Category Archives: Film Reviews

Athena Film Festival Review: ‘Dilemma of Desire’

The poster for the film Dilemma of Desire directed by Maria Finitzio at Athena Film Festival (courtesy of the film)

Maria Finitzo’s documentary The Dilemma of Desire, currently screening virtually at the Athena Film Festival, examines female sexuality and pleasure against the backdrop of the repressive, toxic and macho culture represented by the former Trump administration, QAnon, Trumpers, “Christians,” the paternalistic Republican Party and all caught up in the “normalcy” of misogynistic, homophobic, xenophobic and racist folkways. Interestingly, Democrats and other political parties are not exempt from an examination of the patriarchy in this film. The myths and follies of patriarchal thought and behavior are ancient and baked in by males, females and non gender described, who have bought into the lies of female sensuality for millennia.

Sophia Wallace conceptual artist during the Women’s March, ‘Dilemma of Desire,’ directed by Maria Finitzio, Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

More specifically, it has been males who define their own machismo by the ways that they oppress and control women. To dominate, whether for the profit motive or more psychological reasons, males and accepting females define conceptualizations of beauty, femininity, sensuality and the pleasure they are psychologically and scientifically able to seek based upon these confined and erroneous definitions. Finitzo, a two-time Peabody Award-winner blows apart the taboos and shameful strictures about how women must think, react and define their bodies and their sensuality. Focusing on four women who have broken open the boundaries in themselves to understand their bodies, Finitzo conducts extensive interviews with them as they help empower others in their journey deeper into their own sexuality and sensuality.

Sophia Wallace’s work demonstrating “Cliteracy,” ‘Dilemma of Desire’ by Maria Finitzio, Sophia Wallace’s website

Finitzio approaches central themes that paternalism for centuries has rendered women powerless and voiceless, manifested in the simple act that women do not even understand or know their own sexual organs to be able to draw them. This lack of literacy about their sensuality and sexuality has been a revelation in the life and work of Sophia Wallace, whose work about “Cliteracy,” Finitzio uses as a focal point around which she creates the grist of this documentary about four women who in their own way are attempting to change folkways and cultural assumptions about female pleasure and desire.

Dilemma of Desire, Sophia Wallace, Maria Finitzio, Athena FF
Sophia Wallace, ‘Delimma of Desire,’ directed by Maria Finitzio, Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

Memed by artist Sophia Wallace, “Cliteracy” is the scientific knowledge that the clitoris is fundamental to the female orgasm. The lies that the vagina is the seat of desire is a myth propagated by males, for obvious reasons. When women have felt let down in sex with their partners, they have taken the shame and blame upon themselves. The educated male has countered this with his empathetic understanding that female genitalia is more complex and deserves its own attention during intimacy. If the male partner is not empathetic or understanding, women for centuries have been left to “endure” sex as a chore and do it to beget children which they alone have been tasked to raise until recent times. Women who have established intimate relationships with women have actually received much more sensual pleasure during their lifetimes. Thus, the idea that most women don’t experience vaginal pleasure during intercourse (only 25% do according to the scientific data Finitzio states in the film) is a much needed revelation that Dilemma of Desire emphasizes.

Maria Finitzio, Sophia Wallace, Dilemma of Desire, Athena FF
Work by Sophia Wallace, ‘Dilemma of Desire,’ directed by Maria Finitzio, Athena FF, (courtesy of the film)

Using her interviewees as gatekeepers into this revelation, Finiztio chronicles key points about how the patriarchy has kept women in the darkness about their own bodies. The end result has been to hamper their freedom, their voice, their courage, their empowerment. The documentarian examines how Wallace is changing culture; how Dr. Stacey Dutton, a neuroscientist, enlightens medical science about the biology of the clitoris; how Dr. Lisa Diamond unravels outdated notions about women’s arousal; and how Ti Chang, an industrial designer, creates elegant vibrators for women that look nothing like the novelty toys in sex shops which are useless and created by men. To elucidate what these four have discovered, Finitzio interviews Umnia, Becca, Jasmine, Sunny, and Coriama who provide their life experiences about themselves and their relationships with men and women in their investigation of their own body’s capability of receiving pleasure.

Sophia Wallace, Maria Finitzio, Dilemma of Desire, Athena Film Festival
Sophia Wallace, Maria Finitzio directs Dilemma of Desire, Athena Film Festival (Sophia Wallace’s website)

Finitzio’s work is mind-blowing. She uses a maximum of effort to cobble together the interviews and create the backdrops that enhance the commentary of these truth-tellers. The cinematography, music and editing all enhance the overarching message that to be free, women must understand all parts of their being to appreciate all of who and what they can be. A defining moment comes when Sophia Wallace discusses what she heard from her cousin about her grandmother’s confession. Their grandmother had five children, but didn’t think she had ever experienced an orgasm or pleasure during sex. Meanwhile, of course, their grandfather’s experience was a sure thing. For Wallace, this was an eye-opening tragedy because her grandmother didn’t understand or enjoy what her body was capable of experiencing because she was intellectually, philosophically, culturally, sensually chained by the patriarchy whether wittingly or unwittingly.

This is a must-see film for men, women, non-binary, all who are walking around in a fleshly body and want to break free from the dilemma of desire that especially ties women up in knots and oppresses them in all of their being. The point is to understand and become “cliterate.” At least that opportunity must be allowed and Sophia Wallace’s work should be in a book, not just on a TEDTALK or as a conceptual museum piece in an art gallery. Thus far, book publishers are afraid to deal with such an important and culturally revelatory work. The excuse is that female editors are hesitant about sharing the information in book form with other females in the industry, for example libraries, universities. The fear exemplifies why “cliteracy” has remained in the realm of the arcane and it is a tragedy of oppression.

Finitzio’s film spotlights the core issues of this tragedy. And in due season, Wallace will be known globally in print as well as virtually for her work “Cliteracy.” Dilemma of Desire is screening on the Athena Film Festival website and other screening platforms. CLICK HERE FOR ALL THE ATHENA FILM FESTIVAL OFFERINGS INCLUDING THIS EXTRAORDINARY FILM.

Athena Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival: ‘Beans’

(L to R): Kiawentiio, Rainbow Dickerson in ‘Beans’ directed by Tracey Deer at Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

Beans Tracey Deer’s award winning narrative film, inspired by true events, is one of the superb offerings this year at the 11th Annual Athena Film Festival. Throughout March, Athena FF is holding digital Q and As, screenings, talks and more, all uplifting women in film’ and women’s leadership. It is the only women’s film festival in New York City, and sans pandemic it is held at Barnard College. Hopefully, Athena Film Festival will return live for its myriad activities, screenings, conferences, Q and As, parties and awards ceremonies in 2022.

The events in Beans and major thrust of the narrative are inspired by Tracey Deer’s own experiences as a young girl going through the cataclysmic trials of the Mohawk Resistance in the community of Kanesatake, near the Town of Oka, on the north shore of Montreal, Canada. Written by Tracey Deer and Meredith Vuchnich, Beans is a hybrid coming of age story and social justice film set against the backdrop of a 78-day standoff (11 July–26 September 1990) between Mohawk protesters, Quebec police, the RCMP and the Canadian Army. The standoff arose when without permission or negotiation Mohawk land was grabbed by developers who intended to expand a golf course and build condos on lands disputed since 1760 and which involved desecrating an ancient cemetery.

(L to R): Foreground-Violah Beauvais, D’Pharoah Woon-a-Tai, Kiawentiio, Paulina Alexis, Taio Gélinas in ‘Beans,’ Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

During this Oka Crisis, the character “Beans,” whose Indigenous Mohawk name is Tekahentahkhwa (played by the excellent Kiawentiio) learns to appreciate her identity as a Mohawk. She vies between accepting her mother’s wish for her to go to a tony white school to establish a better life for herself and hanging tough with cruel, bullying April (Paulina Alexis) who abuses and exploits Beans’ yearning for friendship using power dominance and browbeating to release her own inner torments.

Tracey Deer’s characterizations are spot-on, as are the actors who portray Beans, April, and Bean’s mom Lily (Rainbow Dickerson). All of the women are representative. Lily is attempting to raise her daughters, teach them successful values, yet negotiate her husband who is a protestor and warrior battling with his countrymen for Mohawk land rights. Beans is torn between her father’s fight and showing what tough resistance is and growing up to be a young woman apart from her mother’s selecting an identity for her and expanding beyond the “sweet-natured,” innocent, good girl.

As Beans worms her way into April’s cold heart by obeying her instruction, and accepting April’s toughening-up abuse, she learns the warrior way to be brash, bullying and fear-inspiring. However, when her eyes are opened to the difficulties April has with her family, Beans learns that becoming inured to pain and not expressing emotion is self-damaging.

