Tuesday, March 30, 2010



The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has just up'd the energy at which they have collided particles to about 3 times the previous record.

They celebrated this accomplishment with a live webcast -- a repeat of which is now continuing. It's been interesting. Theoretical physics described in a way that even journalists can understand.

Here's the address of the webcast:


Labels: , ,

Friday, March 26, 2010



Peter Brook's production of
LOVE IS MY SIN, featuring veteran Shakepearean actors Natasha Parry and Michael Pennington, presents some of the finest performances of Shakespeare's sonnets I've ever heard. The interpretation of individual sonnets integrates conversational inflections with vocal sophistication. This is post-Gielgud Shakespeare. (See below for a complete review.)

Hearing these sonnets live should be part of every student's education. (Sadly, at the performance I attended there were perhaps 25 unused seats. Live theater disappears into the aether forever, even as it is being played. Great, unique theater should never be wasted!)

Every high school student taking English; every college student taking English (ie all students!) and certainly every actor should take the opportunity to hear this performance.

Oddly, they can. Tickets for people 25 years and under are only $10.00.
Theater For A New Audience is certainly trying to find a new audience. Here's the policy:

Running Time: 60 minutes with no intermission

Age Recommendation: 13 and up

Youth Tickets: For ages 25 and under, $10.00 New Deal tickets may be purchased in advance for any performance by using the code “NWDL1568” online, over the phone (646-223-3010) or during box office hours at The Duke on 42nd Street. New Deal tickets are sold on a first come, first serve basis along with all other tickets. There are no restrictions on the number of New Deal tickets available for each performance, but there is a limit of 2 that can be purchased via the phone or online. Valid ID listing proof of age must be shown for each New Deal ticket purchased; failure to show proof of age will result in a surcharge for a full-price ticket.

Peter Brook's take on the sonnets is to divide (loosely, I think) 31 of them into 4 categories: Devouring Time, Separation, Jealousy, and Time Defied.

The two actors alternate in performing the sonnets. In contrast to my own sonnet play, (also called
LOVE IS MY SIN), there is little attempt to create a story, or for the performance of one sonnet to set up the circumstances and situation that calls for the response of the succeeding sonnet. Except for the grouping of sonnets into the categories, most sonnets are performed quite independently of those before and after.

Some sonnets are played with interaction between the two characters, but in most cases there is little or no physical life connecting the characters while the sonnet is performed. Each individual sonnet is performed with exceptional expertise, insight and beauty. The "line readings" place the emphasis and phrasing within the sonnet brilliantly (and often unexpectedly) so as to illuminate meaning in the poem. Except for one or two cases when the actors seemed to be looking at the sonnet text for their cues, the life of each single sonnet performance, taken individually, was nearly perfect. The excellent musical accompaniment by Franck Krawczyk provided a palette refresher between sonnets and augmented and sustained the mood.

In general, the interpretations are quite gentle, with deep emotions. It is also possible (as in my version) especially when presented as a story, to present the sonnets as fierce, with torrid emotions, deep pain, and profound passion.

The actors have amazing vocal control, beautiful voices, and exceptional intelligence in their performance. Natasha Parry was always a pleasure to listen to, and Pennington's performance of sonnet #138, "When my love swears that she is made of truth..." teasing out all its many jokes, was just one of many highlights.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, March 24, 2010



Several years ago, I created a short play called LOVE IS MY SIN, a two-character drama of love, separation, betrayal, remorse and re-union: a couple in love is separated; they each have affairs; they try to reconcile but then remain separated… until love for each other brings them back together.

It was adapted from Shakespeare’s sonnets, rearranging and assigning them as dialog to the man and woman to tell the story. Then I directed it, and as part of a series of short plays at Theatre Studio Inc (TSI) on the theme of “The Seven Deadly Sins,” presented it together with a terrific Shakespearean actress, Amy Quint, to an OOB audience in December 2004.

I’ve included the full script below.

Flyer for LOVE IS MY SIN
Adapted from Shakespeare's sonnets by Eric H. Roffman
Presented at Theatre Studio Inc Dec 15 & 17, 2004

Beginning Thursday (March 25), the famous and illustrious director, Peter Brook, will be presenting a two character play adapted from the sonnets of Shakespeare, called LOVE IS MY SIN, at Theater For A New Audience (TFANA) (see below for details).

I suspect he never heard of my play. From what little I have heard of his project, from someone who saw it in Paris a while ago, it is somewhat different in story, tone and style from my adaptation, but we’ll see when it opens.

None of us, of course, except Will himself, can claim ownership of that title (the first words of sonnet #142) -- or any of the words in the whole play for that matter.


Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!


There have been a number of other adaptations of the sonnets into plays in the last few years. In addition to my play and Peter Brook’s, there was, for example, a one woman show, “On The Way To Timbuktu,” at The Ensemble Studio Theater that incorporated the sonnets; and there was a student project at Columbia that set some of the sonnets to music and fractured the sonnets, extracting lines here and there.

Of course there have been other plays that are inspired by the sonnets, though not consisting entirely of dialog extracted from them: a few years ago there was a program of short plays at The Public Theater, called “Love’s Fire,” and there is George Bernard Shaw’s “The Dark Lady Of The Sonnets.”

Several factors make it possible to create a play by re-ordering the sonnets.

Most important is that the sonnets are dramatic. Each sonnet has a life of its own that makes it seem like someone is talking.

Next most important is that most of the sonnets are ambiguous enough to support a multitude of interpretations – in particular, most do not explicitly specify the identity/gender of either the speaker or the person being spoken to (or about). (Although there is an assumption from the published ordering of the sonnets and occasional internal clues, that all the sonnets are in Shakespeare’s own voice and the first 126 concern a young man, followed by the rest addressed to a “dark lady,” individually most sonnets can be easily taken out of this assumed context.)

Finally, and very importantly, the sonnets address so many aspects of human relationships that there is enough material to tell many stories. At its heart, though, the principal subject is love – passion, lust, betrayal, loss, pursuit, denial, rejection, despair, hope, consummation, forgiveness, and many more of the myriad emotions and aspects of love. A second important theme is aging and the irreversible destruction caused by Time, opposed by the immortality of poetry and the idea of children as extending a person’s life.

