Sunday, May 1, 2005

Tribeca Film Fest 2005 - Day 9

First I saw most of an interesting documentary called Bowery Dish. I actually really wanted to see this one, because it's about the changes going on in my neighborhood. I know that my living here is a product of those changes. And I'm not one of those people who thinks that change is a bad thing. I was just curious about it. I think the film also took a fairly moderate stance. Obviously they don't want the neighborhood to lose its character, and they don't want the rents to become so high that no one who is currently there can afford to stay. But New York never sits still, so you can't expect to stop the evolution. You can just hope that a yuppie bar doesn't take over your favorite little neighborhood spots.

Next up was a collection of shorts in a program called Animation by the Hubleys. These spanned several decades, and were made by various people in the Hubley family, notably John and Faith, and their daughter Emily. Another of their daughters is Georgia Hubley (of Yo La Tengo). As a young child she appears as a voice in at least one of the animations. I particularly liked one called "The Hole" which stars Dizzy Gillespie as one of the voice actors, "Moonbird" which was voiced by two of their sons, and the one in which Emily and Georgia perform a play (I can't remember what it was called).

Lastly I went with my sister and one of her friends to see The Souvenirs of Mr. X. We weren't totally clear, from the description, what this documentary was about. After seeing it, we kind of figured out why that was. Broadly, the movie was about amateur filmmakers (people who make home movies, not independent filmmakers who just aren't getting paid anything). The problem is that, from there, they couldn't seem to figure out where the film was going.

It was sort of about the quest to find out who had created this one film that the director had purchased at a flea market. In the course of his search, he discovered some amateur film clubs, and he would visit them, talk to them about their own views on the hobby, and show them the mystery film to see if they recognized it. Unfortunately, this particular film wasn't a very interesting specimen, and this avenue of inquiry didn't really lead anywhere. I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if he had focused the documentary entirely on the sophisticated hobbyists in the clubs and their films. Instead, it meanders back and forth, interspersed with "clever" little snipets from random home movies that illustrate, in an overly literal way, the things that the interview subjects say. It's a precious technique that becomes pretty annoying, pretty quickly.

Oddly enough, towards the end of the film, they use the narrative device of judges of an amateur film competition to point out these and other valid criticisms of the documentary itself. Which only begs the question, if they were aware of all these flaws in the film, why did they still make it this way?

One more day to go.

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