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Film Festival Roundup—2023 Tribeca Festival

Maggie Moore(s)
2023 Tribeca Festival
Through June 18, 2023
Various locations in Manhattan
As usual, this year’s Tribeca Festival—which, although it has dropped “Film” from its title, remains movie-centric—is an interesting mix of new fiction features and documentaries. Among the former, Maggie Moore(s) (opening June 16)—which follows a small-town New Mexico sheriff (Jon Hamm) flummoxed by the murders of two women with the same name within days of each other—is hampered by director John Slattery’s insistence on making this black comedy something that the Coen brothers might have rejected: absurdist atmosphere punctuated by cartoonish violence. Hamm is charming, as always, and his scenes with Tina Fey as a nosy neighbor who enters his life are the best in an alternately enjoyable and enervating movie.
The Future
Israeli writer-director Noam Kaplan’s The Future, in which Yaffa, an Arab student from the West Bank who has murdered Israel’s minister of space and tourism, is interrogated by Nurit, a scientist and profiler whose new program, The Future Project, failed to predict this act of terrorism, asks probing questions about free will, motherhood and civilization’s advances (the first Israeli moon landing is happening while the interrogation plays out). In the leads, Samar Qupty (Yaffa) and Reymond Amsalem (Nurit) give powerful portrayals of these antagonistic but strong-willed women.
The Last Night of Amore
In The Last Night of Amore, that terrific actor Pierfrancesco Favino plays a cop who, after 35 years without firing his gun, is planning to retire. Of course, fate has other plans, and he spends his final hours on the force trying to clean up a fatal mess that he’s had a hand in creating (and yes, he does fire his gun). Andrea Di Stefano directs with assured elegance, although the too-twisty script leads him and his protagonist into contrived alleys. Still, it’s a taut thriller about how underpaid policemen are and how that might make them take a questionable or unethical side job. 
The Listener
Best known for playing the dutiful boxer’s wife in Creed and its sequels, Tessa Thompson gets a chance to stretch dramatically in The Listener, Steve Buscemi’s film about a suicide helpline volunteer that has Thompson onscreen for its entirety. Although it gets repetitious and obvious at times—each call she receives brings with it a new melodramatic hook—Thompson is magnetic, often quietly so as she alternates between talking and listening: in her silent moments, she is mesmerizing. Some of the voices may sound familiar: callers are voiced by the likes of Logan Marshall-Green, Margaret Cho and Rebecca Hall.
Marinette Pichon, France’s first female soccer star, had to go to the U.S. and play for the short-lived Philadelphia Charge team in 2002 and 2003 to make money and get respect doing what she most loved, according to Virginie Verrier’s energetic, conventional but at times rousing and enraging biopic, Marinette. Pichon was gay at a time when she couldn’t safely come out, and her relationships with women culminate with Ingrid Moatti, the paraplegic basketball player whom she would marry and have a child after her retirement. Garance Marillier’s intensely physical and thoroughly honest performance carries the film, both on and off the field.
Against All Enemies
I caught a half-dozen documentaries at the festival, starting with the necessary but scary Against All Enemies, Charlie Sadoff’s incriminating study of how and why so many veterans of the U.S. armed forces gravitate toward militias and other white supremacist groups, which are looking ahead (or maybe looking forward) to what many of them consider the next civil war. Sadoff talks with military vets, generals and civilians, along with experts on the subjects (especially Kathleen Belew, who has written about the white power and paramilitary movements), who illuminate a subject that will probably be around indefinitely, unfortunately. But why Sadoff ends his film with the fact-free rantings of the unhinged Eric “General E” Braden is a real head-scratcher.
Chasing Chasing Amy
Chasing Chasing Amy is a labor of love for director Sav Rodgers who, as a queer 12-year-old, watched Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy over and over again—years later, Rodgers questions not only the film’s premise (a lesbian is “won over” by the perfect straight guy) but also his own relationship to it and how he feels now compared to when he was a confused youngster. Rodgers actually gets Smith himself to discuss his film’s legacy, and they become friends; Guinevere Turner, who co-wrote and starred in the breakthrough lesbian film Go Fish back when Smith made Amy, refreshingly gives her witty take on it as well, and Amy star Joey Lauren Adams opens up more candidly than maybe even she would have thought. Chasing Chasing Amy is, when all is said and done, a more important personal film than Smith’s sincere but gravely flawed original.
It's Basic
Guaranteed Basic Income, or GBI, which has been touted by Martin Luther King, Richard Nixon and, more recently, presidential candidate Andrew Yang, has yet to be part of the mainstream political and economic discourse. But, as director Marc Levin shows in his succinct documentary, It’s Basic, things are slowly changing. Levin follows several mayors who have begun a pilot program in their local municipalities as well as people who have received the monthly payments—these are not the “lazy” poor but people who are making the best of their financial boost. Just maybe, It’s Basic suggests, GBI’s time has come.
In Richland, director Irene Lusztig visits the eponymous town in Washington State that sprang up near the Hanford nuclear site for workers in WWII’s Manhattan Project who made weapons-grade plutonium to live with their families—and discovers an essential contradiction: pride in the nuclear accomplishments of 80 years ago and a sense that a reckoning with the past is overdue, i.e., the town was built on Native land. Lusztig chronicles those who are unapologetic about the town’s history (the high school football team still wears uniforms emblazoned with a mushroom cloud) and those who want to look to the future (environmental workers resoil areas that used to be contaminated by nuclear material). Most movingly, a Japanese woman whose grandparents were killed by the atom bomb in 1945 hangs a symbolic recreation of that weapon of mass destruction (see above photo) that perfectly encapsulates the subject’s complexities.
Rock Hudson—All That Heaven Allowed
Hollywood’s ultimate masculine heartthrob, Rock Hudson broke both women’s and men’s hearts in a career that encompassed movies in the 50s and 60s and TV series in the ’70s and ’80s—then was the first celebrity to die during the early years of AIDS, in 1985. Stephen Kijak’s illustrative documentary Rock Hudson—All That Heaven Allowed (premieres June 28 on MAX) recounts how the Hollywood machine ensured that gay actors remained in the closet—Hudson even had a marriage of convenience to his agent’s assistant for a few years—and also delves unblinkingly into the actor’s same-sex relationships, a secret he kept from fans until he was on his death bed. In the process, Kijak attacks the hypocrisy of the entertainment industry that still exists, in some form, today.
Ron Delsener Presents
Anyone who went to rock concerts in the New York City area since the late ’60s has probably noticed “Ron Delsener Presents” on the ticket—and this entertaining documentary, also titled Ron Delsener Presents and directed by Sting’s son, Jake Sumner, follows Delsener’s storied career as a concert promoter, from his early days working on the Beatles’ 1964 appearance in Forest Hills, through concerts at the Fillmore and the Palladium through today, where, at 85, he’s still going strong, sometimes attending several shows a night and keeping abreast everything he can. Sumner not only speaks with Delsener himself, his wife, and his children—and shows copious archival footage from many iconic concerts—but also colleagues from the business and an array of stars who touchingly remember his guiding hand, from Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel to Patti Smith and Paul Simon.

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