Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Amina Profile (2015) SUNDANCE 2015

Sandra tries to get answers
Sandra, a French woman living in Montreal meets Amina, an Syrian American woman living in Damascus on line. As their relationship grows Amina becomes more empowered to the point that she begins a blog called Gay Girl in Damascus in which she would discuss being an out woman in the Middle East. Things eventually take a turn for the worst and it appears that Amina is kidnapped by forces in Syria. Sandra springs into action in order to free her girlfriend but what she finds isn't what she's expecting.

Following Sandra's quest to piece together what exactly happened and why THE AMINA PROFILE is a cracking good film.  For those who don't know the story of what happened it's a mystery that sucks you in and drags you along (I'm not going to reveal what happened or happens). For those who know the story this serves as cautionary tale about not only love in today's Internet age but also a warning about how we view the politics of anything.

You'll forgive my lack of details as to what the film is and what happens but this is the sort of film that is going to play best the less you know what it is. Once I realized what the story at the heart of the film was, I had followed the actual events back in 2011, my perception of the film changed. There was an "ah ha" moment that made it all different, not worse just different.

Running a compact 85 minutes this film could possibly use a tiny bit of trimming of some of the reconstructions, but otherwise this is a super little film. Expect it to show up at any number of film festivals over the coming months so you'll have a good chance at catching it.

Supremacy (2014)

Joe Anderson and Danny Glover headliner a surprising good thriller about an recently paroled (as in earlier in the day) white supremacist named Tully who gets out of prison  and instantly gets into trouble by killing a black cop and taking a black family hostage. As the police search for him and the woman sent to pick him up Tully begins to clash with the patriarch of the family (Danny Glover) and ex-con who doesn't want to involve the police.

SUPREMACY is a film that surprised the hell out of me. It looked interesting enough that when I was offered it for review that I said yes. I didn't expect to be drawn into the on screen events as deeply as I was. This is one of those films that needs to be championed because I'm betting most people won't realize how good it really is.

I know much of the credit for the film working has to go to director Deon Taylor. Having cut his teeth on  okay horror films (his films DEAD TONE and CHAIN LETTER  were only memorable enough that I recognized that I saw them when I saw the poster art) he takes all of the tropes of the horror film genre and turns them loose on a crime thriller. While a hostage thriller isn't that far removed from a horror film Taylor keeps it real and never goes over board into the unreality of horror.

The script by Eric J Adams is also sterling. Adams has fashioned a fantastic thriller that not only works on a pure crime story level but bristles with not only racial tension and also family tensions as well. The most extreme situation being when the situation turns bad early on a forced choice made by one of the hostages and the family begins to fragment more. Not that it wasn't fragmented already with it far from being a happy family with Glover's character not being looked upon favorably and the complications of one son being on the local police force.

As for the cast it's all great, not good but great. Everyone manages to sell their roles to such a degree that you buy whatever it is they are asked to do. You accept any twists and turns without question because we believe in what they are doing.

This is a small scale gem you need to track down.  Truthfully don't let this film get lost.

The film opens Friday in theaters. For more info check the films website.

GoGo Boys: The Inside Story of Canon Films (2014) New York Jewish Film festival

Q: How do you become a filmmaker?
A: Don't do anything else. If you love movies,you want to be a movie maker you have to give yourself to the movie. You have to forget your other life

One of two recent films on the history of Canon Films, the other being Electric Boogaloo: The Wild Untold Story of Canon Films which will be screening as part of Film Comment Selects in three weeks, The Go Go Boys:The Inside Story of Canon Films is both excellent and disappointing. Its excellent because it’s the wonderful story of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who made movies and changed popular culture as we know it. It’s disappointing in that the presentation, while fine, is a bit too sedate for such a crazy story. Yea there are wild stories (Jean Luc Godard signs a contract on a napkin) but at the same time the film isn’t as wild as the stories.