The nature of the sonnets makes them perfect as dialog for constructing a play. Conversely, seeing and hearing the sonnets within a drama, out of the context of the published order, shines a brilliant light on their complexity and sophistication, illuminating many (almost) hidden meanings that lie within the poems!

154 sonnets provide more than 2 hours of material. (Not all sonnets, however, work well in the context of creating a particular dramatic story.)

There are also several possible characters that seem to live in the sonnets, including WILL, the “dark lady” of the sonnets, WILL’s beloved (a young man, a woman, or both), and another poet. A one character, 2-character, 3-character, and even 4 or 5-character drama is quite possible!

Originally, in fact, my version of LOVE IS MY SIN was a three character play with “the dark lady of the sonnets” making an explicit, rather than implicit appearance. However, when the sultry, sexual, brilliant Spanish actress that was virtually typecast for the part, suddenly got a starring role on Spanish television and left shortly before the performance, I took her sonnets out and played the two-character version.

Recently, I have drafted a full-length, 3-character version of the adaptation, which includes Elizabethan music and dance (a classical music musical!):

This play begins with DAWN at an easel painting EVE. EVE is playing the lute, and is nude except for draping. The pose and lighting suggest an Old Master portrait. At the conclusion of the song, they kiss. Then, at the party displaying the finished portrait, we see the long, loving relationship between DAWN and WILL.

This play, centering on the love between DAWN and WILL, and the triangle that breaks them apart, expands on the two character version by showing explicitly the affair between DAWN and EVE, and the torrid affair between EVE and WILL. Many other aspects of their lives and relationships – including WILL’s illness -- are elaborated in more detail than was possible in the short play.

I do hope to bring this play to life soon.


Theatre for a New Audience's 30th Season







(Note 3/26 -- Some comments on the Peter Brook production!)

* * * * *



A dialog to the edge of doom,

Adapted from the sonnets of Shakespeare

by Eric H. Roffman







There is a bench at the center, a chair on the left (as seen by the audience) mid stage, a chair to the right of the bench and forward, and a chair to the right of the bench and back: near an exit through the curtain.

The “Theme/Mood/Style” designations are for guidance only; actors should stress the story or plot (ie the evolving relationship between the characters) and use the style or mood only to push, emphasize and clarify the story. But there should be a clear distinction between each section.

Theme/Mood/Style: DESIRE

SHE enters first with lute and sits on the bench, putting the lute on her lap.. Then HE enters.

106 HE + SHE

SHE: When in the chronicle of wasted time

I see descriptions of the fairest wights,

HE: And beauty making beautiful old rime,

In praise of ladies dead

SHE ...and lovely knights,

HE: Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,

Of hand, of foot,

SHE: ... of lip, of eye, of brow,

HE: I see their antique pen would have express'd

Even such a beauty as you master now.

SHE: So all their praises are but prophecies

Of this our time, all you prefiguring;

And for they looked but with divining eyes,

They had not skill enough your worth to sing:

HE: For we, which now behold these present days,

Have eyes to wonder,

SHE ... but lack tongues to praise.

He sits beside her .

128 HE

HE: How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,

At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickled, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

SHE puts the lute down beside her. They kiss.

17 SHE

SHE: Who will believe my verse in time to come,

If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?

Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb

Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.

If I could write the beauty of your eyes,

And in fresh numbers number all your graces,

The age to come would say 'This poet lies;

Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'

So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,

Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,

And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage

And stretched metre of an antique song:

But were some child of yours alive that time,

You should live twice,--in it, and in my rhyme.

73 HE

HE: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,

Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

SHE takes his hands in hers and squeezes them, and then guides his head onto her lap.

Theme/Mood/Style: LUST

12 SHE

When I do count the clock that tells the time,

And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;

When I behold the violet past prime,

SHE runs her fingers through his gray hair.

And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,

Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,

And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,

Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,

Then of thy beauty do I question make,

That thou among the wastes of time must go,

Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake

And die as fast as they see others grow;

SHE rises and walks behind him and leans over him seductively, with her hands on his chest.

And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence

Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

15 HE

HE: When I consider every thing that grows

Holds in perfection but a little moment,

That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows

Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;

When I perceive that men as plants increase,

Cheered and checked even by the self-same sky,

Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,

And wear their brave state out of memory;

Then the conceit of this inconstant stay

Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,

He rises and moves behind the bench to her.

Where wasteful Time debateth with decay

To change your day of youth to sullied night,

And all in war with Time for love of you,

As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

On “engraft” he leans her down on the bench and (abstractly) suggests that he is mounting her.

They rise. They kiss. They sit down together, lovingly.

123 SHE

SHE: No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire

What thou dost foist upon us that is old;

And rather make them born to our desire

Than think that we before have heard them told.

Thy registers and thee I both defy,

Not wondering at the present nor the past,

For thy records and what we see doth lie,

Made more or less by thy continual haste.

This I do vow and this shall ever be;

I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

HE knows this is more than she will ever do. HE says, almost directly to the audience:

138 HE

HE: When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her though I know she lies,

That she might think me some untutor'd youth,

Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,

Although she knows my days are past the best,

Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:

On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed:

But wherefore says she not she is unjust?

And wherefore say not I that I am old?

O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,

And age in love, loves not to have years told:

Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,

And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.

SHE addresses him directly:

142 SHE

SHE: Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,

Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:

O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,

And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,

That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments

And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,

Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those

Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:

Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,

Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,

By self-example mayst thou be denied!

HE knows she can not be faithful. But he doesn’t care. He takes her hands, sitting on the bench.

151 HE

HE: Love is too young to know what conscience is,

Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?

Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,

Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:

For, thou betraying me, I do betray

My nobler part to my gross body's treason;

My soul doth tell my body that he may

Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,

But rising at thy name doth point out thee,

As his triumphant prize.

Strongly and proudly, yet very intimately to her, he adds:

... Proud of this pride,

He is contented thy poor drudge to be,

To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.

To the audience, proudly:

No want of conscience hold it that I call

Her 'love,' for whose dear love I rise and fall.

HE turns and holds her possessively. She is trying (not too hard) to escape.

57 SHE

SHE: Being your slave what should I do but tend,

Upon the hours, and times of your desire?

