Film Festivals


By • Oct 25th, 2002 •

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Mark Rhodes with Phillip Noyce

Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban, Alec Baldwin, Elvis (Mitchell), Bond Girls, cloning, the Talented Mr. Ripley, Australian history, kung fu flicks and the revelation that Hollywood is a town full of (gasp!) insecure, untalented phonies. These themes, individuals and subject matter are all part of the fabric that was the (10th annual) 2002 Hamptons International Film Festival. This event continues to entertain an eclectic and dizzying array of films and filmmakers, due in large part to the efforts of Chairman Stuart Suna, Exec Director Denise Kasell and Director of Programming Rajendra Roy. Some of the highlights of 2002 are the following:

A rarity, a sweet science fiction fable directed by Lynn Leeson (and winner of the Festival’s Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Film Prize in Science and Technology). An idealistic geneticist, Rosetta Stone (get it?), played with the usual mix of charisma and poise by Tilda Swinton, manages to replicate her DNA into human seeming Self Replicating Automatons. These automations, named Ruby, Marine and Olive (and played with various degrees of humor and personality by Swinton) survive through injections of male Y chromosome found in, you guessed it, spermatozoa. Ruby is called upon to be the conduit between these real world sexual encounters and her other “sisters” with whom she shares this live giving fluid. This material is much sweeter than it sounds and Swinton shows a much broader range than she has ever shown before.

Mark Rhodes with Bob Balaban

Lost in La Mancha
A documentary account of the (so-far) failed attempt by love-him-or-hate-him Terry Gilliam to film his version of DON QUIXOTE. This work functions as a sort of anti-documentary as it chronicles the un-successful attempt to launch a production. The film references in sharp detail the battles that Gilliam has had with Hollywood and some of the ways in which his uniqueness arguably crosses over into irresponsible, self-indulgent behavior. Surprisingly enough, Gilliam’s past excesses seem to have contributed little, if any to the “failure” of this attempted re-telling of the Don Quixote myth. Bad weather, poor timing, an unfortunate proximity to a military base and the serious illness of the perfectly cast Quixote (Jean Rochefort) in effect sunk the project. Fascinating, painful to watch (especially with regard to scenes of the dignified Rochefort trying to mask his pain while being hoisted on and off horseback) and in the end, surprisingly optimistic.

Love Liza
This film directed by the actor Todd Louiso (the Moby-like record store clerk in High Fidelity), had possibly the strongest pedigree of any film at the Hamptons Fest and it is conceivable that it may generate some favorable Oscar Buzz a la IN THE BEDROOM. Unfortunately, the narrative hits mostly wrong notes. Starring the usually reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman as website designer Wilson Joel whose wife has recently committed suicide. From this basic premise the film goes off on several bizarre tangents which encompass (among other things) gasoline sniffing model airplane flying and an unopened suicide note left by Hoffman’s wife . Hoffman, always an interesting supporting player, does not utilize his requisite charisma to pull off a character wrapped up in silent bewilderment and self-pity for 90 minutes. The direction and editing don’t help. Director Louiso lets scenes play out much too long (a typical misstep for an actor/director) and switches tone from comedy to drama much too awkwardly. Only Kathy Bates as Joel’s mother-in-law escapes with her dignity intact. She appears to be the only character who possesses any assurance and as a result steals the movie by default.

all photos: Lynn Rhodes

Ripley’s Game
An adaptation of one of the later Ripley novels of Patricia Highsmith, RIPLEY’S GAME stars the perfectly cast (possibly too-perfectly cast) John Malkovich as psychopath extraordinaire, Tom Ripley. The baroque plot of this film concerns the manipulation of an upright cancer-stricken working class neighbor of Ripley’s (played by Dougray Scott) to commit murder. From there the plot twists and turns confuse to the point that all we are sure of is that we are supposed to root for Scott’s character and maybe be attracted/repulsed by the serpentine Ripley. While the plot is a throwaway, the film is beautifully shot and benefits by casting fresh and attractive actors in the secondary parts. Notable in this is Ray Winstone, who steals every scene he is in as Ripley’s uneasy ally. In the end, however, this film is much too violent and assumes a smugness which is fatally off-putting to the audience.

Rabbit Proof Fence
The rather sober opening night offering of the Hamptons Film Festival, RABBIT PROOF FENCE concerns the awful, decades long practice of the Australian government to remove Aboriginal girls from their homes and put them into permanent domestic positions. The film concerns the true 1931 story of three young girls who escape from one of the Australian government’s training camps and attempt to find their way back home (1,500 miles away) by following the continent’s rabbit proof fence which divides Australia. Director Philip Noyce invests this tale with his usual mixture of humanity and suspense, helping to energize material which is painful to reflect upon.

New Suit
A surprise. A fresh look at material mined by recent films such as THE PLAYER and BOWFINGER. A young, struggling screenwriter/story editor (is there any other kind?) working for a slimy Hollywood producer (is there any other kind?) manages to create a stir in Hollywood by fabricating a screenwriter (Jordan Strawberry) screenplay (called ‘New Suit’) and then using his connections to generate buzz around not only ‘New Suit’ but the fabricated Strawberry. Strong performances by a varied group of reliable actors such as Dan Hedya, Benito Martinez and Marisa Coughlan help lend an air of professionalism to what appears to be a low-budget production. However, the strong leading man performance of Jordan Bridges lends this film a certain gravity and credibility that it otherwise would struggle to maintain. The witty, knowing script by screenwriter Craig Sherman and the creative and economical direction of Francois Velle seem to be a promising start for these two young filmmakers.

Eat This New York
One of the true crowd pleasers of the 2002 Festival, this work is a history lesson, sociological study, economic tutorial, character analysis and cautionary tale of the ins and outs of the New York Restaurant business. This documentary follows the uneasy ups and downs of trying to succeed in the restaurant business in the Big Apple. Specifically, it follows two guys from the start of their attempts to renovate and build a restaurant in Brooklyn to the point when they open the business (many months later than scheduled). The filmmakers interview several well known figures in the food industry (Daniel Boulud, Sirio Maccioni, Tim Zagat, etc.) who recount some of the trials and tribulations related to the food business in New York. This film depicts in such vivid, painful detail the heroic/foolish struggle of the two fledgling restaurannters that the audience is almost as relieved as the protagonists are when things seem to finally go in their favor at the end.SHORTS

A dizzying mix of genres packed into a mere 8 minutes, HI-YAH! manages to pay homage to elegant martial arts epics, Woody Allen films, gggirl power culture such as BUFFY as well as hip, urban flicks like 200 CIGARETTES.

A short to give David Lynch the hives. This 4 minute psychodrama consists of the legendary performance artist, Floyd, as a woman desperately trying to escape her isolated existence through a harrowing phone call. A great candidate for the world’s best horror short.

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