For those who don’t know Canon film was a film studio founded by cousins Golan and Globus.They started making films in the 1960’s and then continued on making more and more films, some prestigious (Runaway Train) many exploitive (Pick a Cuck Norris film). A lot of the 1980’s and 1990’s Chuck Norris, Charles Bronson and Jean Claude Van Damme films came from them. Most made money.

The film begins with Menahem Golan talking about what it takes to be a filmmaker (See the quote above). The film then plunges head long into his movie making career and how his cousin Yoram was brought in to help secure financing for a film project thus planting the seed for what became the powerhouse Canon Films (thanks in part to their mega hit Breakin which got them noticed). The film has tons of clips and interview footage not only with the cousins but also the actors (Norris, Van Damme, Jon Voight) , directors (Andrei Konchalovsky) that they worked with and fans (Eli Roth). It’s a wild ride and apparently all of the stories I heard over the years are true.

The problem- and it’s a small problem mind you- is that outside of the clips and the stories there is quite the manic energy that one would think should be in the film. The film is largely clips and stories which are frequently wild and crazy. The energy that comes from say watching Van Damme parroting Menahem telling him he’s going to be a movie star falls away when we see Menaham just talking.

Growing up and into my 20’s and 30’s Canon films were always the films I looked for. As Eli Roth states you knew there was going to be lots of sex and violence in them. Sure it would be over the top and crazy, but it was a lot of fun. You knew going into the films that you were going to have a great time even if the films weren’t good. They became so synonymous with a certain type of action film that we’d go into video stores and look for Canon films.

To be honest I really miss their films. Sitting in a press screening for Keanu Reeves directorial debut Man of Tai Chi with Hubert Vigilla and Peter Gutierrez we bemoaned how the film was being released 20 years too late. Had the film come 20 years ago it would have been released by Canon and hailed as a classic. A long discussion of the studio and its films followed.

Watching Go Go boys was like recapturing my late childhood/early adulthood. If you’re like me and grew up on Canon’s films you must go to the Walter Reade and see Go Go Boys when it plays at The New York Jewish Film Festival when it Plays on the 29th. For tickets and more information go here.

Sweet Micky For President (2015) SLAMDANCE 2015

Ben Patterson's SWEET MICKY FOR PRESIDENT is a great film. Its a film you fall into and go along with and come out on the other side having not only learned something but enjoyed yourself as well

The film is the story of how Pras Michel of the Fugees, turned Haitian singer and a man occasionally referred to as the president of Haiti, Michel Martelly, aka Sweet Micky, into a Candidate for president of the poverty stricken and corruption ridden country. Marelly had been a thorn in the side of the rulers of the country for decades to the point he had been put on a death list. His running was seen as a ray of hope for the people and a complication for those in power.

Telling it's story with both a great sense of history and an understanding of the present SWEET MICKY FOR PRESIDENT tells the whole story of how it all went down from Michel's crazy idea to get Micky to run on to the troubles of running the campaign, including having Michel's fellow Fugee
Wyclef Jean enter the race as well. From there we get the story of the voter problems-dead people on roles, prefilled out forms in the first round of balloting, through the unreset that followed Micky not making it to the second round.One would think that would be the end, but it's not, the story just keeps spinning out..

Technically brilliant this is a great looking film with a wonderful visual sense. Graphics are used to lay out Haiti's history as well as to bring events (most of this takes place in 2010 and 2011) up to date. The editing of the film is flawless and it makes it so the film grabs you by the throat and drags you along all the while making you a willing participant.

This is a freaking great film. How do I know, because ten minutes in not only was I looking forward to telling everyone about it I was wondering when the Bluray/DVD was going to come out and what extras there would be so I could see the film again and spend extra time with this great story.

If you love great documentaries you must see this film.

The film plays Thursday night at Slamdance. For tickets and more information go to the festival page here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Above and Beyond (2014)

I've been chasing after ABOVE AND BEYOND for the last four months. The film has played at multiple film festivals (including the just concluding New York Jewish Film Festival)and I missed it every time. Finally with the film arriving in theaters this Friday I finally got to see it.

