Tribeca Film Festival encore highlights

The Last Laugh, The Show Of Shows, Contemporary Color and The Family Fang.

by Anne-Katrin Titze

David Byrne conceives Contemporary Color by Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross
David Byrne conceives Contemporary Color by Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

Of Horses And Men director Benedikt Erlingsson's latest The Show Of Shows (Storyville); Ferne Pearlstein's The Last Laugh with Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Sarah Silverman, Robert Clary, Rob Reiner, Harry Shearer, Jeffrey Ross, Alan Zweibel, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Larry Charles, David Steinberg, Susie Essman, Lisa Lampanelli and Hanala Sagal (co-writer of Liza Johnson's Elvis & Nixon); Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken, Maryann Plunkett, Kathryn Hahn and Marin Ireland in Jason Bateman's The Family Fang, screenplay by David Lindsay-Abaire; Contemporary Color, with camerawork by Jessica Oreck, Sean Price Williams, Michael Palmieri, Robert Greene, Wyatt Gerfield, Amanda Rose Wilder, under DP Jarred Alterman and with Beastie Boys' Adam Horovitz, Devonté Hynes, Nelly Furtado, Nico Muhly, Ira Glass, St. Vincent, Money Mark, Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe, providing some of the music to David Byrne's color guard extravaganza directed by Bill and Turner Ross are four specialty acts that may provoke you.

Andrew Rossi's The First Monday in May and Elvis & Nixon, starring Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey are the Opening Night and Centerpiece Gala selections of the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Last Laugh
The Last Laugh

The Last Laugh

The who's who of comedy reflect on questions of free speech, taboos, and time limits, as Ferne Pearlstein puts us on an emotional roller coaster in her stunning documentary where "You can't tell a crappy joke about the Holocaust." The Last Laugh does not make light of the subject, allowing for a chorus of opinions. Mel Brooks who never included a swastika in his material until The Producers, makes an important distinction between jokes about Nazis and jokes about the Holocaust. The former were game early on - from Bugs Bunny "Herr Meets Hare" to Ernst Lubitsch's To Be Or Not To Be, to Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator - the latter are still problematic. Holocaust survivor Renee Firestone is the film's responsive center. A vibrant woman in her nineties, she tells her story and comments on what she thinks is funny and what isn't. Sarah Silverman, Rob Reiner, Lisa Lampanelli and many more make us laugh, possibly despite ourselves, here. One thing is certain, the combination makes you think, maybe more deeply and maybe in another direction about the Holocaust. Because the conversation on genocide is far from over, as the former Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo reminds us in Edet Belzberg's Watchers Of The Sky.

World Premiere - April 18, 8:00pm - SVA Theatre 1 Expected to attend: Ferne Pearlstein, Gilbert Gottfried, Judy Gold, Alan Zweibel, Abraham Foxman, Shalom Auslander, Hanala Sagal, Roz Weinman, Jake Ehrenreich, Elly Gross, Renee Firestone, Robert Edwards, Anne Hubbell, Amy Hobby

The Show Of Shows: 100 Years Of Vaudeville, Circuses And Carnivals
The Show Of Shows: 100 Years Of Vaudeville, Circuses And Carnivals

The Show Of Shows: 100 Years Of Vaudeville, Circuses And Carnivals

Before there was Leonardo DiCaprio keeping warm inside a dead horse staged by Alejandro González Iñárritu in ]The Revenant, Benedikt Erlingsson showed us the same survival technique in his film Of Horses And Men in 2013. Now he brings us The Show Of Shows, entirely made up of archival footage, featuring circus, carnival and vaudeville acts from the 19th and 20th centuries. Erlingsson works with ten thematic interlocking angles. First the tents go up and we glimpse rehearsals behind the scenes. Then come the dancers, belly and tap and everything in-between. The third chapter has acrobats shot out of cannons or jumping from high places into pre-Esther Williams pools. No voiceover or inter-title guides us, the score sounds contemporary, and clusters of themes are loosely tied to each other. Four is for the girls, dressed in semi-transparent body stockings or less, "American Striptease" reads the sign behind one of them. The animal section, central to the circus and in this film, is the most devastating one to watch. Lions, tigers, and polar bears perform silly and deeply unnecessary tasks. We can marvel about humanity and despair about it. The film will be presented at the MoMA PS 1 VW Dome, where Michelangelo Frammartino's Alberi and Celia Rowlson-Hall's Ma dazzled audiences in previous years of the festival.

North American Premiere Special Screening - April 17, 4:00pm - VW Dome at MoMA PS1 Expected to attend: Benedikt Erlingsson, Margrét Jónasdóttir

Contemporary Color
Contemporary Color

Contemporary Color

A Josephine Baker song from 1930 sets the tone as a warm-up for the Master of Ceremonies [Mike Hartsock] with a booming voice and Trump hairdo, introducing the flag-swinging color guarders who performed live at Brooklyn's Barclay Center last summer. In Bill and Turner Ross's idiosyncratic report on David Byrne's highly original culture combo, where he matches up his musician friends with the performances and cinematographers specially chosen by the directors, different body types hurl toy guns in the air and rhythmically wiggle around on the floor. Rural "Guard Dads" who are helping out "any daughter" as if she were their own, stand by in the wings, watching and waiting for their mechanical expertise to be needed. Byrne explains how he "stumbled across this art form," and how he wanted to improve it musically. We see him lost in the corridors humming the songs sung on stage by the performers. Lucius [Holly Laessig and Jess Wolfe], both dressed in bright yellow, are an impressive opening act with "What's the Use in Crying?". Nico Muhly - whose work as composer can be heard also in Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai's Reset, the documentary about Benjamin Millepied's first ballet as head of the Opéra National de Paris - is musically responsible for Color Guard program: Alter Ego, together with Ira Glass. Ten teams and ten acts blend into one another as snippets of a bizarre American subculture emerge.

World Premiere - April 14, 9:00pm - John Zuccotti Theater BMCC Expected to attend: Bill Ross, Turner Ross, David Byrne, Ira Glass, color guarders

The Family Fang
The Family Fang

The Family Fang

Used to being props in their parents' pop-up performance art since childhood, the adult Fang children have some outer and inner demons to face. Annie Fang (Nicole Kidman) has become an actress in not so very interesting-looking movies while she struggles with alcohol. Her younger brother Baxter (played by the director Jason Bateman) is a troubled author (House of Swans!) unable to finish his latest book. When a writing assignment goes wrong in a Deliverance meets Wilhelm Tell kind of way and Baxter ends up in the hospital with a potato cannon shot wound at his ear, the whole family reunites. Patriarch Caleb Fang (Christopher Walken) still holds the reins. His art is meant to shock the world out of every-day complacency and his life is all about control. Using his own small children in a bank robbery piece or handing out fake chicken wing vouchers, Caleb makes his own rules. This is a surprising study about the longterm effect of wanting approval from a parent whose love went elsewhere instead.

US Premiere - April 16, 9:00pm - John Zuccotti Theater BMCC Expected to attend: Jason Bateman, Nicole Kidman, Christopher Walken

The 15th edition of the Tribeca Film Festival, presented by AT&T runs from April 13 through April 24.

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