Monday, April 30, 2012

Tribeca ’12: Chicken with Plums

Over an eight day period, Nasser-Ali Khan will become the anti-Scherezade.  As he wills himself to die, stories from his past, narrated by the Angel of Death, will explain how the musician reached such a state of profound melancholy.   Love and death become intimately intertwined in Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud’s Chicken with Plums (trailer here), their fantastical but sophisticated live-action follow-up to the rightly acclaimed Persepolis, which screened at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival and will also unspool today at this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.

Khan is widely regarded as the greatest Iranian violinist of his generation, but he has stopped playing.  On the surface, his silence appears to be the fault of his wife Faringuisse, who destroyed his prized violin in one of their frequent squabbles.  However, his depression is rooted in an elegantly tragic tale of love denied.

Technically proficient but never impassioned, Khan’s music took on uncommon richness after he was forbidden from seeing his true love Irâne, the traditional clockmaker’s daughter.  Music never has been considered a stable profession by protective fathers.  As Khan’s reputation rises, he acquiesces to his controlling mother’s wishes and marries Faringuisse. For him, it is a loveless union.  For her, it is a marriage based on unrequited love.

Frankly, Khan is a crummy husband and a negligent father, but it is difficult to condemn him after witnessing his compounded heartache.  Mathieu Amalric, with his big sad eyes, is perfectly cast as the exquisitely sensitive jerkweed.  Viewers will sympathize with him, even as they shake their heads at his casual cruelty to Faringuisse.  Likewise only more so, Maria de Medeiros (Bruce Willis’s girlfriend in Pulp Fiction) explodes the harpy exterior of his nagging wife, revealing the pain and vulnerability of Faringuisse.

Set in the late 1950’s pre-Shah, Western-leaning Iran, Satrapi and Paronnaud’s fable of star-crossed love would seem to hold limited political ramifications.  However, it is not an accident Khan’s forbidden love is named Irâne (as they confirmed in a post-screening Q&A).  That she is played by Golshifteh Farahani is also clearly significant.  The internationally acclaimed actress was barred from returning to Iran after (tastefully) posing nude in a French magazine to protest the Islamist regime’s misogynist policies.  A radiantly beautiful woman, she also invests her character (and the film) with a graceful sadness.

Visually, Plums is also quite arresting, incorporating brief animated interludes, expressionistic sets, and highly stylized design elements.  Their inspired technical team definitely creates a seductive atmosphere of magical realism that is a pleasure to get caught up in.  Highly recommended, Chicken with Plums was enthusiastically received by audiences at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.  For those in the Bay Area, it also screens today (4/30) and Wednesday (5/2)  as part of the 2012 SanFrancisco International Film Festival, concluding this week.

Tribeca ’12: Trishna

Social class is a hard immutable fact of life in Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles.  Plunking the classic story down in contemporary America would be highly problematic, but India is a different matter.  Taking a few liberties here and there, Michael Winterbottom still captures the spirit of the original novel and its new setting in Trishna (trailer here), which screened at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, with further screenings coming up this week as part of the San Francisco International Film Festival.

Jay will serve as both Trishna’s Angel and Alec.  Touring the off-the-beaten-path attractions of Rajasthan, his head is turned by Trishna, the primary provider for her large family.  The son of a British hotel mogul, Jay recruits the young woman for the resort he reluctantly manages.  Things are quite pleasant for Trishna, making considerably more than she ever could in her village, while Jay harmlessly pines for her. 

One night when her defenses are weakened, Trishna succumbs to Jay’s advances.  Instinctively realizing a Rubicon has been crossed, Trishna retreats, but Jay pursues, whisking her off to Mumbai, where they are socially accepted as a couple.  However, Trishna’s life and relationship will take a dark turn, paralleling Tess’s tragic history with men.

You never know what you’re going to get from Winterbottom, but he has emerged as the leading cinematic interpreter of Hardy’s novel, following up Jude and The Claim, very loosely based on the Mayor of Casterbridge.  He is clearly comfortable navigating the film’s sexually charged power dynamics, but Trishna also exhibits an affinity for India, even including musical montage sequences (with original songs composed by Amit Trivedi) that would not be out of place in high-end Bollywood cinema.

Winterbottom uses the subcontinent as a big canvas, covering a wide swath of geography, but his focus rarely strays from Frieda Pinto’s Trishna.  While some might find her maddeningly passive, she is a product of her environment.  Through Pinto’s haunted presence, viewers get a sense of the social and cultural weight crushing down on her.  Thanks to Winterbottom’s streamlining, Riz Ahmed’s Jay has to turn on a dime from leading man to a cruel exploiter.  Still, there are enough underlying consistencies in the impulsive, entitled persona he creates to maintain audience credibility.  Pinto and Ahmed really carry the dramatic load, but veteran character actor Roshan Seth (Chattar Lal in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom) has some memorable moments as Jay’s stern but humanistic father.

Granted, everyone should have a pretty good idea where Trishna is headed.  After all, Hardy is not exactly famous for his happy endings.  However, Winterbottom’s treatment of Tess is boldly cinematic.  (Incidentally, Polanski’s Tess will screen as a classics selection at this year’s Cannes, so cineastes might want to break out their Cliff Notes.)  Literate and absorbing, Trishna is recommended for anglophiles and fans of Hindi cinema, alike.  A strong selection of the recently wrapped 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, it screens Wednesday and Thursday (5/2 & 5/3) during this year’s San FranciscoInternational Film Festival.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tribeca ’12: The World Before Her

Being crowned Miss India is a major deal.  It can lead to endorsements and career opportunities throughout India, the Mid East, Southeast Asia, and even England.  However, Hindu extremist mobs have violently protested many Indian beauty pageants, bringing with them members of the Durga Vahini, the women’s auxiliary of the movement.  Nisha Pahuja introduces viewers to two very different women who represent each side of India’s culture war in The World Before Her (trailer here), which screens today as the World Documentary Competition Award winner at the 2012 TribecaFilm Festival.

To put things in perspective, Aishwarya Rai took second place in the 1994 pageant.  Many winners and runners-up have gone on to lucrative modeling and Bollywood careers.  Ruhi Singh would like to follow in their footsteps.  As we watch her in the days leading up to the contest, it is clear the underdog from the provinces is in it to win it. 