ABOVE AND  BEYOND is the story of how the newly founded country of Israel ended put together an air force in order to hold off the the impending war with the Arab states. With an embargo in place the Israelis, the Israeli's turned to American supporters and pilots who risked jail time and loss of American citizenship to help.

This is a good look at a largely unknown story outside of Israel told by the men who were there. A mix of talking heads, archival footage and recreations the film nicely explains what happened and why. If the film is lacking in some details (there are several times where they don't give enough details)  the film more than makes up for it in  the wonderful stories told by some wonderful men  who recounted their youthful exploits.

I like the film but I really wish the film didn't feel like a History Channel special

The film hits theaters this Friday

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)

Les Blank's short documentary Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe is built on a bet between Werner Herzog and Errol Morris. Morris had still not made a film at that point of his life, and had abandoned previous creative endeavors (not just films). To egg his friend on, Herzog said that if Morris actually completed a movie, he would go to the premiere of the film and eat his own shoes.

And so in 1978, Herzog, at Chez Panisse with the assistance of Alice Waters, cooked his footwear in duck fat and spices for five hours and then ate his shoe in front of an appreciative Berkeley crowd at the UC Theater during the premiere of Morris' Gates of Heaven.

Herzog's persona is in full effect here—observant, at times seemingly alien, deadpan hilarious, but always intelligent in articulating the points he's getting at, and often poetic while getting there. At one point, he lambasts the inadequacy of the images in society that are fed to us by commercials and television, and says that maybe a society without adequate images is culturally doomed. Minutes prior to that, he talks about having once jumped into a cactus as a promise to one of his actors.

This sense of high and low—the absurdity of eating a shoe to push someone to create, the fact we can debase ourselves to allow others the ability to dream—is what makes Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe both silly and yet oddly inspiring.

One of Herzog's more profound observations about the struggle to create art and the persistence of achieving this vision appears in two works about the making of Fitzcarraldo, the book Conquest of the Useless and Blank's 1982 feature-length documentary The Burden of Dreams: If I were to abandon this project, I would be a man without dreams, and I don't want to live like that. The line contains a dogged sense of hard work being worthwhile, the struggle being better than not having to struggle at all.

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe offers two lines that I think could be viewed as a precursor.

The first: Making films turns me into a clown, but that happens to everyone; what filmmakers do is immaterial—it's a projection of light—and it makes you a clown in the process. Herzog says this while eating his shoe. As far as clowns go, I picture a clown who takes pratfalls and pies to the face yet keeps going; a silent clown like Charlie Chaplin's tramp (who appears briefly in the doc), or even a cartoon clown like Wile E. Coyote or Daffy Duck in "Duck Amuck," clowns less like Bozo and more like Sisyphus.

The second line, which comes at the end, is the burden of fools and a call to other creatives out there to be honorable clowns: To eat a shoe is a foolish signal, but it was worthwhile, and once in a while I think we should be foolish enough to do things like that—more shoes, more boots, more garlic!

The Tugendhat House (2013) New York Jewish Film Festival

The first and most important thing about The Tugendhat House is that if you go and see it don’t think that the first five or ten minutes are what the film is. The opening bit of the film is made up of panning and tracking shot through the empty house while voice over quote from reviews and pieces on the house. Its cold and sterile and goes on long enough that if you’re like me you’ll be afraid the whole two hours is like that. It not.

The Tugendhat House is a look at the so named house house which was built by the Tugendhat family in 1929. The house was one of the finest examples of steel construction at the time. The house was abandoned by the family eight years later when the family fled Czechoslovakia for Switzerland when the Nazi’s took over the country. The house then went through a variety of owners and uses over the year and over the last few decades efforts have been made to try and restore the house to its original form.

This is a very good look at the house, the family and the march of almost 90 years of history. It’s a look at how one house could have a place in the events of a century. I was, for the most part, carried along with the story of the house and it’s family. This is an interesting exploration of a footnote event in history.

