I’m getting closer to the coast and realize how much I hate arriving at a destination. Transition is always a relief. Destination means death to me. If I could figure out a way to remain forever in transition, in the disconnected and unfamiliar, I could remain in a state of perpetual freedom. — David Wojnarowicz, Close to the Knives
The passage from Wojnarowicz’s “memoir of disintegration”—inscribed onscreen two-thirds of the way through END OFTHE CENTURY, the remarkable debut by writer and director Lucio Castro—suggests a directive for both the film’s characters and its audience as we parse distinctions between imagination and reality, dream reunions and deathless regret.
Marked by a fluidity that sets the present against a non-objective past, the film is a mysterious evocation of a passionate fling and its possible reminiscence—Ocho (Juan Barberini) and Javi (Ramón Pujol), both traveling for work, meet as strangers in Barcelona… but what happens next? Javi’s “Kiss” T-shirt—which functions, in a Lacanian sense, not unlike the small blue box in David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive—may offer a clue.
END OF THE CENTURY / FIN DE SIGLO (2019, Argentina)—co-starring Mía Maestro as Sonia—won Best Film at the Buenos Aires Film Festival and Best First Film at Frameline in San Francisco.
Join the director for opening weekend Q & A’s at the Nuart. (See link below for details.)
Haunted by loss and regret, MS. PURPLE—the third feature directed by Justin Chon—is a brief, spellbinding take on loss and disfunction between a pair of siblings barely hanging on in a gig-economy Koreatown.
That the film—written by Chon and Chris Dinh—lands with such devastating impact despite the burden of an over-emphatic soundtrack is a testament to the powerful central performance of Tiffany Chu as Kasie.
This weekend, Chon and Chuwill join actor Teddy Lee (as Carey) at the Nuart for several post-screening Q & A’s. And for Film Independent members, there’s a Case Study presentation on Tuesday night.
In PIRANHAS—directed by Claudio Giovanessi, and co-written by RobertoSaviano (based on his 2016 novel La paranza dei bambini)—we are back with the Neopolitan mob. Not in the Vele di Scampia housing project of Saviano’s Gomorrah, but deep in Naples’ centro storico district of Sanità, where 15-year-old Nicola (Francesco Di Napoli) watches Camorra henchmen strong-arm his mother’s dry cleaners… and a lightbulb switches on.
Resourceful, spontaneous, and embracing the flashiest live-for-today ethos of their environment, Nicola and his gang quickly join the ranks of neighborhood enforcers (“paranza”)—dispatching rivals, collecting protection money, celebrating with cocaine-and-bottle service at the club, and splashing out on new soccer uniforms for the local kids. Everyone is in over his head before he learns how to shave, but by the time Nicola senses the void opening at his feet, it’s too late.
Leading a remarkable group of young, first-time actors, Di Napoli captures this young gangster’s last days of innocence with an easy smile and complete confidence. Rather than ask them to memorize a script, the director held extensive pre-production conversations with his cast of teens—all locals. After discussing their character’s motives, actions, and the consequences of their behavior, the picture was shot in sequence. Saviano’s real life inspiration for Nicola—Emanuele Sibillo—was gunned down at the age of 19 and remains a folk hero in Italy.
In DIAMANTINO—the new genre-busting farce by the writer-director team Gabriel Abrantes and Daniel Schmidt—women have all the power. Duplicitous, mendacious, self-dealing, disloyal, and—ultimately—loving, a distaff army circles and controls manchild Diamantino on his journey toward an ultimate singularity.
Since the title character in DIAMANTINO is a Lamborghini-driving, tax-cheating, sea-disaster-rescuing, soccer superstar billionaire from Portugal with a distinctive haircut, a disclaimer at the start of the film states the obvious: “No identification with actual persons (living or deceased)… is intended or should be inferred.” With the mental capacity and emotional register of a happy, clueless pre-teen, Diamantino imagines the pitch filled with fluffy puppies bounding through a field of pink foam. But once real life intrudes—his introduction to a boatload of refugees and the death of his father—our hero loses his mojo and becomes prey to every sort of manipulation this side of Doctor Moreau.
It’s no spoiler to reveal that Diamantino manages to find the happiest of endings—as all fantasies must—and the film itself won the Critics’ Week prize at Cannes last year. During its opening weekend at the Nuart, Schmidt will be on hand to discuss his work.
From top: Carloto Cotta and Cleo Tavares in Diamantino; Cotta as Diamantino on the soccer pitch; Sonia Matamouros and Natasha Matamouros with Cotta; U.S. film poster; Cotta and Tavares. Images courtesy and the filmmakers, performers, and Kino Lorber.
Nearly thirty years after his death, Halston—the master of American minimalism and fashion’s greatest cautionary tale—has finally received a documentary worthy of his contributions. Unlike the designs of its subject, the film is somewhat padded with yards of unnecessary material. But this should not deter its intended audience from enjoying the ensemble.
Directed by Frédéric Tcheng—the filmmaker behind documentaries about Raf Simons (Diorand I) and Diana Vreeland (The Eye Has to Travel)—HALSTON hits an early peak when, one after another, his core house models—dismissively labeled “Halstonettes” by Loulou de la Falaise—testify to the talent of the man who could throw a bolt of fabric onto the showroom floor and, within minutes, create the basis of a couture gown:
“[Wearing a Halston dress imparted] elegance and ease. A sense of owning power without being masculine. And honoring the body you have.” — Alva Chinn
“You were free inside his clothes.” — Karen Bjornson
“He took away the cage. You didn’t really need the structure as much as you needed the woman. He really based most of his collections on us girls.” — Pat Cleveland
So where did it all go wrong? Cocaine and Studio 54 may have started the slide—and in the film, jewelry designer and Halston confidante Else Peretti gives a hilarious digression on mind-altering substances and their use:
“We worked all night… we didn’t get high… yes, we smoked, but no hard drugs… well, maybe a little coke…”
Because when you’re working all night…
But the man who introduced Halston to Studio 54, illustrator Joe Eula, traces the designer’s fall to the delusions of grandeur that set in after the move to the Olympic Tower studio, with its lofty, across-the-street view of St. Patrick’s spires.
The irascible, amphetamine-dependent fashion genius Charles James, who briefly worked with Halston Limited, was—typically—incendiary:
“Halston is a middle-of-the-road man who’d be better as a buyer in a store, or a stylist. He knows how to select good things to copy. But his passion is to put his name on it, for which action the word ‘plagiarism’ is correct.”
In the film, Fred Rottman, a workroom supervisor at Halston, is quick to deflect:
“Halston didn’t copy. He took concepts of Charles James’ and relaxed them.”
Halston’s era—the 1970s and early ’80s—was a time of out-of-control franchising. A designer sold his name to and sometimes designed for an array of manufacturers, slapping the cachet of his or her moniker on, yes, perfume and handbags, but also bedsheets, luggage, rugs, car interiors, and—in Halston’s case—uniforms for Braniff Airlines and the Girl Scouts of America.
This obsession to design everything for everyone, trading “class” for “mass,” led to the sale of his company to a conglomerate—a subject the film spends far too much time on. Suffice to say, Halston lost his judgment: How could he imagine that Bergdorf Goodman would want to carry a brand that was also hanging on the racks at J.C. Penney?
The film includes interviews with the designer’s friends Liza Minnelli, Bob Colacello, MarisaBerenson, Iman, Joel Schumacher, Naeem Khan, and his niece Lesley Frowick.