Prachi on the other hand, will not be competing in pageants anytime soon.  The dread terror of Durga Vahini boot camps, she readily condemns them as decadent western cultural imports.  Though she chafes whenever her domineering father talks about marriage, Prachi wholeheartedly advocates such a traditional lifestyle for the young weapons-trained Durga Vahini girls.  It is a contradiction she has a difficult time reconciling, even when pressed by Pahuja.

World Before Her is more than a bit scary documenting violent Hindu extremist violence targeting women (more-or-less condoned by the Durga Vahini).  Frankly, it is hard to differentiate between the thugs who beat up female patrons for drinking in Bombay bars (nobody calls it Mumbai in Before) from the Islamists throwing acid in the faces of insufficiently veiled women on the streets of Pakistan.

To her credit, Pahuja never over-simplifies the circumstances facing her POV figures.  There is indeed plenty of sexist objectifying going on behind the scenes of Miss India.  Likewise, the undeniably abusive history of Prachi’s “traditional” father is well established.  However, one world view is clearly seeking to force all Indian women into conformity, whereas the other is not.  One insightful pageant contestant also challenges the overheated rhetoric regarding “westernization.”  As she points out, yoga practice has become widespread in America, but nobody talks about us becoming “Indianized.”  Score one for the beauty queen.

Much more timely and illuminating than other documentaries addressing gender issues at Tribeca this year (most definitely including the wildly unfocused Sexy Baby), Before even derives some suspense from the big climatic show.  Essentially, it combines women’s studies issues with a contemporary Hindu terrorism expose, while maintaining a sliver of Bollywood appeal.  Consistently interesting, it screens again today (4/29), when the winning films take their victory laps at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca ’12: Pitch Black Heist (short)

Michael Fassbender is fully clothed, while Liam Cunningham is really drunk.  Together, they are a mismatched pair of crooks hired to pull off a very dark caper in John Maclean’s Pitch Black Heist (trailer here), the winner of the 2012 BAFTA Award for best short film, which screens today as part of the Status Update programming block at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Known simply as Michael and Liam, two safecrackers are meeting each other for the first time on a very unusual job.  They are two retrieve some item (it hardly matters what) from a safe with a light-sensitive alarm.  To prepare, they practice navigating a dummied-up room in complete darkness.  On the day in question, they meet in a quiet pub and wait for their employer to send them the all-clear.  However, they find themselves cooling their heels far longer than they expected, so they start doing what you’re supposed to do in a pub, lest they attract attention.

Pitch has a nice little twist at the end that Maclean adroitly lays the ground work for, without glaringly telegraphing it.  Frankly, this concept could be relatively easily expanded into a feature, which makes the economy of Maclean’s thirteen minute storytelling all the more noteworthy.  Still, the real entertainment is watching the boozy interaction between co-executive producers Fassbender and Cunningham.  Both actors have genuinely intense screen presences, perfectly suited to their roles in Pitch.

It all looks quite stylish as well, thanks to Robbie Ryan’s appropriately noir black-and-white cinematography.  A neat little ironic crime drama, Pitch Black Heist is one of the overlooked treats of the Tribeca line-up.  As per tradition, all short film blocks screen today (4/29), the concluding day of this year’s festival.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tribeca ’12: BAM150

In 1962, Rudolf Nureyev made his post-defection American debut at the BrooklynAcademy of Music (BAM) in 1962.  However, the 1960’s would be a difficult decade for the performing arts institution.  Yet, it survived and eventually thrived, as James Sládek documents in BAM150 (trailer here), a portrait of the venue in its sesquicentennial year, which screens again tomorrow during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Originally founded to rival the concert halls of Manhattan, BAM had a difficult time establishing its own identity, notwithstanding the appearance of high profile artists such as Nureyev, Sarah Bernhardt, and even Mark Twain.  It was more in the business of leasing space than producing performances when Harvey Lichtenstein took the reins of leadership in 1967.

During his tenure, Lichtenstein dramatically raised BAM’s stock through the somewhat contradictory strategies of institutionalizing the avant-garde and pursuing big name performers.  Ironically, the economic growth of the 1980’s helped stabilize the venue despite the many theater pieces it staged protesting the very policies making it all possible.  However, it was nearly all undone by Lichtenstein’s disastrous attempts to establish a repertory company.

BAM150 is a perfectly respectable survey of the hall’s history.  Sládek has a nice approach to the material, smoothly blending moments of quiet Wiseman-esque observation with more conventional talking head sequences.  The combined effect gives audiences a pretty good feel for the rapidly expanding institution.

After previously profiling Mark Kostabi, a somewhat dubious artist more famous than he should be, Sládek has shifted gears, shining a spotlight on an arts organization that ought to be more widely recognized.  It is also a rather shrewd filmmaking decision, since his documentary is a lead pipe cinch to be screened at BAM’s Cinématek.  Still, he faced a bit of a challenge, considering dance and theater performances are fleeting by nature.  As a result, viewers must often settle for descriptions rather than video documentation.  Fortunately, the quality of interview participants helps to compensate, including the likes of Steve Reich, Peter Brook, Alan Rickman, and Isabella Rossellini.

Clearly produced in a celebratory spirit, Sládek never pushes or prods his subjects into any news-making revelations, but he keeps it all moving along briskly.  Most likely destined for an engagement at the BAM Cinématek and an eventual PBS broadcast life, BAM150 is basically pleasant and informative.  Modestly recommended for proud Brooklynites and those fascinating by the performing arts world, BAM150 screens again tonight (4/28) as this year’s Tribeca Film Festival enters its concluding weekend.

Elles Belles

Sex for money can be so liberating.  At least, that is what some guys always say.  A similar position is staked out in a rather mature new film produced and directed by women and featuring a largely female cast.  Even if they adore Juliette Binoche, this is not a film to watch with your parents.  However, a lot of people saw it with other people’s parents when it screened at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.  Mere days later, Malgoska Szumowska’s Elles (trailer here) has opened its conventional theatrical run in New York.

Anne is a wife, a mother, and a freelance writer.  Her latest story is a confidential profile of student prostitutes.  The assignment came at an awkward period in her marriage, around the same time she busted her husband for a certain kind of net surfing.  As she talks to these confident young women, she becomes obsessed with their explicit stories.  According to Charlotte and Alicja, their approach to sex is healthier, because there is no hypocrisy.  They make a comfortable living exploiting men’s weaknesses of the flesh.  Maybe so, but liberation never looked so demeaning.

