Tribeca Film Festival early bird highlights

The unlikely adventures of Christian Dior, Leopold von Sacher­-Masoch, Houellebecq, Jeff Koons, H.P. Lovecraft and more.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Ballet 422, directed by Jody Lee Lipes, Guillaume Nicloux's The Kidnapping Of Michel Houellebecq (L'enlèvement de Michel Houellebecq), Lucky Them by Megan Griffiths, Roman Polanski's Venus In Fur (La Vénus À La Fourrure), and Frédéric Tcheng's Dior And I are some of the early bird highlights in the 13th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, April 16 ­to 27.

What do Christian Dior, Leopold von Sacher­-Masoch, Houellebecq, Jeff Koons, H.P. Lovecraft, Emmanuelle Seigner with Mathieu Amalric, Toni Collette, Thomas Hayden Church, Justin Peck, and a rare creature from the Galapagos Islands have in common? They will make you laugh and cry, change your style and improve your outlook on life, and may remind you of a combination of Marlene Dietrich and Judy Holliday.

Dior And I

Dior And I
Dior And I

Frédéric Tcheng, co-­producer and co­-editor of the fashion documentary Valentino: The Last Emperor and co­-director of Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel, brings his beautifully evocative Dior And I to Tribeca where it will have its world premiere. The haute couture ateliers of the House of Dior in Paris are haunted by the spirit of the founder, Christian Dior, who, in 1947, revolutionised the world of fashion with the "New Look". After the war, so Dior explained in his memoir, quoted in voiceover, women had enough of looking like soldiers with broad shoulders and boxy jackets, they longed to look like flowers, with "tiny waists above skirts that blossomed like corollas." 55 years later, Christian Dior's portraits still loom in every corridor. Enter Raf Simons, the Belgian designer, often mis­labeled "minimalist" who came from furniture design, to menswear, to Jil Sander. The documentary follows Simons' initial eight weeks as creative director at the helm of Dior, under pressure to produce his first ever haute couture collection in less time than ever. Tcheng suggests in mood and tone, rather than words, that Simons faces the challenges of Hitchcock's new Mrs. de Winter to Dior's Rebecca. Brushstrokes by artist Sterling Ruby turn into fabric, the "negative" of Jeff Koons' Flower Puppy transforms the way of presenting the collection, and questions of control behind the scenes make Dior and I into a delicate and poignant fashion thriller.

See our interview with Frédéric Tcheng about the film.

Thursday, April 17, 6:30pm – SVA Theater 1; April 19, 3:00pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 7; April 22, 9:00pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 7; April 25, 9:00pm – AMC Loews Village 7 – 1

Venus In Fur (La Vénus À La Fourrure)

Venus In Fur
Venus In Fur

At the very start, Roman Polanski's thrashingly exciting chamber piece Venus in Fur evokes the death of the great Austro­-Hungarian playwright Ödön von Horváth, who was hit by a falling tree branch one stormy day on the Champs­ Élysées, in 1938 in front of the Théâtre Marigny. He might be our segue to Austrian author Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, whose 1870 novel not only inspired Polanski's film and the 2010 play by David Ives, but gave masochism its name. Using a similar framing device as he did in Carnage, where Brooklyn Bridge Park becomes gateway to the sealed­ off world the spectators are about to enter, in Venus In Fur, Polanski drops us off in a theatre where a Belgian production of Stagecoach, The Musical had left behind their western set plus cactus. Frustrated director Thomas, played by Mathieu Amalric with sparkly confusion and Polanski's haircut, has almost given up casting the heroine of the play he adapted from Sacher­ Masoch's Venus In Furs. Emmanuelle Seigner, in an audaciously funny, slinky, and menacing performance, shows up as Vanda, and convinces Thomas to read the play with her. Seigner authoritatively shapeshifts into and out of the fictional skins, from gum­ chewing actress desperate for an audition to Olympian goddess, and from 19th century Austrian noblewoman to a most hilariously seductive combination of Marlene Dietrich and Judy Holliday.

April 22, 6:00pm – BMCC April 26, 7:00pm – SVA Theater 2

Lucky Them

Lucky Them
Lucky Them

Thomas Hayden Church steals the show in Megan Griffiths' spirited comedy set in the world of Seattle music journalism and hankering for love stories past. Based in part on adventures in co-­screenwriter Emily Wachtel's life, Toni Collette plays music journalist Ellie Klug who likes her whiskey straight and her life uncomplicated. The magazine she works for is in trouble and her boss Giles (Oliver Platt) forces Ellie to write about the famous musician Matthew Smith who mysteriously disappeared many years ago and also happened to be her ex-­boyfriend. Thomas Hayden Church plays Charlie, who used to be in the jewellery business, and before that in software, and who comes from an old family with money anyway. Now a freshly ­minted self­-proclaimed documentary filmmaker, Charlie accompanies Ellie into her grungy past, which isn't easy for him because he hates music, "all music." With only three minutes of footage and a lot of dead ends, including a Galapagos animal wedding gift surprise, the unlikely detective team keeps looking for a reclusive past that withdraws from being found.

April 21, 9:30pm – BMCC; April 23, 9:30pm – SVA Theater 1; April 26, 12:00pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea

The Kidnapping Of Michel Houellebecq (L'Enlèvement De Michel Houellebecq)

The Kidnapping Of Michel Houellebecq
The Kidnapping Of Michel Houellebecq

In September of 2011, notorious French author Michel Houellebecq disappeared from a book tour which led to speculations in the International press that he had been kidnapped. Guillaume Nicloux's film re­enacts what could have possibly happened, had the writer actually been kidnapped. From this absurd starting point, the literary star, playing an abducted version of himself, drinks, chain smokes and debates himself through interactions about H.P. Lovecraft and the art of whistling with his rural, body building, small time criminal kidnappers. Who learns what from whom and what life is all about is revealed scene by scene, in the gypsy settlement kitchen, the chintz bedroom (complete with handcuffs and life­size doll), in a wrestling embrace and tender encounters with the neighborhood prostitute.

April 18, 5:30pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 6; April 19, 9:45pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 8; April 21, 3:30pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 6; April 25, 10:30pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 9

Ballet 422

Ballet 422
Ballet 422

Jody Lee Lipes invites us to watch one of those rare birds among performance documentaries – one that focuses on the work. Justin Peck, member of the prestigious New York City Ballet’s Corps de Ballet became the only current dancer to choreograph a new ballet for the 2013 winter season, the company’s 422nd and with music from 1935. What we see in fascinating detail are two months of creation. No talking heads, no manipulation via mood music, no melodrama or private life rivalries distract from the process of idea to premiere. Costumes are designed and dyed (no belly button and high waisted bathing suits), lighting is constructed so “not to overburden with metaphors”, and communication with the orchestra turns out to be a last minute affair. Be prepared for a surprise at the end when something almost forgotten tells us all we need to know.

April 19, 9:30pm – SVA Theater 1; April 22, 7:00pm – AMC Loews Village 7 – 2; April 23, 6:30pm – Bow Tie Cinemas Chelsea 6; April 27, 11:30am – AMC Loews Village 7 – 3

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