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AT THE TRIBECA FESTIVAL, THEY TRY, TRY AGAIN


The Tribeca Film Festival, a commendable effort to bring a measure of healing to those who suffered such enormous loss on the day of the World Trade Center attacks, has rarely been saluted for artistic achievement. The festival’s founders--Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatoff--seemed determined, however, to make their fourth season (which ran from April 19 through May 1) a class act worthy of both critical and public acclaim. Keeping Hollywood schlock--such as last year's opening night premiere of the defiantly insipid "Down With Love"--to a minimum, they screened an impressive abundance of U.S. and international indies (approximately 250 films, in all) at various sites in lower Manhattan. A lot of New Yorkers feel that the founders have finally found the right recipe for success. To read Variety's report on the festival's winners, click here; for additional details, click here. Below, a sampling of films that unspooled at Tribeca.


THE BAXTER: Michael Showalter, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Williams, Justin Theroux, Michael Ian Black, Paul Rudd, Peter Dinklage (Written and directed by Michael Showalter; IFC Films) Before romantic comedies lost their innocence to chronic flatulence and a flood of body fluids, the handsome, sophisticated charmer always managed in the end to sweep the naughty but virginal heroine off to a life of bliss, leaving some poor nerd--frequently played by Ralph Bellamy--at the altar with his mother, the minister and no bride in sight. This revisionist screwball comedy is said to offer a far happier, sexier ending for the traditional out-of-the-loop loser. Evidently he not only gets the girl, but he gets the right girl. And why shouldn’t he? After all, he’s played by Michael Showalter, who also wrote and directed this tribute to fun fluff. Opens 8/12

FIERCE PEOPLE: Diane Lane, Donald Sutherland, Anton Yelchin, Chris Evans, Kristen Stewart, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Shyer, Blu Mankuma (Directed by Griffin Dunne; Written by Dirk Wittenborn; Lions Gate) Nobody has it tougher than teenagers these days. Take Finn (Anton Yelchin), a basically decent New York City kid, for example. His father is off in the jungle doing his anthropological thing, and his mother (Diane Lane) is a druggie. When Finn is caught trying to score some coke for mom, the two scurry to a sumptuous country estate where Mom becomes a full-time, hands-on masseuse to the eccentric, obscenely wealthy Mr. Osbourne (Donald Sutherland). So far, so good. But then Finn discovers that the fine country-club set is not so fine after all. Perhaps mom will turn into a twelve-stepper and shape everyone up. To read the Variety review, click here.

THE INTERPRETER: Nicole Kidman, Sean Penn, Catherine Keener, Tsai Chin, David Zayas, Maz Jobrani,Adrian Martinez (Directed by Sydney Pollack; Written by Scott Frank and Charles Randolph; Universal) Just what the world needs now—a thriller about a beautiful U.N. interpreter (Kidman) who becomes the potential target of a terrorist when she stumbles upon a scheme to assassinate her boss. If only she can get a smug Secret Service agent (Penn) to take her claim seriously! (God forbid that this tenacious translator is herself part of the sinister conspiracy.) With the permission of the Secretary General, “The Interpreter,” Tribeca’s opening night attraction-- was shot at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. What was Kofi Annan thinking? Possibly he was just trying to keep his mind off that Oil for Food fuss. To read O. A. Scott's review in The New York Times, click here; for Todd McCarthy's review in Variety, click here. Now Playing

9 SONGS: Kieran O'Brien, Margot Stilley (Written and directed by Michael Winterbottom; Tartan Films) In movies as diverse as “Butterfly Kiss,” “Jude,” “Welcome to Sarajevo,” “Wonderland” and “24 Hour Party People,” British director Michael Winterbottom has established himself as one of the most daring, uncompromising filmmakers in the world today. “9 Songs,” shown out of competition at Cannes in 2004, drew critical raves, as well as frequent gasps from viewers not accustomed to un-faked sex on screen. The brazen, fragmented story deals with a young Englishman and the lovely American he picks up at a rock concert, and the camera's primary focus is on explicit (make that XXX-plicit) lovemaking. For the Variety review, click here; to read Stephen Holden's New York Times article on "9 Songs" and other movies that have broken sexual taboos, click here. Opens 7/22

STOLEN LIFE: Zhou Xun, Wu Jun, Cai Ming, Su Xiaoming, Wang Pelyi (Directed by Li Shaohong; Written by Liao Yimei; China Television Media Ltd.) Her mother rarely appears on the scene, and her grandmother and aunt offer little in the way of affection or comfort. Can gorgeous Yan’ni (Zhou Xun) find a way to escape this ugly, toxic household? Yes, but she must pay a heavy price for the freedom she gains when she is accepted as a freshman at a pleasingly distant college. Yan’ni’s extracurricular activities, as it turns out, include a sexual hook-up with a mesmerizing punk who introduces her to a kind of homework she could never have imagined. Director Li Shaohong is said to have worked wonders with this seemingly sudsy material and to have gotten powerful performances from Zhou Xun and Wu Jun as the naive student and her sadistic, scheming off-campus “teacher.” She must have done something right--"Stolen Life" won Tribeca's Best Movie award. For the Variety review, click here.

YES: Joan Allen, Simon Abkarian, Sam Neill, Shirley Henderson, Samantha Bond, Gary Lewis, Raymond Waring (Written and directed by Sally Potter; Sony Pictures Classics) Joan Allen plays a London-based Irish-American woman being driven bonkers by her husband (Sam Neill). Her situation improves—more or less—when she embarks on an affair with a Lebanese chef who’s determined to return to his Islamic roots because of British bigotry. Can this couple find peace? Perhaps, but it won’t be simple, because this film is the creation of Sally Potter, the complicated artist responsible for “Orlando,” starring the magnificent Tilda Swinton. Expect the unusual, including dialogue spoken in verse. Opens 6/25