Films exploring the jujitsu empowerment of prostitutes are nearly as old as the profession itself.  One obvious comparison is Steven Soderbergh’s The Girlfriend Experience, which also screened at Tribeca three years ago.  Yet, that film, starring an actual pornstar, is far more circumspect in what it depicts.  In fact, there is no on-screen sex and only a spot of nudity is to be seen here or there.  It is the emotional entanglements surrounding sex that concern GFE.  In contrast, Elles jumps right into some of the more explicit scenes you will see in a public theater.  It was not tagged with an NC-17 rating for no reason.

Frankly, Soderbergh had the right idea.  Even if Szumowska had a razor sharp analysis of sexual politics to offer, it is hard to get past some of the things she shows the audience.  However, the film’s feminist themes are pretty threadbare and the drama is more frustrating than absorbing.

Normally a bedrock of reliability, even Binche seems a little off here as the journalist.  Her reactions to everything often seem wildly disproportionate to the circumstances at hand.  Still, Anaïs Demoustier and Joanna Kulig both bring smart, attractive presences to bear on this material.  For the record, I briefly met Kulig on the way to a post-screening Q&A and she seems like a lovely and engaging person.  I imagine the audience had a lot of questions for her, but whether they had the guts to ask them is another matter entirely.  It is also worth noting, the legendary Krystyna Janda (whose credits include Andrzej Wajda’s Man of Marble and Ryszard Bugajski’s The Interrogation) also co-stars in the largely thankless role of Alicja’s mother.

Something about Elles simply does not click.  It is not necessarily because of the subject matter, but it makes the lack of depth and cohesion more conspicuous.  Due to the accomplished cast, cineastes should have on their radar, but it is not recommended as a satisfying theater-going experience.  After its high profile Tribeca screenings, Elles is now open in New York at the Angelika Film Center.

Tribeca ’12: Postcards from the Zoo

The Ragunan Zoo is a slightly run down Eden.  The city around it is jungle.  One innocent young woman will learn the nature of the world outside in the singularly named Edwin’s Postcards from the Zoo (clip here), which screens today at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Abandoned in the zoo as a young girl, Lana simply stayed there, falling in with a group of itinerant workers who do odd jobs around the park and sleep on the premises.  Growing up amongst the animals, she seems to have special bond with them, particularly the giraffe.  However, her sheltered existence is turned upside down when word comes of the migrant workers’ imminent eviction from the zoo.

Fascinated by a mysterious street magician dressed as a cowboy, Lana is lured out of the park, becoming his assistant and ambiguous companion.  While she acclimates to their performance routines, it is not long before she is working at a massage parlor in an even more ambiguous capacity.

Like Lana, Postcards should have never left the zoo.  In those early scenes Edwin and cinematographer Sidi Saleh create a breathtakingly delicate fable-like environment.  It is fascinating to watch the quietly subtle ways Lana interacts with the animals.  The Ragunan Zoo is also a truly wonderful setting, looking a bit wild and over-run by forest, in a way that further heightens the fantasy atmosphere.

However, once she leaves the idyllic zoo, Postcards becomes a largely by the numbers end-of-innocence tale.  While there are arresting visuals to be found throughout the film, usually involving return trips to the zoo, we have been down this road hundreds of times before.  Yes, it reflects the reality of Jakarta, which is why it clashes with everything special in the film.  It is also getting emotionally exhausting to see yet another little girl abandoned or abducted in a film from the region.  The filmmakers ought to start picking on someone more their size.

Even if Postcards is undermined by its second half, it is impossible to take your eyes off Ladya Cheryl’s Lana.  Her earnest engagement and exquisite vulnerability gives the film an emotional center of gravity, preventing it from becoming a mere exercise in archetypal tropes.  It is haunting work.

There were obviously some crack animal trainers contributing their talents to Postcards.  Cheryl is also an absolutely luminous presence.  However, viewers are more likely to fall in love with her or the Ragunan Zoo than Edwin’s movie.  Richly crafted but somewhat disappointing, Postcards from the Zoo screens again today (4/28) as this year’s Tribeca Film Festival enters the home stretch.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tribeca ’12: The Fourth Dimension

Representing the fourth dimension in 2D is quite the daunting challenge.  Fortunately, none of the filmmakers participating in a new hipster sci-fi anthology take it seriously.  Nor will annoying glasses be necessary when watching The Fourth Dimension (trailer here), three short films produced and assembled by Vice and Grolsch Film Works (cheers, mate), which screens again this afternoon as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

In the opening The Lotus Community Workshop, Harmony Korine (yes, but don’t panic) takes us to a world much like our own, where Val Kilmer plays a low rent motivational speaker named Val Kilmer.  Addressing church groups in roller rinks, he passes off ego-centric tripe as New Agey pearls of wisdom.  Occasionally hinting at the metaphysical, Lotus seems more like a confessional piece from Kilmer, admitting to his fans: “I realize I was once Iceman in Top Gun and now I’m kind of a slob, but at least I still don’t have to work at a real job.”  This is a case where brevity is definitely Korine’s ally.  Given the relatively short running time, the self-referential joke maintains its novelty better than one might expect.

Making a bit of a concession to the film’s umbrella premise, Alexey Fedorchenko’s Chronoeye involves indirect time travel.  Employing some analog-style technology, a misanthropic Russian scientist (is there any other kind?) is able to glimpse into the past.  However, there is an attractive neighbor above him to remind viewers not to lose sight of the present.  Fedorchenko (probably best known for the strikingly austere road movie Silent Souls) maintains a fable-like vibe, preventing Chronoeye from descending into the realm of romantic cliché.

Jan Kwiecinski’s Fawns might come closest to revealing the fourth dimension, since it induces Armageddon.  Much like Abel Ferrara’s meandering 4:44 Last Day on Earth, doomsday vaguely involves global warmish-ing, but here it is more Biblical.  A cataclysmic flood has led to worldwide evacuation, but a group of Polish slackers are too cool to pay attention.  Instead, they careen about a provincial town, hinting at the sexual tensions within their group.  Suddenly though, the end of the world takes a serious turn for the aimless youth.  Frankly, none of the Kwiecinski’s characters are particularly well defined, but as a mood piece, it is quite eerie.

