Here’s how to create a mini-festival within a film festival: Go see three or more movies with a recurring element or theme. I did just that at Tribeca -- which is having its final screenings Sunday -- catching three movies each featuring criminals or crimefighters of advancing years and a trio of films about high-end cuisine.
The six films were a diverse bunch that serves to remind a viewer of the far-ranging pleasures to be had at a festival like this, where a breadth of cinematic styles and approaches were on display.
In each of the three crime-related films, an aging protagonist feels a certain wistfulness about what he may have missed out on in life. Here’s a rundown on the trio:
“The Last Rites of Joe May”: Dennis Farina plays the title character, a smalltime hustler in Chicago, in writer-director Joe Maggio’s gritty drama (left). A character study, “Joe May” looks at a life lived on the margins. Over the course of a few weeks, we see Joe struggle to make a buck (a very funny sequence in which he tries to fence a 50 lb., premium leg of lamb), befriend a single mother (Jamie Anne Allman) and her young daughter, and face up to his own failure as a father. The film, which is seeking distribution, was made in association with Steppenwolf Films, the film arm of the well-known Chicago theater troupe.
“Blackthorn”: Butch Cassidy lives. That’s the intriguing premise of this elegiac western by Spanish writer-director Mateo Gil. Sam Shepard gives a moving performance as the legendary bandit, who in 1927, nearly two decades after his presumed death, is living under an assumed name in rural Bolivia. Planning to return to the U.S. after his years in exile, he ends up being drawn into one final adventure that causes him to come face-to-face with his past. The film has been picked up for North American distribution by Magnolia Pictures.
“The Guard”: In this entertaining Irish comedy-drama, which also screened earlier this year the Sundance Film Festival, Brendan Gleeson plays a veteran, small-town cop in Ireland who teams up with an American FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to track down a trio of drug smugglers. The film, written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, is full of amusing twists and turns (the drug smugglers debate about philosophers), and gives Gleeson room to show off his considerable comedy and dramatic chops. With Sony Classics as the distributor, “Guard” opens in U.S. on July 29.
The food movies included two comedies and a documentary. All featured plenty of mouth-watering close-ups of gourmet treats, causing a moviegoer to consider shunning popcorn or Jujubes as unworthy when compared with the temptations offered up on screen. Here’s the lowdown:
“Romantics Anonymous”: In this delightful French comedy by co-writer-director Jean-Pierre Améris, a man and a woman, both extremely shy and socially inept, manage to fall in love. She (Isabella Carré) is a skilled chocolatier; he (Benoît Poelvoorde) is the owner of a small, struggling chocolate manufacturing company. As her exquisite candies, filled with such savory ingredients as crushed red pepper and lime, reinvigorate the company, the couple’s awkward courtship progresses to a sweet conclusion. The film is still seeking a U.S. distributor.
“The Trip”: Two British comic actors, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon (right), play exaggerated versions of themselves as they travel through northern England on a weeklong trip to sample and critique high-end restaurants for a magazine story. Part of the movie’s humor is derived from waiters offering long-winded explanations of a dish’s provenance and ingredients as they serve it with a flourish. “Trip,” which aired in England as a six-part TV series and screened last fall at the Toronto Film Festival, will be distributed by IFC in the U.S. beginning June 11.
“A Matter of Taste”: This fascinating, 68-minute documentary from director Sally Rowe follows talented young chef Paul Liebrandt, a British transplant to the U.S., over the course of seven years as he goes from one restaurant job in Manhattan to another until finally finding success at Corton. The upscale boîte–its three-course prix-fixe menu costs $85–is located, appropriately for the festival, in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood. With is copious shots of elaborate dishes be prepared and discussions of the financial realities of running a top restaurants, the film is a must for foodies. “Taste,” which had its premiere at the South by Southwest Film Festival in March, will air on HBO this summer.