(L to R): Kiawentiio as Beans-Tekahentahkhwa and Rainbow Dickerson as Lily, in ‘Beans,’ directed by Tracey Deer, Athena FF (courtesy of the film)

Throughout Beans’ and her family’s journey through the, at times harrowing and punishing 78-day standoff, we see their courage in resistance.. They suffer brutalization from the surrounding community who is caught up in the events. The themes of the film about social activism in returning Indigenous lands back to the Mohawk, represent an ongoing struggle by various Indigenous populations who still fight against land grabs that began when European colonials first visited the Americas. For the Mohawk in this area of Quebec, the Provincial government and Canada have still not returned the land to them, though the cemetery is untouched and the golf course has not been expanded. Subsequently, the Mohawk still seek the lands which belong to them in this ancient dispute which continues to this day.

Beans was the opening night film in the festival. Look for it on IMBD and elsewhere for its performances, storyline and fine direction by Tracey Deer. It is deserving of the awards it won: three awards at festivals (Tracey Deer won VIFF for Best Canadian Feature Film). It was nominated for five other awards.

Raindance Film Festival Review: ‘Everybody Flies’

'Everybody Flies' documentary written and directed by Tristan Lorraine (courtesy of the film)
Tristan Lorraine wrote and directed the documentary ‘Everybody Flies’ (courtesy of the film)

Before the pandemic how many times a year did you fly on a commercial airline? Did you ever smell anything in the ambient air during the flight? If you did, was the smell like stinky feet?

Tristan Lorraine, former Airline Captain directed and wrote the documentary Everybody Flies, presented by Fact Not Fiction Films. The documentary highlights an explosive revelation about something we take for granted on flights because we trust the aviation industry, the FAA and airline companies to build flight worthy aircraft that will not crash. Indeed, statistics have proven that flying is safer than driving. But is it?

If we examine the interior of planes and specifically the environment within the cabin, we must reconsider airline safety. After seeing Lorraine’s film, one may think twice about getting on an older aircraft of an airline company that has recorded toxic fume events which are highly dangerous and have led to debilitating physical conditions for those who were not only passengers but especially for the flight crews who over time suffer from the cumulative effects of breathing toxic air.

An aircraft toxic fume event occurs when bleed air used for cabin pressurization and air conditioning in a pressurized aircraft is contaminated by fluids such as engine oil, hydraulic fluid, anti-icing fluid, and other potentially hazardous chemicals which are carcinogenic and also cause nerve damage. Some events are visible and all are aware of the smoky, misty air which smells like what it is, air contaminated by dangerous substances. But other times the toxic molecules are invisible, not apprehended by the passengers or crew. Nevertheless, if one checks for these substances by testing the furniture, walls and other surfaces in the cabin interior, their residue is present, indicating the air is contaminated microscopically.

Using longitudinal research over eighteen years compiling videos of comprehensive eye-witness testimony, factual scientific data and evidence about toxic bleed air, Lorraine makes the inexorable case that not only does poisonous air waft into plane cabins, that air causes severe physical and mental damage to victims who suffer after fume events from the harmful chemicals they inhaled. In one instance Lorraine interviews a pilot. He became paralyzed and couldn’t move his arms. But for the co-pilot the plane might have crashed.

The specific chemical pollutant which Lorraine discovered in the leaking oil that is most devastating is tricresyl phosphate (TCP). Though at one time the air filtration systems and compressors not connected to engines prevented toxic chemicals from entering the air supply, those systems were abandoned. Instead, the current system which is subject to engine oil leak bleeds and toxic cabin air is present on every plane, If there is an engine oil leak, despite Hepa filters, invisible molecules infiltrate the air conditioning and invade the passengers’ and crew members’ lungs.

Interestingly, Hepa filters can strain out virus molecules; so COVID-19 can’t be spread easily on planes. However, Hepa filters do not strain out the smaller molecules in TCP. Although fume events don’t happen regularly because they are a function of a number of problems occurring together, minor events are more prevalent. It is these that have a cumulative effect on frequent flyers, flight crews and those who travel more during the year than those passengers who fly once every four to five years.

Lorraine’s interviews with airline staff and passengers are spot-on. Because Lorraine experienced a toxic fume event which ended his career, he knows which questions to ask and which to use to follow up for specific noteworthy details. Ironically, until doctors eventually identified the cause of the poisonings in former airline staff who were perplexed by their physical suffering, the air quality issues on planes were diminished by regulating agencies in collusion with airline companies and manufacturers. Air quality problems were dismissed and “company men” using a “banality of evil” modus operandi compared the air quality in planes to that in home kitchens and other benign environments.

Lorraine proves to be thorough in his investigations to smack down the lies of the airline industry which is more concerned about profit than the people on their flights. With a toxicity monitoring device Lorraine measures the air quality in various places from his kitchen to a London street to an airplane cabin. By comparison the cabin’s toxicity numbers were astronomical, proving the regulators and companies cannot to be trusted to have their clients best interests or welfare at heart. Of course, holding to account airline companies, chemical manufacturers, the FAA and other agencies who regulate the use of such chemicals has been difficult. Not only have airlines been in collusion with the FAA, etc., they have stalked and investigated litigants who sued them after toxic fume events, as Lorraine revealed in interview video clips with toxic fume event sufferers.

'Everybody Flies,' Tristan Lorraine, documentary, Raindance Film Festival
‘Everybody Flies’ (courtesy of the film)

According to the research accomplished for the film the Federal Aviation Administration identified “204 fume events recorded in its ‘Service Difficulty Reports’ (SDR) database since October.” Recently, there have been notable events, one including Spirit Airlines in 2018. A “noxious, burning odor” caused a Spirit Airline plane to make an emergency landing July 27th 2018. The flight was diverted to Myrtle Beach International Airport in South Carolina after passengers identified the fumes and subsequently were treated for headaches, nausea and difficulty breathing. No one swabbed down the plane to check for a residue of chemicals. They should have.

Interestingly, there was no hazardous material found on the plane. Nevertheless, the 220 people on board had breathed in and filtered through their lungs and into their blood streams poisonous molecules. Passenger Mary Vincent Randall filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court about the smell which caused her “serious and permanent injuries.” Hopefully, her litigation will be successful.

Lorraine points out that lawsuits for damages because of toxic fume events can go on for years and end up costing the litigants thousands. The companies have lawyers on retainer and are willing to spend the money to bankrupt them in order to make the litigant “go away.” Averse to negative publicity, airline companies will move heaven and earth to prevent “bad press” from tarnishing what they have promoted as a safe mode of travel. This is why the truth has not gotten out to the flying public who, when they find out and it hits critical mass, will force the industry to make corrections insuring there is safe air on all planes.

Until then, the airline industry’s reprobate, negligent behaviors persist. Lorraine points out the horrific irony of this. The problem could be solved with filters more effective than Hepa filters to prevent contaminants from entering the cabin via bleed air. And the FAA and regulators could mandate all airline companies change the air systems on planes so that the air filtration systems and compressors are not connected to engines.

Lorraine has devoted years of his life to provoke all those in the industry to make airplanes as safe as their reputations say they are. With his hard work as evidenced in this film to alert the public, and with the efforts of the unions as attention is brought to the issue, change is happening, though it is slow.

Most importantly, Lorraine’s whistleblowing reminds us that the airline industry is more concerned about profits than people and that is why some consider the solutions to fix the problem too onerous to do anything about. On the flip side Lorraine shows that other companies are making effective changes by using different air filtration systems which actually are not more costly. He highlights that the Boeing 787 is one such plane that has a safer air filtration system. Additionally, using a stronger, more efficient filter that locks out the toxic molecules would make a great difference in preventing the hazards of toxic fume events in cabin air.

Lorraine’s documentary is a wake up call for the public. We must be aware of the potential catastrophe of the possibility of toxic fume events to petition congressional representatives. Above all we must show continued, fervent support for airline industry unions as they endeavor to make cabin air safe. Considering that before the pandemic, millions of people were flying every day, and now the numbers are millions fewer, the hiatus has some positive consideration for passengers and crew who are on international long hour flights not experiencing toxic fume events simply by not flying. For the longer one is on a plane with invisible contaminated air molecules, the greater the physical harm. In relaying the information Lorraine’s message is clear with credible and frightening documentation as we see ourselves in the shoes of those witnesses who have suffered from toxic air poisoning.

Everybody Flies is a must see film, especially if you are a frequent flyer. The airline industry must be held accountable. The changes which will insure safe cabins along with comfortable flights must become a universal, global mandate. Lorraine’s documentary goes a long way in helping to make this possible.