Defiantly disregarding the theme ostensibly holding it together, The Fourth Dimension lurches all over the place, but it is not without merit.  Indeed, there should be enough eccentricity in each constituent short film to satisfy some strange subset of cult film fandom out there someplace.  Recommended for those in search of a bit of bemusement, it screens again this afternoon (4/27) as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Canadian Crime Wave: Citizen Gangster

Edwin Alonzo Boyd had a hard time making ends meet after his WWII discharge.  Does he blame the Liberal governments of King and St. Laurent?  No, it was the banks’ fault for not underwriting his dream of becoming an actor.  He would make them pay as a mascara-smeared bank robber, who became a mid Twentieth Century Canadian media sensation in the Clyde Barrow mold.  Boyd’s criminal exploits are dramatized in Nathan Morlando’s strangely dour Citizen Gangster (trailer here), which opens today in New York at the IFC Center.

Boyd is good family man, but a bit impetuous.  He quits his job as a bus driver, convinced Lorne Greene offered him an invitation to study acting with him, based on a casual conversation.  However, when Greene’s acting academy turns out to be a dodgy business more interested in tuition than art, Boyd takes out his frustration on a bank.  Yes, it is all Ben Cartwright’s fault and Citizen never lets him off the hook.

Needless to say, Boyd develops a taste for knocking over banks and the public eats up his polite showman shtick.  Pressing his luck, he gets nicked by Detective Rhys, a protégé of his ex-cop father’s.  This is just a momentary setback though.  Hooking up with the Jackson Brothers, Boyd breaks out a jail, launching a major crime spree.

Citizen is a vexing gangster picture that desperately wants viewers to sympathize with Boyd on one hand, but insists on denying them any pleasure from his outrageous antics.  Instead, we are supposed to tut-tut at the economic system (which happened to be socializing at a rapid rate) that could reduce a man to such desperate measures.

Scott Speedman has the perfect devil-may-care presence for the fame-blinded Boyd and he can also croon a passable sentimental ballad.  However, the real brooding intensity comes from Kevin Durand, who largely keeps the film afloat as Lenny Jackson, the former leader of the Jackson gang, forced to come to terms with his less prominent role in what the media insists on calling the Boyd gang.  Brian Cox also delivers a nice scene here and there as Boyd’s somewhat disappointed father.  However, the balance of the Boyd gang and family leave little lasting impression.

Deliberately drab looking and intentionally de-emphasizing the potential action elements, the emotionally frozen Citizen gives nothing to gangster genre fans.  Unfortunately, it does not compensate them with a particularly gripping character study or an especially insightful perspective on the era.  Frankly, it all gets quite draggy at time.  Still, the Lorne Greene references are somewhat amusing.  A frustrating misfire despite Speedman and Durand’s best efforts, Citizen Gangster opens today (4/27) at the IFC Center.

Tribeca ’12: Jackpot

Jo Nesbø is best known for his gritty detective Harry Hole, but film adaptations of his work have largely focused on the criminal and the compromised.  Just as Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters begins its American theatrical run here in New York, Magnus Martens’ even better and bloodier Jackpot (trailer here) screens tonight as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Oscar Svendsen is not a criminal, but the artificial Christmas tree factory he works at specializes in hiring released convicts.  According to the detective interrogating him, this means he is used to thinking like a crook.  Be that as it may, Svendsen certainly has some explaining to do, such as how he came to be found clutching a shotgun beneath a rather large dead woman, amid a bloodbath at a strip club.  Let the flashback carnage begin.

Reluctantly, Svendsen agreed to enter a betting pool with three of his scariest co-workers.  Against all the odds, their dubious betting system produces a twelve-game winning ticket.  Everyone should be happy, but when Svendsen returns to his apartment, he finds a dead body.  Supposedly, their late colleague got greedy and attacked the other two, who killed him in self-defense.  Or so they tell Svendsen.  True or not, there is a corpse to dispose of.  This will get messy.  Not for nothing, Svendsen wonders if he will be next.

Based on a Nesbø story, Jackpot is a lot like early Coen Brothers, but with a greater body count.  Evidently, the process for fabricating fake Christmas trees is a lot like sausage-making, so you know what that means.  The pieces are sent flying almost as fast and furiously as the constant double-crosses.  Indeed, Martens is not exactly shy in his approach to the material, but he keeps a tight rein on the narrative, never letting the proceedings descend into absolute bedlam.

As Svendsen, the game but unassuming Kyrre Hellum resembles a rag doll being tossed about.  However, that works rather well in the context of the film.  In contrast, Henrik Mestad displays mucho screen presence, supplying much of the film’s mordant wit as the investigating Detective Solør.  Yet, even more laughs come from blood-splattered slapstick gags that would make the re-launched Stooges blanch.  Still, Svendsen’s three knuckleheaded co-conspirators are all rather generic.  Indeed, that lack of a flamboyant villain is the only real knock on the film.

You should probably know by now if Jackpot is your cup of tea.  Frankly, the execution (so to speak) is superior to many other films in what could be considered the recent Scandinavian noir invasion, but it definitely makes the typical Tarantino impersonating film look rather sedate in comparison.  For those looking for some good chaotic fun, it definitely fits the bill.  Recommended for connoisseurs of outrageous crime drama, Jackpot screens again tonight (4/27) as the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival enters its concluding weekend.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Tribeca ’12: Deadfall

A prodigal son plows through a blizzard to make it home for Thanksgiving dinner.  However, this will not be the stuff of a Norman Rockwell painting.  Instead, his fate will become intertwined with that of two wanted fugitives in Stefan Ruzowitzky’s Deadfall, a chilly thriller from the Academy Award winning director of The Counterfeiters, which screens during the 2012 Tribeca FilmFestival.

Having endured a traumatic childhood together, Addison and his sister Liza are now hopelessly codependent.  He also has a propensity for violence.  They just knocked over a casino, but a freak accident mars their getaway.  Splitting up (for reasons driven more by the narrative than survival considerations) an exhausted Liza is rescued from the frozen roadside by Jay, an ex-con former Olympic boxer, who through a complicated set of circumstances already suspects the law is after his dumb hide.

