Thoroughly modern films about women were just one of the unexpected delights of the Tribeca Film Festival this spring, setting audiences abuzz and walking and talking into the wide expanses of night that settled on Battery Park.
Take the scene in “Lovely and Amazing”, in which an actress asks an intimate stranger for an inventory of her skim latte form. “That guy sure was right,” remarked a man deep in thought several blocks from the screening. “She badly needed a trim,” he added for the benefit of his female companions.
“She was at the bottom,” director Nicole Holofcener says of the character Elizabeth, played by Emily Mortimer, in the delicate scene that screams from her second feature film. “It was like she had to get all the facts out, the ifs & the ands, like “you have beautiful ears … but your neck is long, “before she could begin to move on with her life.
Elizabeth’s baby boomer mother, African American young sister and another, a study in dysthmia by Catherine Keener, are all flirting with the bottom as they jar and clang their way through decor-lifted interiors; Los Angeles and the cover-girl tunnels of self-awareness that shrink them to 24/7 tailoring in the universe of the body.
Each emerges from near-brushes with fate and a lot of random proof of what’s wrong with her world to find in the other a wake-up call from a bad everyday dream.
“Body image is definitely something I’m concerned with but it’s really only a part of it,” Holofcener said recently in New York. “The beauty thing is a concern but the focus was really the family and the way we learn to accept the one we’ve got in the end.”
“Lovely and Amazing,” together with a premiere showing of “Personal Velocity,” an award-winning film by Rebecca Miller which tells three short stories of women, and a clutch of brazen, documentary films by women that were shot on DV, such as Alexandra Pelosi’s “Journeys with George,” turned the Tribeca program into a canvas for women filmmakers and somehow, more than its September 11th premise.
Women-directed dramatic features made in the digital medium gave glimpses of an art that often breaks the rules to accomplish much with a limited palette, while dispensing with the good, the girly and the gossamered to explore full-bodied characters who steer themselves in brittle storylines that come boldly close to women’s lives now.
Departing from earlier American forays into digital video, no two films besides “Lovely and Amazing” and “Personal Velocity” could better demonstrate that digital video is nowadays becoming less of a mini-cult statement and more of a means to a convincingly cinematic end. Filmmakers, meanwhile, who have worked to make it look this good, sound like survivors as they hail its speed, intimacy and economy and bemoan its risks, pitfalls and frustrations.