Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Bonding Occurs Between Enraged Film Lovers At Sold-out Nathaniel Dorsky Anthology Screening

Manhattan, October 17 - In an atmosphere reminiscent of the good vibes outside Studio 54 amongst the folks who couldn't get in, only far more bittersweet, several film lovers in the lobby of Anthology Film Archives (32 2nd Ave.) managed to bond with one another despite their rage over not getting tickets to a sold-out screening of Nathaniel Dorsky's new films. Avant-garde enthusiasts who arrived as early at 7:00 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. screening were greeted with a "Dorsky Is Now Sold Out" sign, a phrase that soon took on an double meaning for the angry unfortunates.

Raising their hopes but also stoking their flames of rage was another sign reading "Maybe A Few Might Get In?" So a group of about 20 hopefuls waited in the lobby for word from an admittedly sympathetic Anthology employee about potential seating. Around 7:30 p.m. said employee announced that there were five aisle seats available which went to the names at the top of a long waiting list. But an occasion for revelry quickly turned sour since the announcement broke up several groups of friends. Kisses and hugs were exchanged with the unlucky as one loudmouth wondered aloud how they could possibly remain friends after this.

Two aspects of the evening contributed to the tense environment. Nathaniel Dorsky refuses to release his masterful films on DVD/Blu-ray so one must attend a rare screening in more privileged cities around the world in order to see them. Even worse, Anthology was screening (freakin') Eating Raoul (Paul Bartel, 1982) in their much larger theatre upstairs. Attendance figures for that 7:00 p.m. screening were not released by press time. But one could surmise that they could not have exceeded the turnout for Dorsky. Further compounding the offense is that Eating Raoul was a staple of early cable television and has been available not only on VHS but on a Criterion Blu-ray as well. The loudmouth asked the employee why the Dorsky films weren't shown in the larger theatre. "Nick (?) decided that they would work better in the smaller theatre," was the reply.

Once it was official that no one else beyond the lucky five would be getting in, the employee offered Dorsky bookmarks as a pathetic consolation prize. One particularly sad Dorsky fan was gifted the "Sold Out" sign (seen below). The loudmouth asked the employee to convey to Dorsky that we were pissed.

Nevertheless, the unlucky bonded over their misfortune. They wondered if buying a membership would get them in and then got even sadder that they didn't have a membership in the first place. Others discussed the genius of Dorsky while ruing the "necessity" of watching his masterpieces on film in a theatre. Genuine sorrys were exchanged as the supporters of the avant-garde dispersed morosely.

Brandishing a copy of Walter Benjamin's "The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility," the loudmouth went on a harangue:

"Today, I hate the avant-garde. I traveled from The Bronx to see these films. Three hours wasted. I've crossed state lines to see avant-garde films. I am not the enemy. But now I will fight to get these films shown to the unprivileged who can't attend screenings in Manhattan or at Harvard. I now want to bootleg every film ever! Long live KG! Long live UbuWeb! Blu-rays for all. Myron Ort sells DVDs of his films online. So does Joseph Bernard whose films are at least as gorgeous as Dorsky's? Why can't Dorsky??? We get it. We know they should be experienced live in motion on film. We get that, say, Luther Price's films are about decay, that even their destruction is part of their aesthetic experience. But let us have that aesthetic experience! We're here in the auratic space that is Manhattan and Anthology and we can't see Dorsky films??? There's something rotten here!!!"

Eventually, the loudmouth found himself talking to no one outside on 2nd Ave. and he walked home alone slowly in the wrong direction.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2017

New York Film Festival Screenings 2017 2

Call Me By Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)

Based on the novel by André Aciman, Call Me By Your Name gives new meaning to the phrase "coming-of-age story" (no spoilers but if you've read the book/early reviews, you know what I'm getting at). Elio Perlman (Timothée Chalamet, luminous) is a 17-year-old staying with his academic parents in 1983 Northern Italy. His professor father (Michael Stuhlbarg) brings in a twenty-something guest, Oliver (Armie Hammer, so godlike he could shame Zeus), to help with research and a furtive summer romance blossoms between Elio and Oliver. Guadagnino creates tension from this barely taboo scenario by cutting in the middle of various benign bucolic activities - horseplay in the lake, a countryside breakfast - and the resulting edgy drift carries the film for a good three quarters, particularly two ecstatic dances to The Psychedelic Furs' thematic "Love My Way." But as with André Téchiné's Being 17 from last year, the film grows more conventional inching towards a dénoument that clusters around the limp question of whether or not the two principals will remain together. Would that the final reel were lobbed off despite the nifty new wave ensemble (complete with ubiquitous Walkman) sported by Elio in the final scene (the only time he wears socks too, an admittedly idiosyncratic measure of the scene's conventionality). Girlfriends are conveniently dispensed with (a pernicious tendency in gay cinema), the father lets forth with overwritten Hallmark platitudes, and the repressed Jewishness (almost as central a subject as repressed homosexuality - his family are "Jews by discretion") is barely examined (and forget a class analysis of how these people came to enjoy such a halcyon summer in the first place). I much prefer My Hustler, Andy Warhol's 1965 masterpiece which stops rather than ends and stares right into the intersections between class and sexuality. Still, Call Me by Your Name perfectly captures the head rush of teenage homolust. And to paraphrase The Allman Brothers, eat that peach, baby!

(Lucrecia Martel's Zama was my first NYFF screening. But I'm still trying to process it.)

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