Liza knows the cops are looking for her and Addison, so his parents’ home near the Canadian border sounds like the perfect rendezvous.  Much to her surprise though, she quickly develops intense feelings for the dumb palooka, which she can tell are mutual.  Liza does not yet know Jay’s father is the former sheriff and his successor’s unappreciated deputy-daughter is a close friend of the family, but she will learn when Jay’s Planes, Trains, and Automobiles story turns into The Desperate Hours.

There are an awful lot of contrivances in Deadfall.  Indeed, Jay and Liza fall for each other faster than light-speed.  Still in his case, it might be rather believable, considering he just got out of prison and she is played by Olivia Wilde.  In fact, for the most part, Ruzowitzky’s energetic pacing and the conviction of his cast largely overcome the credibility gaps.

Most importantly, Addison and Liza make an excellent villain-femme fatale tandem.  Eric Bana compellingly brings out Addison’s avenging angel complex, while Wilde nicely balances Liza’s cunning and vulnerability.  Though Charlie Hunnam is not exactly a great thespian, the audience can certainly believe his ex-boxer has taken a number of blows to the head.  Not so surprisingly, Sissy Spacek adds a real touch of class to the film, playing Jay’s mother with grace and intelligence.

Despite the ragged edges, Deadfall is an easy man vs. man vs. the elements thriller to get caught up in.  Sure to become a family Thanksgiving tradition, it screens again this afternoon (4/26) as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

SFIFF ’12: Land of Oblivion

On April 25th, 1986, Pripyat was known as a model “Atomic City.”  Two days later, it was well on its way to being a radioactive ghost town.  The resulting physical and emotional damage done to the local Ukrainian populace is starkly dramatized in Michale Boganim’s Land of Oblivion (trailer here), which screens during the 2012 San Francisco International Film Festival.

It rained on that fateful April 26th, fixing the radiation in the area surrounding the nuclear power plant.  That was bad news for Pripyat, the bustling Ukrainian town built accommodate Chernobyl workers, but good for the rest of the world. 

Making a bad situation worse, many Ukrainians would needlessly perish because of the Soviets’ reluctance to admit the severity of the crisis.  One of them will be Anya’s new husband Pyotr, a fireman pulled away from their wedding reception for lethal duty at Chernobyl.  The disaster will also rob young Valery of his father Alexei, a safety engineer expressly forbidden from warning Pripyat residents of the deadly reality he understood only too well.  In contradiction of Soviet policy, he sends Valery and his mother away on the first train out of town.  Faced with the guilt and futility of the situation, Alexei rooms the streets of Pripyat, handing out umbrellas as certain death rains from the sky.

Ten years later, Anya has not moved on with her life.  She works as a guide, taking curious French tourists and grieving survivors on tours of the no man’s land that was once her home.  One of her groups includes Alexei’s widow and Valery, who has become an angry teenager greatly desiring some closure.

Shot on-location in the forbidden zone, Oblivion looks downright spooky.  It clearly suggests the upcoming Oren Peli produced Chernobyl horror movie should be scary as all get-out, even they do an only halfway decent job of it.  Frankly, watching Anya lead her busloads of gawkers is rather jarring.  Obviously, this job is profoundly unhealthy for her, but she remains psychologically tethered to the ghost town.

While Oblivion abstains from graphic depictions of the radiation sickness, it presents an unambiguous indictment of the Soviet authorities’ rampant CYA-ing and callous indifference to Ukrainian suffering.  Like the character of Anya, it somewhat loses its way during the early scenes of the 1996 winter story arc, but when Boganim starts following the wayward Valery through Pripyat’s desolate streets and abandoned buildings, the film achieves an air of surreal high tragedy.

Admirably understated, former Bond-girl Olga Kurylenko’s work as Anya, in her native Ukrainian, is remarkably assured and shrewdly modulated.  As Alexei, Polish actor Andrzej Chyra is also quite restrained, yet touching.

In her first dramatic feature, Israeli-born French documentarian Boganim balances the intimate and the ominous fairly dexterously.  Oblivion also boasts a distinctive soundtrack from Polish jazz musician Leszek Możdżer.  Refraining from his experimentations with “treated” pianos, his themes are surprisingly upbeat and swinging, but they help propel the audience through much of the on-screen grimness.  Often visually arresting, Land of Oblivion is a well produced film, definitely recommended, particularly for those fascinated by the Chernobyl disaster and the Soviet era in general, when it screens again this Friday (4/27) and Sunday (4/29) during this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.

Tribeca ’12: Cheerful Weather for the Wedding

In 1932, the British economy was also rather depressed, but appearances had to be kept up, nonetheless.  A well-to-do widowed mother is determined to see her eldest daughter married in proper style, even if it kills the rest of her family in Donald Rice’s Cheerful Weather for the Wedding (promo clip here), which screens during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Dolly Thatcham became re-acquainted with her rich, twittish fiancé during a grand tour of Albania.  She was most definitely on the rebound, following the end of her affair with Joseph Patten, a promising young academic.  He was somewhat self-centered, but there was real passion between them, as the audience sees in multiple flashbacks.  Her controlling mother could make the rest of the family sufficiently miserable on her own, but when the sullen Patten shows up at the house, it puts everyone further on edge.  The fact that the bride has locked herself in her dressing room with a bottle of rum hardly helps matters either.

Based on the novella by Julia Strachey, a member of the Bloomsbury Group whose work has gained popularity in recent years, Cheerful Weather could be considered a lite beer version of Downton Abbey, but Rice and Mary Henley Magill’s adaptation clearly lacks Sir Julian’s delicious wit.  Of course, the presence of Elizabeth Montgomery in the rather thankless role of Thatcham’s overbearing mother further invites such comparisons.

Still, Cheerful Weather offers a number of memorable moments, largely courtesy of its snappy supporting cast.  Indeed, Mackenzie Crook and Fenella Woolgar steal scene after scene as the bickering Dakins, who largely reconcile through their shared distaste for his family.  Julian Wadham also adds a humane touch to the film as the not-as-dumb-as-he-looks bumbling Uncle Bob, while Zoe Tapper brings considerable allure and even a bit of depth to Evelyn Graham, Thatcham’s fortune hunting maid of honor.

