Unusual Appetites

Clockwise from bottom: Paul Bartel, Divine, producer, publicist and Tab Hunter’s boyfriend, NYC, 2/27/85

Paul Bartel (1938-2000), best known as a character actor, was also a director with an incisive (and highly entertaining) take on violence as comedy, sexuality, perversity, race, greed and social-climbing.

“The Films of Paul Bartel,” the first retrospective of his work, includes his most famous film, “Eating Raoul” (1982). He stars with his frequent lead actress, sexy Warhol superstar Mary Woronov, as Paul and Mary Bland, Los Angeles cannibals, trying to find the funding to open a restaurant. Premiering at the 1982 New York Film Festival (and press screening a few days earlier, ironically on Yom Kippur), then-New York Times film critic Vincent Canby said that the film is a “comedy form that remains equidistant between put-down and send-up,” adding that “‘Eating Raoul’ is an extremely nice comedy about people who know that niceness is next to godliness and that sex is simply disgusting.”

The series, guest curated by David Savage, also includes cult favorite “Death Race 2000” (1975), which Bartel directed for producer Roger Corman, starring David Carradine, Mary Woronov and Sylvester Stallone; the NYC premiere of the newly restored print of “The Secret Cinema” (1968), a very funny short film about paranoia; “Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills,” (1989) Bartel’s “answer to the bed-hopping French farce,” with Jacqueline Bisset and Mary Woronov; and “Lust in the Dust” (1985), a western parody, with still handsome 1950s matinee idol Tab Hunter (who also wrote the screenplay), as a cowboy, and Divine as dance hall girl Rosie.

“The Films of Paul Bartel” opens today at Anthology Film Archives and runs through Thursday, October 19. Special guests include Stephen B. Armstrong (author, “Paul Bartel: The Life & Films”), Q&A after the “Death Race 2000,” show on Friday, Oct 13 at 7:00 pm; Bob Schulenberg (co-producer, “The Secret Cinema,” and production designer, “Eating Raoul”), Q&A panel after the short films program, Saturday, October 14 at 4:15 pm; and Wallace Shawn (“Scenes From the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills”), Q&A after the “Scenes…,” screening on Sunday, October 15 at 6:30 pm.

I was assigned to photograph Paul Bartel (individually) and his “Lust in the Dust” stars Tab Hunter and Divine (together) at the Parker Meridien for the Village Voice. When I arrived, there was a crowd in the suite’s living room. I chose to shoot the actors first and I asked Hunter’s boyfriend, a producer of the film, and the publicist to please wait in the bedroom. Bartel watched from across the living room.

Hunter and Divine were, as expected, really fun to shoot, and when I finished, Bartel and I went into the bedroom for a different environment. Divine accompanied us. Everyone was crowded together on the bed, doing work. I rearranged them a bit and added Divine reading the newspaper, and Bartel in the foreground, looking at the camera. The picture still makes me laugh, and also reminds me of a great, and significantly more somber, portrait Diane Arbus shot of Marcello Mastroianni in another hotel room, her image commenting on how film publicity is not always glamorous.

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NYFF55: Special Events (Tragedy and Triumph)

Claude Lanzmann

The great documentary filmmaker Claude Lanzmann (“Shoah”) returns to the New York Film Festival with a four-part film, made from interviews done in the 1970s that didn’t make it into his masterwork.

“Four Sisters” recounts the harrowing stories of four Eastern European Jewish women who, through a combination of determination, cleverness and nearly impossible luck, survived the Holocaust. Lanzmann has written, “What they have in common, apart from the specific horrors each one of them was subjected to, is their intelligence…that rejects all pretense and false reasons–in a word–idealism.”

In the most detailed film in the series, “The Hippocratic Oath,” Ruth Elias, a handsome woman, originally from a prosperous family in Ostravia, Czechoslovakia, now a proud Israeli, sits in her garden and recounts her experiences of deprivation and horror. At 19, she was shipped with her family to Theresienstadt, soon to be separated from them. At the end of the war, she was the family’s only survivor. She punctuates her history with songs from the period, in several languages, accompanying herself on the accordion.

The films comprising “The Four Sisters” will screen on Saturday, October 7 at 1:00 pm and Sunday, October 8 at 11:30 am, with an introduction by Lanzmann (“The Hippocratic Oath”), Sunday, October 8 at 2:00 pm (“Baluty”) and Tuesday, October 10 at 6:00 pm (“Noah’s Ark” and “The Merry Flea”).