‘The Last Vermeer,’ Telluride/Toronto Film Festivals Review

(L to R): Guy Pearce, Claes Bang in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The Last Vermeer which premiered at the Telluride Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival as Lyrebird was renamed to refocus upon the genius Dutch Baroque Period painter Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) who is one of the national treasures of The Netherlands. Vermeer specialized in domestic interior scenes of middle class life, exemplified in his renowned Girl With the Pearl Earring and The Milkmaid. As the film elucidates Vermeer used unique, expensive pigments and was most concerned about the masterful use of light like the other great painters of the Dutch Golden Age, i.e. Rembrandt, Frans Hals.

Vermeer worked slowly and produced relatively few paintings which brought him moderate success. When confronted with financial difficulties during his country’s two wars, he went into debt, which his wife and children had to recover from after he died. For two centuries Vermeer fell into obscurity until his discovery in the 19th century which grew until his paintings became valuable. His works’ value is what intrigued Hermann Goering enough to purchase a Vermeer from dealer Han van Meergren for the highest price yielded by the Nazis for confiscated and stolen works of art during WW II.

Claes Bang, Vicky Krieps in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The film starring Guy Pearce, Claes Bang and Vicky Krieps is based on the book The Man Who Made Vermeers by Jonathan Lopez. Directed by Dan Friedkin who has numerous producing credits of intriguing films (The Square, Hot Summer Nights, All the Money in the World, {2017} Ben is Back {2018)} to name a few) the film was scripted by James McGee (Jon Orloff), Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby and is about the amazing true story of the recovery of a Vermeer that was counted among Nazi loot after the fall of Hitler.

The film begins in the aftermath of the bombing of Rotterdam and takes place in Amsterdam when allied troops helped restore order to the governments that had been upended by the Nazis. Part of the process of restoring order was to divine the Nazi collaborators and punish them. At the time Canadians were in charge after which the Dutch government would assume control and command. As the film opens we note a Dutch Nazi collaborator is being summarily executed in the public square as a crowd cheers.

Claes Bang in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

In this environment there are friends and foes and it remains unclear the extent to which one should judge another’s way to survive under horrific oppression and slaughter, such as the Nazi occupiers delivered to the Dutch people. In the instance of Nazi looted art, recovery takes take precedence and those caught in the crosshairs of vengeance receive little mercy from others who may have collaborated on a higher, more obscure level in the occupied government who look to hold the reigns of power.

Claes Bang portrays Captain Joseph Piller, a Canadian Jew tasked to locate and return a Vermeer purchased by Hermann Goering and afterward, to seek justice for the original theft of the art work. Along with his wife who compromised her fidelity to gain information, Piller was in the resistance, and if he was caught as a Jew, it would have gone badly for him. Indeed, Piller and his wife courageously negotiated an opaque moral tightrope to overthrow their Nazi enemies, a detail which is inferred and not explored with any depth.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

The Vermeer was one of thousands of Nazi stolen artworks, documents and valuables that were hidden when the allies came through (see the film The Monuments Men {2014}). To this day there are paintings that have been recovered, but they cannot be matched to their former owners. In some instances, museums and art galleries purchased the works on the QT to keep the historic, priceless pieces in the country of origin, rather than work to locate the family of the original owners (see the film Woman in Gold {2015}).

Captain Piller is not the only one looking to recover stolen works from the Nazis, jail or execute collaborators after restoring the works to their original owners. This is a high stakes conflict to exact justice. On the one side are the allies. On the other is the Dutch government has its own processes of dealing with collaborators, including letting some go free depending upon the quid pro quos to be made.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

Piller must discover the truth of a mystery about the Vermeer before the compromised Dutch Ministry of Justice, represented by Alex De Klerks (August Diehl) regains full jurisdiction over the matter. Time is running out for Piller to “get the job done,” before the Dutch can pardon, get payoffs from the collaborators, or look the other way and allow the Nazis and collaborators to depart or go underground until the culture forgets and moves on.

Guy Pearce finely portrays the wild and ostentatious Han van Meergren who Piller discovers was in possession of the Vermeer before it ended up in the hands of Goering. Piller gains the trust of van Meergren and vice-versa. Together they pull apart whether or not as an art dealer van Meergren collaborated with the Nazis and betrayed the Dutch people or was in fact like Piller and his wife, part of the resistance and on the side of the Allies.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer (courtesy of the film)

In the process of revealing this mystery the film goes into the type of paints Vermeer used as well as his technique. It further unveils the flamboyant identity of van Meergren and through him it excoriates the art world for its tenuous and corrupt practices to gain illicit and unconscionable profits off the backs of artists who do the work and beg to be exploited for the sake of recognition and a few coins to help them live.

The ironies abound in The Last Vermeer. The high points occur every time Guy Pearce is onscreen and taking charge of the mysterious which we attempt to understand. When it is revealed in the courtroom when the judge, defense, jury and art expert examine van Meegren’s role in the world of the Nazis, the high jinx are quickly and shockingly revealed in an exuberant twist. That Piller and his staff assist van Meegren in his revelatory exploit is all the more delicious.

Guy Pearce in ‘The Last Vermeer’ (courtesy of the film)

Though the film has slow moving parts related to the exposition and falters in not revealing the backstory of Piller and his wife, when the conflict comes to the fore, it takes off into a fascinating account of a true story. The cinematic elements, costumes, hairstyles, and the recreation of historical setting is excellent.

There is no spoiler alert here. You will just have to see the film which will be released 20 November 2020.

‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles’ Tribeca Film Festival Review

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

As COVID-19 has prompted the Metropolitan Musuem to close its doors to its thousands of visitors on a slow day and stream daily content, we have a chance to look back at another time. It is a throwback to the past splendors of the Met and its 2018 Versailles exhibit captured in a Tribeca Film Festival offering. Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, streamed online for press, fans and supporters. Tribeca Film Festival curtailed many of its events. However, they screened films in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which is perhaps worse than the French Revolution that felled the last of the French Kings (Louis XVI) and left the Palace of Versailles a shell of itself until later restoration.

Though I am a neophyte foodie, I had never heard of world renowned chef Yotam Ottolenghi (cookbooks include Jerusalem, Plenty). Nor had I the time to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during its “Visitors to Versailles” exhibit:  https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2018/visitors-to-versailles.

The Metropolitan Museum enjoys featuring live events which bring important works to life. They attempt to ground them in the present by combining exhibits with other contemporary forms of expression. “Visitors to Versailles” was one such glorious presentation taking place in the Summer of 2018.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Though I missed attending the Versailles exhibit and particularly “The Feast of Versailles,” presented by Ottolenghi and his pastry chef collaborators, “all’s well that end’s well.” Laura Gabbert the documentarian known for city of Gold, No Impact Man and Sunset Story decided to do a quick and dirty film about Yotam Ottolenghi’s commission to create the “Feast of Versailles” giving us an inside look behind the scenes at how the “feast” portion of the exhibit came into being.

From start to finish, Gabbert chronicles the philosopher-foodie Ottolenghi at his home and his restaurant. We witness clips of him with restaurant colleagues tasting and refining desserts. We immediately get a sense of Ottolenghi’s expertise, congeniality and collaborative skills to perfect dishes to will please his clientele.

The filmmaker features brief interview clips o Ottolenghi describing how he works and how he responded to the Met’s commission of his culinary artistry. Then she the chronicles the chef’s visit to New York City from his home base in London and reviews meetings with Met Museum experts who assist him in his research of the culture, opulence and luxury of Versailles as the seat of world culture for over 100 years during the reign of the Sun Kings. Importantly, the Met experts discuss the types of foods that the king and his patrons enjoyed, gleaned from the records and from oil paintings of that time.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

As Ottolenghi visits Versailles, Gabbart includes panoramic views of the glorious gardens and various salons and rooms including the “hall of mirrors” which she films as Ottolenghi comments. This section perhaps could have been added to; there is never enough photography of the incredible palace. However, film clips include the drawings, renderings and other works capturing the style of the palace dating back three hundred-fifty years.

From his readings, his discussions with the experts and his Versailles visit, Ottolenghi decides to review online a myriad of pastry chefs to assess whom he might best collaborate with who will convey his vision. It’s an important selection process. They will help him elucidate the ethos of Versailles though a contemporary lens. After visiting their websites and scrutinizing their “wares” online, he hones in on five visionary dessert chefs: Dinara Kasko, Janice Wong, Bompas & Parr, Ghaya Oliveira, and Dominique Ansel. All of these chefs are as diverse from each other as is the east from the west.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Yotam OttolenghiTribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Ottolenghi’s research of French history and epicurean tradition, meetings, planning and contacts which have taken months are everything. Then Gabbert slows down her time frame and follows the pressure on the five chefs as they arrive at the Met to set up their displays and work their magic two days before the culinary event the “Feast of Versailles.”

