Seen in New York
: The New York Film Festival, which is presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, opens tonight with Jacques Rivette's Va Savoir. The latest work from the 73-year-old French New Wave master is something of an anomaly in the director's career; it's a graceful, though overextended, confection that does nothing more substantial than observe the romantic entanglements in Paris of three men and three women, several of whom are involved in a production of Luigi Pirandello's play As You Desire Me. Frequent Rivette collaborator William Lubtchansky, the director of photography, captures the warmth and romance of Paris in classic fashion. The handsome contemporary set and costume designs are by Manu de Chauvigny and Laurence Struz, while Christine Laurent, screenwriter of Va Savoir, designed the period costumes for the onstage scenes. Sony Pictures Classics starts the movie's commercial run tomorrow.
Also showing this weekend at the festival, which unspools mostly at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, are Tsai Ming-Liang's What Time Is It There?, which is stunningly shot by French DP Benoit Delhomme, and Todd Solondz's Storytelling. The New York Film Festival runs through October 14.
In other films opening this weekend, Paramount Pictures' comedy Zoolander, which stars the unlikely figure of Ben Stiller as the world's best male model and pawn of fashion designer supervillains, promises to be the most interesting. Watch especially for a procession of outlandish runway items from costume designer David C. Robinson.
Seen at the Signature Theatre Company: The Late Henry Moss. In this New York premiere of Sam Shepard's latest, a miscast Ethan Hawke and a well-cast Arliss Howard portray brothers who grapple with demons dead and alive, internal and external, most of which seem to stem from dear old alcoholic--and newly dead--Dad, the title character.
Dad waltzes in and out of scenes with a Mexican neighbor, played for cheap laughs by Jose Perez, a buggy taxicab driver (Clark Middleton), and a sensuous, strong, earthy Mexican woman named Conchalla (Sheila Tousey). Alternating scenes feature the brothers fighting and yelling at each other, sometimes throwing each other around the stage (I suspect Howard was cast for size as much as anything else), and of course, drinking and pontificating.
The Shepard cliches abound, but the original music and sound design (co-created by David Van Tieghem and Jill Du Boff) and lighting design (by Michael Chybowski) are top-notch. While there aren't a lot of sound effects in the show, the play is accompanied by percussionist/musician Luke Notary, who sits to the right of the stage, surrounded by all manner of drums, rainmakers, bongos, clackers, clappers, whisperers, bells, and the like. Key scenes--even phrases and moods--are punctuated by Van Tieghem and Du Boff's music, to very good effect.
Chybowski's skillful use of gobo patterns and subtle color shifts highlight Christine Jones' ultra-grungy set, which features a slop sink you wouldn't want to wash a dog in, a stained, grotty bed and mattress where the late Henry Moss lies throughout much of the play, and what ED editorial director David Barbour refers to as a "memory podium," a platform that Hawke occupies for long periods of time, watching the play's action unfurl and staring balefully into the audience. At least he has some good music to listen to.
Seen on TV: Standing out among the array of TV series debuts this week were NBC's Crossing Jordan (which will be covered on www.entertainmentdesignmag.com as a November web exclusive) on Monday, and UPN's Enterprise on Wednesday. The latter, of course, is the latest Star Trek outing, and what makes it particularly intriguing for fans is its time frame, which is set more or less at the beginning of earth's intergalactic exploration. Says production designer Herman Zimmerman, who has done five Star Trek movies as well as the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine series, "It's 100 years before Kirk and Spock, and 100 years, roughly, ahead of where we are right now."
That means, for example, that "the shuttle pods have a resemblance to what is being designed by NASA now." Also, "Their communications are more sophisticated than ours, but not so sophisticated that they're just a pin on the uniforms...We still have to push buttons to open doors and move objects around; we have levers and dials and gauges and cranks—nothing is completely automated." As for this seminal Enterprise's bridge, "it's the smallest one we've ever made, but it's got a ton more stuff in it. It's basically a more functional, gritty Enterprise than we've seen." The ship's exterior design has some connection to the original Star Trek design—"it has a saucer section, and it has nacelles, but the nacelles are the same as the ones from First Contact, the Phoenix." Whatever: I've never been much of a Star Trek aficionado, but Wednesday's premiere was watchable. It's a shame that the producers are guarding artwork from the show as if it really were top-secret rocket science.
Heard over the radio waves: Clear Channel Entertainment--the nation's largest event promoter—has announced its formation of the ClearChannel.com Relief Fund to aid those affected by the September 11 tragedy. Backstreet Boys, Sade, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Earth, Wind & Fire are among the artists who have donated $10,000 from performance proceeds.