Tuesday, October 30, 2007



In the aftermath of severe firestorms in California (the conditions for which have been blamed partly on Global Warming) Jay Leno remarked in his monologue that we have now gone beyond "Global Warming" to "Global Burning."

By the way, it is barely a typo to write "global warning" for "global warming."

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007



, at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) tells a complex story of friendship, love, family, and personality, involving three women from Germany, each confronting a crisis in her life, who find themselves traveling to Rotterdam on Christmas Eve.

Egbert-Jan Weeber at HIFF

The women are very well played by Hannelore Elsner, Esther Zimmering, and Kim Schnitzer. Egbert-Jan Weeber, one of the Rising Stars at this year's HIFF festival, does a fine job in a small but important role.

The structure of the film, directed by
Angelina Maccarone, is interesting and unusual. It tells the story in pieces. Each piece centers on a particular woman’s point of view. The first time a segment of the story is told, the film seems random, disconnected and mysterious. Then it retells that piece of the story from another character's point of view. And again. With each retelling the story becomes clearer; previously mysterious comings and goings, disappearances, and seemingly unmotivated behavior become clear and understandable. Unlike most films of this genre (at least since L'Avventura), which thrive on the strangeness, unpredictability, and incomprehensibility of human behavior, Vivere is telling us (through its structure, not its story) that mysteries have an explanation; we just need more information to make the seemingly inexplicable comprehensible.

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Gahan Wilson
Cartoonist, illustrator, and writer... of dark humor,
at the Hamptons International Film Festival

Gahan Wilson is a writer and an illustrator, and the cartoonist of dark humor for the New Yorker and other publications. He was the subject of a documentary at the Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) -- Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, my choice for best title of any film at the festival.

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Sunday, October 21, 2007



Keri Russell, star of August Rush,
at the Hamptons International Film Festival

Photo by Eric Roffman

August Rush is a great film about "the magic of music," one of the best films ever made about music; one of the best family films I've ever seen.

Musicians -- a young rock star and a brilliant young cellist -- meet by accident after their performances, while relaxing on a rooftop overlooking NY's arch; fall in love by starlight; then are dragged apart by their families. She is pregnant, and when her baby is born prematurely -- after she storms out of a restaurant meal with her controlling father... directly into the path of a car -- the baby boy is sent without her conscious recollection to an orphanage, and she is told he died. The boy grows up in an orphanage denying -- despite the taunts of the other boys -- that his parents are dead; and hearing music in his head that he knows will connect him back to his parents.

It should be noted that it is a terrible fact -- a scandal that belongs on a morning or afternoon talk show -- that in the real world it does happen that new-born babies are signed away for adoption while their mothers are too weak to resist the command to sign a paper, and too groggy to understand what they are signing.

Photo by Eric Roffman

It is a fairy tale in its way, not a literal movie, with the impossibly beautiful
Keri Russell, the great looking Jonathan Rhys Meyers and starring Freddie Highmore in a terrific performance. (In a nice touch, Freddie Highmore, the center of the movie, gets billing above the much more famous stars, Russell, Meyers, and Williams.) Highmore plays an 11 year old boy with such perfect knowledge of music in his head (and absolutely no practical experience or technical knowledge at all for his entire liife) that when he is exposed -- for the very first time in his life -- to instruments and how music is written down, he can fill an entire room with musical scores, and begin creating beautiful music on the piano and organ within a few hours.

There is also a negative fairy-tale side: it has creaky plot devices, gaping holes in the plot, and a story which plays the heart strings for more emotions than the most emotive cello can deliver.

Brilliant direction (by Kirsten Sheridan), sophisticated editing, terrific acting, a complex script, and an amazing musical score that includes classical and popular music, plus the music of the sounds of the real world, lift the film above its minor faults, and make it rise above the ordinary.

It is a pleasure, by the way, to watch a film that -- from a technical perspective -- is made so professionally and so well (especially after seeing several films by new directors which have tedious exposition, and dialog that is delivered by the editor with unnatural rhythms), that the smallest details work perfectly.

There are many stories being told simultaneously, since the mother, father and son are each followed, and they are all in different places. Plus, Robin Williams plays a Fagin-like leader of a troupe of runaway kids who perform in the streets, holding them together with a mixture of love, threats, promises, protection, shelter, bombast and instruction. His over-the-top performance is ingeniously justified with two lines of dialog. The boy says, "You look crazy..." He replies,
"I am crazy..." The story follows the struggle of the two parents and the child to re-unite. In films, a "love-story" is often constructed by separating the lovers; this film honors the tradition of the genre, and then gives it a fresh presentation.

Keri Russell and Music Supervisor Anastasia Brown
after receiving the "Golden Starfish" award at HIFF
for "Best music in a film"

Photo by Eric Roffman

What makes this movie special is its appreciation of "the magic of music:" the ability to listen and hear and appreciate the beauty of the sounds all around us, whether it be car horns or rock singing, garbage cans clanking, chimes tinkling, or cellos singing. The music track is a continuous melange of musical styles and sounds, interrupted only by 30 seconds of silence, supervised by Anastasia Brown, and given life by the marvelous acting and direction.

This film can be enjoyed by anyone; it should be seen by everyone.

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Friday, October 19, 2007



The 15th annual Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF) began Wednesday night with a world premiere of Bob Balaban's Bernard and Doris, a study of the relation between tobaccco heiress Doris Duke and her butler. Made on a shoestring, or less, the film looks as rich as its subject, and features tremendous performances from Ralph Fiennes and, especially, Susan Sarandon as Doris Duke. Following the film, HIFF Founders, guests, filmmakers, premium audience ticket buyers, and people like me (press) crowded into Gurney's Inn for the grand Opening Night Party. Here are a few selected images from the first day and night of HIFF.

