Village Voice 04.19.2017 : Page 46

46 April 19 April 25, 2017 didn’t have to be rich to be able to “do something,” i.e., ind entertainment and acquire social capital. This is a time pe-riod when politicians began to label overcrowded neighborhoods “slums,” but Jacobs argues that the chaos that city planners wanted to excise like a can-cer is exactly the creative system that makes a city thrive and function. Outside of a delightful Ed Koch, most of the inter-viewees don’t even mention Jacobs at all. But that’s not a bad thing. Tyrnauer transforms what could be a staid proile ilm into an urgent story about the dan-gers of “urban renewal,” something Ja-cobs herself would admire. APRIL WOLFE Slack Bay Directed by Bruno Dumont Kino Lorber Opens April 21, Quad Cinemas and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas VILLAGE Free Fire : It only looks like a sketch comedy. A24 A Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982 1992 Written and directed by John Ridley Lincoln Square Productions Opens April 21, Cinema Village Airs on ABC on April 28 oficers who kicked and beat Rodney King, these Angelenos discovered what they and their neighbors were capable of. Ridley’s patient, humane approach al-lows us, over his ilm’s 145 minutes, to discover it, too. ALAN SCHERSTUHL Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magniicent Directed by Lydia Tenaglia The Orchard Opens April 21, Landmark Sunshine In the vigorous and illuminating Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982– 1992 , writer-director John Rid-ley (the creator of ABC’s American Crime and Showtime’s Guerrilla ) weaves famil-iar news clips and on-the-street videos with many thorough interviews with men and women whose lives were in-variably broken in two by what Ridley’s ilm calls “the uprising” of April 1992. No matter their speciic circumstances, these residents and police oficers found their lives before the city burnt fully sundered from the lives they lived afterward: Now they had lost loved ones, lost themselves to violence, performed acts of heroism, or made choices in the heat of the moment that we still debate today. Ridley weaves these people’s thoughts and voices throughout his ilm, identifying them only by name and a title like “South Central resident.” Most view-ers won’t know, at irst, what role the speakers will play in the riots to come; Ridley invites us to listen without preju-dice, to be surprised, deep into the ilm, when one of his subjects, a black man, exhibits no remorse for beating a white motorist, or when another reports that it was the voice of God that urged him out into the conlagration at Florence and Normandie to save the life of Reginald Denny. In those days after the misbegot-ten verdict in the trial of the four police E niicent will inevitably be compared to Jiro Dreams of Sushi , that other doc about an obsessive, perfectionist chef. But more compelling is the vibe it shares with Man on Wire : Just like high-wire showman Philippe Petit, Tower is a bril-liant, dedicated artist who has spent most of his life wowing people with his talents – but is ultimately always out there by himself. CRAIG D. LINDSEY Citizen Jane: Battle for the City Directed by Matt Tyrnauer Sundance Selects Opens April 21, IFC Center ven though he’s one of the world’s most celebrated celebrity chefs, Jeremiah Tower is a solitary man. In the CNN-produced documentary Jere-miah Tower: The Last Magniicent , he mostly travels around all by his lone-some, walking the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu . That’s how he’s been since he was a kid. His verbally abusive dad and alcoholic mom were the deinition of negligent parents, too busy trotting the globe to keep tabs on him; once, when he went missing for a day, he was the victim of sexual abuse. But years of read-ing menus and comforting himself with exquisite cuisine would shape him to be-come a rebellious (but A-list) chef. Mag-niicent runs down the major moments of Tower’s life: launching California cui-sine in the ‘70s when he came up with dishes at boho Berkeley eatery Chez Panisse, running his own restaurant in the ‘80s with San Francisco hotspot Stars, and shocking the culinary world by taking the head-chef gig at the re-vamped Tavern on the Green a few years back, after spending many years living a life of quiet leisure overseas. The movie also features interviews from friends and admirers, including Martha Stewart, Mario Batali, and Anthony Bour-dain (who also serves as an executive producer). The dreamy, well-done Mag-E ver wonder how New York City was able to escape L.A.’s expressway-choked fate? Thank Jane Jacobs, the journalist, author, and community activist who continually pre-dicted — and fought to stave off — the public-planning policies that would kill the American city. In Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, documentarian Matt Tyr-nauer attempts to memorialize the now-deceased luminary by weaving archival ilm clips, talking-head interviews, and Jacobs’s own public speeches. What emerges is an exploration of ideas and questions more incidentally related to Jacobs: How do we retain neighborhood diversity amid rapid gentriication? Can a metropolis retain its humanity when everyone’s living in high-rises? Tyrnauer opens with a series of unidentiied talk-ing heads pleading the importance of city planning today. He then cuts to Ja-cobs’s own voice describing the “end-less homogenizing towers” that she irst wrote about in her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961): the projects. Footage lingers on busy, dirty, diverse NYC streets circa the 1930s and ’50s, when — as Jacobs says — you n early moment in Slack Bay , the latest from French provocateur Bruno Dumont, inds a plump police inspector in a black uniform roll-ing down a hill of white sand. It’s the kind of image that wouldn’t have been out of place in a silent short, and it sets the stage for Dumont’s general mood of ab-surdism. The plot, such as it is, concerns a wealthy early-twentieth-century family, the Van Peteghems, who go to visit their summer home only to discover that the police are investigating a series of disap-pearances in the area. The ilm is highly self-aware, and Juliette Binoche’s perfor-mance as Aude Van Peteghem is de-lightfully redolent of the snooty dames so memorably captured by Margaret Dumont. Binoche speaks in a pinched upper-crust accent and wears garish hats. She consistently overreacts, even swooning at one point. Aude and her ilk’s foils are the local ishing family, the Bru-forts. The rich, unsurprisingly, make their luxurious vacation destination within spitting distance of the poor. The Brufort children, in their impoverishment, all wear matching drab sweaters, and in case you somehow missed how differ-ent they were from the Van Peteghems, they also happen to eat people. At all times, the ilm seems like it could go in any number of directions: It could be horror, broad comedy, or a dramatic treatise on class relations, and ends up being a little of each. The best moments recall the surreal social satires of Luis Buñuel. But while it would be unfair to expect Slack Bay to live up to Buñuel’s mastery, too much of this picaresque is meandering and frustrating. ABBEY BENDER N Free Fire Directed by Ben Wheatley A24 Opens April 21 asty, brutish, and not short enough, Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire has a simple — and ultimately simpleminded — premise: to protract

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