The New Orleans Film Fest
Canal Place Cinema IV, Prytania Theatre, CAC and other locations.
The 20th New Orleans Film Festival screens feature films, documentaries, short and experimental works, including some world and regional premieres. Richard Linklater will attend the opening night screening of his most recent release, Me and Orson Welles, and he will be featured in an interview session Saturday. The festival also screens his 1993 film Dazed and Confused. Major new films include Precious, The Young Victoria and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, starring Nicolas Cage. Reviews of several feature documentaries follow. For details about all films, schedules and locations, visit www.neworleansfilmfest.com.
The Yes Men Fix the World
4:15 p.m. Saturday
The Yes Men Fix the World is not an accurate title. New Orleanians may remember when the two pranksters appeared at a post-Katrina rebuilding conference posing as HUD officials (pictured) and announced a reversal in policy and the reopening of the Lafitte public housing development. The hoax was exposed within hours. Lafitte residents were not readmitted.
In 2004, the Yes Men went on BBC on the 20th anniversary of the Union Carbide disaster in Bhopal (which left 5,000 dead and 100,000 seriously ill) and announced Dow, which bought Union Carbide, had set aside $12 billion to compensate victims and clean up the still-toxic facility. Within hours they were exposed as frauds, but not before Dow's stock dipped 3 percent in value.
In those and other cases chronicled in the film, the Yes Men succeed in raising awareness rather than resolving problems. Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno string a narrative through some of their more inspired stunts, from crashing World Trade Organization events, to posing as HUD spokesmen to climate change activism. What's most stunning is not that they infiltrate corporate events or (at least initially) fool media organizations, it's that so few people question their outrageous pronouncements. One group of disaster conference attendees listen eagerly as Bichlbaum describes the biblical flood as a boon for Noah, who gained "a monopoly on the world's animals."
It's funny and sometimes so sad it's funny. But the Yes Men have a fairly earnest point: they're just two guys; if more people stood up and demanded change, it would be easy to achieve. Bonanno will attend the screening. — Will Coviello
No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos
5:30 p.m. Sat.
Canal Place Cinema IV
Laszlo Kovacs and Vilmos Zsigmond used their cameras in revolutionary ways, but in two very different senses. They filmed the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956 before fleeing the country. And they ended up in Hollywood, where their work became part of a brilliant era of American moviemaking.
No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo and Vilmos tracks the careers of the two film-school students who filmed the Russian suppression of revolt in Budapest. They soon fled to Austria, and footage of the carnage aired around the world.
Kovacs and Zsigmond sought asylum in the United States and eventually landed in Hollywood. They had to start by taking jobs shooting baby portraits and then advanced from early nude films to the horror genre to biker flicks — a no-to-low budget ladder of schlock. Not being constrained by the studio system, however, they were free to improvise. They shot scenes on California highways from moving vehicles. A few better-connected filmmakers noticed. Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and Jack Nicholson attended a screening and decided they wanted the same look for their upcoming film, Easy Rider (1969).
Kovacs and Zsigmond both had an aptitude for capturing light on film. They were recruited for work on landmark movies in a new movement in American cinema. They handled the cinematography for Robert Altman's McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971), Paper Moon (1973), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), The Deer Hunter (1978), Frances (1982), Ghostbusters (1984) and many other remarkable films.
No Subtitles touches on their friendship, the ordeal of their escape from Hungary and their storied artistic careers. By the end, director James Chressanthis becomes preoccupied with filmmaking shoptalk offered by Hollywood heavyweights. But Zsigmond laughs that he was fired from the set of Close Encounters at least six times. Losing a job clearly wasn't the worst thing he ever had to face. — Coviello
It Might Get Loud
10:15 p.m. Sat.