These unique and renowned pastry chefs (creator of the “Cronut” Dominique Ansel, among others) have been guided with a light hand by Ottolenghi who has envisioned the evening as an emulation of French decadence that manifests spinning reflections into our own age. Months before the event, each pâtissier works to create a unique dessert inspired by the conceptualization of Versailles’ over-the-top dramatic grandeur. Chocolate sun kings to elaborate jellies, tarts to swans and topiaries — Gabbert reveals the artistry of the dessert chef and the challenges they confront fashioning their presentations in a formidable setting like the Met which is not outfitted as a culinary institute, indeed, far from it.

As the tension rises, the worst possible scenarios occur. The electrical circuit doesn’t work and it is a trial for the electricians to come up with a solution so that the “tornado” effect delivered by the special machine will spin with gusto. In another instance, the cake batter is not the right consistency because the ingredients in the US are different. The pastry chef tries numerous times with the help of an American expert who insists another ingredient should be added. The director wisely leaves the chef unmoored from her art, questioning how to correct the batter. Will she find a solution the day of the Feast?

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Importantly, the “Feast” is a living paean to the court of the monarchy which daily was a staged scene that gave audience to artists, writers, reporters, foreign tourists and subjects who witnessed the rich splendor of the King’s residence, his dominance over his officials and his power as head of state. French cuisine then and now had a great impact on French society which continues into our modern day with cultivars like Julia Child, Eric Ripert, Dominique Ansel and more. One cannot examine a cookbook and not see French words used for process and product: i.e. saute, flambe, mousse, omelet, etc.

One theme that Gabbert explores is this idea that there is little privacy in the world of the Sun Kings who exposed themselves, perhaps too much, for it led to their downfall in the extremes of poverty and wealth. Today, Social Media is used to eliminate our privacy, but the uber wealthy manage to stay away from the public spotlight, where the Sun Kings sought it. The reputed richest in the world are not necessarily so; old wealth that dominates for centuries is unknown and uninvestigated, for good reason.

Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles, Yotam Ottolenghi, Laura Gabbert, Tribeca Film Festival

Yotam Ottolenghi, Tribeca Film Festival, ‘Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles,’ Visitors of Versailles, Metropolitan Museum, “Feast of Versailles,” (courtesy of the film)

Another theme that the director alludes to briefly, which should have been elucidated at length, is the idea of excess, crass opulence and decadence. The director includes one shot of Donald Trump’s gold room and makes the analogy that such excess caves in on itself as did the French Monarchy. On a superficial level the “equivalence” seems to make sense. She  needed to extrapolate about the parallels and reveal that past their superficiality, there is no parallel. The Sun Kings were far from frivolous and unlearned. Their culture developed over a century and the accoutrements they surrounded themselves with were priceless. The same does not abide for the dim comparative currently in the White House and the occupants’ crass nouveau riche sensibilities.

What may abide in this romp through Versailles and the lovely feast of extravagant and clever desserts is the theme that the draining wealth and riches it takes to sustain the luxurious materialism chokes off everything. Eventually, the debts pile up and the enemies threaten. Soon the borrowing becomes so great one is entailed with quid pro quos, not a way to remain autonomous. And then the revolution comes when there is not enough food to go around. The film is an interesting view of the days of glory during a time when new elites strive for similitude but fall so short, they don’t recognize their foibles and pretensions.

But Gabbert manages to tie the times vaguely together with the elaborate desserts and concepts of the grand master of the “Feast of Versailles,” Ottolenghi. And she infers gently that the sustainability of such excess is as mortal as its keepers. We recognize the fragility of excess more than ever in this COVID-19 global pandemic.

 

 

‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ a Tribeca Film Festival Review

The Flower Thrower, Love is in the Air, Banksy, Banksy Most Wanted, Bethlehem, West Bank

“Love is in the Air,” or “The Flower Thrower,” originally in 2005, Ash Salon Street, Bethlehem, West Bank, (courtesy of the site) ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley.

The “romantic” reality of the starving artist exploited by predatory promoters has been turned on its head by the graffiti artist, political activist and filmmaker Banksy. Over the past two decades Banksy has bested art dealers and beat them at their own game. In the process he has hyped up his own notoriety and sweetened his Robin-hood-like credibility by remaining anonymous to all. That is, all except the few sworn to secrecy who are privileged to be his inner circle.

Banksy’s mural ‘Girl With the Pierced Eardrum,’ featured on city graffiti tours in Bristol, UK in a 2019 photo. From ‘Banksy Most Wanted directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (photo from the film)

Banksy Most Wanted, directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley, is a Tribeca Film Festival offering that I screened recently. I enjoy that Banksy thrives on anonymity, travels the world and uses buildings as his canvases. He paints and stencils ironic hieroglyphs, insuring they are accessible to the multitudes who appreciate his stark images and socially important messages. Cleverly, rakishly he tantalizes and exploits art dealers who would traffic his work like vultures.

Banksy Most Wanted, Show Me the Monet, Banksy

“Show Me Monet,” ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the site)

In their straight-shooting documentary Rouvier and Healey visit a multitude of locations. Using a mixture of video news clips and their own cinematography, they investigate the Banksy ethos with depth and humor. First, they chronicle his origins in Bristol, UK. Next, they trace his evolution from the 1990s. For then he painted by hand. Subsequently, he decided upon spray painting. With it he could cover more mileage. Therefore, upping the ante by preparing stencils in his studio beforehand, he left off labor intensity. Most probably, stenciling offered the ease and speed to get in and out of locations without detection.

Banksy Most Wanted, Brexit Dover Mural, Banksy

Brexit mural in Dover by Banksy, ‘Banksy Most Wanted’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the film)

More recently, Banksy’s evolution extends to outrageous, live installations. Irreverently, he painted a live elephant in Los Angeles riling animal rights activits. For the sheer cheek of it, he unleashed 200 rats in a London gallery. And with a nod to her sainthood, he embellished a portrait of Mother Teresa with the words “moisturize everyday.”

Identifying his most famous works in Bristol, London, Paris and New York, Rouvier and Healey relate the impact of these Banksys on the surrounding community. In one instance a town litigated a dealer who took “their Banksy” which had great significance to them. They refused to allow him to steal the honor of Banksy selecting Port Talbot, Wales as a site for his art.

Seasons Greetings, Banksy, Port Talbot, Wales, UK, John Brandler, Banksy Most Wanted, Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley

Banksy’s mural “Season’s Greetings” in Port Talbot, UK. John Brandler, who bought the piece for more than 100,000 Euros. ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the site)

To establish ownership the dealer purchased a garage wall with the Banksy located in Port Talbot, Wales. Subsequently, he removed it with cranes to carve the images from the concrete to auction them off. As a result, the town sued him. During the litigation he discovered the art’s value to the community. Indeed, they believed Banksy had chosen their town to bless with his work.

Interestingly, the court found that the town’s freeholder rights as a community superseded the dealer’s free-holder rights. This was a Banksy triumph for the little people and a gut-wrenching blow to the stomachs and wallets of art dealers everywhere.

Seasons Greetings, Port Talbot, Wales, Banksy, John Brandler, Banksy Most Wanted

Banksy’s mural “Season’s Greetings” in Port Talbot, UK with its buyer John Brandler, who bought the piece for more than 100,000 Euros, in a 2019 photo. ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the film)

The filmmakers explore a few of Banksy’s satiric, temporary art installations. For example, they revisit the 2008 Porta-Potty Stonehenge.  With self-demeaning brio, Banksy dubbed it “A Pile Of Crap.” Likewise, the 2015 Dismaland Bemusement Park offered a tortured happy rides with macabre convolution. Dismaland was a “sinister twist” on Disneylands everywhere. Banksy described it as “a family theme park unsuitable for children.”

Dismaland Bemusement Park, Banksy, Banksy Most Wanted

Dismaland Bemusement Park, ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the site)

“Dismaland Bemusement Park,” ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the site)

Additionally, the directors highlight his adventurous pranks. One of these incurred self-shredding the print “Girl With Balloon” at a Sotheby auction right after the banging gavel closed the purchase.

Girl With Balloon, Banksy Most Wanted, Banksy, Sotheby's, Girl With Balloon Shredded

‘Banksy Most Wanted’, Girl With Balloon, Banksy, Girl With Balloon Shredded directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley  (courtesy of the site)

Throughout, the filmmakers question the Banksy ethos. His stenciled works increasingly find their way into areas of economic repression and cultural upheaval. Some appear in the West Bank. These, include the restored Walled Off Hotel positioned across the street from the Israeli-Palestinian West Bank barrier. All of them raise questions. Indeed, Banksy fans and critics alike interpret them as an addendum to his political activism. And they label him a postulate critic of the dominant powers who would prevent others from securing a viable place at the table of life.