Unfortunately, Cheerful Weather’s weak romantically-doomed leads undermine the audience’s investment in the actual wedding.  Looking rather dazed, even in the flashbacks, Felicity Jones’ turn as Thatcham is a pale shadow of Michelle Dockery’s Lady Mary Grantham.  More baffling is the complete lack of screen presence displayed by Luke Treadaway as the morose Mr. Patten.

Frankly, it is hard to understand why Thatcham or Patten would pine for each other, but it is easy to see how this family would annoy the Dakins.  Yet, viewers can enjoy elements of the picture once they have shifted their sympathies accordingly.  An okay but hardly exceptional period drama, Cheerful Weather seems best suited for PBS’s Masterpiece.  For diehard Anglophiles, it screens again this Saturday (4/28) as this year’s Tribeca Film Festival enters its final weekend.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Kino! ’12: The Man with the Bassoon

How did an Austrian wearing a bathrobe conquer Germany?  It had something to do with a Russian bassoon player.  Based on crooner Udo Jürgens’ hybrid memoir-family saga novel, Miguel Alexandre’s two-part mini-series The Man with the Bassoon (trailer here) screens in its entirety tomorrow at MoMA as part of Kino!, their annual celebration of contemporary German cinema.

After completing the expected encore in his traditional white bathrobe, modern day Jürgens (playing himself) receives word from Moscow.  A long lost family retainer has a significant heirloom he wishes to return to Jürgens.  It is a statue of a man playing a bassoon.  Thus begins the first of many flashes.

Jürgens’ grandfather Heinrich Bockelmann decides to immigrate to Russia after hearing the beautiful lamenting Russian melodies of street musician.  Amassing great wealth as the Czar’s family banker, Bockelmann credits his success to that bassoon player.  For their anniversary, his wife gives him a statuette of the bassoon player, which quickly becomes the guardian of the family’s good fortune.  However, dark clouds are on the horizon.  With socialist revolutionaries campaigning against the German economic elite, the Czarist government dispossesses and imprisons Bockelmann and his aristocratic countrymen, soon after Russia’s entry into WWI.

Escaping Russia with their children, Bockelmann’s wife eventually re-establishes the family dynasty in Austria.  As viewers know from several flashbacks, Bockelmann’s son Rudi eventually becomes a provincial burgomaster and National Socialist Party member.  Yet, as the war drags on, Rudi Bockelmann runs afoul of his more zealous colleagues.  We know he will survive though, because in yet another flashback story-arc, we see Rudi Bockelmann is the only member of the elite Austrian family to encourage his aimless son Udo to pursue his musical ambitions.

Spanning over one hundred years, Bassoon is definitely an epic don’t-make-them-like-they-used-to miniseries.  While many consider the boundary fact and fiction therein to be somewhat porous, the bassoon must be true.  Anyone making this story up would have chosen a different instrument.  Though the Bockelmann family’s dark days are mostly caused by the Nazis and the Czarists, the depiction of the xenophobic and anti-Semitic Russian revolutionary factions is also an intriguing footnote within the Bassoon.  In fact, the historical episodes featuring Jürgens’ father and grandfather are considerably stronger than his own raise-to-fame story.  Frankly, a lot of viewers will want to see Jürgens (as he comes to be known) suffer more for his art.

Still, Jürgens’ music may surprise some viewers.  His rendition of “There Will Never Be Another You” heard several times in Bassoon swings politely enough.  Starting very squarely in a jazz bag, he became something like a cross between Sinatra and Czech vocalist Karel Gott (if that name means anything to you).  Although he never really caught on here, he had his admirers, including Sammy Davis, Jr., who covered a few of his tunes.

Jürgens is also sufficiently convincing playing himself, but Christian Berkel carries the heaviest load as the Bockelmann patriarch, Heinrich.  Fittingly, he somewhat resembles miniseries king Richard Chamberlain, aging decades while exuding an aura of integrity. In contrast, David Rott is a rather weak screen presence as the young Jürgens on the brink of superstardom.

A large-scale, richly detailed period production, Bassoon covers quite a bit of ground.  Anyone at all intrigued by Jürgens’ sweeping family story should definitely watch it at MoMA, because it is hard to imagine there will be lot of opportunities catch up with it in the future.  Both parts one and two screen back-to-back tomorrow (4/26), with Jürgens and Alexandre appearing afterward for a session of Q&A, as well as this Saturday (4/28), as part of this year’s Kino! at MoMA.

Blond Noir: Headhunters

Right now, Norway’s economy is a lot like our own.  There are way more job-seekers than open positions to fill.  At such times, if a recruiter sends you on an interview, you go, even though you might be leaving a few stray valuable objects d’art lying about your home unguarded.  That is Roger Brown’s racket, but it turns unexpectedly deadly in Morten Tyldum’s Headhunters (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York and also screens this afternoon as part of the 2012 San FranciscoInternational Film Festival.

Brown is a man slight of stature, married to his bombshell wife, Diana.  Suffering from a king-sized inferiority complex, he has allowed them to live beyond their means by burglarizing the homes of his executive search clients.  With his house of cards on the brink of collapse, Brown’s prayers appear to be answered in the person of Claes Greve.  Not only is the former tech CEO the perfect candidate for a plum position Brown must fill, he also owns a genuine Rubens painting of rather dodgy providence.  Win-win, right? 

However, when Brown starts to suspect the younger man and his wife are carrying-on an affair behind his back, he sabotages Greve’s campaign for the position.  At this point, Greve reacts more forcefully than Brown anticipates.  Mouse, meet cat.

Headhunters is quite a nifty one-darned-thing-after-another thriller.  Tyldum has a good handle on the material, constantly ratcheting-up the tension, but periodically using black comedy to release some steam.  In his hands, the frequent twists are entertaining rather than forced or exhausting. 

Tyldum also has a nice looking cast to focus on.  Especially bankable is the presence of Game of Thrones alumnus Nikolaj Coster-Wladau, now world famous for playing Lena Headey’s brother (and other things), Ser Jaime Lannister, here perfectly cast as Greve.  As Diana Brown, former model Synnøve Macody Lund certainly looks the part, but she also has some kind of nice dramatic moments as well.  In the lead, Aksell Hennie’s Brown holds the film together while coming to grief quite effectively.

