I saw three films today, plus some shorts.
First up was Bitter & Twisted - the first film by writer/director Christopher Weekes, who also stars in the film. I had mixed feelings about this one. The film starts with the death of a young man, and picks up three years later to see what impact this has had on his family and ex-girlfriend. It was more of a mood and character study, and it has some really effective performances and scenarios. But the plot itself has a lot of storytelling cliches, since the story mostly serves to move things along so the characters can develop in accordance with the way they handle their grief. It was really well done, and for a debut film I'd say it was excellent. But I'd like to see Weekes direct something with a stronger script next time.
Later I saw Man on Wire - an amazing documentary about Philippe Petit, the man who walked a highwire between the Twin Towers in 1974. This was the NY premiere of the film. I have to admit that my response to it was complicated. At the beginning, I felt an irrational sense of anxiety while hearing the people describe how they repeatedly bypassed security to sneak into the towers to do surveillance, and ultimately to set up the wire and perform the trick (which they figured was probably illegal).
But as the film went on, at least some of that anxiety was replaced with a sense of wonder and beauty. And I was able to, as director James Marsh later put it, "reclaim the memory of those buildings for something else." As an added bonus, Philippe Petit himself was there to answer questions after the screening. He, as much as the film, got a standing ovation.
At the end of the night, I saw a midnight screening of Baghead, the new Duplass brothers film. It's hard to know how to talk about this one without giving too much away. It's sort of a combination of a thing-in-the-woods low budget horror movie, with a more character-driven independent movie. Plus it's about four actors trying to write themselves a script, so it's got some great insider-y self-referential things going on. Quite entertaining.
Oh, and I forgot to mention that earlier today I stumbled across the American Express Insider Center. It provided a quiet place to sit for a while between screenings, and they were also showing some of the festivals shorts. I saw 3 of them - "I Think I Thought" (written by, directed by & starring Matthew Modine), "Irish Twins" (written by, directed by, and starring Shiloh & Rider Storm), and a German genre-bending office-heist short called "Shift." Later, waiting on line to get in to Baghead, Shiloh and Rider and their friends were right in front of me. As we walked in I told Shiloh I had seen the short and enjoyed it, and after the screening I ran into them again and told Rider as well. They seemed kind of tired (it was 1:44am), but they were happy to pose for this photo with me!