As some of you who might be cinephiles know, the Tribeca Film Festival is in full swing in my town, and it's something I've gone out of my way to be a part of since its inception in 2002. (It's amazing how in just five short years it's risen to become arguably the most relevant American film festival, possibly even more so than the venerable Sundance.) Anyway, what I haven't been doing up until now is sharing with anybody my experiences of the festival and its powerful works therein. That changes today.
Normally, my involvement has gone the extent of at least four trips into the city. This year, due to my impending graduation and the workload of the courses I'm in, I had to cut back to just two days - yesterday and Saturday, May 6. The two films I was lucky enough to see yesterday, however, rank with the best I've ever seen at the festival and have already made this year's experience a rewarding one.
One thing they've changed for this year is added venues outside the general Tribeca area, since the Tribeca area mostly lacks the larger multiplexes that have been permeating the country like rabbits the past few years. One of those venues was a Loews multiplex on 34th Street right near where the trains come in, where I went to pick up my tickets and to see:
New York Waiting (2006; 96 min.) starring Chris Stewart, Annie Woods, Katrina Nelson, Don Wildman directed by Joachim Hedén screenplay by Joachim & Jack Hedén a production of Way Feature Films & Sonet Film
Is it better to let a lost love linger in the mind or be forgotten? Sidney (Stewart), a warm and deeply quixotic man, sends his lost love Coreen (Nelson) a plane ticket to New York along with a letter asking her to meet him at the top of the Empire State Building. After throwing his cell phone into the ocean, Sidney boards a plane to New York just two days before his romantic rendezvous. With a vintage Polaroid camera in hand, he takes to the New York streets, stopping occasionally at tourist attractions and coffee shops. Along the way, he unexpectedly meets a distraught woman, Amy (Woods), who left her boyfriend Michael (Wildman) that very morning after discovering that he had been unfaithful. Like Sidney, she too is drifting around Manhattan, as she waits for a flight to take her back to San Francisco. At first, the two strangers commiserate over their romantic failures. But as time passes, they realize that they have more in common than just sad love stories. As the time of her plane's departure and his fateful meeting draw near, tension builds between them, and Sidney begins to feel conflicted. Should he ask for her name before she leaves or should he continue to believe in a love that he's already lost?
In a lot of ways, this film reminded me of one of my favorite movies, Before Sunrise. (In fact, during the Q&A session that followed the film's screening, I asked the director what his inspiration was in his crafting of the picture, and he admitted that Richard Linklater's work was his strongest influence.) If I have one complaint about the film, it's that it focuses too much on the backstory of Sidney & Coreen, which is revealed in drips and drabs throughout the film in flashbacks shot in black & white (the rest of the movie is in color), while the backstory of Amy & Michael is addressed and dismissed in one ten-minute sequence early in the film. Other than that, New York Waiting is a wonderful love story that avoids most, if not all, of the typical love story cliches and features some wonderful acting by a crop of relative unknowns. The fact that there's no known stars will make it that much harder for it to get the distribution deal it deserves (currently, it only has an international deal).
I then made my way downtown to a Regal multiplex in Tribeca near the World Trade Center site. In previous years, this theater has been the hub for the festival: In previous years, the festival has taken over the entire venue (totaling 11 screens) and been a madhouse as a result; this year, the festival occupied only 2 of the 11 screens. While that's probably for the best (there's not a lot of space outside or directly inside; so crowd control has always been a problem), it's a reminder of just where the festival as a whole has been and where it's going. There were no problems yesterday, however, getting in to see:
The Treatment (2006; 86 min.) starring Chris Eigeman, Ian Holm, Famke Janssen directed by Oren Rudavsky screenplay by Daniel Saul Housman & Oren Rudavsky, based on the novel by Daniel Menaker a production of The Treatment LLC http://www.treatmentmovie.com (treatmentmovie.com)
When frustrated, confused, and recently single Jake Singer (Eigeman) enters psychoanalysis, his plan is to receive some direction in life and rid himself of the miasmic stew of anxiety clamoring in his mind. But Jake's therapist, the infamous Dr. Ernesto Morales (Holm), is a strict Freudian, and his unsettling methods of treatment aren't exactly a cure for anxiety. In fact, Jake finds himself even more anxious, and as treatment continues, the doctor begins to appear at inconvenient times. Sometimes his appearances even take on the form of strange hallucinations. Unable to detach himself from the doctor's overbearing presence in his life, Jake is at a loss and nearly hopeless that he'll ever find autonomy, much less happiness. That is, until he meets Allegra Marshall (Janssen), a beautiful woman, who is struggling to maintain custody of the child she and her recently deceased husband were in the process of adopting. Dr. Morales is completely against the relationship and strongly urges Jake to back away. And Jake himself is concerned as to whether or not Allegra really loves him, or merely needs him to pose as her husband so that she can complete the adoption process. But pressure from his doctor, as well as his own doubts about Allegra's intentions, causes Jake to withdraw. And it is only then that he realizes how much he is really in love with Allegra. But his epiphany appears to have come too late. Can Jake battle the doctor's strong psychic influence and embrace the life he's always wanted?
My god... what a laugh riot this film was, and the crowd probably helped tremendously in that regard. (It was a world premiere, so naturally we had a lot of cast & crew members and their families on hand - I was sitting right next to a bunch of friends of Stephanie March, who has a bit role in the film as Jake's ex-girlfriend, and they were very vocal the three or four times she made an appearance on screen.) While all three of the leads performed excellently, I have to make special note of Ian Holm's Dr. Morales, who literally had the crowd laughing at everything he said. (A sample: After Jake has had sex with Allegra for the first time, he pays a visit to Dr. Morales for some treatment, and is promptly asked by the good doctor: "So which positions did you two choose?" Or something to that effect. I can't remember exactly; I was laughing so hard.) Like New York Waiting, The Treatment also does a great job of avoiding the cliches of its genre - the adoption subplot, in particular, is executed and resolved in a manner contrary to what you'd expect. I unfortunately couldn't stay for Q&A, as I had to make sure I made my train back home, but I also would've liked to have known what the situation was as far as distribution (I have more faith that we'll eventually see a release of this one, considering the actors attached to it).
In short, two winners, both films you should at least consider seeing (or, if you're a fan of romantic comedies and relationship pieces, going out of your way to see) if they happen to make it into your town. If you're in New York, it's not too late to try and catch a screening of either of these films (as of this posting, there's still tickets available for one screening of each of these films) or any of the other films being shown at the festival. The link below is all you need.
Next week: How realistic animals are created for the silver screen, and screenings of a shorts series concerning morality & mortality in everyday life, and a documentary exposing the lives of America's super rich.
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