I have no precious time at all to spend;

Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour,

Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,

When you have bid your servant once adieu;

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought

Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,

But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought

Save, where you are, how happy you make those.

So true a fool is love, that in your will,

Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

SHE breaks away. HE speaks to himself and the audience.

129 HE

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action: and till action, lust

Is perjur'd, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;

Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight;

Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,

Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait,

On purpose laid to make the taker mad:

Mad in pursuit and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme;

A bliss in proof,-- and prov'd, a very woe;

Before, a joy propos'd; behind a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Theme/Mood/Style: SEPARATION

HE moves slowly during the next speech to the chair at right (as seen by the audience), his destination and new home. SHE moves to the left end of the bench.

50 HE

HE: How heavy do I journey on the way,

When what I seek, my weary travel's end,

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,

'Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!'

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,

Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,

As if by some instinct the wretch did know

His rider lov'd not speed, being made from thee:

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,

That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,

Which heavily he answers with a groan,

More sharp to me than spurring to his side;

For that same groan doth put this in my mind,

My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.

SHE sadly moves to the chair at the left, her new home, taking her lute and, slowly putting it away.

43 SHE

SHE: When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,

For all the day they view things unrespected;

But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,

And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,

How would thy shadow's form form happy show

To the clear day with thy much clearer light,

When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made

By looking on thee in the living day,

When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade

Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!

All days are nights to see till I see thee,

And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

27 HE

HE: Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,

The dear respose for limbs with travel tir'd;

But then begins a journey in my head

To work my mind, when body's work's expired:

For then my thoughts--from far where I abide--

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,

Looking on darkness which the blind do see:

Save that my soul's imaginary sight

Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,

Which, like a jewel (hung in ghastly night),

Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.

Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,

For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

97 SHE

SHE: How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December's bareness everywhere!

And yet this time removed was summer's time;

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,

Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me

But hope of orphans, and unfather'd fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And, thou away, the very birds are mute:

Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer,

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near


During the following speech and after it, HE moves from the chair in front of the bench to the chair in the rear near the curtain, then disappears and returns several times, suggesting there is a secret affair going on behind the curtain.

61 SHE

SHE: Is it thy will, thy image should keep open

My heavy eyelids to the weary night?

Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,

While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?

Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee

So far from home into my deeds to pry,

To find out shames and idle hours in me,

The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?

O, no! thy love, though much, is not so great:

It is my love that keeps mine eye awake:

Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,

To play the watchman ever for thy sake:

For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,

From me far off, with others all too near.

HE disappears (gleefully) behind the curtain. HE remains out of sight for a moment too long. Then returns, looking miserable.

HE slowly returns to the center. SHE stands to the left of the bench (as seen by the audience).

109 HE

O! never say that I was false of heart,

Though absence seem'd my flame to qualify,

HE moves to her.

As easy might I from my self depart

As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie:

That is my home of love: if I have rang'd,

Like him that travels, I return again;

Just to the time, not with the time exchang'd,

So that myself bring water for my stain.

Never believe though in my nature reign'd,

All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,

That it could so preposterously be stain'd,

To leave for nothing all thy sum of good;

For nothing this wide universe I call,

Save thou, my rose, in it thou art my all.

152 SHE

SHE: In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn,

But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing;

In act thy bed-vow broke, and new faith torn,

In vowing new hate after new love bearing:

But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee,

When I break twenty? I am perjur'd most;

For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,

And all my honest faith in thee is lost:

For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy;

And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness,

Or made them swear against the thing they see;

For I have sworn thee fair; more perjur'd I,

To swear against the truth so foul a lie.!

110 HE

HE: Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there,

And made my self a motley to the view,

Gor'd mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,

Made old offences of affections new;

Most true it is, that I have look'd on truth

Askance and strangely; but, by all above,

These blenches gave my heart another youth,

And worse essays prov'd thee my best of love.

Now all is done, save what shall have no end:

Mine appetite I never more will grind

On newer proof, to try an older friend,

A god in love, to whom I am confin'd.

Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,

Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.

147 SHE

SHE: My love is as a fever longing still,

For that which longer nurseth the disease;

Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,

The uncertain sickly appetite to please.

My reason, the physician to my love,

Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,

Hath left me, and I desperate now approve

Desire is death, which physic did except.

Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,

And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;

My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,

At random from the truth vainly express'd;

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,

Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

94 SHE

SHE: They that have power to hurt, and will do none,

That do not do the thing they most do show,

Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,

Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;

They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,

And husband nature's riches from expense;

They are the lords and owners of their faces,

Others, but stewards of their excellence.

The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself, it only live and die,

But if that flower with base infection meet,

The basest weed outbraves his dignity:

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.


HE moves to the center and sits on the center bench. SHE is at left.

29 HE

HE: When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee,-- and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate,;

For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

30 SHE

SHE: When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,

And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,

And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

SHE returns to the bench and sits next to him.


SHE and HE look in each other’s eyes.

116 HE + SHE

SHE: Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments.

HE: ... Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

SHE: O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

HE: Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

SHE: If this be error and upon me prov'd,

I never writ,

HE: ... nor no man ever lov'd.

HE and SHE embrace.




Labels: , , , ,

Monday, March 22, 2010



Last Train Home
Photo by Lixin Fan


New Directors/New Films, 2010
March 24-April 4, 2010
Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center
The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA

New Directors, New Films is always one of the most interesting festivals in New York. It brings together outstanding new films from around the world by new directors. (As advertised!) Many of the films have won prizes at distant film festivals. Few of the filmmakers are known here at all. Most of these selections are their first or second film. Many of these directors will become the important filmmakers of the future.

Here are some details from the Film Society & MOMA:

The 39th annual edition of New Directors/New Films, dedicated to the discovery of new work by emerging filmmakers, will screen 38 films, at both venues, from March 24 through April 4, 2010. The 2010 slate includes a wide variety of films from 20 countries, including 27 feature films and 11 shorts, with numerous appearances and introductions by filmmakers.

The opening night feature is the world premiere of Bill Cunningham New York (USA, 2010) on Wednesday, March 24, at 7:00 p.m. at MoMA. Director Richard Press' documentary is a heartfelt and honest film about the inimitable New York Times photographer, who has for decades lovingly captured the unexpected trends, events, and people of Manhattan for the Styles section of the newspaper. The film shows Cunningham, an octogenarian, riding his Schwinn bicycle to cover benefits, galas, and fashion shows around Manhattan, and illustrates how his camera has captured the looks that have defined generations.

