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Cate Blanchett


Jim Jarmusch's
Coffee and Cigarettes

Nationwide at Selected Theaters

Starring: Roberto Benigni, Steven Wright, Joie Lee, Cinqué Lee , Steve Buscemi, Iggy Pop, Tom Waits, Joe Rigano, Vinny Vella, Vinny Vella Jr., Renée French, E. J. Rodriguez, Alex Descas, Isaach de Bankolé, Cate Blanchett, Mike Hogan, Jack White, Meg White, Alfred Molina, Steve Coogan, Katy Hansz, GZA, RZA, Bill Murray, Bill Rice and Taylor Mead.

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams


I have been a huge fan of Jim Jarmusch ever since I first saw his movie Night on Earth; five stories about people riding in taxi cabs on the same night, but set all over the earth. So I was really looking forward to Coffee and Cigarettes. Just the concept seemed terminally cool: conversations, mostly among famous people, who play themselves while drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes.

And it was just that, cool. Coffee and Cigarettes is made up of a series of eleven vignettes, all centered on the before mentioned theme of drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. (The actors were actually drinking tea in the Coogan/Molina piece, but I don't mean to complain. That kind of thing can happen in real life too.)

The film is shot in black and white, and, with the exception of the Cate Blanchett piece and the Coogan/Molina piece, all the sets look seedy and all the participants have a rode-hard-put-up-wet look about them. This is the kind coffee drinking and smoking you do at the truck stops of life. You can get a stale taste in you mouth just watching the actors grind their cigarettes into the old ashtrays on the black-and-white-check-table-tops. And the smoking; smoking has never looked as cool as it does when it filters the air in a black-and-white film. Addiction has never looked more fun or relaxed. These characters definitely have the time to sit around and shoot the shit.


All the vignettes are interesting but the one between Iggy Pop and Tom Waits was wonderfully seedy. The butt-sniffing story played by Steve Coogan and Alfred Molina was extremely well written and beautifully played; a perfect little short story. Cate Blanchett was incredible playing both a beautiful blond star and her down-at the-mouth slutty cousin. Everyone should go see this movie just to see Bill Murray drink coffee out of a glass coffee carafe while talking to RZA and GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan. And then there is Jack and Meg White of the White Stripes and Steven Wright and Roberto Benigni, all hanging, drinking coffee and smoking those fags. How much more could you want?

According to press releases, Coffee started as a Saturday Night Live skit and then Jim Jarmusch filmed it over seventeen years, using mostly his friends as the actors, the two exceptions being Cate Blanchett and Steve Coogan, two actors he wanted to work with. The friendship shows. I saw the movie before I read the press releases and I left the movie saying to myself, "I bet the actors are all his friends and how neat it is that he knows knows those people and how much fun it was to get a glimpse of them." And if you live in New York and are missing the days when you could smoke in restaurants, you can go see Coffee for the nostalgia value alone.

P. S. The movie has a very cool sound track which is now on sale.


Dogville

Lar Von Trier’s
Dogville

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams


Once upon a time (in March of 1995), Danish filmmaker Lars Von Trier signed a vow of Chastity called Dogma 95. The promise of Dogma 95 was naturalistic film making – no artificial lighting, no music that is not indigenous to the scene, no superficial action, no murders, no weapons, etc. - and on and on. Obviously he must have been in a bad mood and has since recovered. Mr. Von Trier’s new movie, Dogville, breaks all of the tenets of Dogma 95 with one exception - some of it is filmed with a hand held camera.


Dogville is a brilliant, deeply cynical movie about the effect of purity and beauty, a story about how an “angel” can walk into a town and have absolutely no redeeming effect. Similar in theme to stories about how a sudden windfall of money can destroy the group of people who share it, the movie tells the story of the total corruption that ensues when a Depression era Colorado town, named Dogville, is given the angelic presence of Grace (beautifully played by Nicole Kidman). Since Mr. Von Trier is Danish, many have thought of Dogville as an anti-American movie. But Dogville has such a bleak view of humanity in general, I doubt Mr. Von Trier thinks much more of the Danish people - although interestingly enough, most of the incredible cast (Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Blair Brown, James Caan, Patricia Clarkson Chloe Sivigny, Ben Gazzara and Stellan Skarsgaard) are Americans. And since Mr. Von Tier (according to new reports) will not fly and has actually never been to America, they all flew to Denmark to work with him.


Dogville is basically a play, shot as a film in a huge sound stage in Denmark. The town is delineated only by chalk drawings flanked by darkness - a world that seemingly drops off at the edges. The lighting and cinematography are gorgeous and there is a wonderfully eerie sound track (http://www.tvropa.com/Dogville) that plays throughout the movie. There is also a narrator, John Hurt, a completely inorganic and artificial choice, which totally works in the context of the film. Like I said, he got over the Vow of Chastity.
The movie is very long (three hours) and at times I felt that if I had to watch Nicole Kidman be “tied to the railroad tracks” one more time I would walk out. But I am very thankful that I did not. The movie totally redeems itself in the last ten minutes and my view of what I saw totally changed. I have not been able to quit thinking about it ever since.


 

Zatoichi

Takeshi Kitano's
Zatoichi

Japanese with English Subtitles
US Opening June 4, 2004

  Flying Limbs! Squirting blood! Cross Dressing! Tap dancing!
What more could a girl want?

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

Zatoichi, written and directed and acted by the very talented Takeshi Kitano, is a spoofy fun romp about a blind masseur who is both a skillful gambler and a deadly swordsman.   According to the press release, films about this blind swordsman ruled Japanese cinema from the 60's through the 80's.  Takeshi Kitano, who has worn many hats as a stand-up comic, actor and director, has now revived the story of Zatoichi, a monk-like nomad who travels the countryside carrying a cane which conceals a hidden sword.  