If there is any real problem with the film as far as I’m concerned is that its 117 minute run time is probably a half an hour too long. (I probably should also say that this may not be for ll audiences, if you’re not into architecture, especially something with a design that is as “cold” as this you may not warm to the film)

For tickets and more information go here.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Nightcap 1/25/15-Upcoming festivals, Unseen plans, Hedwig on Broadway and Randi's links

pondering the future
This was a strangely quiet week at the Unseen Films owing to a couple of things, chiefly my ending up sick for most of the week. Things were so bad that I didn't see many movies.

On the plus side New Directors New Films have announced 9 titles. Hopefully they will be better than last year which disappointed me with what I saw - though catching up with the ones I missed was a delight with BABADOOK and GIRLS WALKS HOME ALONE making me regretwhat I missed.

Do check out the BAM website. They have two series coming one on John Carpenter which includes his appearance for a talk and screenings and their annual Kids Film Fest.  Mondo and I are going to the Carpenter talk together and Hubert is going with a friend. (we also should be dropping some pieces on Carpenter's films) I'll be at the Kids fest for several screening this year on both days so look for reports. (more on both series next weekend)

The Films for the New York International Children's Film Festival are on sale to members. The schedule and film list is here. Between new stuff and reposts we'll get you reports on most of it. I think the only things we'll be missing is some of the shorts collections and the Tinker Bell movie.

Promised access to Sundance and Slamdance titles has not materialized as of this writing. I'm still hoping to pull stuff together but I don't know. If you want Sundance/Slamdance coverage try Joe Bendel's blog JB Spins since he is there in the thick of things.
As far as Unseen itself is concerned this week we'll finish up the New York Jewish Film Festival coverage. I know its not the best known festival but the choices are great. I do hope that you managed to see something- though to be honest many screenings sold out so my desire to fill in what I missed was cut short.

I have caught up with a whole bunch of recent films and they will be coming down the road. While I know we tend to get more readers with new titles, some of what I've seen has been on the last legs of theatrical runs so my telling you to see something will not help the box office.

Actually the site is programmed into May. Three weeks are dropped out  for Tribeca but otherwise we're set until the week after it ends barring some art for the posts.. Of course things will change since more is coming along but for now you basically wouldn't know if I went to Tahiti until May.

What I have coming is a mixed bag of delights- more shorts, lots of New Releases. I have stuff already set for Film Comment Selects.  A week of newer animated films including the Oscar nominated PRINCESS KAGUYA which is a cinematic work of art of the highest order. All of the Dr Kildare films for the start of March, more Bowery Boys in May, the latest Cinerama releases from Flicker Alley as well. Basically tons of stuff some of it you'll recognize and some of it you won't.
I saw HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH on Broadway Thursday.

John Cameron Mitchell who originated the role and authored the book returned to the show for the first time in 15 years or so.

It was both marvelous and a tad unsettling.

The show about a transgendered woman trying to find her place in the shadow of the super star she nurtured is as always a fantastic piece. Mirchell and his co-creator Stephen Trask created a show for the ages and the greatness is on view on Broadway.

The sense of being unsettled comes from realizing that on Broadway the pain of Hedwig's life is eased. Seeing Hedwig playing the big room takes away from the tragedy of her life. There is less sadness because she's on Broadway. To see her in this big room, with an audience who loves her and cheers her when she takes the stage you realize she is no longer the outsider- she is a goddess. She is no longer what Mitchell and Trask wrote, and the thing we fell in love with two decades before-the outsider who like us, will never win- Hedwig has won and won big.

On Broadway much of the pain of the piece is gone- Hedwig has triumphed- even in losing she has won

While I love that Hedwig has finally found the love she so desperately deserved, I am pained that the play is ill served. It must be played in small places, in dive bars and rec rooms- there at least the pain of the outsider can truly be felt.

