Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Went to see two movies at the Tribeca Film Festival press screenings: "Napoleon and Me", an Italian comedy directed by Paolo Virzi, and "West 32nd" directed by Michael Kang from a screenplay by Kang and Edmund Lee. "Napoleon and Me" was very smooth, but it was very reminiscent of many other movies, all those historical comedies filled with irony... and there have been recent comedies about Napoleon which weren't erased by this film. Still, it had its charms (including Monica Bellucci, one of the go-to women for voluptuousness in recent European movies). And is it my imagination, or is Daniel Auteuil in just about half the movies coming out of France these days (with Gerard Depardieu filling in the other half)?

I was very curious about "West 32nd": i'd seen Michael Kang's first feature, "The Motel", and that film had been one which went through the process of a staged reading of the script, etc. through Asian Cinevision. "West 32nd" was actually very well-done (surprisingly so). It's a very stylish movie, and it's tight and well-organized, and very well acted. This is an example of a movie where the filmmaking expertise (and the very fine casting) really put over the material, because (on the printed page) the material can seem rather thin. I actually had an opportunity to read the screenplay, and i thought it was expert, really exceptionally well-crafted, but i didn't see the screenplay as particularly "original" and i also thought the characters were often stock. But this is an example of how craft can compensate, and also how actors can bring more than might be assumed from the printed page.

There was a party tonight at Triobeca, but i went home right after "West 32nd"... and Larry and i watched Frank Wisbar's "Wet Asphalt", which we rented from Netflix. Yes, it's dubbed and the dubbing is frequently very bad. But it was a sharp satire on journalistic ethics, with the odd slant of the crisis in the divided Germany of the 1950s.

But Frank Wisbar is an interesting filmmaker. "Fahrmann Maria" (1934) is an amazing Expressionistic movie, "Strangler of the Swamp" was Wisbar's attempt to remake that movie on a really low-budget in Hollywood in the 1940s, and "Wet Asphalt" was one of the German films Wisbar made upon his return to Germany. But his wife Eva Wisbar stayed in this country, and Larry and i wound up working for her when she was a film and video distributor.

Anyway, tomorrow more films, but also my dentist appointment.

Larry and i just watched "Rosemary and Thyme": we're really enjoying that series. We think Felicity Kendall and Pam Ferris are hilarious. Either that, or we really miss "Murder She Wrote" more than we care to admit.


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