The closing night feature on Sunday, April 4, at 7:00 p.m. at MoMA, will be the New York premiere of the drama I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mère) (Canada, 2009) by acclaimed Canadian writer and director Xavier Dolan, whose cri de coeur bracingly exposes the limits of love. Dolan himself plays the title character Hubert, a creature full of lust and venom, in this emotional film. Hubert's burgeoning homosexuality is at odds with his aggravatingly conventional mother (Anne Dorval), in a relationship that is situated within an exquisite filmic structure, allowing the humor and the pathos of his tale to emerge.

Among the 27 features is How I Ended This Summer (Russia, 2010) by Alexei Popogrebsky, a film about man's extraordinary ability to cope with harsh nature and extreme isolation, set in a remote research station in the frozen wilds of the Russian Arctic, which won three awards at the 2010 Berlin International Film Festival.

The Father of My Children (France/Germany, 2009), by Mia Hansen-Løve, which won the Jury Special Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, is inspired by the life and death of the late, legendary French film producer Humbert Balsam.

The documentary Last Train Home (Canada/China, 2009) by Lixin Fan, follows the largest migration of people in human history, which happens over New Year's in China when city workers leave en masse for their homes in the countryside, often traveling for days by train.

Visual artist Shirin Neshat's Women Without Men (Germany/Austria/France, 2009) is her feature debut, a departure from her gallery-based work that tells the story of four women in early 1950s Iran, and which garnered the Silver Lion for best director at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.

Also screening at this year's New Directors/New Films is director Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah (Australia, 2009), set in the aboriginal communities of Australia, where traditions both nourish and entrap the boy and girl at the center of the story, and which won the Caméra d'Or for best debut feature at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Eleven short films will be screened this year, including the current Academy Award winning short Logorama (France, 2009); the comedic short Rob and Valentyna In Scotland (USA/UK, 2009), which received a 2010 Sundance Film Festival Short Filmmaking Honorable Mention; and the documentary short Quadrangle (USA, 2010), an inside look at two "conventional" couples that swapped partners and lived in a group marriage in the early 1970s.

New Directors/New Films Classics-IN THE FRENCH STYLE:

For the fifth consecutive year, New Directors/New Films presents a matinee series of past festival highlights, from March 29 through April 2, 2010. This year's focus is on France, a country whose emerging filmmakers have been an integral part of the New Directors/New Films program since its inception, including such masters of world cinema as André Téchiné, François Ozon, and Laurent Cantet. The following five (re)discoveries from the past two decades-none of them currently available on DVD in the U.S.-are no exception. They are:

Jean-Claude Brisseau's Sound and Fury (De bruit et de fureur) (1989),

Cedric Klapisch's When the Cat's Away (Chacun cherche son chat) (1997),

Sandrine Veysset's Victor (Victor...pendant qu'il est trop tard) (1999),

Stéphane Brizé's Hometown Blues (Le Bleu des villes) (2000), and

Abdel Kechiche's It's Voltaire's Fault (La Faute à Voltaire) (2001).

http://www.newdirectors.org/. Here you can find additional details on the Festival, including a complete list of the films screening at New Directors/New Films, 2010, trailers, theater locations, ticket prices, and purchase information.

New Directors/New Films tickets can be purchased online at
http://www.newdirectors.org/. or at the box offices at The Film Society of Lincoln Center (Walter Reade Theater, 165 W. 65th St., near Amsterdam Avenue) and The Museum of Modern Art (11 W. 53rd Street).

Members of the Film Society and MoMA please visit:
http://www.filmlinc.com/ and http://www.moma.org/

The New Directors/New Films Series Pass allows a moviegoer access to any five screenings (excluding Opening and Closing Night Films) for $60; $40 for Film Society and MoMA members; $40 for students; and $50 for seniors.

Tickets to the New Directors/New Films Opening and Closing Night Films are $20 for the general public; $15 for Film Society and MoMA members; $15 for affiliates; $20 for students; and $20 for seniors (no rush tickets available).

Single screening tickets for New Directors/New Films are $14; $10 for Film Society and MoMA members; $10 for students; $12 for seniors; and $7.50 day-of rush (available at venue box office only and subject to availability).

Screening Venues:
FSLC - The Film Society of Lincoln Center - Walter Reade Theater
165 West 65 Street, between Broadway & Amsterdam (upper level)

MOMA - The Museum of Modern Art - The Roy and Niuta Titus 1 & 2 Theaters
11 West 53 Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues

New Directors/New Films, 2010
March 24-April 4, 2010

Wednesday, March 24
7:00 Opening Night Film: Bill Cunningham New York (MoMA Titus 1)
7:30 Opening Night Film: Bill Cunningham New York (MoMA Titus 2)

Thursday, March 25

6:15 The Father of My Children (FSLC)
6:15 My Perestroika (MoMA)
8:15 Meet the Programmers (FSLC)
9:15 Bill Cunninghams New York (FSLC)
9:15 Samson & Delilah (MoMA)

Friday, March 26
6:15 The Oath (FSLC)
6:15 Northless (Norteado) (MoMA)
9:00 3 Backyards (FSLC)
with Looking at Animals
9:00 Bilal's Stand (MoMA)

Saturday, March 27
2:00 The Happiest Girl In The World (MoMA)
with Logorama
3:00 Northless (Norteado) (FSLC)
5:00 Every Day Is A Holiday (Chaque jour est une fête) (MoMA)
with Felicita
5:30 Bilal's Stand (FSLC)
8:00 The Father of My Children (MoMA)
8:00 Tehroun (FSLC)

Sunday, March 28
1:00 3 Backyards (MoMA)
with Looking At Animals
3:30 My Perestroika (FSLC)
4:00 The Oath (MoMA)
6:00 Night Catches Us (FSLC)
7:00 Tehroun (MoMA)
8:30 Samson and Delilah (FSLC)

Monday, March 29
6:15 The Happiest Girl In The World (FSLC)
with Logorama
6:15 Down Terrace (MoMA)
with Break A Leg
9:00 Every Day Is A Holiday (Chaque jour est une fête) (FSLC)
with Felicita
9:00 Night Catches Us (MoMA)