Based on Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbø’s first book outside his bread-and-butter series, Headhunters engages in some of the same far-fetched anti-corporate humbug undermining so many recent domestic crime dramas.  However, Tyldum keeps the roller-coaster loop-de-looping at such breakneck speed, it is not so distracting.  Definitely a dark but thoroughly enjoyable exercise in skullduggery, Headhunters is easily recommended when it screens today as part of this year’s SFIFF and opens theatrically this Friday (4/27) in New York at the Landmark Sunshine.

Tribeca ’12: Baseball in the Time of Cholera (short)

The United Nations has long acted like one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.  In the case of Haiti, it is pestilence.  Allegedly thanks to the UN peacekeeping force, a deadly wave of cholera has swept the dysfunctional country.  Viewers witness the epidemic from the vantage point of a young ball player in David Darg & Bryn Mooser’s short documentary, Baseball in the Time of Cholera (trailer here), which screens as part of the Help Wanted programming block during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Joseph Alvyns and his friends should simply be spending an innocent summer on the baseball diamond.  They play as often as they can, but it is impossible to ignore the post-hurricane chaos around them.  Yet, when Alvyns sees the devastation of the 3/11 hurricane and tsunami in Japan, he is compelled to reach out in a spirit of solidarity.  His efforts attract international attention, even earning him a VIP trip to Toronto, courtesy of the Blue Jays.  Unfortunately, when he returns, cholera strikes at the heart of his family.

Technically, Darg and Mooser do not conclusively establish the Nepalese “peace-keepers” are the source of the cholera outbreak.  Still, the sight of raw sewage spilling from their latrine into Haiti’s central river coupled with the Heisman the Nepalese commander gives their camera man constitutes a pretty convincing circumstantial case.  The film also asks legitimate question: why are there peace-keepers stationed in a country that has not been at war for centuries?  However, they largely let the successive authoritarian and socialist governments off the hook for bringing the Haitian state to the brink of complete failure.

Time boasts some unusually big names behind the camera, including executive producers Olivia Wilde and Tesla Motors entrepreneur Elon Musk, one of three POV figures in Chris Paine’s Revenge of the Electric Car, which screened at last year’s Tribeca.  To its credit, the film community has rallied to Haiti’s aide, yet there has not been a similar celebrity rush on behalf of Japanese recovery efforts.  Therefore, it is worth taking the time to note those wishing to follow Alvyns’ example can also donate to the Japan Society’s relief fund (details here).

For a short documentary, Baseball in the Time of Cholera nicely balances muckraking and heartrending tragedy.  It should screen at Turtle Bay, but instead it will screen again in lower Manhattan this Friday (4/27) and Sunday (4/29) as the Tribeca Film Festival continues throughout the weekend.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tribeca ’12: Journey to Planet X

If Ed Wood finally had an epiphany telling him to step up his technical game, imagine what he would have produced.  That is sort of-kind of the challenge two amateur filmmakers looking to go pro (or at least semi-pro) set for themselves.  The production of their ambitious new zero-budget science fiction short film is well documented in Myles Kane & Josh Koury’s Journey to Planet X (trailer here), which screens during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Eric Swain and Troy Bernier are genuinely credentialed, buttoned-down scientists.  Like many of their colleagues, they have always been attracted to science fiction.  For years, Swain was essentially a hobbyist filmmaker, employing cheesy 1990’s technology.   An invitation to appear in one of Swain’s films led to a fast friendship and a close creative collaborative relationship between the two.  However, cognizant of the advances in digital technology, Bernier is no longer content with their current level of professionalism.  He convinces Swain it is time to produce a film that can compete on the film festival circuit.

Swain and Bernier (or Bernier and Swain) proceed to make that film, to the best of their abilities.  The plot of Planet X (a.k.a. Planet X: The Frozen Moon, a.k.a. Planeta Desconocido, a.k.a. who knows what) remains rather baffling even after watching the co-directors shoot nearly every scene.  However, they do seem to improve on a technical level, upgrading to HD and switching from an old blue screen to the more digital friendly green.  They have a legitimate casting call and hire a small but professional crew.  Whether they pull it off or not, they are really going for it, which is cool to witness.

Simply the notion of producing a feature length documentary about the behind the scene making of an upstart short film will sound odd to many people.  Frankly, it also rather sporting of Tribeca to select Journey, considering both co-directors are co-founders of the Brooklyn Underground Film Festival and Bernier’s efforts courting South Florida’s Geek Film Festival factor prominently in the third act.  Good for them, but they are missing out by not scheduling a special screening of Planet X (or whatever it’s called now) as well, because anyone who sees Journey will immediately want to watch Swain and Bernier’s film, on the big screen, in all its raging glory.
Kane and Koury (or Koury and Kane) capture a lot of drama in Journey, but it is the right kind of drama.  The audience sees a lot of lunacy going down, but it never feels intrusive or voyeuristic.  Ultimately, it is a film about two only slightly mad filmmakers’ friendship and their shared passion for sci-fi and movie-making.  An endearing documentary, Journey is enthusiastically recommended for genre fans and those fascinated by the filmmaking process when it screens again this Saturday (4/28) as part of the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Tribeca ’12: Whole Lotta Sole

If you haven’t heard, there are a fair number of Catholics in Belfast who are serious about their faith.  As a result, a couple of luckless lowlifes think it would be a good idea to hold-up the fish market on a Friday night.  Naturally, the caper quickly descends into chaos in recent Academy Award winner Terry George’s thoroughly entertaining Whole Lotta Sole, which screens during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

It was Joe Maguire’s profound misfortune to marry the manic daughter of a Boston mobster bearing a strong resemblance to Whitey Bulger.  Fearing for his life, he is hiding out in Belfast, minding his uncle’s antique shop.  Though still quite jumpy, he starts cautiously courting Sophie, a beautiful Ethiopian refugee managing the record store across the street.  Sad sack Jimbo Reagan thinks Maguire might be a figure from his past, but he is more concerned with the 5,000 pounds he owes the local paramilitary turned gangster Mad Dog Flynn.

Out of desperation, Reagan holds up the fish market, Whole Lotta Sole, but this turns out to be a bad idea.  If you remember the Fulton Fish Market’s pre-Giuliani reputation, you will get the idea.  With both the cops and Flynn out to get him, Reagan takes Maguire and Sophie hostage.  From there, plenty of complications and miscommunications ensue.