Hedwig on Broadway is not about the show as written but something else entirely- its become too big with Tommy on a pedestal and the biggest loss- there is no melding of Tommy and Hedwig as we saw back at the Jane Street Theater so many years ago.

Don't get me wrong, the show as we see on Broadway is glorious and my heart soars at the thought of her getting standing ovations every night but I still miss the intimacy of the small scale production- I still miss feeling, really feeling her pain instead of seeing it dressed up in sequins and lighting effects.

With luck I will see her before she packs up and heads back to the trailer park- one can never see the a fighter such as Hedwig too much.
And now we conclude with Randi's links.

24 pieces of advice from Werner Herzog
Horror film director up sets island inhabitants
The Hobbit as one 4 hour film
Final Image Oscar Montage
10 movies ruined by bad endings
Trapped in development hell
Skeleton Key to the Conspiracy: The Eriksson Twins
Heritage Auctions to sell Laika models
10 Forgotten Superhero movies
Why BIRDMAN is a Muppet movie

How to Beak into Yiddish Vaudeville (2014) New York Jewish Film Festival 2015

Shane Baker explains Vaudeville, Yiddish Vaudeville and his life. Done in a style of Neon animation the film is a kind of illustrated lecture.

An amusing look at the art form of Yiddish Vaudeville is hurt by the visual style of having someone draw images of the things that Baker is saying.  While the style is fine for awhile  by the half way point I stopped watching and just sat and listened to the story.

The story on the other hand is very funny and very informative. This is the story of a pretty much long gone art form told by a master storyteller. Its a film that will make you smile as stories of Sophie Tucker and others are recounted.

As something to watch it's okay. As something to listen to and as a record of a dying art form it great.

The film screens January 28th with Natan.For tickets and more information go here.

Natan (2013) New York Jewish Film Festival 2015

Portrait of Bernard Natan a forgotten innovator in film history

Natan was born in Romania and then moved to France where he got any job he could working in the movies. Before WW1 he was arrested for selling erotic films. His record was then expunged after service in the Great War. After which he helped to rebuild Pathe Studios in to a world wide power. However accusation of swindles and that he was making hardcore porn films caused him to fall from grace.

Solid portrait of a man any film lover should know but doesn't seeks to restore Natal's place in history.  The film's genesis seems to have its origin in trying to debunk the legends of Natal's porn career which seems unlikely since several of the films he is alleged to have starred in look very little like him.

As an hour long look at Natal's life this is a really good primer on someone I had never heard of (nor had the film students who attend school in his former studio). Its such an intriguing tale that I really would love to try and find a biography of Natan so that I can get more details on his life and times.

What an absolute gem of a film. This is why I love going to film festivals, they open doors and show me films and people that under normal circumstances I would never have seen otherwise.

This is a must see for anyone who is interested in the history of film or anyone who wants see the story of an almost forgotten man who needs rediscovery.

The film plays twice on January 28th with How to Break into Yiddish Vaudeville. For more information and tickets go here.

(In the interest of full disclosure there are clips from the antique porn films which while relatively tame might get the film a hard R rating.)

Rest in Peace Joe Franklin

TV talk show host and raconteur Joe Franklin has died. If you've never seen his show you don't know what a loss this is. Below are the five tweets I sent out into the world after I heard of his passing.

Joe Franklin has died. The golden age of TV and film has become less bright in our memories

I need to write about Joe Franklin but words can't explain what he truly was or what he meant to the world- I'm serious here

Joe Franklin was the best and worst in a talk show host, be brought together old and new, never would-bes with has beens and made it work

The best way to know Joe Franklin would be to just sit and watch his show for week. You can only appreciate him by seeing him

Where everyone is claimed to be one of a kind-Joe Franklin really and truly was. There will never be another like him-its just not possible

If you have no clue who Franklin was here's Gilbert Gottfried talking to him.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Angels of the Revolution (2014) New York Jewish FilmFestival 2015

One of a kind film will enthrall some and confuse others as it tells the story of five Avant-gardists who make their way to a new city in the wilderness. They are looking to reconcile the Soviet ideas with those of the native people.