Tuesday, March 30
6:15 The Evening Dress (La robe du soir) (FSLC)
6:15 Women Without Men (MoMA)
9:00 Down Terrace (FSLC)
with Break A Leg
9:00 Dogtooth (MoMA)
with Quadrangle
Wednesday, March 31
6:15 Dogtooth (FSLC)
with Quadrangle
6:15 The Man Next Door (El hombre de al lado)(MoMA)
with Suha
9:15 Women Without Men (FSLC)
9:15 The Evening Dress (La robe du soir) (MoMA)

Thursday, April 1
6:15 I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mère)(FSLC)
6:15 The Last Train Home (MoMA)
with Snow Hides the Shade of Fig Trees
9:00 The Man Next Door (El hombre de al lado) (FSLC)
with Suha
9:00 Hunting & Sons (MoMA)
with Rob & Valentyna in Scotland

Friday, April 2
6:15 I Am Love (FSLC)
6:15 Frontier Blues (MoMA)
with Bizarre Friends of Ricardho
9:15 Amer (FSLC)
with Catafalque
9:15 Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar (MoMA)
with Slate

Saturday, April 3
12:00 The Last Train Home (FSLC)
with Snow Hides the Shade of Fig Trees
2:00 Amer (MoMA)
with Catafalque
3:00 How I Ended This Summer (FSLC)
5:00 How I Ended This Summer (MoMA)
6:00 Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar (FSLC)
with Slate
8:00 The Red Chapel (MoMA)
9:00 La Pivellina (FSLC)

Sunday, April 4
12:00 Hunting & Sons (FSLC)
with Rob & Valentyna in Scotland
1:00 I Am Love (MoMA)
3:00 The Red Chapel (FSLC)
4:00 La Pivellina (MoMA)
5:30 Frontier Blues (FSLC)
with Bizarre Friends of Ricardho
7:00 Closing Night Film: I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mere) (MoMA)

(All screening times are p.m.)

New Directors/New Films, 2010
March 24-April 4, 2010

Bill Cunningham New York

Richard Press, USA, 2010; 84 min.
In a city of dedicated originals, New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham stands out as one who both captures the essence of the singular personality and clearly represents one himself. Entering his ninth decade, Cunningham still rides his Schwinn around Manhattan, putting miles between his street-level view of personal style and what the titans of fashion will come to discover down the road. This heartfelt and honest documentary turns the camera on one who has so lovingly and selflessly captured the looks that have defined generations, and the events and people that captivate our beloved New York.
Wednesday, March 24 - 7:00 p.m. (MoMA)
Thursday, March 25 - 9:15 p.m. (FSLC)

I Killed My Mother (J'ai tué ma mère)
Xavier Dolan, Canada, 2009; 96 min.
Director Xavier Dolan's cri de coeur bracingly exposes the limits of love. Dolan himself plays the lead character, Hubert, a fiery creature full of lust and venom. His burgeoning (homo)sexuality is distinctly and intensely at odds with his mutually parasitic maternal relationship. The more Hubert and his aggravatingly conventional mother (Anne Dorval) realize they cannot continue to live as child and parent, the more they are drawn to each other. Their intimacy can only manifest through vicious arguments, lending an Albee-esque absurdity to their encounters. Dolan brilliantly situates the violence of the relationship within an exquisite filmic structure, allowing the humor and the pathos of his tale to emerge. A Regent Releasing Film
Sunday, April 4 - 7:00 p.m. (MoMA)

3 Backyards
Eric Mendelsohn, USA, 2010; 85 min.
Eric Mendelsohn (Judy Berlin, ND/NF 1999) returns with this exquisite, unsettling trio of life-changing episodes set in a leafy, tranquil corner of Long Island suburbia. After his business trip is canceled, John (Elias Koteas) finds himself minutes from home yet lost and distanced from everything familiar. Part-time painter and full-time mom Peggy (Edie Falco) is delighted when asked by a celebrity neighbor for a lift to a distant ferry, but the trip has a trajectory profoundly different than what she'd expected. And when 8-year-old Christina (Rachel Resheff) runs to school after missing the bus, the journey takes her to places she never imagined existed. Endowed with the mystery of a John Cheever short story, 3 Backyards is a beautifully composed film, with light, color, sound, and action blending together to create the vibrant sense of a world full of interior and exterior secrets.
Looking at Animals
Marc Turtletaub, USA, 2009; 25 min.
After a lifetime photographing animals in the wild, Raymond retires to a small town and starts observing his neighbors.


NDNF 2010

Hélène Cattet/Bruno Forzani, Belgium/France, 2009; 90 min.
The title is the French word for "bitter" but this provocative and sensational debut is anything but. An oneiric, eroticized homage to 1970s Italian giallo horror movies reimagined as an avant-garde trance film, Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani's pastiche tour de force plays out a delirious, enigmatic, almost wordless death-dance of fear and desire. Its three movements, each in a different style, correspond to the childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of its female protagonist-and that's all you need to know. Drawing its stylized, hyperbolic gestures from the playbooks of Bava, Leone, Argento, and De Palma and taking them into a realm of near-abstraction, Amer has genre in the blood. Its bold widescreen compositions, super focused sound, emphatic music (lifted from original giallo soundtracks), and razor sharp cuts make for an outrageous and intoxicating cinematic head trip.
Christoph Rainer, Austria, 2010; 13 min.
For two boys locked in a basement, boundaries become blurred between dream and reality, light and shadow, life and death.

Beautiful Darling: The Life and Times of Candy Darling, Andy Warhol Superstar
Written and directed by James Raisin, USA, 2010; 82 min.
Born James Slattery in Massapequa, Long Island, in 1944, Candy Darling transformed herself into a stunning blonde actress who in the mid-Sixties became an active player in New York's "downtown" scene. In her passionate act of self-creation, Candy Darling mesmerized. A party fixture, she appeared in Warhol films, and Tennessee Williams cast her in a play. She was seen and written about, and then, before she turned 30, cancer claimed her life. Using vintage footage and interviews old and new, and anchored by the presence of Candy's very close friend, Jeremiah Newton, director James Rasin creates a critical and loving portrait of a singular and audacious life. With Jackie Curtis, Holly Woodlawn, Penny Arcade, Paul Morrissey, Fran Lebowitz, John Waters. Candy's letters and diaries read by Chloë Sevigny.
Carmen Vidal, USA/Spain, 2010; 15 min.
A film editor working late finds himself mysteriously drawn to the raw footage he is cutting.