Like Goldilocks, George (who just walked away with the Oscar for his gently forgiving short film, The Shore) maintains a tone than it light but not inconsequential.  He injects plenty of humor into the story, but resists saccharine sentiment and self-conscious quirkiness.  His sensitive treatment of Maguire and Sophie’s budding relationship is particularly refreshing, keeping them fully clothed throughout, while generating real sparks between them.

As Maguire, Brendan Fraser looks a wee bit young for the part, but he exhibits a kind of world weary everyman presence (really not seen in his prior films) that works quite well, nonetheless.  Indeed, he establishes some genuine chemistry with the luminous Yaya DaCosta, whose smart, down-to-earth turn as Sophie ought to bring her to a new level of international recognition.  Capping the picture off, Colm Meaney is perfectly cast as cranky but honest and decent Det. Weller.  Sure, he has played many roles like this before, because he has such a flair for them.

Whole Lotta Sole is just a pleasure to watch.  For a pure broad-based crowd-pleaser, it is probably the pick of this year’s Tribeca.  Highly recommended, it screens again tomorrow (4/25) and Saturday (4/28).

SFIFF ’12: The Double Steps

Francois Augiéras definitely painted for posterity.  After vandals destroyed a set of his desert bunker murals, he painted another, deliberately burying all signs of it in the sand.  The European expatriate painter would only trust future generations to respect his work.  Both a fictional Malawian and Spain’s leading contemporary artist Miguel Barceló search for those lost murals in Isaki Lacuesta’s odd hybrid The Double Steps (trailer here, which screens during the San Francisco Film Society’s 2012 San Francisco International Film Society.

Augiéras does not appear directly in Steps, but his spirit appears to inhabit Abdallah Chambaa, a former soldier, mustered out of service by his commanding officer uncle, with whom he was involved in an incestuous relationship.  Chambaa soon becomes as bandit, as former soldier often do, but he also has a compulsion to paint.  Periodically, Steps also follows Barceló in real life Mali, producing new work inspired by Augiéras and searching for the legendary murals.

Frankly, Steps is probably more interesting to read and write about than to watch.  In no way should it be thought of as Raiders of the Lost murals.  Feverish in tone, it has a loose narrative, featuring frequent shifts in time that are sudden, yet ill-defined.  Lacuesta also simultaneously shot a documentary about Barceló that probably offers more of the historical and artist context many viewers might be wondering about.

Lacuesta’s hazy style keeps his cast at an emotional arm’s length from the audience.  At least Diego Dussuel’s breath-taking cinematography somewhat pulls them back in, capturing the rugged beauty of Mali’s landscape, especially the cliffs Barceló explores looking either for Augiéras’ murals or his own inspiration.  Steps is a film anyone seriously dealing with art cinema will eventually have to take into account, making it a completely appropriate, even valuable, programming selection for the festival.  However, those looking for an unpretentious film to get caught up in should probably look elsewhere. 
In fact, there are some great films to choose from at this year’s SFIFF, including the inspiring and infuriating Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Hong Sang-soo’s characteristically clever The Day HeArrives, the intriguing interconnected German trilogy Dreileben, the outstanding documentary-lament for Cambodian cinema Golden Slumbers, Mohammad Rasoulof’s timely but intimate Goodbye, the surprisingly effective true story of French injustice Guilty, the breezy profile of the festival’s honored guest Pierre Rissient: Man of Cinema, the cerebral science fiction fable Target, Andrea Arnold’s challenging adaptation of WutheringHeights, and Carol Reed’s always classic The Third Man.  Undoubtedly an interesting work best appreciated self-selecting cineastes, The Double Steps also screens again tonight (4/24) as part of this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival.

Tribeca ’12: Francophrenia

Prepare yourself for an act of slumming as performance art.  If you were somewhat bemused by James Franco’s decision to play a recurring guest-starring role on the soap opera General Hospital, you will wonder why you wondered after watching Francophrenia (Or: Don’t Kill Me, I Know Where the Baby Is), the actor’s latest extended middle finger to his ever more beleaguered fans, co-directed with Ian Olds, which screens during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

Evidently, a baby has been kidnapped from the famous fictional hospital, but Franco (and presumably Olds) considers that plot line too trite to bother explaining for Francophrenia’s audience.  All we need to know is that James Franco magnanimously lent his prestige to the soap, as long as he played a killer also called Franco.  Ostensibly, Francophrenia documents the production of an extra special episode filmed on location at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, but anyone expecting a candid behind-the-scenes look at the show will be sorely disappointed.

Instead, we watch long sequences of the clearly disinterested subject signing autographs and sitting in make-up, while voiceovers try to pose a dichotomy between Franco the actor and Franco, the character, calling into question which is ascendant in any given scene.  The problem is neither Franco is sufficiently established to create any dramatic or aesthetic tension between the two.  All we know is Franco the construct is a murderer, whereas Franco, the NYU film school grad, co-directed Francophrenia, which is absolute blue murder to watch.  Essentially, this film is like the old Airplane! sunglasses gag.  When you peel away one Franco’s smirk, you only find another smirk underneath.

Frankly, Francophrenia never deconstructs or subverts soap operas (or documentaries) in any meaningful way.  We simply watch Franco float above it all on his cloud of hipster superiority.  While allegedly an experimental film, Francophrenia suggests the co-directors have only a cursory familiarity with the genre.  The mere fact that Franco would deign to associate with such low brow daytime dramatic fare is thought to be sufficiently intriguing in and of itself.  Indeed, the only real take-away from the film is the nauseating contempt Franco (the actor or the construct, it hardly matters which) so obviously has for fans of the show.  However, he might just miss those rubes when they are gone.
Ultimately, Francophrenia is not a film, nor is it a concept.  It is simply another manifestation of Franco’s continuing fascination with his own celebrity.  Franco’s fans should be strongly dissuaded from seeing it, because it might be a rather bitter experience for them.  They will find the joke (if it can be called that) is at their expense. Of course, there is no reason for the rest of us to endure it either, but for those looking to masochistically stoke their anti-Franco resentments, Francophrenia screens again tonight (4/24) and Saturday (4/28) as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.