The most convenient refeuling station

Ticket holders

Sponsors are very well promoted at every screening

The Party!

Lisa Kudrow and Scott Prendergast from Kabluey

The beach at Gurney's Inn

The statue at Gurney's Inn

Rising stars Hannah Herzsprung (Four Minutes) and Egbert-Jan Weeber (Vivere)

Director Helen Hood Scheer and writer-editor Scott B. Morgan from Jump!

Lora Fox Gamble, Suffolk County Film Commissioner, and
David Gamble, producer...
David is developing an exciting space-centric popular-science program

The owner of Lu Berry Swimwear and model Erika Cifuentes

Publicist Gary Springer, actress Jacqueline Murphy, and
Festival Chairman Stuart Match Suna

Lisa Kudrow and Egbert-Jan Weeber

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Jumper: Kelsy
Age: 21
Award: 1st place national champion
Team: Summerwind Skippers
Location: US National Jump Rope Championship Finals in Orlando, Florida
Photo Courtesy – Keith Simpson/Nutshell Productions, LLC

US Jump Rope Champions Tori Boggs, Nick Woodard, and Jeff Mauss will be coming to the Hamptons Film Festival (HIFF) to demonstrate and teach the art of competitive jump rope on Saturday October 20, following the Saturday screening of the film, Jump!

Free jump ropes will be available.

The event will take place at the Herrick Park basketball courts on Newtown Lane near Main Street from 3 to 4:30pm.

There are three screenings of the film

Friday, October 19, 2007 • 9:00 am • East Hampton UA
Friday, October 19, 2007 • 3:00 pm • East Hampton UA
Saturday, October 20, 2007 • 1:00 pm • East Hampton UA

The movie, Jump!, about the sport of competitive jump rope, follows kids on five teams from around the country who push their physical and psychological limits in pursuit of winning the World Championship.

Part extreme sport, part art form, their moves are choreographed and bursting with rhythm, sweat and originality. After arduous drilling and mind-boggling performances, rivalry and collaboration have dramatic unexpected results.

Competitive jump rope has been proposed as a new Olympic sport.

The film was directed by Helen Hood Scheer with editing, writing, and other collaboration by Scott B. Morgan.

Helen Hood Scheer, director of Jump!
at the HIFF opening night party

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Mathieu Amalric (right) as French editor Jean-Dominique Bauby
at work on ELLE magazine
Photo: Etienne George/Courtesy of Miramax Films

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, shown at the 45th New York Film Festival (NYFF) – and also to be shown at the Hamptons Film Festival (HIFF) -- is an adaptation, by the artist and filmmaker Julian Schnabel, of a famous French book, Le scaphandre et le papillon, written by Jean-Dominique Bauby, – the cosmopolitan editor of French ELLE, who -- after suffering a sudden stroke in his early forties -- was faced with total paralysis, except, notably, the ability to blink one eye.

Marie-Josée Croze as Henriette Durand,
Jean-Dominique Bauby’s speech therapist
Photo: Etienne George/Courtesy of Miramax Films

Thanks to a sympathetic therapist, he learned how to use this ability to select letters, which were strung together, laboriously one by one, to make words, then sentences and, ultimately a book describing his life… trapped in an immobile body.

It was filmed in the hospital where Bauby stayed, giving the film a strong sense of place, and an authenticity which was earned by checking the accuracy in detail of the portrayal of his therapy and the reactions of the staff and the patient. It is filmed essentially from Bauby’s point of view. The integrity of the film had made it of particular interest to health professionals.

The language of the film is French. It has a very strong feeling of being a French film (even though the director did not speak the language when he began making the picture). It also has beautiful women, and sex and romance at a distance.
Schnabel, of course, is an artist, and the film has a strong, attractive visual style.

Left: Max von Sydow as Papinou
Right: Mathieu Amalric as Jean-Dominique Bauby
Photo: Etienne George/Courtesy of Miramax Films

There is a very powerful cameo by Max von Sydow as the father. And Mathieu Amalric, the actor playing Bauby, is also excellent and very interesting as well.

In the version I saw – perhaps it has been changed – there seemed to be a confusing problem in the subtitled translation of the French. For example, if the word being spelled was aime (or love), as the therapist clearly read off “a… i… m… e…,” the translation in subtitles read
“l… o… v… e…”

The film is in part about being trapped (also a theme of I Just Didn’t Do It, at NYFF ). It is also about the sadness that comes from having done something wrong in the past and being unable to correct it; about loneliness and the inability to make connections (also a theme of
Bernard and Doris, the opening night film at HIFF); about the joy of taking note of what beauty is available; and the joy of creating a work of art and importance; and about pain and the fear of dying.

The film is a moving work of art and life.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007



Julian Schnabel’s THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY has been named the winner of the Hamptons International Film Festival’s $25,000 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize.

The prize is awarded to a feature film that, “explores science and technology themes in fresh, innovative ways and depicts scientists and engineers in a realistic and compelling fashion.”

Other Sloan events at the Hamptons include a live staged reading of Caitlin McCarthy’s WONDER DRUG (featuring actors Steve Guttenberg and Alysia Reiner) and a panel discussion about films & technology.

Tickets to the screening, the reading, and the panel are (as of this moment) available and may be obtained from HIFF.

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