Canal Place Cinema IV
What happens when three guitar gods — Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin), the Edge (U2) and Jack White (White Stripes) — get together for a candid-camera joint biopic and baton-passing, no-holds-barred jam session? "Probably a fistfight," White jokes at the start of Davis Guggenheim's It Might Get Loud, but he couldn't be more off-key. A rare and unabashed love-fest, some silly Guitar Center fetishizing ("The whole aroma of it — it's like a woman, you know?" the Edge gushes over sinuous six-string pornography) and an appropriate genuflection by the filmmaker would've been better guesses.
An Inconvenient Truth, Guggenheim's Oscar-winning 2006 documentary, built a disquieting argument for the dangers of global warming around an Al Gore PowerPoint presentation. So you can imagine the visceral thrills he milks here out of a trio of the best-known bad boys in rock history. Jumping between past and present-day London, Detroit and Dublin, Guggenheim digs up the roots of his three subjects and their roads to superstardom.
Not surprising, each follows his musical arc to a T. White is a fiery throwback who leaves his fretboard bloodied and likens technology to a disease. His origin story is the most amusing: rocking out in a furniture store (band name: the Upholsterers) and summoning his beloved blues mythology with a 9-year-old Mini-Me in early segments. (Their stomping duet of Walter Vinson's "Sittin' on Top of the World" is one of the film's many performance highlights.) Weeping about the death of guitar heroes during This is Spinal Tap ("It was so close to the truth"), checking his BlackBerry while doing yoga, the Edge seems an ever-sanctimonious pedal pusher — until his chilling "Sunday Bloody Sunday" refrains are juxtaposed with images of war-torn Ireland.
But the unmasking (or hair-parting, as it were) of Page alone is worth the price of admission. Whether muscling up riffs or narrating stock footage, the dapper Englishman is delightful as he recounts playing skiffle as a pup ("rock 'n' roll breastfeeding"), quitting music to pursue painting and, somehow, still ending up onstage, fingering a double-necked Gibson next to a yelping Robert Plant. By the time they're all strumming acoustics, harmonizing "Take a load off, Fanny" for a hair-raising cover of the Band's "The Weight," any cock-rock posturing has given way to a cross-generational "Kumbaya." — Noah Bonaparte Pais
Best Worst Movie
10:15 p.m. Saturday
The relentlessly gregarious George Hardy, a dentist from Lake Martin, Ala., has starred in two films. He didn't see the first one, Troll 2 (1989) until 2006, and in a scene in the second film, Best Worst Movie, he is told by a video-rental-store clerk that he can find the first one in the "Holy F—king Shitty" section.
In 1989, Hardy took three weeks out from a dental residency in Utah to act in Troll 2. Italian director Claudio Fragrasso and most of his crew spoke little English. Fragrasso's wife wrote the script in which she essentially used a vampire tale as a model for a story about vegetarian goblins hungry for biomatter. In the film, Best Worst director Michael Paul Stephenson was cast as a little boy who is guided by the ghost of his dead grandfather to try to save his family from being turned into plants. The character General Store Owner was a man on furlough from mental treatment looking for something to do. And — not that it matters — but there are no trolls in the movie, and it is completely unrelated to the movie Troll.
Add it all up and you have a cult classic. Via the Internet, Hardy learned about a cast reunion and reconnected with several members in 2006. Then he talked with Stephenson, who did not attend the reunion but had a successful film production career in Los Angeles. They decided to document the cult following. But what drives Best Worst Movie is the effusive good will and charisma of Hardy. A former Auburn cheerleader, he loves to be in front of a crowd. He and Stephenson set up a series of Troll 2 screenings across the country and filmed cheering fans as Hardy reenacted scenes with them and delivered classically bad lines ("You can't piss on hospitality, I won't allow it.").
Dissecting the disaster of Troll 2 is funny, but Best Worst is really about Hardy's quirky victory lap in front of adoring fans. Fragrasso's resentment of the laughter helps focus the love/hate response to an abysmal film that's only becoming more popular. Hardy will attend the screening. — Coviello