Susan Lacy, the creator and executive producer of the Emmy-winning documentary series, “American Masters,” which, since 1986, has presented hundreds of profiles of important American artists, has directed “Spielberg.” The film incisively traces the “private, public and artistic development of one of cinema’s true giants.” Those interviewed include Spielberg’s close-knit family, contemporaries in the “New Hollywood” (Coppola, De Palma, Lucas, Scorsese), favored actor Tom Hanks, composer John Williams and longtime DP Janusz Kaminski.

“Spielberg” will screen on Friday, October 6 at 8:45 pm.

Steven Spielberg

Other highlights in NYFF55’s Special Events section are conversations with Ava DuVernay (and a special guest), Friday, October 6 at 6:00 pm; Kate Winslet (star of the closing night film, Woody’s Allen’s “Wonder Wheel”), Friday, October 13 at 6:00 pm; and great DPs Vittorio Storaro (“Wonder Wheel”) and Ed Lachman (“Wonderstruck,” centerpiece) sit down with NYFF director Kent Jones to discuss the art and craft of cinematography, and their careers. Wednesday, October 11 at 6:15 pm.

Recently added to the lineup, a sneak preview of Paul Schrader’s new film, “First Reformed,” stars Ethan Hawke as a middle-aged pastor called to minister to a troubled young environmental activist (Philip Ettinger) and his wife (Amanda Seyfried). The film will screen on Friday, October 6 at 6:00 pm, with Schrader in person.

Ethan Hawke

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NYFF55: Spotlight on Documentary (A Playwright and a Primatologist)

Rebecca Miller

Filmmaker and writer Rebecca Miller’s portrait of her father, “Arthur Miller: Writer,” is concerned with the difference between the great playwright’s public persona and the man she knew and deeply  loved. Her film is warm and honest, dealing with Miller’s life, ideas and work, constructed from nearly spontaneous footage she shot over many years at the family’s home in Connecticut, archival film, stills and audio, interviews with Miller, family members, including her mother, Miller’s third wife, Magnum photographer Inge Morath, and colleagues.

The film details the creation, original staging and reception of Miller’s great successes (very interesting fact: “Death of a Salesman” was working titled “The Inside of His Head”), later plays that were less applauded and praised revivals, beginning in the 80s, staged and filmed.

Miller pays substantial attention to the effect the tragedy of the McCarthy era and the “naming of names” by  Miller’s great friend and creative partner, Elia Kazan, had on her father. She also deals with her father’s failed second marriage, to a fragile Marilyn Monroe. (Miller handles that part of the biography with equanimity but seemingly it would be a somewhat strange experience talking to one’s father about being married to the screen goddess, an American icon.)

“Arthur Miller: Writer” will screen on Monday, October 9 at 6:30 pm, Tuesday, October 10 at 8:30 pm and Saturday, October 14 at 3:30 pm, with Q&As with Rebecca Miller.

Miller will participate in a free NYFF Live talk, “Documenting Creativity,” with other NYFF55 filmmakers  whose current films focus on the lives and work of major writers and artists. Other filmmakers include Griffin Dunne, who profiles his aunt (“Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold”) and Susan Lacy on one of cinema’s giants (“Spielberg”). The talk will take place on Friday, October 6 in the Elinor Bunim Munroe Film Center Amphitheater. Tickets will be available at the box office on a first-come, first-served basis, starting one hour prior to the talk.

Jane Goodall, 83, who holds the honorary title of messenger of peace for the United Nations and is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute, was sent by Dr. Louis Leakey to Gombe Stream National Park near Lake Tangyanika in 1960. It was Goodall’s first contact with the chimpanzee population, documented by Dutch filmmaker Hugo van Lawick (who became her first husband). The film “Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees,” only National Geographic’s second, became very popular.

One hundred hours of van Lawick’s original footage was rediscovered in 2014, from which documentary filmmaker Brett Morgen has made “Jane,” “giving new life to the experiences of this remarkable woman and the wild in which she found a home.”

“Jane” will screen on Thursday, October 5 at 9:00 pm and on Friday, October 6 at 6:00 pm. There will be Q&As with Brett Morgen on both days and he will be joined by Jane Goodall on October 5.

Other filmmakers participating in Spotlight on Documentary include Abel Ferrara, Alex Gibney, Sara Driver, Denis Côté, Barbet Schroeder and Vanessa Redgrave, making her directorial debut.

Jane Goodall

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NYFF55: Directors Dialogues

Lucrecia Martel

This year’s free series of festival directors sitting down for intimate Q&As about their work includes the singular Argentinian filmmaker Lucrecia Martel, discussing her current feature, “Zama,” which was based on a classic novel, set in the late 18th century. Martel will also talk about her three earlier features–“La Cienaga” (2001), “The Holy Girl” (2004), and “The Headless Woman” (2009), all of which screened at the New York Film Festival. (Howard Gilman Theater, Sunday, October 1, 3:00 pm.)