Walled Off Hotel, Banksy Most Wanted, West Bank

“The Walled Off Hotel,” ‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ directed by Aurélia Rouvier and Seamus Haley (courtesy of the site)

Banksy Most Wanted, Banksy Kitten in Gaza

‘Banksy Most Wanted,’ Banksy Kitten in Gaza (courtesy of the site)

With his works having become ubiquitous, Banksy globally imprints his perspective to sound the underlying truths of our reality. And his searing and irreverent statements against imperialism, capitalism, earth destruction, climate change, consumerism, poverty, corporate fascism, racism empower the viewer.

However, all is not anti-establishment. Occasionally, he counterbalances these themes and subjects with images of love, innocence and endurance. For the documentarians focus on how he makes his guerilla art a velvet weapon to war against killing and uplift peace. Furthermore, they reveal how his dichotomous images heighten the culture’s oblivion to their being accessories to enslaving and harming Third World Countries. With singularity and precision the directors emphasize how he employs juxtaposition in his creations. And they do justice to Banksy’s indictment of the West’s contributions to crimes against humanity in its greedy value of money over people.

Banksy's, Rodin, West Bank

Banksy’s Take-off on Rodin in Gaza West Bank (courtesy of the site)

Throughout the visual explication of Banksy’s subject matter and themes, the filmmakers delve into his message to the art world. Another lucid indictment emerges. For Banksy, great artistry moves beyond boundaries and walls of brick and mortar. It remains exclusive of hyped-up, artificiality and “Tulip mania” trends.

For this reason he has left the art world spinning in circles. As they chop up walls to obtain his works in the hope of making a bundle, he intentionally dislocates their obsession. Most recently, to thwart the rapacity of dealers, owners of buildings have become Banksy fans. They refuse to sell. Instead, they plexiglass their Banksys to protect them. With an irony of their own, they reinforce Banksy’s overarching instruction to street people. Art exists everywhere

Banksy, Bristol, UK, Phone Lovers

Banksy’s Phone Lovers, Bristol, UK (courtesy of the site)

Over the years Banksy has garnered himself and a beleaguered art world a delicious, capitalistic profit. Reputedly his worth totals up to a rumored $50 million. So, for those who admire his anti-capitalistic, anti-consumer spirit, think again. Perhaps, this anonymous rogue doth protest too much. However, the vital question remains.

Who is Banksy? For me peaking behind the anonymity becomes a crucial high point of the film. With incisive interviews, the directors weave in and out to explore three possible identities. And these they unravel, playing with the uncertainty of facts and details of “reliable” narrators. Afterward, they suggest a fourth possible Banksy.

Banksy, West Bank

Banksy in the West Bank Barrier Wall, a guard tower converted to an amusement ride (courtesy of the site)

Clearly, the directors love their subject. And they have done their homework. They’ve presented the diorama that his anonymity has served a charitable purpose . Yet, they’ve proven Banksy also serves his own interests.

Thanks to his anonymity, others have been able to claim his work, either legally or emotionally. And his fans love adding to his aura by fantasizing about who is hiding behind the name. These investigations reveal a novel perspective of the artist, his salient/sardonic world view, his links with the music scene and his entrepreneurial acumen. They also expose the importance of identity to art and society and our need to triumph over invisibility.

Through the testimonies of those who know him and have worked with him, but also of those who exploit him, hunt him down and claim him, Banksy Most Wanted paints a profound portrait of “one” of the foremost artists of our time. It concludes with the vitality of the spirit that channels through the group of artists that effect Banksys. And that makes all the difference in the world.

Banksy during the pandemic.

Apparently, Banksy is staying indoors following the UKs sheltering in place lockdown orders. However his famed mural “The Girl With A Pierced Eardrum” has received a COVID-19 update which includes a blue surgical mask.

Banksy, Girl With the Pierced Earring, COVID-19

Banksy, “Girl With A Pierced Earring,” COVID-19 update (courtesy of the site)

First appearing on the side of a building in Bristol’s Harbourside in 2014, this Banksy spoofs Vermeer’s “Girl With A Pearl Earring.” But the earring incorporates Banksy’s thoughtful wall selection, an outdoor security alarm. Banky’s “girl” sports not a “pearl,” but a ‘stretcher’ supplied by the security alarm.

Wild speculation deems Banksy broke the lockdown and sneaked out to spray paint his work to give a kick in the pants to those who will tour his graffiti most probably with masks and appropriate social distancing when Bristol “opens.” However, fans argue the COVID-19 mural can’t be by Banksy who usually reveals his works on his Instagram account.

Banksy in lockdown

Banksy in lockdown (courtesy of the site)

For official COVID-19 works Banksy, on his account you will find rats running amuck and making themselves at home in his bathroom. It’s captioned: “My wife hates it when I work from home.”  Banksy’s irreverence during this pandemic makes this Plague go down a bit easier. #Banksy

Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival Review: ‘Lullaby’

Lullaby, Nicole Gut, Nicholas Ferrara, Susan Jane McDonald

(top to bottom): Nicole Gut, Nicholas Ferrara, Susan Jane McDonald in ‘Lullaby,’ directed by Kae Fujisawa, written by Nicole Gut and Kae Fujisawa (Merciful Delusions Productions)

How many times have we walked by homeless people on the NYC sidewalk overbundled with blankets and towels in the wintertime? Did you toss change in their cup and walk away free from the guilt? Or did you have a conversation if you had a bit of time to spare, in a show of human decency?

I’ve often thought that the change didn’t begin to answer the loss of a life of connectedness that the individual experiences daily bracing against the elements as he or she determine to live on the streets. If the individual is an older person, I’ve wondered how they might have gotten there. Was it a downhill spiral from drugs or alcohol or not taking their meds? What do we do with their presence which represents a failure of our culture and government to care for its own? Do we walk by ignoring them as invisible people, throw change or when no one is looking use them for an occasion to unleash our devils within?

Ryan Mills, Lullaby, Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival

Ryan Mills, ‘Lullaby,’ directed by Kae Fujisawa, written by Nicole Gut and Kae Fujisawa, Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival (Merciful Delusions Productions)

Nicole Gut Executive Producer, Author, Songwriter, Composer, Actor, Singer considered these issues and wrote a short play about a woman who has lost her singing voice. Through a series of events the woman ends up living on the streets of New York with the hope of returning to herself one day. It is a day which never comes.

Lullaby premiered at the John Cullum Theatre at the American Theatre of Actors in Manhattan in New York on October 2018 as an entry for Paul Michael’s New Short Play Festival. The play was directed by Kae Fujisawa and was a success.

Ryan Mills, an actor in the production gave a hard and long look at what the team accomplished. He was convinced there was so much more to the story that must be told. With his insight and assistance, Nicole decided to transform LULLABY into a SAG narrative short film. Kae Fujisawa whose dedication and perceptiveness as a director who helped to shepherd the play to a home run would be the director and co-writer of the film. At that point events moved quickly. Nicole and Kae worked on the script to add complications and deepen the themes.

The resultant film from Nicole Gut’s titular short play Lullaby is a work they are proud of. It had a number of screenings, one at the Network Film Festival in New York City where it was well received. Nicole Gut garnered a Best Actress Nomination and Jack Utrata was nominated for Best Cinematography.

The film stars Ryan Mills as Brian Mills and Nicholas Ferrara as Michael Franklin who portray friends and near-do-wells who are ethically and morally challenged. Both, especially Brian, are unable to solve the overwhelming issues that threaten to destroy their lives. Alcohol is never a panacea to heal soul damage. In fact it exacerbates the damage and launches one into a place that is an abyss of misery and torment.

Susan Jane McDonald, Ryan Mills, Lullaby, Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival

Susan Jane McDonald, Ryan Mills, ‘Lullaby,’ Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, directed by Kae Fujisawa, written by Nicole Gut and Kae Fujisawa (Merciful Delusions Productions)

And so it goes for Brian and Michael who on a drunken spree come across a homeless woman and former singer Sarah Hughes (Nicole Gut) who has lost her voice. The alcohol overtakes Brian and Michael and they allow it to dominate their will, self-hood and decency. Sarah tries to defend herself, but her response provokes the men, especially Brian. We learn later why he moves against her with venom. Susan Jane McDonald as Brian’s mom reveals Brian’s untoward actions, which are deeply rooted in sorrow. Indeed, when old wounds do not heal, they bleed out onto other individuals and the reckoning is horrific for everyone involved, a reckoning which has no answer and no end.

I screened Lullaby at a private screening at Shetler Studios after the Network Film Festival. It was then I learned that the film was accepted to Culver City Film Festival as a narrative short and screened 6-12 of December. I can understand why. It is well conceived, acted and directed; the cinematography (by Jack Utrata) lighting and shot construction are cogent and propel the story and atmosphere of the film toward its ironic and eerie conclusion. Kudos to Nicole Gut, Kae Fujisawa, Jack Ultrata and other members of the team who worked to effect a story that has currency with our time.

