BAMcinemaFest 2015 Showcases Some Of The Finest American Independent Cinema

Featured Critic; New York City, New York
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The seventh edition of BAMcinemaFest, which screens through June 28, once again brings some of the best works of American independent cinema to Brooklyn, culled from Sundance, Berlin, SXSW, Cannes, and other fests. 

This year's edition opened with The End of the Tour, the latest from director James Ponsoldt (Smashed, The Spectacular Now), which is a portrait of author David Foster Wallace (played by Jason Segel in a revelatory performance), through the eyes of David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg), and the five days they spent together during Wallace's tour for his celebrated novel Infinite Jest. The centerpiece film is Queen of Earth, director Alex Ross Perry and actress Elisabeth Moss' latest collaboration (following last year's Listen Up Philip). The closing night film is Sean Baker's Tangerine, a vibrant and unusual kind of Christmas tale shot entirely with iPhones.

This year's festival also includes some fine retrospective screenings, such as a 20th anniversary reunion of Larry Clark's seminal and controversial Kids, which screens June 25 with Clark, screenwriter Harmony Korine, Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, and Leo Fitzpatrick in attendance. Also, a new 2K restoration of Penelope Spheeris' 1981 punk documentary The Decline of Western Civilization screens on June 19. The retrospectives continue with a free outdoor screening of Richard Linklater's Slacker on June 25, and the New York premiere of Les' Blank's previously unreleased 1974 film A Poem Is a Naked Person, a documentary on singer-songwriter Leon Russell.

Click through the gallery below to read my reviews of ten notable selections. For more information, and to purchase tickets, visit BAM's website.

THE END OF THE TOUR (James Ponsoldt) *OPENING NIGHT FILM

A gently elegiac biopic/road movie/portrait of the artist, The End of the Tour boasts great performances by its leads and a compelling presentation of material that, at least on paper, would seem to be very talky and quite un-cinematic, indeed theatrical. (In fact, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Donald Margulies penned the screenplay). The film is based on David Lipsky’s memoir Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself: A Road Trip with David Foster Wallace, written after Wallace’s 2008 suicide. The memoir, and film, follows Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) as he accompanies Wallace (Jason Segel) on the final leg of his 1996 book tour in support of Infinite Jest, the nearly 1100-page doorstop of a novel which is his most famous work. Lipsky was there to interview Wallace for a Rolling Stone profile, which ended up never being published. Lipsky had recently returned to journalism after publishing two well-received but not very popular novels himself.

The End of the Tour vividly details the verbal and psychological pas de deux between the two men, which was by turns intense, distantly friendly, and combative. Lipsky, with his ever present tape recorder, determined to catch unguarded and confessional moments, is clearly envious of his much more successful interview subject. Wallace, on the other hand, is ambivalent and anxious about his fame, feelings exacerbated by his history of depression, and his constant questioning of himself and how this mass media attention will affect his art and how he practices it. Segel delivers the finest performance of his career to date, during which he all but disappears into his role as David Foster Wallace, capturing both the author’s awkward physical demeanor (as a sort of 1990’s-era hippie), and the psychological pain that is never far below the surface, even in his seemingly happier moments. Eisenberg matches him note for note, nicely conveying how Lipsky’s interactions with Wallace both inspire him and force him to recognize some uncomfortable truths about himself. The beautifully rendered wintry Midwestern atmosphere, and an unusually moody, melancholy Danny Elfman score complete this impressive package.

(June 17, 7:30pm)

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BAMcinemaFest 2015

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