April 12, 2011
FILM FORUMS: The film world lost a great last week with the passing of Sidney Lumet.
The 86-year-old director ‘s career spanned everything from “Twelve Angry Men" in 1957, “Dog Day Afternoon" (1975), “Network" (1976) and “The Verdict," featuring one of Paul Newman’s finest, most nuanced performances (1982).
Proving that youth is a state of mind, Lumet’s last film, 2007’s “Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead," was also one of his finest, with tough, well-acted and directed performances by Ethan Hawke, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney, in a drama about a crime plot that goes disastrously bad, with tragic implications for a family. Working from a script by relative unknown Kelly Masterson, Lumet demonstrates his respect for the word, and for the skills of his fellow actors. It’s a tour de force.
Locally, the film scenesters kept the flame this weekend, as the Monterey Bay Film Festival put on a well-curated series of films by teen filmmakers.
Highlights included “Greenfield," directed by Hilario Guzman as part of a free video workshop for Triqui community members, put together in August 2010 under the auspices of the South Monterey County Center for Arts & Technology, which has been since subsumed, or so I’m reliably informed, into Conexion Comunitaria, the umbrella name for several local programs funded under a federal grant last October that are currently managed by the Media Center for Art & Technology at the Monterey County Office of Education.
Whatever the bureaucratic structure, Guzman’s dreamy, video-like take on the too-little-known world of Greenfield, was moving and effective, and those involved are to be commended for their work helping this underserved community.
Other treats in the Young Filmmakers section of the festival included “Irwin Stevens: Untamed World"—a mock tribute to the late crocodile hunter Steve Irwin, which tracks the path of the “elusive college student" and “Memory," Sarah Bacon of Marina’s short (two minutes) but sweet narrative which expertly mixes black and white with color photography.
Sundance associate programmer Mike Plante kept things rocking, to the delight of the students and cineastes at the World Cinema, with an eclectic group of “True Stories."
Highlights included “Bloodhag: The Faster You Go Deaf the More Time You Have To Read," about a death metal band who sing about sci-fi and fantasy books at libraries to indoctrinate kids into the joys of reading (and death metal); “Voice on the Line," by Kelly Sears, an eerie, William S. Burroughs-ish exploration of the imaginary (perhaps) relationship between telephone operators and Cold War plots; and “Oops," a madcap look at “YouTube’s clumsiest videographers."
Mr. Lumet may be gone, but his spirit lives on.
Here’s a clip of Newman’s summation to the jury in “The Verdict,’’ which hearkens back to the director’s earlier courtroom work in “Twelve Angry Men.’’