Nicole Gut, Lullaby, Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival

Nicole Gut, Lullaby, Network Film Festival, Culver City Film Festival, directed by Kae Fujisawa, written by Nicole Gut and Kae Fujisawa (Merciful Delusions Productions)

The creative team intend to submit the film to additional festivals as they work on a full-length feature that promises to broaden the characterizations and themes. These center around issues of homelessness, bullying, psychological trauma, discrimination, and the mistaken assumptions that kindness is weakness and machismo shows one is powerful.

Lullaby screened at Culver City Film Festival in Los Angeles, California where it won the Best Short Suspense Award. To learn more about Lullaby on Instagram, go to @LullabySweetDreamsFilm. On Facebook CLICK HERE.

To become a part of the LULLABY team by donating to their Indie Go Go campaign, CLICK HERE.

For the Lullaby website to stay apprised of the events related to the film CLICK HERE.

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‘Night Hunter,’ a Psychological Thriller Starring Henry Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci

Night Hunter, Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Alexandra Daddario, David Raymond

‘Night Hunter,’ starring Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Alexandra Daddario, directed by David Raymond (photo courtesy of Saban films)

Strong performances by Sir Ben Kingsley and Brendan Fletcher as a psychotic sexual predator killer make Night Hunter an intriguing film for those who are able to pay attention. If you watch it on a small screen and take frequent breaks from focus, you may get lost with the opacity of the plot which largely rests as a mystery whose reveal builds brick upon brick and slams into crystal clarity at the end.

Written and directed by nascent filmmaker David Raymond, the film is not without flaws in its sound and audio delivery. Indeed, the fine music score at times drowns out the dialogue instead of whispering the insidiousness and suspense that is inherent in the storyline, a storyline which pays homage to psychotic schizophrenics in other films that have a better handle on terrorizing the audience, perhaps. But make no mistake. This film is not of that genre. Night Hunter has its moments and if you are a fan of Tucci, Cavill and especially Kingsley, who as usual is spot-on terrific in a small, meaty part, you will receive what you came for.

Night Hunter, Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci,

‘Night Hunter,’ starring Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Brendan Fletcher, Stanley Tucci (photo courtesy of the Saban films)

Henry  Cavill portrays police detective Marshall, a “night hunter” of sexual predator/killers who has become so overwhelmed by his career that he has allowed it to occlude his family relationships. He’s lost custody of his daughter and is divorced and has been drawn inward by guilt and the darkness he hunts. His characterization is largely intuited; Cavill is dour, depressed and cold, a warning to those who believe that “hunting” killers is all fun and video games. It’s not and Raymond indicates that Marshall has been largely undone emotionally. He’s siphoned off feelings and warmth to remain sharp for his incredible journey into the minds of the psychotics. Fun it is not!

Along this particular journey looking for a murderous sexual predator, he is aided by former girlfriend Rachel, the lovely Alexandra Daddario who is a sweet-faced, kittenish damsel in distress (especially at the end). Continually against type she alternately proves she can and can’t profile killers, but nevertheless she somewhat successfully draws out the monstrously weird, mentally challenged, deaf Simon who Brendan Fletcher portrays with lightening empathy and terrifying reality.

Stanley Tucci as Commissioner Harper keeps his force together and weathers the embarrassment (it’s a humorous scene) of facing down the press and public infuriated by the police force’s incompetence at locating enough proof to put away the predator stalking their city. Unlike American Law Enforcement who readily finds their killers and then years later are upended by DNA testing which proves they got the wrong guy, Canadian law enforcement intends to get it right. Of course, amidst botch jobs and misdirection down wrong paths (the mentally challenged Simon is being abetted by someone who is keen to kill and has the brilliance to outsmart and dispatch the police) the community’s patience wears thin as the serial killer remains on the loose to strike again and again.

Night Hunter, Henry Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci,

Brendan Fletcher in ‘Night Hunter,’ directed by David Raymond (courtesy of Saban films)

It is no surprise that Kingsley, who portrays retired judge Cooper converted into a vigilante who protects the community against sexual predators without killing them appears a hero. His rationale beautifully delivered to Cavill’s Marshall in the benign brightness of a diner, seems right-on and clear-eyed considering he succeeds where law enforcement continually stumbles. Well, their emotional motivations are as different as night and day. For the police, looking for predators is just a job. For Cooper it is a mission in which he is emotionally invested. Actually, women have suggested that predators be dealt with as Cooper deals with them. Stopping the assaults and ending ruining the emotional ethos and psyches of women, however, is not important enough for the male-driven law enforcement officials to even lobby for.

Law enforcement, full of brio and testosterone (Marshall, Harper) find his methods beyond the pale, except at the end when Cooper joins the team. How Cooper goes about stopping predators from their chronic obsession to sexually abuse, prey upon and even kill young women is ironic and profound. Perhaps such a method should have been used on Jeffrey Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and other misogynistic (rape is a crime of violence and against young and old has been characterized as a weapon of war) sexual criminals whose privilege (if they are rich) places them above the law to predatorize women with impunity.

Night Hunter, Henry Cavill, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci, Alexandra Daddario, David Raymond

Alexandra Daddario, Henry Cavill in ‘Night Hunter,’ starring Ben Kingsley, Brendan Fletcher, Stanley Tucci, directed by David Raymond (photo courtesy of the Saban films)

Indeed, Cooper outshines all of law enforcement and makes the self-righteous Marshall, who can’t even get his own role as father in sync with his daughter and is in a state of panic with the predator on the loose, look like a wimp. In all fairness, Cavill is not Superman in this film which is a refreshing switch. And up against Kingsley who is just terrific, he is bested/awed in the two-minute scene where Cooper makes his case for going after predators “his” way with his side-kick the wry and sometime funny Lara (the fine Eliana Jones) as the lure for the men attracted to underage, “unwitting” GIRLS.

Night Hunter, Henry Cavill, David Raymond

Henry Cavill in ‘Night Hunter’ (courtesy of Saban films)

Not enough credit has been given to Raymond for exposing the two different approaches to sexual predation: one as a medical condition, the other as a crime whose predators, once they fulfill their sentence, move back into the culture to prey upon victims again. Law enforcement’s and the male culture’s myopia perceive sexual predation as a sexual phenomenon. It is not; it is a mental/physical condition as Cooper suggests, or worse, a hate crime especially regarding serial rapists (who eventually turn out to be killers). To end the deaths and destruction of women’s lives, Cooper’s methods seem less than harsh. However, as long as the patriarchy runs things, women will have to suffer and sexual predators, always men (identified with by male law enforcement) be given lenience. Kingsley’s performance brings all the nuance, depth and controversy to these issues. As Cooper he is heartfelt. The arc of that character’s development by Raymond is drawn well and acted superbly by Kingsley who gives the judge great substance and moment.

Night Hunter, Henry Cavill, Alexandra Daddario, Alexandra Daddario, Ben Kingsley, Stanley Tucci,

Alexandra Daddario, Henry Cavill in ‘Night Hunter,’ directed by David Raymond (courtesy of Saban films)

The themes about how “night hunters” who are hunted (the psycho killer avenges himself on the police) survive and the emotional toll it takes on them are interesting, as is Daddario’s Rachel in her empathetic sweetness to lure Simon to speak the truth. The psychological aspects of law enforcement are notes in the film, which is not just about apprehending a psychotic sexual predator/killer. See if you can figure out the mystery; clues are present.

Considering that many murders/disappearances (sex trafficking ends in murder, the womens’ bodies often disappeared) end up cold case, the elements Raymond pinpoints are vital; but as in most films about rape, sexual predators, psychotic killers, i.e. the Silence of the Lambs series, SeVen, etc., the plots are fantastic fiction regarding the success of law enforcement. Holding serial rapists and killers and sexual predators to account is hard won and more often than not, they are allowed to go free, abetted by law enforcement’s malaise about rape (see the film I Am Evidence). Thus, Night Hunter effects an interesting response to the issue of sexual predation through the characterization of Cooper, unlike any seen before. That males will easily dismiss and overlook these elements seems moot.

Currently on DIRECTTV, Night Hunter will be screening in theaters and ON DEMAND in NYC, LA and other cities beginning 6th September. Look for it.

 

 

 

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‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ Morgan Spurlock’s Ironic Exposé of Corporate Chicken and Fast Food

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock, ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Morgan Spurlock rose to international fame in Super Size Me (2004) when he used himself as a research subject to chow down for breakfast, lunch and dinner on “supersize portions” at McDonalds in a marathon of calorically indulgent eating. During the process Spurlock fashioned his body into a toxic biohazard. After one month of greasy Mc-oversizing, he proved the medical hazards of such an intake of poisonous fare. His systemic overloading on fats, salt and sugar compromised the health of his kidneys, liver and heart and his weight gain laced with nights of acid reflux and intense heartburn solidified how fast food chains outsourced bad nutrition and obesity while emphasizing low cost.

