By • Jul 1st, 2002 •

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Much going on in the Indie film world. Mirra Bank, who sits on the Board of Directors of the National Board of Review, has finished her latest film, the documentary feature LAST DANCE, about the Pilobolus Dance Company’s co-production with Maurice Sendak of the staged ballet A Selection, based on Sendak’s haunted memories of stories about the Holocaust. Filmed and edited over a two year period, it is the distillation of over a hundred hours of video to under an hour and a half, then blown up to 35mm for limited release by First Run Features (who did so well earlier this year with THE FLUFFER). Other than interest in Sendak’s set designs, and of course a desire to see Mirra’s work, nothing would have made me choose LAST DANCE over a good ‘B’ exploiter. And so I was quite surprised to find a thoroughly compelling introduction to a group of remarkable modern dancer,(and one in particular who should be cast in the film version of PLASTIC MAN, if they ever get around to it – he would save the studio a lot on CGI work). I loved watching the dance ensemble rehearse, and to a lesser degree I enjoyed being privvy to the in-house psychodrama between Sendak and the dance company directors. That aspect, I have to imagine, was presented in its mildest still-dramatic form, because it seemed hardly up to the sparks such creative egos might have generated. Sendak proves bewildering inarticulate at times, yet my respect for his artistic abilities hasn’t diminished. At the NBR screening, Ms. Bank, her DP (on crutches) and one of the dancers came up front after the screening and chatted with the responsive audience. Then there were cocktails and delicious hors d’oeuvres.

Another indie worthy of catching up with: DRIVE, a first film by Barbara Sicuranza. Lest I be accused of nepotism, I’ll confess up front that Barbara is the lead actress in my new film THE SWEET LIFE, and she’s wonderful in that. But really, if I didn’t like DRIVE, I would have found something less positive but still tactful to say than what I report here.I think she, and husband/DP/composer Chris Stein, have concocted a nightmarishly surreal yet grittily authentic urban fable, cast with a carload of good actors, and that Ms. Sicuranza has coaxed performances out of them filled with unusual dramatic rhythms, both comic and sleazy, both on camera and off (on the accompanying soundtrack). DRIVE will play the festival circuit, so keep an eye out for it. Digital video…it’s clearly allowing some very talented people to take to the medium with affordable budgets.

We’re waving at some wonderful people from our industry. John Frankenheimer departed far too early. From the sound of it, he was having non-threatening surgery, and suffered complications. Very sad. His most recent film, THE PATH TO WAR, about Lyndon Johnson’s morbid years in the White House, which premiered in May on HBO, is a strong contender for my Top Ten list this year. I find the insane ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU wonderfully rewatchable, easily the best bad movie of its year. Frankenheimer was 72. His lead actor in that film, Marlon Brando, is 78 and still staggering along. Hard to believe.

Even harder to believe about Brando since his co-star in ON THE WATERFRONT, Rod Steiger, has passed on this month as well. Steiger was 77. I had the pleasure of crossing paths with him at a recent NBR Awards Ceremony. A charismatic if troubled figure, he gave the world a host of enjoyably quirky performances in addition to the great ones. They’ve been doing a tribute to him on tv; let’s hope they dredge up ACROSS THE BRIDGE.

Alan Barbour and his wife, Jean, at an NBR awards ceremony

Even closer to our hearts at FIR was the passing, on February 12th, of beloved columnist Alan Barbour, whose Will Rogers style “Video-Syncrasy” column entertained our readers for decades, and always ranked second highest on our reader surveys, just below the career articles. Alan was the Editor and Publisher of Screen Facts Magazine and, Hollywood Scrapbook. His published books were: ‘Days of Thrills and Adventure’, ‘TheThrill of It All’, ‘A Thousand and One Delights’, ‘Cliffhanger’, Humphrey Bogart’, ‘John Wayne’, and ‘Saturday Afternoon at the Movies’.

Alan was born on July 25th, 1933, in Oakland, CA., and moved East where he attended Rutgers University. While stationed at Walter Reed Hospital in 1958, he met his wife, Jean Callovini, an actress with a local theater company in Washington, D.C. They performed in many plays together including their favorite, The Enchanted Cottage, and were married on June 18th, 1960. My favorite appearance by both of them was in CAPTAIN CELLULOID VS THE FILM PIRATES, a loving tribute to the movie serials, produced and directed by Lou McMahon. Alan was also a member of the Sons of the Desert, an organization founded to celebrate the contributions of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, their wonderful films, and the art of comedy.

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