Redacting Redacted

Brian De Palma’s Redacted, the devastating reconstruction of the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl by American soldiers, has been one of the most divisive films at the New York Film Festival and it came as no surprise when tempers flared at a NYFF press conference with De Palma yesterday. “Did you intend to make a horror film for hipsters?” one incensed journalist asked. Answer: “No.”

When selection committee member J. Hoberman asked about the black bars that now cover some of the photographs at the conclusion of the film, Palma didn’t pull any punches, either: Redacted is now itself redacted,” he said. “My cut was violated.” No sooner had he fingered producer Mark Cuban for the changes in the film that a lone voice spoke up from the back of the Walter Reade Theater: “That’s not true!”

Eamonn Bowles from Magnolia Pictures went on to contradict De Palma, and after the conference, co-producer Jason Kliot took to the stage to explain that he saw the problem not as a “Cuban vs. De Palma type silly debate” but an issue of Fair Use laws, which he considered completely unfair: “they set it up so we cannot use images of our own culture to tell the truth about our own culture.”

De Palma also spoke about desensitization, voyeurism, and whether it’s easier to be labeled a misogynist or a traitor. At Spoutblog, Karina Longworth gets a statement from Cuban, and Bowles comments at Movie City Indie. My review of Redacted is up on The redacted version of the film will screen for the public on October 9 and 10. Magnolia will release the film in November.

I'm Not There Press Conference

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out but when they will I can only guess

Around festival lobbies and parties, all over the blogosphere and on the cover of the New York Times magazine, the merits of Haynes’s Dylan picture are being debated hotly — including the question whether it can be said to be about Bob Dylan in the first place. Here’s my video from last week’s NYFF press conference, where Todd Haynes spoke to J. Hoberman. My review of I’m Not There is up on More NYFF video: Go Go Tales, The Darjeeling Limited. Coming soon: the Coen Brothers on No Country For Old Men and Brian De Palma on Redacted.

Margot at the Wedding

Nicole KidmanMeet the PressNicole Has Left the Building
John Turturro

Noah Baumbach can certainly write snappy dialogue that rings true, but after about half an hour, the characters’ limitations and the improbable storyline of his new family drama had me checking my watch. And what’s up with the bleached, underlit look? Marcy is writing the review for; I’ve got more photos from the press conference with Nicole Kidman, Baumbach, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Turturro, and Jim Hoberman on flickr.

Margot at the Wedding. Noah Baumbach, 2007. **

Go Go Tales


Ray Ruby (Willem Dafoe with slicked back hair and a lucky leisure suit) runs a New York strip club where girls wearing g-strings and glitter gyrate to Grace Jones, but beneath the sleazy exterior beats the heart of a romantic. Ray Ruby’s got a dream: he wants his club to be a place where every kid gets a chance, where people take care of each other, and everybody has a good time. Between strip acts, he croons syrupy ballads. No wonder the place is called Ray Ruby’s Paradise.

But Paradise is in a spot of trouble. Ray has to contend with “shifting demographics,” the rent is in arrears, the dancers haven’t been paid, the obnoxious landlady (Sylvia Miles) wants to let Bed Bath & Beyond take over. During one hectic night, girls confess they’re pregnant, the tanning machine in the basement goes up in flames, and the gourmet cook feels under-appreciated. Owner Johnie Ruby (Matthew Modine), a “big shot hair dresser,” threatens to pull the plug but takes a minute for a quick back room dalliance with Monroe (Asia Argento), who specializes in on-stage acts with her Rottweiler. On top of it all, Ray has a gambling problem. It looks like he may have won the lottery, but he lost the damn ticket. No wonder he’s oozing desperation, no matter how radiant his sweaty smile.

With Go Go Tales, Abel Ferrara has made his first “intentional comedy,” telling stories of a bygone New York he recalled with relish at the NYFF post-screening press conference. Go Go Tales is a joyful mess. Not every gag works, not every character convinces, and most shots of the near-naked dancers are entirely gratuitous, but the film’s sensory overload and exploitative mood seem entirely appropriate for the subject matter, and Ferrara’s evident love for the world shines through even the most haphazardly improvised scenes. Like Ray Ruby’s Paradise, Go Go Tales is far from perfect, but it’s a hell of a sleazy good time anyway.

Go Go Tales. Abel Ferrara, 2007. ***

Here’s my video in three parts of the press conference with Abel Ferrara, Willem Dafoe, Sylvia Miles, Shanyn Leigh, and Frankie Cee. Richard Peña leads the discussion.