Bilal's Stand
Sultan Sharrief, USA, 2009; 83 min.
For almost 60 years, Bilal's family has run a taxi business-known to everybody in the neighborhood as "the stand"-started by his grandfather. But times are getting tougher: there's more competition, and Bilal is thinking of leaving the stand and going off to university. Based on a true story, Bilal's Stand is a delightful and moving look at a world rarely seen: a stable, loving, black Muslim family, struggling to keep a business alive amid both internal and external pressures. For his crew, debut director Sultan Sharrief used many of the students from EFEX, the inner-city outreach program he founded in his native Detroit, as well as many nonprofessional actors, some of whom even play themselves.

NDNF 2010

2009. Greece. Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. A Kino release. 96 min.
The most perverse film of the year-you'll be scratching your head when you're not laughing it off. In an inscrutable scenario that suggests a warped experiment in social conditioning and control, Dogtooth presents scenes from the life of a not-so-average family that inhabits an idyllic villa compound sealed off from all contact with the outside world. In a new spin on home schooling, the head of the household has taught his adolescent children a drastically rearranged vocabulary: a salt shaker is a "telephone," an armchair is "the sea" and-you get the idea. Moreover, to attend to the teenagers' sexual needs, he arranges occasional visits from a female employee. With echoes of Buñuel, Arturo Ripstein and early Atom Egoyan, this is a deadpan satire on patriarchy and the sexual Pandora's box concealed within every family.
Amy Grappell, USA, 2010; 20 min.
An unconventional look at the director's conventional parents, who lived in a group marriage in the '70s.

Down Terrace

Ben Wheatley, UK, 2009; 89 min.
Mike Leigh meets The Sopranos in this extraordinary family crime drama, shot in eight days largely in one location. Fresh out of jail, Bill (Robert Hill) is obsessed with finding out who snitched on him. His son, Karl (Robin Hill), also just released, is similarly concerned but has other things on his mind-namely, what to do about his pregnant girlfriend. Bill, eager to ferret out the informer, lays out a series of traps and ruses for his associates-that is, when he's not singing old Fairport Convention songs while accompanying himself on guitar. Director Ben Wheatley (BBC's The Wrong Door) makes a powerful feature-film debut, creating an astonishing sense of normalcy laced with jet-black humor. A Magnolia Pictures/Magnet release.
Break a Leg
Jesse Shamata, Canada, 2009; 7 min.
You talking to me? A tightly wound hit-man meets his mark for breakfast.

The Evening Dress (La robe du soir)
Myriam Aziza, France, 2009; 95 min.
Juliette lives with her two siblings and mother, and while a bit shy, seems to lead an average life. Then she develops a crush on her French teacher, Madame Solenska (Belgian-Portuguese singer Lio), who at first seems to appreciate her pupil's admiration. Juliette becomes convinced that she's as special to Madame Solenska as she feels the teacher is to her. But the crush veers off into obsession, as Juliette starts to follow Madame Solenska around town and even to her home. Myriam Aziza beautifully captures the stifing small-town atmosphere, as well as the complex, contradictory emotional life of this twelve-year old: even if Juliette's feelings are misguided or naïve, they are no less susceptible to being hurt. Lio is terrific as the teacher, a proud woman comfortable with her beauty.

Every Day Is a Holiday (Chaque jour est une fête)
Dima El-Horr, France/Germany/Lebanon, 2009; 90 min.
A stunning first scene immediately establishes the highly charged atmosphere in Dima El-Horr's carefully controlled first feature, filled with absurd moments and symbolic gestures. Three women (Hiam Abbass, Manal Khader, Raïa Haïdar) with very different motives board a bus on the Lebanese Day of Liberation to visit their husbands in jail. When the bus is stopped short by a stray bullet, the women are left to find their own way in the hot sun through mountains full of mines, amid sounds of muffled explosions, throngs of refugees, and rumors of massacres. Their perilous journey becomes an internal one towards liberation, as individual life and collective memory blend, and the personal and political are blurred.
SaloméAleksi, Georgia, 2009; 30 min.
A Georgian woman working in Italy finds a very modern way to uphold a custom from her old homeland. A microcosm of relations in the global economy.

The Father of My Children
Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Germany, 2009; 110 min.
Inspired by the life and death of the late, legendary French film producer Humbert Balsam, Mia Hansen-Løve's film is a work of two halves. The first follows the business dealings of Grégoire (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing), frantically shuttling between office and home, juggling the demands of artistic egos, lawyers, and bankers and the needs of his beloved family-not to mention his surrogate family at work. Then the focus shifts dramatically to Grégoire's wife Sylvia (Chiara Caselli), who together with her three daughters, must cope with devastating loss and struggle to keep Grégoire's company going and preserve his legacy. If the first half of this moving yet never sentimental drama is among the most convincing depictions of life in the movie business ever filmed, the second is an incredibly tender look at picking up the pieces after heartbreaking bereavement. An IFC Films release.

Frontier Blues
Babak Jalali, Iran/UK/Italy, 2009; 95 min.
Iran's northern border ranges from mountains to plains to the Caspian Sea; Persians, Turkmen, and Kazakhs share the landscape. Filmmaker Babak Jalali presents an assortment of hometown stories that evoke the potential and diversity of this unfulfilled gateway between Europe and Asia. Alam is in love with a girl he has never spoken to; Kazem owns a clothing store but can't seem to stock anything that fits; and Hassam, at age 30, counts a pet donkey and a tape player as his only companions. Meanwhile, a minstrel who claims his wife was stolen by someone in a green Mercedes years ago is chronicled by a Tehran photographer. With a cinematic style that is a study in elegant simplicity, Frontier Blues is a sweet, slightly absurdist snapshot of desperate men, absent women, and waiting for whatever the future may hold.
The Bizarre Friends of Ricardinho
Augusto Canani, Brazil, 2009; 20 min.
A weird trainee. A stifling job. In the midst of corporate oppression, a worker passively fights back with stories from home.