The film successfully grossed millions with a huge profit margin and vaulted Spurlock into the hero heaven of vegans and health food mavens. Meanwhile, a shamed McDonalds pulled its “supersize program” and brought in “healthier” menus with salad sides and meals, and thoughtful “trimmings” on burgers. And as a documentarian, actor, producer, writer and filmmaker, Spurlock’s entertaining and revelatory approach reshaped the tenor of documentaries by spinning a novel, investigative method, moving from outside critic to inside ethnographer whose chronicle as a consumer couldn’t be easily dismissed.

Chef Bobby Flay, Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

(L to R): Bobby Flay, Morgan Spurlock, ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Though the fast food chains had been put on notice immediately after the film’s release and mega publicity, to what extent did they maintain their “good behavior” providing healthier fare years later? Indeed, after the shock of Spurlock’s doctor’s dire warnings about his ill health faded from the public’s memory, could they be lured back to fried, greasy, salty, burgers, chicken sandwiches and fries?

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock in ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Spurlock discovered they could in his sequel Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! in which he chronicles his own launch into fast food and agribusiness poultry farming. As a result of a proposition by Hardees to make an advertisement using his credibility and authenticity showcasing the supposed “healthiness” of its menu, he decided it was time to revisit the new “trends” morphing the fast food industry. Once again, taking an ethnographer participant’s approach after research, expert consultations and the input of the public, Spurlock created his farm to fast food table chicken pop-up restaurant in Columbus, Ohio where his Holy Chicken! joint rose like a phoenix from an old Wendy’s.

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken! is Spurlock’s amazing journey through poultry farming right up to the psychological approach of designing a chicken sandwich and “healthy,” relaxing setting in which to eat it. When it comes to the insidiousness and cruelty (toward farmers and chickens) of what Spurlock refers to as the “Big Chicken Mafia,” and the obsessive intensity of the fast food industry to brainwash and lure its customers, Spurlock reveals how the public is gamed, bamboozled, duped and mollified into believing agribusiness and the fast food industries have their best interests at heart. By assuming the role of the insider, Spurlock becomes privy to most everything we need to know to “open our eyes” when we make food selections from their raw forms in grocery stores (branding, i.e. organic, free range, etc., is an extreme exaggeration) to their crispy chicken (never say fried-it’s anathema) and painted on grill marks in fast food restaurants.

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock in ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Some of what Spurlock entertainingly and wryly unloads on the viewer they are probably familiar with. Fast food menus have been made to appear sleek, chic, “organic,” healthy, fresh, but are actually filled with the same old malign items despite the kale most probably grown with pesticides and herbicides. With his innocent, frank and humorous delivery that he has honed to precision, he lightly excoriates how “branding” and “labeling” provide a “halo of health” effect which of course is a sham.

For example what is fresh, organic, natural regarding veggies? Were these items bagged from California days ago or fresh picked from the farm that morning and raised without pesticides and herbicides? Are pictures of salads, veggies and fruits come-ons to convince us we are eating healthy food as we by-pass them for the greasy, fat-filled burgers and fried chicken? Are wooden laminate floors and green decor appointments suggestive of fresh, natural settings decrying the artificial? Yes! The industry has staged every element of delivery down to their brown napkins and bags and paper straws.

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock in ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

When Spurlock in the interest of sampling the competition’s chicken sandwiches (chicken sandwiches-best sellers, have overtaken burgers as healthier offerings in the public mind) he visits McDonalds, Burger King, et. al, to try out their chickeny fare. His epithet descriptors are humorous and of course, the taste is no different than what he remembers from thirteen years ago. As for sampling and examining the best-selling chicken sandwich in the US market today offered at Chick-fil-a? He discovers their advertised “seasoned to perfection” deliciousness is not because of the chicken, but because of the extensive “flavor enhancer” otherwise known as the devastatingly poisonous MSG. So he and the experts he has taken along on their sampling travels to see how they can beat the competition vow that to succeed, he should be as authentic farm to table as possible, minus the MSG.

The most upsetting segment in the documentary underscored ironically by melodic classical music involves Morganic Fresh Farms in Alabama. Spurlock takes us on his adventures finding, purchasing and raising his chickens which begin as adorable hatchlings under the auspices of independent farmer and mentor Johnathan Buttram.  It is then that he rips the veil to expose the noxious, controlling practices of “Big Chicken” integrators (Tyson Foods, Perdue, Koch Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms) who turn their farmers into sharecroppers as they “tow the poverty line” eventually bankrupting them or driving them out of business if they become rebellious. The integrators use a genocidally counterproductive “tournament system” that pits farmer against farmer for the “love of “big brother chicken” to enhance their profits while squeezing their farmers by forcing them to make unnecessary upgrades.

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Farmers and Morgan Spurlock in ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Spurlock’s interviews with some of the farmers who are at their wits end and emotionally devastated at the stress of having to increase their purchases and indebtedness to “big brother chicken” integrators, tell a tale akin to “slavery,” in a job that requires farmers never take rests or vacations but are on call almost 24/7.  On strict orders not to talk to reporters to tell them of their plight or they will be blackballed, the farmers take a great risk to get the information to the public in Spurlock’s film. Indeed, Spurlock who makes Jonathan Buttram his hero farmer, indicates by the close of the film (2016) “big brother chicken” integrators refused to give Buttram more chickens to grow because of his revelations about the industry. To “big brother chicken” integrators the truth is punishable by elimination. Vladimir Putin and other autocrats do no less. Reprehensible!

Indeed, if “big brother chicken” truly cared about the public as their friendly advertisements and chicken lobbyist Tom Super suggest, they would open their doors to their growing houses. But they can’t because if the public knew how the chickens were overcrowded and abused, they would be appalled and boycott “big brother chicken,” who refuses to change its profitable practices. For example Spurlock chronicles how the broiler chickens used in fast food and for sale in grocery stores have been genetically modified to grow in hyperdrive over a six week period so they weigh six pounds by the end of their lives. If a baby grew as fast proportionately, it would weigh 650 pounds.

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock in ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ showing the space designated for USDA free ranged chickens (courtesy of the film)

Talk about genetic overload, the chickens are so obscenely big breasted top heavy, they can have hip joint breakage and necrosis and a myriad of other disgusting diseases if their immune systems are not functioning properly. However, even the healthier ones die of heart attacks before the six weeks are up because they are too heavy to stand for longer than 5 seconds let alone run around and get exercise. Their heart muscle gives out because genetically they are conditioned to grow too quickly for their heart to accommodate them. When Spurlock takes some of his heart attacked chickens to the vet who autopsies them, the vet pronounces that this is what happens to these chickens whose meat is otherwise healthy.

Humanely, Spurlock allows his chickens more space to run around where to make money to survive, his friend and mentor from whom he purchased his chicks, Buttram, like other farmers are forced to pack in their chickens for profitability. If they can’t move? Well, a hazard the integrators promote.  Spurlock saves the one God-growing chicken not genetically modified to hyperdrive growth that he kept with the other big breasted chickens to show as a comparison. The God-growing chicken runs so fast, they can barely catch him. Of course, he is smaller, healthy and not in a chronically somnambulant feed overdose!

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock in ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ painting grill marks on a crispy chicken sandwich (courtesy of the film)

Spurlock’s film is fascinating and sardonic not only for what he reveals, but for the authentic and honest approach he takes insuring the credibility and reliability of his chicken sandwich product. On the walls of his pop-up Holy Chicken!, he exposes every shoddy practice that the fast food industry and he himself used down to the painting of grill marks on his crispy “grilled” chicken sandwich. And he identifies, to the dismay of his patrons, the big breasted hyperdrive grown chickens he grew on his farm. He also includes a drawing of Johnathan Buttram with the admonition “know your farmer” and a description of the sharecropper system that farmers are forced to use if they would be poultry growers.

The opening day patrons of Holy Chicken! paid for a delicious chicken sandwich which by the time they finished reading all of the information on the walls and the menu, they were appalled to have eaten. One patron commented about the clever ironies of the restaurant ,and Spurlock affirmed speaking into the camera to both industries that he hopes to put himself and them out of business with increased public awareness that they are being “taken for a ride.”

Morgan Spurlock, Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!

Morgan Spurlock, ‘Super Size Me 2: Holy Chicken!’ (courtesy of the film)

Supersize Me 2: Holy Chicken! is a must-see for a laugh and a tear. It was featured a few years ago at the Toronto Film Festival and then was pulled for #MeToo reasons against Spurlock who made an Al Franken move and apologized for his behavior then was bashed again and again for it. The inability of women to discern when they should forgive those who admit fault and apologize instead of beating them forever, bodes badly for the movement. Kirsten Gillibrand’s insistence that Franken fall on his own sword and resign from the senate while the occupant of the White House and his friend Jeffrey Epstein and Justice Kavanaugh had done far worse than Franken, reveals the movement needs to step back and examine itself for inequitable judgment and cowardice for not going after those who need to be called down in the face of overwhelming evidence. #MeToo needs to embrace the men who apologize, make amends and change, not flagellate them in a misguided fashion while NOT ADMONISHING RELENTLESSLY the true rapists, misogynists and sexual predators in high places who smile in the shadows of their lying denials. 