Part absurdist satire, part social commentary this is a look at what happens when very educated people clash with a native culture that wants no part of them. Set during the Kazym Rebellion (The press notes call it the Great Samoyedic War) the film reflects a portion of Soviet history where Communism was spreading outward, in this case into the wilds of Siberia. the natives wanted no part of the change and fought back. They held out for a brief period before Stalin sent in his troops and crushed them.

The film is at times very absurd as we see what the artists are doing and see how that clashes with real life, Its a a very literal representation of how the Soviets took their high minded ideas into the wilderness and forced them on the natives. The result was often rather silly. At first the natives are amused but as time goes things get violent.

This is a very good little film, though I'm not sure it will work for everyone. There is a knowingness to much if it that creates a bit of a distance. also some of the things that the artists do will come off as overly silly. As much as I liked the film I still wish that things had been played a little straighter, a little less formally.

On the other hand this was a welcome palette cleanse. Its a film that is very much not like every other film out there. Its a film that drew me in with its differences and its story of some history I never knew. I think it's a solid little film a definitely worth your time if you don't want the same old thing.

The film plays January 27th at Lincoln Center. For tickets  and more information go here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Birdcage (1996) New York Jewish Film Festival

I was unsure if I should bother writing up The Birdcage for its run at the New York Jewish Film Festival. The problem was not so much that the film is bad, rather with the passing of Mike Nichols and Robin Williams the film was once more a high profile film as the film was used to highlight the careers of both men. Then again I decided that maybe a small piece would be in order and go with that.

The film is a remake of the semi classic French film La Cage aux Folles which spawned several sequels and a Broadway musical. The plot of the film has a happily entrenched gay couple (Robin Williams and Nathan Lane)in Miami beach getting word that their son is getting married. The trouble is that she is the daughter of an ultra-conservative politician (Gene Hackman) who hates gays. Deciding to make bow to convention for the son they love they decide to pretend to be straight with Nathan Lane pretending to be Williams’ wife. Of course it all goes sideways.

Its broad farce done so as to be very funny and deeply touching. Its so good that as I said it was trundled out in many areas as part of tribute screenings for the late Robin Williams and Mike Nichols. If you’ve never seen it you really should make an effort to do so. If you have seen it why not see it again.

For more information and tickets on the screening go here.

It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

Don Hertzfeldt's latest short film, World of Tomorrow, debuted at Sundance last night, and it was recently announced he's working on a new feature film called Antarctica for Snoot Entertainment. Since January's been a month full of shorts here at Unseen, this just seems like an opportune time to look at Hertzfeldt's ambitious masterpiece It's Such a Beautiful Day.

The 62-minute film is comprised of three shorts: Everything Will Be OK (2006), I Am So Proud of You (2008), and It's Such a Beautiful Day (2011). Each short chronicles the life of Bill, a man suffering from a degenerative mental condition that changes his view of reality and causes lapses in memory. During I Am So Proud of You, we see a family history of mental illness on Bill's mother's side, which bounces between morbidity, sadness, absurdity, and such vulnerable human beauty. And it's funny too. What helps so much with this blend of tones is Hertzfeldt's narration, which is filled with a soothing and even-keeled care for Bill. It's a kind voice rather than a mocking one, and while there are hints of a smile in some lines, none of it is ever cruel.

But the narration is just a part of the whole. What makes the films that comprise It's Such a Beautiful Day so noteworthy is how Hertzfeldt fragments his imagery. Rather than fill the whole screen, Hertzfeldt uses sections of the screen to tell the story, with images and ideas played in irises and quarters and eighths of the frame. Moments in time occur simultaneously, and the sound design accounts for the jumble of visual information to create a kind of aural soup. It's a fascinating experiment in simulating Bill's mental state. Occasionally images will take up the whole screen when they are of special significance, or there will be a kind of focal stillness in which a single point in the frame--often one occupied by Bill--allows viewers to observe other points in the frame relative to the other. It's a game of seeing and noticing and appreciating what's happening between images and in images.

