April 25, 2005

The Desire Realm of the Tribeca Destinies

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Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend a few showings at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. The event is relatively young for a major film screening: The first festival was organized after September 11 as an artistic incentive to bring additional revenue to lower Manhattan. This is only TFF’s fourth year, and the festival is no longer burdened by shock value or economic insecurity. For 2005, TFF collects more than 250 films from every continent (except Antarctica) and features numerous Q&As with the films’ actors, directors and producers.

The most heavily anticipated movies this year include Kar-Wai Wong’s luscious 2046 and Peter Greenaway’s eight-hour The Tulse Luper Suitcases. Wong’s film duplicates the purifying seduction and phantasmagoric hues of his prior work (In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express). In 2046, Tony Leung (of Mood fame) conducts brief affairs with Li Gong, Maggie Cheung and Ziya Zhang, among others. Greenaway has been known as one of the key figures of independent cinema since his baroque masterpiece The Draughtsman’s Contract. Suitcases offers a similarly convoluted and distancing narrative, emphasizing the director’s spectral tableaus. The movie’s three parts chronicle Tulse Luper’s bizarre excursions through the actual and metaphorical prisons of Wales, Utah, France, Spain and Italy (all shot on location).

Other notable foreign or independent films in competition are: The Axe, Costa-Gavras’ satirical indictment of murderous capitalism, The Brooklyn Connection, a documentary in which a 40-year-old Kosovo immigrant manages a roofing company during the day and builds a small militia at night, The Devil’s Miner, the story of a 14-year-old Bolivian silver miner in inhospitable environs, and The American Ruling Class, a crowd favorite that has Harper’s editor Lewis Lapham wondering whether the U.S. is still controlled by an aristocracy.

Other films fail to address any specific social concerns but navigate a course somewhere between mindless mayhem and heartrending banality. Snoop Dogg’s The L.A. Riot Spectacular pairs the Slope Day harlot with Charles Dutton, Emilio Estevez, William Forsythe, George Hamilton, Ron Jeremy and Jonathan Lipnicki. James Bai’s Puzzlehead finds a scientist vying for a se