Thankfully, Spurlock’s film finally will do the good that it was intended to do, receiving a release date the week of 6 September 2019. Don’t miss it! If you can’t wait, it is also online.

Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere Review: ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ The Life and Times of Wynn Handman

Wynn Handman, Billy Lyons, It Takes a Lunatic

Wynn Handman, ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons, (photo courtesy of Billy Lyons and the film via FB page of ‘It Takes a Lunatic’)

Anyone who has been involved in the New York City theater world knows who the prodigiously awarded Wynn Handman is. He is a lunatic indeed, with a purpose and a passion. Wynn Handman’s love is for theatrical performance, teasing out character to achieve the pinnacle of believability that allows the actor to live “onstage.”

Jeremy Gerard, Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Michael Douglas, It Takes a Lunatic, Billy Lyons

(L to R): Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Jeremy Gerard (moderator) Michael Douglas, Tribeca FF Q & A after screening of ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (Carole Di Tosti)

For decades Wynn Handman has been coaching actors to get in touch with the best part of themselves and release their God given talents. His appreciation for innovative theater is as legion as his humanity. It is expressed in the countless friendships he’s had over the years with writers, playwrights, musicians, directors and artists. Billy Lyons’ wonderful documentary is an incredible testament to a great man who continues to have an impact on all in his sphere of influence.

Michael Douglas, It Takes a Lunatic, Wynn Handman, Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere, Billy Lyons

Michael Douglas in the Tribeca FF Q & A after the World Premiere screening of ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (Carole Di Tosti)

In its World Premiere at Tribeca Film Festival, It Takes a Lunatic, director Billy Lyons (actor, director, teacher, producer and assistant to Wynn Handman) displays the man behind the mask and reveals there is no mask or gloss to Wynn Handman. Wynn is who he is, an authentic, witty, “tell-it-like-is” acting teacher, and he is this with everyone, large and small, famous or infamous, actor or layperson. Why change now? Wynn is 97-years-young and is still teaching acting. He has nothing to lose by being himself, which he always has been, “a wild and crazy guy!”

Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Tribeca FF World Premiere, It Takes a Lunatic

(L to R): Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Tribeca FF World Premiere, Q & A after the screening of ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (Carole Di Tosti)

Lyons’ poignant tribute to this brilliant genius and loving artist is a lesson in learning to be real, to get to the core of oneself unapologetically, to take risks, to embrace the unique, and defy the status quo. And above all through this retrospective on Wynn, we learn that in the theatrical world, one should go where angels fear to tread to manifest the rewards of creative inspiration. Wynn has approached his life this way and has achieved what only a fearless magician would dare to even think about. He initiated The American Place Theatre and with it directed and hosted unknown and established playwrights and known writers who adapted their work into plays. Wynn allowed innovation to flourish and opened opportunities to black (Ed Bullins, Michael Bradford, Ron Milner) and Chinese (Frank Chin) and female (Emily Mann, María Irene Fornés) playwrights and actors at a time when opportunities for them were slender and doors opened infrequently.

Robert De Niro introducing the World Premiere screening of ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (Carole Di Tosti)

Lyons reveals how Wynn effected this, through his own life experiences during and after the war when New York was opening up like a flower and anything seemed possible. Wynn learned from some of the best; he ended up studying with and assisting Sandy Meiser at The Neighborhood Playhouse. There he made his chops and had the grist to launch out on his own creating his own acting classes and sessions which he has continued doing for decades.

Lyons captures this dynamo through film and video interviews and archived family photos that span his early life and cover all parts in between through his marriage, later family life and continuous career, from 1949 up until the present. Lyons captures his enthusiasm, his great good will, humor, generosity and his flexibility to understand the importance of helping to hone the talents of actors, directors and writers. Video and film clips include interviews or discussions with/about a veritable “Who’s Who” of actors, directors and playwrights who studied or worked with Wynn. A few interviewed in the film or seen in photos or film clips are Richard Gere, Joel Grey, John Leguizamo, Bill Irwin, Raul Julia, Sam Waterston, Frank Langella, Sam Shepherd, Eric Bogosian, Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Mira Sorvino, Susan Lucci, Woody King Jr, Faye Dunaway and many more.

Lyons includes historical clips from his acting and coaching classes as individuals discuss Wynn Handman’s approach toward his actors which was unlike many of the other acting teachers in the city who were austere and frightening. Every actor interviewed from Michael Douglas to Richard Gere tells anecdotes and experiences they had with Wynn, many humorous, all of them praiseworthy. He is the ideal acting teaching who dispels fear, encourages, comforts with his wise, calm demeanor. He knows just when to tell a joke or make one laugh. His suggestions and perceptions are superlative. From the introductory applause in the theater as Robert De Niro introduced Billy Lyons and the film, one could tell that Wynn’s hundreds of fans-many of them working actors and directors were present to support him. They gave him and Billy Lyons a standing ovation before and after the film.

Wynn Handman, Julia Miles, Billy Lyons, It Takes a Lunatic

Wynn Handman, American Place Theatre Associate Director Julia Miles, ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (photo courtesy of American Place Theatre, Martha Holmes, on ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ FB page and Billy Lyons)

The list of celebrities who studied with Wynn is impressive. Many of them have gone on to be award winners. Lyons includes fabulous black and white performance clips from some of the fascinating productions staged at The American Place Theatre and has various actors discuss their impact. Lyons delves into Wynn Handman’s close friendship with Sam Shepherd who he, in effect, put on the map by producing 8 of his plays at The American Place Theatre.

Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Dominic J. DeJoseph, It Takes a Lunatic, Tribeca FIlm Festival World Premiere

(L to R): Dominic J. DeJoseph, Wynn Handman (seated) Billy Lyons, ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (photo courtesy Billy Lyons and ‘It Takes a Lunatic’ FB page)

Wynn Handman conducted many series at The American Place Theatre. There was a Humorist’s series (i.e. Cavin Trillin, James Thurber, Jules Feiffer and others) A Woman’s Project Series, a Literature Series (various authors adapted their longer works into plays). Wynn encouraged the production of controversial, ground-breaking and thematically striking works.

In 1969 Wynn produced George Tabori’s The Cannibals a holocaust play which received a cool reception because the audience didn’t understand the piece as black comedy. Tabori’s play went on to be produced at the Schiller Theatre in Berlin where it received an incredible reception and outpouring of support because the Germans needed to deal with elements of the Holocaust and the play afforded them the opportunity. Tabori, a Hungarian Jew who swore he would never return to Berlin ended up moving there and becoming a vital force in German Theater. From the reception of this work, Tabori ended up writing additional plays and working in TV as opportunities opened up to him. Tabori became globally renowned and won various awards. Without Wynn Handman’s support for Tabori to present his plays, one wonders would this inspired story have ended the way it did? Lyons coverage of this segment in the history of NYC theater is monumental.

Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Jeremy Gerard, Michael Douglas, Tribeca Film Festival World Premiere, It Takes a Lunatic

(L to R): Billy Lyons, Wynn Handman, Jeremy Gerard (moderator) Michael Douglas, Tribeca FF World Premiere, Q & A after screening of ‘It Takes a Lunatic,’ directed by Billy Lyons (Carole Di Tosti)

Additionally, in 1970, Wynn staged Tabori’s Pinkville starring Michael Douglas in a dynamic and highly praised performance. The play was an indictment of the US war in Vietnam. Pinkville was controversial and exceptional. It is another example of Wynn Handman’s courage in treading where theatrical producers feared to go. But in the film Handman emphasizes that The American Place Theatre was a non-profit theater, funded through subscriptions. So those who donated, paid their subscriptions because they wanted to see controversial, ground-breaking Off Broadway theater. The American Place Theatre was artistic theater in the best sense of the word and as one of the producers, Handman was free from worrying about the bottom line and commercialism that plagues NYC theater today.

The moderator of the Q & A that occurred after the screening was Jeremy Gerard who wrote the biography on Wynn Handman entitled Wynn, Place, Show. It is worth the read to review Wynn’s historical place in American theater and specifically his influence in shepherding so many sterling actors who are still working today.

The documentary superbly chronicles one man’s indelible impact on NYC theater and in particular revelatory drama. Lyons has created a gem of a film. It is a must-see for anyone pursuing a theater or entertainment career, and for those interested in how theater’s cultural impact can change lives. Look for It Takes a Lunatic online and check out their FB page.

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