by Sam Juliano
I certainly got my Chuck Berry fix this past week both in the house and in the car. The Great Twenty Eight compilation remains one of the rock’s defining works, and I was active on the repeat button! He was incomparable and an innovator. I am saddened at all the smut that has greeted his passing, though I’d be foolish to think that the extreme nature of his offenses hasn’t tarnished his image with many. We much had the same kind of thing upon the death of Michael Jackson, but Berry’s past is being posed as far more criminal and sordid. What we all need to do however (and Richard Wagner fans take note!) is to separate the man from the music. Is Chuck Berry a personal role model and are his issues relatively minor? No and no. But his music is in a different sphere methinks. There have been some heated debates online, and for the most part I have defended this legend, much as I did Michael Jackson in 2009.
Time marches on, and in a few days April is upon us. For Lucille and I this means a torrid nine-day attendance at the Tribeca Film Festival starting on April 19th. The day before we have a gleefully anticipated book signing with director John waters scheduled in Clinton, New Jersey. Upon the completion of Tribeca, the annual Montclair Film Festival commences, and then the school trip to Washington D.C., a three day tour I regularly engage in.
The author Marilyn Singer staged a unique event on Sunday afternoon at the Creative Arts Studio on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, in the spirited service of a book launch for her fabulous dance poem picture book “Feel the Beat,” illustrated by Kristi Valiant. An impressive throng were on board for actual floor dancing that included the various dances depicted in the book. Lucille, Sammy, Jeremy and I stopped in for a signed copy of the book, chatted with Ms. Singer and milled around. Nice refreshments were offered up in another room too!
We saw two new releases in theaters (yes both films technically are 2016 with their selections for Cannes consideration, with the Assayas film actually winning Best Director there) but with March US openings they are firmly in the 2017 camp.
Frantz **** 1/2 (Saturday evening) Film Forum
Personal Shopper ** 1/2 (Sunday evening) Montclair Claridge
Lucille, Jeremy, Broadway Bob and I attended the 7:30 P.M. Saturday night screening of Francois Ozon’s “Frantz” at the Film Forum in Manhattan. Set right after the end of the First World War, the brooding work, based on Ernst Lubitsch’s “Broken Lullaby” offers up a red herring and several other subsequent surprises in a slowly enveloping narrative film with sumptuous black and white and color passages. A film about loss and forgiveness, it evokes the famous trench sequence in Lewis Milestone’s 1930 “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Ozon leaves the viewers guessing at the end, when the relationship dynamic is anything but certain. The film makes excellent thematic use of Manet’s painting “Le Suicide” and features two intense turns by Pierre Niney and Paula Beer as the central players. Beautiful scored by Phillipe Rombi and photographed by Pascal Marti, the film weaves deception and clandestine elements into a screenplay that accentuates the power of love.
For the first time I found a film directed by Oliver Assayas to be vapid and torturous. Only our lead -Kristen Stewart- is remotely interesting but even she can’t save this loopy ghost story from imploding. “Personal Shopper” wears thin early enough, and in the end amounts to very little. I saw the film with Lucille, Melanie, Sammy, Jeremy and Danny on Sunday night and only Sammy seems to have given it a passing grade.