Hertzfeldt works predominantly with stick figures, and yet he captures so much human emotion in these little guys. Sure, there are animated photos and some video involved in much of the film and used to startling effect--more fascinating is that many of these multi-media effects were achieved in camera--but the strength of Hertzfeldt's art is finding the little details that say so much. The shape of the eyes and the angle/position of a mouth take on such an uncanny humanness. The ovular eyes and the little tilt up of a mouth is a pleasantly surprised smile, no need for the obvious parenthetical mouths in an emoticon. Similarly, Hertzfeldt identifies an odd sadness in just a few choice strands of hair or a little curve under an eye or the slope and posture of one of his characters. He'll marry the image to a line in narration--an observation, an idea, an aside--and both get anchored in the brain and cause a little catch in the throat and tug at the heart.

In Hertzfeldt's landmark short Rejected (2000), the writing was off-the-wall absurd and quotable. Lines from Rejected still jump out at me (most notably "My anus is bleeding!", and yes, it's hilarious). In It's Such a Beautiful Day, there are still quotable lines, though what's said and what a viewer reads off the screen has more of a devastating effect. If Rejected embodied the glorious oddness of artistic frustration, It's Such a Beautiful Day finds ways to express how wonderful life is and how unfortunate it is to lose it, especially when slowly, and especially when unstoppably.

It can hurt to be alive, and getting older really drives that pain home. Bill's days are so mundane and so lonely, and things can seem so plain sometimes. But life is also wonderful, and it's a shame that it has to end and that we spend so long worrying about how it will end. At a certain point, Bill, his mind going, takes a walk. He takes plenty, actually. but during one walk in particular, he suddenly notices what he's missing out on. All those splendors. He wants others to notice them, but they don't because they have the privilege of inattentiveness. It's one of many times during It's Such a Beautiful Day where Hertzfeldt is so earnest in what he's attempting to say. In lesser hands the whole idea would be saccharine, but in his, it's so achingly human.

Naked City (1948) New York Jewish Film Festival

Running as part of the new York Jewish Film Festival’s side bar Noir and the City, The Naked City is one of the first large budget Hollywood films to shoot almost entirely on location since the film industry moved out west.

The film is structured as a portrait of New York City with the through line being the investigation of a murder. A young woman is found dead in bath tub and the case grips the city. Meanwhile detective Berry Fitzgerald and his partners try to run down what happened and why. All along the way we are treated to wonderful shots of New York not long after the second world war.

Full confession-until I sat down to watch the film for inclusion in the NYJFF coverage  I had never seen the film from start to finish. I thought I had but I was wrong.

How is it?

It’s a good film that is ultimately more of interest for what it spawned rather than for what it is. As a film unto itself it’s a good and reasonably gripping film. In a weird way I understand why the film wasn’t a big hit either critically or financially. It’s not

The film itself, a police procedural of the sort that has been a staple of TV for decades is a good little drama, but it’s nothing special. Any uniqueness has worn away thanks to the decades of being copied. The mere fact that the film feels been there and done that speaks volumes about its influence. Everyone copied the film.

The film was also influential in its location shooting. Pretty much every scenes was filmed on location and it shows. The film feels real. Even now some 65 years later some of the stores and landmarks are still there. Even when you go to new stores now the old signs are there as well. Watching the film I kept going “I know where that is” simply because of the store fronts. Its very cool for an old New York junkie like me.

The on location shooting opened things up for filmmakers. People really could shoot on the streets. While its clear from some of the crowds that they didn’t lick the on looker problem the film did show it could be done. And yes it had been done on smaller scale previously, a shot here or there or by independents (say the film C Man).

If you want to see New York as it was or a good film that was wildly influential in any number of ways get down the Lincoln Center when the film Plays at the New York Jewish Film Festival.

The film runs on the 24th. For tickets and more information go here.