Other directors in the program are: Agnès Varda & JR, “Faces Places” (Francesca Beale Theater, Monday, October 2, 6:00 pm); Hong Sang-soo, “The Day After” and “On the Beach at Night Alone” (Amphitheater, Monday, October 9, 7:00 pm); and Philippe Garrel, “Lover for a Day” (Amphitheater, Wednesday, October 10, 8:00 pm).

Free tickets to Directors Dialogues will be distributed at the Elinor Bunin Munroe Film Center box office on a first-come, first-served basis, starting one hour prior to the talks.

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NYFF55: The Word Is Wonder

The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s 55th New York Film Festival, opening tomorrow and running through October 15, includes a main slate of 25 films from North and South America, Europe, Asia and Africa, several of which collected Bears and Palmes in the winter and spring. The opening and closing night films (Richard Linklater’s “Last Flag Flying” and Woody Allen’s “Wonder Wheel”) are world premieres. “Wonderstruck,” directed by Todd Haynes, based on a book by Brian Selznick, is the centerpiece selection.

NYFF Director and Selection Committee Chair Kent Jones said, “Every year, I’m asked about the themes in our main slate line-up, and every year I say the same thing: we choose the best films we see, and the common themes and preoccupations arise only after the fact. As I look at this slate of beautiful work, I could just make a series of simple observations: that these films come from all over the globe; that there is a nice balance of filmmakers known and unknown to many here in New York; that the overall balance between frankness and artistry holds me in awe; that there are two gala selections with the word ‘wonder’ in their titles; and that eight of the 25 films were directed by women.” (More than 33%–another wonder, and women are also well-represented in other NYFF sections.)

Opening night, “Last Flag Flying,” directed by NYFF veteran Richard Linklater features Steve Carell (Doc), Bryan Cranston (Sal) and Laurence Fishburne (Mueller) in three stellar performances as former Vietnam-era Marines, who reunite in tragedy during the Bush era. The trio has come together for the proper burial of Doc’s only child, killed in the beginning of the Iraq war.

Other returning NYFF veterans include Agnieszka Holland, with “Spoor,” her phantasmagorical murder mystery/love story, and Aki Kaurismaki. His latest, “The Other Side of Hope,” a  tragicomedy about the migrant crisis, watches two men in Helsinki. One, Wikström (Sakari Kuosmanen), creates a new life while remaining nearly in place, leaving his wife, and trading his business wholesaling shirts for a restaurant. The other, Khlaed (Sherwan Haji), leaves Aleppo after his family is killed, and after a long and dangerous journey arrives in Finland in the belly of ship carrying coal. Where their lives intersect enriches the story with real elements of compassion and hope.

The great filmmaker, 89-year-old Agnès Varda, is also back, with her new documentary, “Faces Places” (“Visages villages”), co directed with 34-year-old image maker JR. The two are a perfect pairing (rather than an odd couple)–Varda with her white hair that blends into orange bangs, and JR, with his omnipresent sunglasses and porkpie hat–and deliver a true enchantment, entirely sans treacle. The two travel around rural France, celebrating artisanal production, workers’ solidarity and photography, Varda recording their trip and JR making giant portraits with his truck studio/instant camera and pasting them to rural buildings, a World War II German bunker and shipping containers. Their journey was documented by multiple image and sound recordists, subsequently edited together by Varda and her editor to create this wonder.

Also appearing again in NYFF are Arnaud Desplechin, Noah Baumbach, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Claire Denis, Philippe Garrel, Lucrecia Martel, and Hong Sang-soo. Debuting filmmakers include Luca Guadagnino, Sean Baker, Greta Gerwig, Serge Bozon, Dee Rees, Chloé Zhao, Joachim Trier, Alain Gomis, and Valeska Grisebach.

Chloé Zhao uses nonprofessional actors to great effect  in “The Rider,” (as she did in her previous film, “Song My Brother Taught Me”), playing characters similar to themselves. The film, set on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, features Brady Jandreau (amazing), as a champion rodeo rider forced by severe injury to abandon the the work that gives his life meaning.

In “The “Florida Project,” a depiction of “childhood on the margins,” Moonee, a six-year old girl, and her friends play wildly on the grounds of a transient motel in Orlando near Disney World. Director Sean Baker shot on 35mm film, making his new film look much different, but no less gorgeous, than his spectacular “Tangerine,” which was famously shot with an iPhone. And again he deals with endurance and heartbreak.

