Monday, May 01, 2006

Tribeca 13: Hollywoodland

Well, here are some of the best films of the festival, which were, of course done by professionals with lots of experience in the business.

Lonely Hearts (U.S.A.) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Todd Robinson

Today, they’re history’s forgotten serial killers, but in 1949, they were really big news. The “Lonely Hearts” murders numbered over twenty, and they were pretty gruesome. They were

Then as now, there were lots of lonely people out there and the personals were really big business, and there were predators out there who were more than happy to ruin the lives of the lonely.

One of those people was Raymond Martinez Fernandez (Jared Leto), a rake and a gigolo who would romance anyone with money before he would relieve them of it. That is until he met one Martha Jule Beck (Salma Hayek), a nurse who was one of his tricks.

She saves his butt and they become a team.

But, they make a mistake. They start killing people. The first is a beautiful woman who’d been fleeced by Ray and committed suicide, but the lead detective working on the case, Elmer C. Robinson (John Travolta) something is fishy. He and his reluctant partners Hildebrandt (James Gandolfini) and Reilly (Scott Caan) start investigating, and soon they are flying around New York state connecting the dots and building a case.

Robinson has baggage. His wife commits suicide during the opening credits, and his son(Dan Byrd) have had a bad relationship ever since. But in following Fernandez and Beck, he comes to back to life. He also has an affair with a coworker named Rene (Laura Dern). The two stories mesh quite nicely.

The film is quite straightforward, it starts with an introduction to the cops, and then the criminals, and from there it goes logically and without a break. The acting is good, and since the case has become obscure with time, the fact that Beck weighed almost three hundred pounds is completely ignored by the casting of the svelte Heyek. Travolta and Byrd have some real chemistry together, and so do Heyek and Leto. Leto is the star of the film much more than Travolta, he gives a bravura performance here, and his Fernandez is both a charmer and a psycho. Heyek isn’t nearly as good.

If you like true crime stuff, this is worth a look.

A Very Serious Person (U.S.A.) – World Premiere.

Written and Directed
by Charles Busch

Charles Busch is one of the more famous drag queens in the world. Famous in the gay community, his camp classics played in small theaters around Greenwich Village and the Lower East Side for the better part of the 1970s and ‘80s. Busch always played the heroine in what is the epitome of camp. Nothing wrong with that. Some of it was really funny.

He hasn’t done all that well in movies, however. “Die Mommy Die” never actually made it beyond a token release, and “Psycho Beach Party,” in which Busch had only a small part, was a minor hit on cable. It was with great interest that I heard that he was going to play a real guy this time. Could he do it? That was a question.

The film is about as autobiographic as he could really get. He doesn’t play himself, of course, but a talented young kid named
PJ Verhoest does. Technically, he plays Gil, the fourteen year old grandson of a certain Mrs. A(Polly Bergen). Grandma is dying of some horrible disease, has only a few weeks to live, and wants to spend them at the ’Jersey shore with Gil and her faithful housekeeper Betty(Dana Ivey).

Unfortunately, two of the nurses the agency sends over don’t work out, so they send Jan(Charles Busch), who’s that “Very Serious Person” of the title. He’s Danish, gay [I’m not all that sure Busch could write a straight man, although he probably could], and doesn’t take shit from anybody.

The film is the story of the relationship between surrogate father and son, and it’s actually pretty touching. Busch was very fond of his own grandmother, and the emotion shown here is quite genuine. There is a genuine-ness between Jan and Gil as well, made even more real by Verhoest’s superb acting.

There is a genuine concern for the future of gay youth in a debate between Gil and Jan’s hairdresser friend Lee(co-writer Carl Andress) and Jan. This is actually, the most serious thing Busch has written, at least of what I’ve seen, and I’m a bit of a fan.

This is about the least campy thing Busch has ever done, and one of the best. It’s worth a look.

Colour Me Kubrick (UK, France) – International Premiere.

Directed by
Brian Cook

They say truth is stranger than fiction, and sometimes we’ve got evidence of this maxim. Take the con man who spent a number of years impersonating director Stanley Kubrick during the last couple of years of his and Kubrik’s life.

This is the story of Alan Conway(John Malkovich) a con man who goes around fleecing innocent artistic types, pretending to be Kubrick, promising his marks the moon, and disappearing when the loans come due. The film begins with two punkers who were thus fleeced harassing some rich shlub demanding that Kubrick pay them the money they lent.

Conway is a flaming queen and a chameleon who changes accents and mannerisms whenever he meets someone new, and he’s also a bit lazy, he gets caught by anyone who knows the work of the real Kubrick just a little bit. Apparently, the real Conway never saw any of his films.

The film is basically a one-man show. Malkovich gives the performance of a lifetime, while the hamminess drips out of every pore, there’s an honesty in the dishonesty of it all which makes the performance priceless. He’s so brazen that he goes up to NY Times film critic Frank Rich (William Hootkins) and his wife Alix (Marisa Berenson) in a London restaurant screaming his displeasure at what the newspapers have been saying about him. This proves the beginning of the end. Rich is suspicious, and so are quite a few others, including the cops.

Meanwhile Conway continues his impersonation, and this time hits real paydirt, a midlevel celebrity(Jim Davidson) who thinks he could make it big in the US. It’s a hoot. The supporting cast, which is made up of has-been TV stars are really good.

Anthony Frewin’s script is a bit erratic. The film goes on in a haphasard way for the first half at least, but Malkovitch’s perfornace makes up for it. This is a perfect revenge by two of Kubrick’s most loyal assistant. Had he lived, I’m sure Kubrick would have wanted to make this film himself.

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