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Tribeca: De Niro speaks! (Sort of)

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Girl_l

Girl_lGreg Kirschling: Missy Schwartz, we’re almost a week in, so let’s talk about the Tribeca Film Festival. Like you, I’ve done stints covering Sundance, Toronto, and Cannes, but this is my first Tribeca, and in one weird way, this festival seems bigger than all the others put together. Not because the star power is any greater, and God forbid not because the movies are any better — more than a few are Sundance rejects — but because NEW YORK CITY is itself the hugest venue in the world, and the festival is spread throughout half of Manhattan. Pounding the pavement, I’m finding it’s harder to get a handle on what’s REALLY going on because the festival is all over the place, unlike Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto, where you cover so much of the same geographical terrain over and over again. And there are more must-sees. What do you think?

Missy Schwartz
: Greg Kirschling, I do agree. And as Tribeca grows creatively, it’s also expanded geographically, spreading all the way to 34th street. (For our non-New Yorker readers, that’s about three miles north of the downtown Tribeca ‘hood.) Sticklers have taken issue with this, which really ticks off the fest’s co-founders, Jane Rosenthal and Robert De Niro. On April 22, I had the pleasure of sitting down with them in (yes!) a Tribeca screening room, where they chatted about how the fest has changed and all that stuff over the past six years. As you know, Greg, the famously press-shy De Niro usually leaves the public speaking to Rosenthal, but since he’ll be shooting the Barry Levinson flick What Just Happened throughout the festival and won’t be in the city much, he decided to give us reporters a peek into his brain. And yeah, he deferred plenty to Rosenthal during our brief chat. Still, he was pretty friendly and game, telling me that this fest, born out of the ashes of 9/11, continues to strive to be socially relevant and to “reflect what’s happening in the world. And that’s through the movies, different types of movies, whether they be documentary or feature or whatever.”

But the best part came when Rosenthal was talking about what, if any, themes have emerged this year. She mentioned the idea of “artist as activist.”

JR: The power of the individual to do something, the individual spirit, does seem to be a theme throughout. [Turns to De Niro] Is that hokey?
RD: No, no, no, I was just…
JR: Want another apple?
RD: What was the question?
JR: Just the theme of the festival.
RD: I think what Jane said was… [Nods]

Love it!

GK: I saw De Niro a couple of days later, at the openingnight ceremony. He looks SHARP. Since the night was devoted to a seriesof short films about global warming that I mostly found a littleoversimple (riding bike to work GOOD, riding car to work BAD), Al Gorespoke too, and he capped off his speech by introducing Jon Bon Jovi,whom I didn’t realize was such a friend of the Earth until Gore didn’tstop going on and on about him. Bon Jovi played a warming-appropriatethree song set. He opened with “Hallejulah,” followed with a toned-down”Livin’ on a Prayer,” and closed with a version of “Here Comes the Sun”that managed to sound hopeful instead of, you know, apocalyptic. I wasstirred.

MS: Speaking of being stirred, we all took a beating getting into the Spider-Man 3screening in Astoria last night, didn’t we? I’m convinced the entireborough of Queens turned up to see Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, et alsling down the red carpet. What a zoo. And here I thought the premieresover the weekend had been packed. On Friday, there was the improvisedpoker comedy The Grand, starring Woody Harrelson, Cheryl Hines, and Werner Herzog (!!), as well as the romantic comedy Suburban Girl, with Alec Baldwin and Sarah Michelle Gellar (pictured). But Sunday’s The Air I Breathe,which stars Gellar (again!) as a pop star whose manager is a very badgangster man played by Andy Garcia, was particularly nutty. Just as thehouse lights went down, a frantic festival worker raced up to my rowand pleaded with the guy sitting to my left to give up his seat. Seemsthere was a major mess-up and there were no seats left for the cast anddirector, Jieho Lee. Uh-oh. Well, my neighbor was no fool. In a poshBritish accent, he politely told Mr. Manic to find another sucker tokick out. And that’s just what fest dude did. He booted some folks onthe other end of the row and Gellar, her hubs Freddie Prinze Jr., andpals got seats just a few feet away from yours truly. The night wassaved!

But as for movies, other than the John Dahl-directed You Kill Me, starring Sir Ben Kingsley and Téa Leoni, I haven’t seen anything yet that’s rocked my world, Greg. Have you?

GK: I have, actually. The Education of Charlie Banksis the directorial debut of Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, and I wastaken aback at how very above average it was. I’ll say it again: FREDDURST. Crazy, right? Jesse Eisenberg, the kid from The Squid and the Whale,stars as Charlie, a preppie at an upstate New York college in the early’80s who gets an extended visit from a New York City tough kid namedMick (Jason Ritter), whom he ratted out to the cops three yearsprevious. Does Mick know Charlie blew the whistle? We don’t know, butDurst packs in tension all over the place while also managing to naildown the wistful particulars of being young and being in college. It’sa great coming-of-age-in-school movie, which is a preferred genre ofmine. And it’s just one of the several prominent movies here at Tribecadirected by actors: Julia Stiles has a short film called Raving, Before Sunset‘s great Julie Delpy has a feature called 2 Days in Paris, and later today I think I’m finally gonna see the directorial debut of Entourage‘s Kevin Connolly, which is called Gardener of Eden.

MS: Gardener of Eden, a.k.a. The TFF Movie Produced byLeonardo DiCaprio. See how it comes full circle, Greg? Bob (De Niro),Marty (Scorsese, who was at your opening night gala) and now, Leo! Goodol’ Tribeca, bringing the boys together. Have fun at Eden. I’m a-gonna get my Gallic on and check out Daniel Auteuil and Monica Bellucci in Napoleon and Me. Dare me to bust out singing ABBA’s “Waterloo” in the middle of the theater?

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