The Happiest Girl in the World
Radu Jude, The Netherlands/Romania, 2009; 99 min.
Romanians are back with another bone-dry, pitch-black comedy-this time bearing a particularly cynical view on happiness, the cruelty of families, and the making of inept television commercials. In his feature-film debut, Radu Jude is already a master of uneasy hilarity. When a plucky provincial duckling of a young lady wins a contest, she must travel with her parents to the buzzing metropolis of Bucharest to claim her prize. But there's a catch-in fact, there are several, the most troublesome aimed straight from home... Jude's film is a bittersweet experience that's as nasty as it is enjoyable, and as true to life as fiction can get over one hot summer afternoon. And as "the happiest girl," Andrea Bosneag is a breakthrough discovery.
François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy, and Ludovic Houplain, France, 2009; 17 min.
Cops and robbers and wild animals, oh my! Brought to you by every possible sponsor under the sun.

How I Ended This Summer
Alexei Popogrebsky, Russia, 2010; 124m
Immersing us in the frozen wilds of the Russian Arctic, writer/director Alexei Popogrebsky makes an impressive addition to the canon of films about man's extraordinary ability to cope with harsh nature and extreme isolation. Young Pavel (Grigory Dobrygin) arrives at a remote research station for a summer of adventure under the tutelage of the wise and crusty Sergei (Sergei Puskepalis), whose multi-year assignment to the post is coming to an end. Misplaced confidence and youthful immaturity lead to a string of potentially deadly deceptions. The deliberate pace of life in the Arctic, combined with the disorienting round-the-clock sunlight, sets the stage for a thriller infused with equal parts psychological trauma and physical endurance.

Hunting & Sons
Sander Burger, Netherlands, 2010; 93 min.
Newlyweds and childhood sweethearts Tako and Sandra lead a cute suburban life. Tako relocated from the city to marry Sandra and runs the family bike business; she seems happy working at a small employment agency. Both the couple and their apartment look ripped from this season's Ikea catalogue-everything is perfectly lovely. Then things get even better: Sandra is pregnant. But the good news starts a small tear in the adorable façade that grows as the characters pull at it. Tako decides to take this opportunity to grow up, while Sandra, suffering from an eating disorder, starts to slim down-and the pretty scenery of their life starts to fall away. Panicked about the future, Tako takes measures that become more and more drastic. In his second feature film, director Sander Burger paints a sharp and biting portrait of the pitfalls of happiness.
Rob and Valentyna in Scotland
Eric Lynne, USA/UK, 2009; 23 min.
Long-lost - and just plain lost - cousins travel from the Ukraine to the Scottish highlands.

Tilda Swinton and Mattia Zaccaro
NDNF 2010

I Am Love
Luca Guadagnino, Italy, 2009; 120 min.
Luca Guadagnino's third narrative feature is a thrillingly melodramatic story of family business-in more ways than one. Set in the haut bourgeois world of modern-day Milan, the film ushers us into the seemingly perfect world of sumptuous elegance inhabited by the Recchi dynasty, whose fortune is built on its successful textile manufacturing business. After the firm's founder and patriarch transfers co-control of the business to his son Tancredi and grandson Edoardo, Tancredi's wife, Emma (Tilda Swinton), feels pangs of empty-nest syndrome and a growing sense of living in a gilded cage-until she finds herself led down an unlikely path by unexpectedly stirring desire. This compelling yet oh-so restrained drama of the eternal conflict between family ties and personal fulfillment unfolds with dazzling visual style, propelled by John Adam's distinctive staccato score. A Magnolia Pictures release.

Last Train Home
Lixin Fan, Canada/China, 2009; 88 min.
Each year the largest migration of people in human history happens over New Year's when city workers leave en masse for their homes in the countryside, often traveling days by train. For the first half of this remarkable documentary, you'll wonder how the filmmaker even shot it. But as that wonder subsides, an absorbing drama develops-a drama that plays out among families all over China yet is universally intense, powerful, and heartbreaking. With his 35mm camera, Lixin Fan follows one couple (out of one hundred and thirty million travelers!): the Zhangs, who make the long and crowded journey to their rural village. Sixteen years ago, they left their now-teenage rebellious daughter with her grandparents-and their welcome is not a happy one.
Snow Hides the Shade of Fig Trees
Samer Najari, Canada, 2009; 21 min.
Six immigrants eke out a living with humor. The bitter cold weakens the resolve of one, but not for long.

The Man Next Door (El hombre de al lado)
Mariano Cohn/Gastón Duprat, Argentina; 2009; 100 min.
The star of this dry and wicked black comedy is a building: The Curutchet House in La Plata, south of Buenos Aires-the only residence designed by Le Corbusier in the Americas. In this Argentine satire about class, the love of beautiful things, and violent urges, the landmark structure plays the fictional home of world-famous interior designer Leonardo and his wife and daughter. All cherish the privileged status conferred by living in the house. Then, horror strikes: a neighbor who wants more sun puts a window in the wall facing the family's courtyard! Suddenly, aesthetic symmetry is destroyed, and the neighbor-too friendly, too crude, and too insistent-can now peer into their pristine and elegant abode. With scalpel-like precision, filmmakers Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat chart the ebb and flow of this dramatic disturbance.
Robby Reis, Canada, 2009; 8 min.
A young graffiti writer marks her way through Montreal's graffiti art subculture.

My Perestroika
Robin Hessman, USA/UK, 2010; 87 min.
The history of the 20th century was bookended by the Bolshevik Revolution and the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in between came the era-defining Cold War. But for Russians who grew up during this history and now live beyond it, what does it mean to be Russian today? Robin Hessman's thoughtful and beautifully crafted documentary explores the lives of a group of former schoolmates who are finding their ways in a brave new world: two teachers, a businessman, a single mother, and a famous rock musician. Their stories, and the fabric of their lives, reveal a Russia that may or may not be worlds away from the Soviet model. Using propaganda films, home movies, and incredible access to her subjects, Hessman's film creates a touching portrait of ordinary people living through extraordinary times.

