinmatek program director Florence Almozini suddenly realized two things. First, the institute’s three-year contract with the Sundance Film Festival, which had given birth to its annual program of Park City’s personal best, was over, leaving a small gap in the early-summer schedule. Also, the Fort Greene repertory theater was coming up on a milestone anniversary. “We’d learned a lot from working with the Sundance folks,” Almozini says over the phone. “Now that the association was over, we realized there was still a chance for us to showcase some of the really amazing stuff we’d seen at the fest completely on our own. Plus, we were about to turn ten years old, so we had to do something special. The idea of doing a commemorative festival that both emphasized what we’d done in the past decade and allowed us to show new films we liked seemed like a natural fit.”
Thus was born BAMcinemaFEST, a peanut-butter-and-chocolate mixture running from Wednesday 17 through July 2 that showcases 18 new works—culled primarily from Sundance, the Berlin Film Festival and SXSW—and a smorgasbord of highlights from previous years. In addition to local premieres of buzzed-about titles (see below), filmgoers can enjoy encore presentations of everything from The Leopard (1963) to the Shaw Brothers’ Intimate Confessions of a Chinese Courtesan, sample several shorts programs, see Irish rock group 3epkano perform its live score for Metropolis and indulge in four separate dusk-till-dawn movie marathons. “It’s impossible to go wrong with those,” Almozini says of the BAM’s simultaneous all-nighters. “You can walk out of Look Who’s Talking Too at 3am and into another theater showing Olivier Assayas’s Demonlover.”
Despite the fact that this cinephiliac catchall was designed as a celebration of BAM’s aluminum anniversary, Almozini theorizes that if the event is successful, this could be the start of an annual tradition for the early-summer calendar. “We have to see how this goes first, but that’s the plan,” the programmer says. “If it works, we’ll just keep honoring our tenth birthday every year from now on.”
Five BAMcinemaFEST flicks you shouldn’t miss:
Cinegeeks may get a bad rap as socially awkward, basement-dwelling shut-ins (visit Ain’t It Cool News), but even the most immature of their ranks would pale in comparison to the football-loving obsessive at the center of Robert Siegel’s dark comedy. When Staten Islander and New York Giants superfan Paul Aufiero (Patton Oswalt) isn’t manning the booth at his parking-attendant job or telling his landlord—Mom—-to leave him alone, he’s calling talk radio to profess his undying team-love. Then Paul spots his favorite player at a gas station, follows him to a Times Square strip club and suffers a serious beating at the hands of his idol. The directorial debut of The Wrestler’s screenwriter puts its schlubby antihero through a passion play of public humiliation before granting him a chance to redeem himself. Leading up to the salvation of this man on the brink, of course, we’re treated to a fearlessly cringe-comic turn from Oswalt and a chance to revel in a spot-on cover version of vintage 1970s cinema du loser.
More of an endurance test than entertainment, Danish filmmaker Nicolas Winding Refn’s baroque biopic about Britain’s self-actualized worst convict ever—one Michael Peterson, better known by his prison handle, “Charlie Bronson”—is a Molotov cocktail of virtuoso filmmaking and fierce violence that makes you feel as if you’ve gone nine rounds with its subject. The director of the Pusher trilogy wears a variety of influences on his sleeve (Derek Jarman, Alan Clarke, Chopper), but it’s Kubrick’s book of distancing tricks that gets pilfered to jaw-dropping effect here: impeccable framing and gliding tracking shots, horrific mayhem set to classical music, narration filled with irony that’s coagulated like yesterday’s puddle of blood. Built like a 19th-century pugilist as imagined by Tom of Finland, Tom Hardy’s titular hard man is a physical terror, all swinging arms and bat-shit-crazy grins; it’s the sort of immersive, supernova acting that cements reputations and scares you straight.
EVERYTHING STRANGE AND NEW
Easily the highlight of the “Frontiers” section at this year’s Sundance, Frazer Bradshaw’s dreamlike exploration of working-class desperation struck a nerve with festgoers still wrestling with the idea of economic free fall; now that the nouveau Depression has been in full swing for a while, this drama suddenly feels more poignant than ever. A dead-end marriage and mounting debt has left Wayne (Jerry McDaniel) with the existential blues, and nothing—not endless beers or wandering the streets of East L.A.’s semiseedy suburbs—can wash away the pain. The deeper the movie drifts into a hazy, inchoate sense of being stuck in a rut, the more this portrait of blue-collar breakdown starts to wriggle its way into your own feeling of well-being. It’s also remarkably well constructed and admiringly ambivalent about its protagonist’s midlife malaise, plus it features one of the most uncomfortable negotiations of casual fellatio in recent memory. No, really, you should check it out. We mean it.
THE EXPLODING GIRL
Ivy (Zoe Kazan) is on leave from college, bumming around Brooklyn and drifting through drunken house parties in the hopes of passively aggressively attracting her hipster best friend (Mark Rendall). She’s also an epileptic prone to particularly bad seizures. Never mind the neo-neorealism tag; the debut feature from writer-director Bradley Rust Gray may adhere to the you-are-there aesthetics of Amerindie 3.0, but the borough lyricism and muted dread he conjures distinguish this from the usual Sundance et al. pack. In a utopia, Kazan’s perfectly modulated performance would win awards ad infinitum, and those of us who thought Elia’s granddaughter was capable of doing more than just underwriting Leonardo DiCaprio’s gray-flannel ennui in Revolutionary Road will find their faith rewarded. If you missed this distributorless gem at Tribeca a few months back, don’t make the same mistake twice.
So you think the Coen brothers have a lock on bad-luck nouveau noirs? Aussie stuntman-turned-director Nash Edgerton makes a compelling bid for the crown with this thriller about an adulterous construction manager (David Roberts), a mysterious bag of loot and a case of backwoods arson that goes very, very wrong. What, you didn’t think the corpses would start piling up? Edgerton does tie in a few story strands too many—you may start to lose track of who’s blackmailing and bluffing whom—but the way he masterfully maximizes tension by keeping things at slow-burn level for as long as possible suggests a bright future in nail-biters.
BAMcinemaFEST runs Wed 17 through July 2 at BAM Rose Cinemas.