A frequent star for experienced and up-and-coming NYFF filmmakers alike, the incomparable Isabelle Huppert stars this year in Serge Bozon’s inventive “Mrs. Hyde,” as a mousy science teacher in the suburbs of Paris, working without success to gain the respect of her students. After getting struck by lightning through equipment in her lab, she begins to glow and burn from within and helps a distracted but gifted student find a real interest in learning. And this being a Serge Bozon film, things spiral entertainingly out of control.

Upper panel, clockwise from top left: Sean Baker, Serge Bozon, Chloé Zhao, Ruben Östlund.  All images © Robin Holland.

Lower panel, clockwise from top left: Isabelle Huppert, Agnès Varda, Aki Kaurismaki, Richard Linklater. All images © Robin Holland.

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Taylor Mead, in his Orchard Street apartment, 10/17/02, for a piece by C. Carr

The last print issue of the Village Voice, with a startlingly gorgeous ultra-tight crop of Fred McDarrah’s iconic image of Bob Dylan on the cover, rolled off the presses today. The first issue was published, with newsprint and ink, the only options, on October 26, 1955.

The issue is hefty, the way the Voice used to be, including an article looking back and forward (and promising a much-needed digitized archive) by editor in chief Stephen Mooalem; an interview with the paper’s first film critic, filmmakers/poet/artist Jonas Mekas, now 94; R.C. Baker, artist and the Voice’s long time chief art critic and production manager, remembers overseeing the printing of approximately 900 weekly issues; a portfolio of work of Voice photographers (I’m thrilled to be included, with friends and colleagues Fred McDarrah–of whom I often said, “If Fred hadn’t hired me, I’d probably have a real job by now–Sylvia Plachy, James Hamilton, Amy Arbus and Cathy McGann), and “Graphic Content,” new work by Voice illustrators and cartoonists. And then there’s the nearly 50-page family album, black and white portraits of so many of those who made the Voice, shot at the recent reunion party.

I worked for the Village Voice regularly from 1981 until around 2003–I loved it–shooting portraits of filmmakers and artists, art exhibitions and sometimes restaurants. I shot my last cover (Spike Lee) in 2013.

And I feel sentimental about seeing my images in today’s paper (Taylor Mead, 9/11 rescue workers and Ed Koch and Al Sharpton), reproduced really crappy one last time, as newsprint and ink is superseded by pixels.  The Village Voice will continue to live online, of course, and I hope, thrive.

Ed Koch and the Reverend Al Sharpton, NYC, 10/8/99, for a cover story by Peter Noel

Tribeca teenagers volunteering as rescue workers, Hudson Street at Duane Street, 9/12/01, part of a series of portraits of 9/11 responders


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Harry Dean Stanton 1926-2017

Harry Dean Stanton, NYC, 9/10/13

Harry Dean Stanton, a talented (and longtime) character actor who became a leading man with his indelible portrayal of Travis in Wim Wenders’ 1984 Palme d’or winner, “Paris, Texas,” died Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91.

Stanton, born in West Irvine, KY, served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II. Returning home, he attended the University of Kentucky, leaving after three years to move to California to study acting at the Pasadena Playhouse. His earliest TV roles were on popular westerns and he played endless cowboys for two decades. He went on to appear in more than 200 movies and TV episodes.

Attracting attention with his specific gifts, he was cast in more important projects, including “Straight Time” (1978), “Alien,” “Wise Blood” and “The Rose” (all 1979) and “Escape From New York” (1981).

In addition to “Paris, Texas,” Stanton also starred in Alex Cox’s “Repro Man” in 1984. With his amazing face, unique voice–he was also an accomplished singer and musician–and friendly and yet, more than a bit enigmatic demeanor, Stanton was now a star/cult figure. In 1986 he hosted “Saturday Night Live.”

Working with prestigious directors, he had roles in Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988), David Lynch’s “Wild at Heart” (1990) and “The Straight Story” (1999) and Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” (1998). He also appeared in three seasons of HBO’s “Big Love,” garnering significant attention. Continuing to work into his 80s and 90s, he was featured in “The Avengers” (2012) and this year he was part of the cast of “Twin Peaks.”

Roger Ebert applauded  Stanton’s gifts when he said, “No film with his presence could be without merit.”

A 21-film retrospective, “Also Starring Harry Dear Stanton,” will open at the Quad on Friday, September 22 and will run through Tuesday, October 3. On Friday, September 29, “Lucky,” starring Stanton as a 90-year-old atheist, living in an off-the-map desert town, will open at the Quad. Character actor John Carroll Lynch’s directorial debut has been described as “a love letter to the life and career of Harry Dear Stanton, as well as a meditation on mortality, loneliness, spirituality and human connection.”

Harry Dean Stanton, The Devil’s Graveyard, near Terlingua, TX, 9/29/83. Photo: Robin Holland.

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