Night Catches Us
Tanya Hamilton, USA, 2009; 90 min.
The debut feature from Tanya Hamilton exposes the realities of African-American life during the final days of the Black Power movement, as potluck suppers, run-ins with the authorities, and lingering radicalism threaten to set off a neighborhood teetering on the edge. Set in Philadelphia in 1976, Night Catches Us focuses on two former Black Panther activists (Anthony Mackie and Kerry Washington) who reunite during the summer before Jimmy Carter's election. Through two people drawn together despite their past, the film paints a fresh perspective of the era and gives an allegory for our own times in the age of Obama. As friends forced to confront personal and political demons, Mackie and Washington give spectacular performances, while Hamilton's use of an intense soundtrack (by The Roots) and moving archival footage bring to life the history of black resistance.

Northless (Norteado)
Dima El-Horr, France/Germany/Lebanon, 2009; 93 min.
Cinema's fascination with illegal border crossings between Mexico and the United States is given a totally fresh take in Rigoberto Perezcano's delicately poised film. Focused on how life is lived precariously between desperate attempts to cross over, the story follows Oaxaca-born Andres (Harold Torres) as he bides his time in Tijuana. He finds a little work at a convenience store and gets friendly with the two women (Alicia Laguna and Sonia Couoh) who run it. As their friendship deepens and their individual stories emerge, the emotional costs of the ties that bind are explored with great sensitivity. The sincerity of the minimal story line is balanced by a liberating humor and breathtakingly beautiful images that give life and dignity to Andres and his fellow travelers.

The Oath
Laura Poitras, USA, 2010; 95 min.
Filmed over a two-year period, The Oath interweaves the stories of Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard (now driving a cab in Yemen), and Salim Hamdan, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner charged with war crimes. Filmmaker Laura Poitras (My Country, My Country, ND/NF 2006) takes us deep inside the world of Al Qaeda, Guantanamo, and U.S. interrogation methods through a dramatic structure filled with plot reversals, betrayals, and never-before-seen intelligence documents. The second in a planned trilogy on America post-9/11, The Oath is an intricately constructed work that keeps the viewer off balance and works on several levels. Shading the complexities of her subjects in the manner of great novelists, Poitras delivers an intimate portrait that precludes easy conclusions as it builds to question the methods of America's war on terror with uncommon eloquence.

La Pivellina
Tizza Covi/Rainer Frimmel, Austria, 2009; 101 min.
Looking for her lost dog, a middle-aged circus worker, Patti (Patrizia Gerardi), instead finds an abandoned two-year old child near her trailer. In this engaging unsentimental tale of human decency and solidarity, the little orphan finds home and family with circus folks in a trailer park on the outskirts of Rome. As they look for the mother, Patti and her friends and neighbors slowly but surely fall in love with the kid. Drawing on their background in documentary, filmmakers Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel naturally depict the easygoing rapport among generations in a small community where everyone depends on one another. The superb acting brings us close to a marginalized group rarely depicted with such unpretentious dignity, displaying a joie de vivre and infectious family vibe.

The Red Chapel
Mads Brügger, Denmark, 2009; 87 min.
Denmark launches an all-out attack on North Korea in this has-to-be-seen-to-be-believed documentary that ventures into territory somewhere between Michael Moore and Borat. Bankrolled by Lars von Trier's Zentropa production company, the aptly named Mads Brügger travels to Pyongyang on a feigned mission of cultural exchange, bringing a camera crew and the Danish-Korean slapstick-comedy team Red Chapel. The duo consists of Simon, who aims to perform an acoustic rendition of Oasis's "Wonderwall" accompanied by a choir of Korean schoolgirls, and Jacob, a self-described "spastic" whose mangled speech is incomprehensible to the minders assigned to "assist" the troupe. And while the duped hosts get more than they bargain for-a lot more-the Danish visitors find things aren't as ethically clear-cut as they'd prefer them to be.

Samson and Delilah
Warwick Thornton, Australia, 2009; 101 min.
Samson (Rowan McNamara) and Delilah (Marissa Gibson) are two young people struggling to find themselves and each other. Set in the aboriginal communities of Australia, what might have been an age-old love story explodes cliché and convention through unvarnished and unyielding authenticity. Director Warwick Thornton-who, like the principal cast, hails from aboriginal background-plunges us into red-dirt landscapes that serve in equal measure as oasis and prison. Traditions both nourish and entrap, and as boy and girl wrestle with a fate that may seem inevitable, love shows the way forward. Winner of the Caméra d'Or for best debut feature at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival.

Nader T.Homayoun, Iran/France, 2009; 95 min.
A man holds a sickly child in his arms, begging passersby for money with a tale of how his wife has recently died and he desperately needs help. We soon learn the man is Ibrahim, a recent arrival in the big city, and that the child isn't really his-the boy's actually rented from a local gang-lord to make Ibrahim a more effective beggar. Welcome to Tehroun, as Iranians call their capital city. Nader Homayoun's debut feature presents a searing portrait of the city's hidden, seamier side, a world of child trafficking, smuggling of just about anything, and assorted other criminal activities. A sensation in the Critics' Week at last year's Venice Film Festival, where it won the audience award, Tehroun marks a new chapter in the fascinating evolution of Iranian cinema.

Women Without Men
Shirin Neshat, Germany/Austria/France, 2009; 100 min.
Directed by Shirin Neshat in collaboration with Shoja Azari. Winner of the Silver Lion for best director at the 2009 Venice Film Festival, Shirin Neshat's feature-film debut represents an assured shift from the gallery-based moving images for which she is known, to the grand screen of the cinema. Devotees of Neshat's earlier work will recognize her signature visual virtuosity and narrative grace in the story of four women in early 1950s Iran, played by Pegah Ferydoni, Arita Shahrzad, Shabnam Tolouei, and Orsi Toth. Then as now, the ambitions and actions of these women from across the spectrum of Iranian society inform and affect the course of events-public, private, and often political. With history as a backdrop, and imagination extending the limits of lives lived under oppressive conditions, Neshat offers an exquisitely framed window onto these women's world. An Indiepix release.

Labels: , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


    follow me on Twitter

    QPORIT --
    Quick PREVIEWS Of Random Interesting Things

    (c) Copyright 2005-2009 Eric H. Roffman
    All rights reserved