A quick dispatch from the 2021 Tribeca Festival containing capsule reviews of Eddie Martin’s The Kids, Adam Leon’s Italian Studies and Nadia Szold’s Larry Flynt For President.
dir. Eddie Martin. Documentary Competition. 88 minutes.
I’m not sure how shocked we’re supposed to be that something untoward may have occurred on the set of a Larry Clark movie written by Harmony Korine, but since cultural reckonings are all the rage these days we’ve got this sad look back at the Washington Square Park skater community that inspired the icky 1995 teensploitation opus, Kids. Notably absent any commentary from Clark, Korine or the film’s breakout stars Chloe Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, it’s mainly the doc’s co-producer Hamilton Harris – who in his brief screen time 26 years ago taught an entire generation how to roll a blunt – recounting the tragic tales of co-stars Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter, whose Hollywood dreams came to horrible ends in the aftermath of the era’s most notorious movie. Clark and Korine stand credibly accused of ignoring this crew’s positivity and camaraderie to fixate instead on fictionalized perversions. (I’m betting the real story would have made a much more compelling and less successful film.) The revelation that actual drugs and alcohol were abused on set is about as unsurprising as the creative team’s cold abandonment of their subjects once the picture was finished. It’s typical industry asshole behavior, yet considering the players involved I’d spent the past couple decades assuming a whole lot worse went on, giving this documentary perhaps the opposite effect than was intended.
dir. Adam Leon. Spotlight Narrative. 79 minutes.
Director Adam Leon’s 2013 Gimme The Loot was the kind of debut that reminds me why I love being a movie critic, a bustling love letter to New York City in all it’s funky, grimy glory. He’s back on the streets again with this annoyingly artsy-fartsy meditation on memory, starring Vanessa Kirby as an amnesiac author who goes wandering around Chelsea in a fugue state, sometimes confusing her own life with that of her invented characters and falling in with a crowd of awkward teens led by the gallantly ungainly Simon Brickner. It’s a dreamy mood piece with a lot of elliptical edits and musical motifs that feel laid on with a trowel to distract us from the fact that’s there’s not a lot of “there” here. Conceived as an improvisational exercise to fill Londoner Kirby’s downtime in NYC between movies, it’s got the slack, half-formed vibe of an experiment that never quite got past the brainstorming stage. But I do still love how he shoots the city, giving New York an air of enchantment, these welcoming streets teeming with oddballs and colorful cranks. Everyone’s a character in Leon’s megalopolis, next time he needs to find more interesting things for them to do.
dir. Nadia Szold. Documentary World Premiere. 90 minutes.
Spite is an incredible motivator. Sometimes it can change the world, or at least save the First Amendment. Nadia Szold’s rip-roaringly hilarious documentary chronicles the manic months during 1983 when the Hustler Magazine mogul tried to primary Ronald Reagan in a gloriously self-immolating attack on hypocrisy, propriety and good taste. Culled from a treasure trove of footage shot at the time by a camera crew following Flynt, Szold wisely relies on semi-contemporaneous interviews with other mighty, civic-minded muckrakers like Frank Zappa, keeping all the insanity in the present tense to preserve the hurtling momentum with which Flynt roared back into public life after five years lost recovering from the assassination attempt that left him in a wheelchair. I suppose some will jump to make connections between this foul-mouthed, insurgent candidacy and that of a serially bankrupt reality show host thirty-odd years later, but such comparisons ignore the pornographer’s fierce patriotism and allegiance to American ideals that are anathema to Trump. So righteous were Flynt’s convictions that he was able to call the Supreme Court “eight assholes and a token cunt” to their faces and they still had to side with him anyway. I’d have voted for him three times if I could.