Here is the synopsis from the press release:

"Zatoichi is a 19th Century blind nomad who makes his living as a gambler and masseur.  However, behind this humble facade, he is a master swordsman gifted with a lightning-fast draw and breathtaking precision.

While wandering, Zatoichi discovers a remote mountain village at the mercy of Ginzo, a ruthless gang-leader.  Ginzo disposes of anyone who gets in his way, especially after hiring the mighty samurai ronin Hattori as a bodyguard.  After a raucous night of gambling in town, Zatoichi encounters a pair of geishas - as dangerous as they are beautiful - who've come to avenge their parents' murder at the hands of Ginzo.

As the paths of these and other colorful characters intertwine, Ginzo's henchmen are soon after Zatoichi.  With his legendary cane sword at his side, the stage is set for a riveting showdown."

This story is both ancient and modern, a myth populated by quirky characters like a cross-dressing geisha who enjoys a dip in a communal hot tub.  Blood squirts and dismembered arms and legs fly but even the most sanguine scenes are hysterically funny, so who cares?  It doesn't seem real, and that is the charm. Bravo


Ripfest

Matthew Bautista & David Rodwin
Matthew Bautista (PR) & David Rodwin (Artistic Director)
Raw Impressions Inc.


RIPFest #4: MOVIE MUSICALS!
6 films created in 16 days
May 17-18th 2004
Anthology Film Archives
Written by Wendy R. Williams

I had seen Dreams This Way: The Best of Raw Impressions Music Theatre and was psyched to see how the Rippers would do when they created and filmed six movie musicals in six days. The concept seemed to be overwhelming, a boot camp for aspiring filmmakers.

In case you have not heard of RIPFest, here is a descriptive quote from their press release: "Raw Impressions Inc. promotes the best films to come out of RIPFest at events and festivals around the globe. This past year, RIPFest films have been seen in over thirteen festivals, as well as broadcast on Showtime."

So how do they do it? Here are their guidelines from the press release:

RIPFest #4: MOVIE MUSICALS! - The Guidelines
· Create 5-10 minute film tailored to the actor/singers assigned.
· Theme: "Broken Promises"
· Use one indoor and one outdoor location assigned.

RIPFest # 4: MOVIE MUSICALS! - The Process
Saturday, May 1, 2004: 6 teams are announced, a - writer, producer, director, composer, editor, DP, actors (2-5) and a crew- and given the guidelines to create a new film. Following the first meeting they have:
· 2 days to write a first draft script
· 2 days for rewrites
· 2 days for pre-production
· 2 days to shoot the film
· 8 days for post production
· 16th day the films are premiered.

And at this RIPFest, they had some fantastic players:

Actors:
Tonya Pinkins, (Tony Award - Best Actress - Jelly's Last Jam, star of Tony Kushner's new musical Caroline or Change on Broadway now)

Julia Murney, (Drama Desk Best Actress Nomination for The Wild Party (MTC) )

Kate Schindle, (Stepford Wives remake, Miss America 1998, Bwy: Cabaret, Jekyll & Hyde)

Anjali Bhimani, (B'way: Metamorphases, Bombay Dreams)

Christa Justus, (B'way: Titanic, Les Miz)

John Grady, (Blue Man Group (Currently), B'way: Phantom)

John Leone, (B'way: Les Miz - Darius)

Jimmy Bennett, (Creator and star of The Nuclear Family Off-Bway and Sundance Channel)

Dana Snyder, (Cartoon Networks' star of Aqua Teen Hunger Force - The voice of Milkshake)

Directors:
Scott Schwartz, (Bwy: Golda's Balcony, Jane Eyre (Co-dir), Off Bwy:
Bat Boy, Tick-tick Boom)

Jay Tobias, (TV: Homocide, The Agency (new Steven Bochco pilot 2004))

Ted Sperling, (Mus. Dir.: The Full Monty, Kiss of the Spider Woman, How To Succeed…)

Chris Grant, ("Pie Chi": Urbanworld, Mill Valley, Santa Cruz Film Festivals)

Writers and Composers:
Rob Kutner, (2003 Emmy Award winner The Daily Show)

Scott Jacobson, (2003 Emmy Award winner The Daily Show)

Andrew Gerle, (3-time Richard Rodgers Award winners)

Maryrose Wood, (3-time Richard Rodgers Award winners)

Brendan Milburn, (Striking 12 - Prince Music Theatre, Old Globe Theatre. Keyboard/singer for Groovelily)

Val Vigoda, (Electric violinist of the band Groovelily - toured with Cyndi Lauper and Joe Jackson)

The night I was there, RIPFest Movie Musicals played to a very enthusiastic audience of what appeared be the participants and their friends. There was a lot of, "How are you?" and, "You look great!" (kiss kiss) and lots of laughter at the minor glitches such as slightly off dubbing. Being with such a friendly crowd made watching the films even more fun, but the mini-musical films were cute and fun and would be worth watching even if you did not know a soul who participated. And I am overwhelmed by the fact that that they were produced in just sixteen days. To get some perspective, think of how long it takes to get a wedding video from a videographer. RIPfest brimmed with great tallent including stand-out performances by Tonya Pinkins, Kate Shindle and Jimmy Bennett.

According to Matthew Bautista, Rip's publicity guy, Raw Impressions will be doing a RIPFest of movie documentaries this summer and a Halloween RIPFest this fall. So stay tuned, there is more raw fun to come.

 

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