Tribeca Film Festival reviews




Director Joann Sfar’s debut film is a biopic of Parisian singer/artist/icon Serge Gainsbourg. 

The film begins with the music legend’s childhood in Nazi-occupied Paris.  Born “Lucien Ginsburg,” the youngster at one point must hide in the forest to escape capture. The story then moves on to Serge’s adulthood and follows his various successes, failures, and a long list of lovers. 

The film’s star, Eric Elmosnino, is perfectly cast as Gainsbourg. The actor not only bears a striking likeness to him, but manages to balance the artist’s genius and self-destructiveness with ease. The supporting performers are equally well cast. Laetitia Casta is a carbon copy of Brigitte Bardot. Rounding out the cast are Lucy Gordon as Gainsbourg’s third wife (British actress, Jane Birkin) and Anna Mougalis as chanson singer, Juliette Greco. 

Sfar, who also penned the screenplay, drew on his background as a comics artist to create giant puppets that spring from Gainsbourg’s subconscious throughout the film —  the most constant creature being La Gueile (Doug Jones), who represents Serge’s dark side. 

Although the visual effects are stunning and the ensemble cast gifted, the film is not without flaws.  There are times where events in Gainsbourg’s life are passed over quickly and without account.  Most apparent is the sudden appearance of Gainsbourg’s second wife whose entrance and departure from Serge’s life are not noted or explained. 

Despite some minor imperfections, “Gainsbourg” is an enjoyable film. Sfar wisely chose not to end the film with Serge’s death in 1991, and lets the movie stand as a celebration of the complex performer’s life.  Some of Gainsbourg’s most well-know songs are featured in the film, including “Baby Pop,” “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Je t’amie…moi non plus.” Elmosnino did all of his own singing in the film.  Beyond the uncanny resemblance, Elmosnio’s vocals match Gainsbourg’s.  There are moments when the similarities are so striking that one forgets that it is not Serge Gainsbourg himself on screen.   


Directed by Richard Levine

90 minutes

5/1, 7:30pm. Screening at Village East Cinema

(181 Second Ave. at 12th St.)

“Every Day” is the portrayal of Ned (Liev Schreiber) as he enters and fights the throes of a midlife crisis. On the surface, Ned seems to have it all. He and his wife Jeannie (Helen Hunt) have been happily married for 19 years and have two healthy sons. Ned is working as writer on a TV show, managing to keep his family well situated. Everything seems quite harmonious — except for work stress, his youngest son’s occasional anxiety attacks and the fact that his oldest is a teenager (well played by Ezra Miller) who has just emerged from the closet and is burning to explore his sexuality.

The drama unfolds when Jeannie decides to move her sick and freshly widowed father (Brian Dennehy) into their New York home.

Even if the relationship between father and daughter were a loving one, this development would have been a challenge. But in this particular case, it is intolerable from the start. The father’s list of endearing attributes includes the fact that he has been heavily “depressed since the 1950s,” battles alcoholism, proclaims to Jeannie that his having children was a mistake, and criticizes his wife for “crying too loud at her own son’s funeral.” As if that would not be enough to kick him out, he is also dying to kill himself. Facing her own demons that came with an unloved childhood, Jeannie takes care of her parent with sometimes incomprehensibly masochistic devotion, but also finds herself without much leftover attention for her increasingly needy husband.

Ultimately, it is his wife’s lacking emotional availability that sets Ned into a tailspin — and we subsequently see the essentially good guy set out on his own selfish journey. This begins with temptation and it manifests in the form of a cliché — his gorgeous, party-loving and altogether liberated co-worker (Carla Gugino). Both write for the same scandalous, semi-pornographic TV show. As their shock-obsessed boss (Eddie Izzard) increasingly puts pressure on Ned to deliver heftier material and assigns some late-night rewrites (which occur in his co-worker’s home and pool) the match is made; and Ned begins to neglect of his family obligations.

Despite all his shenanigans, director Richard Levine manages to keep the audience emotionally invested in Ned. We follow him on his chosen path and though many of his decisions are ill-advised, we somehow never stop rooting for him. Even when he wrongs his family, it is not to an unforgivable extent.

“Every Day” is the writing and directing debut of Levine, who also is a writer and producer for the plastic surgery mayhem show “Nip/Tuck.” It is a solid first film and without a doubt an enjoyable “slice of life” account. Levine’s formula for blending realism, dark humor, and irony is not unique but convincing. “Every Day” contains enough sincerity to feel realistic and enough entertaining twists to remind us that this is cinema. This film is in the vein of Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale” (2005) or Tamara Jenkins’s “The Savages” (2007), where the audience gets to learn enough about the main characters’ interior life to feel with them turn by turn and event by event. No matter how different their stories, behaviors or decisions, these characters function as mirrors for our own belief system. These are also movies made for audiences in rich countries with “rich” problems. If your life is not marked by true tragedy or poverty, there is much to learn and to enjoy.


Directed by Jean-Paul Salomé

106 minutes

5/1, 9:30pm. Screening at Screening at Village East Cinema

(181 Second Ave. at 12th St.)

When troubled teenager Nicholas Barclay is reunited with his family in Baton Rouge, Louisiana after having been declared missing for three years, it is hardly a procession of ribbons and sparklers that characterize his homecoming.

Nicholas’s mysterious return from an alleged kidnapping by a child prostitution ring in France raises a bevy of questions — but his downtrodden and emotionally-insulated family members are the last ones to do the asking. While the FBI and law enforcement officials amass strong reasons to suspect that Nicholas might be an imposter, the Barclays prove all too zealous to end the investigation, and Nicholas, who turns out to be a serial poseur, is all too eager to play a party to a dark web of family secrets, to which he himself is never fully made privy.

Excellent camera work, a judicious use of thriller-like elements, and superb editing support the narrative’s slow-release unveiling of the emotional forces that underlie the collusion between the Barclays and the French intruder. Based on a true story adapted by Jean-Paul Salomé and Natalie Carter, this riveting family drama has the power to pull you in with unsettling plot twists and highly convincing acting. In particular, a stellar Ellen Barkin, playing Nicholas’s mother with a rare and captivating blend of stoic toughness and fragility, delivers a performance that is poised to inspire new standards for emotional explorations in acting.

LOLA (+) 

Directed by Brillante Mendoza

110 minutes. In Filipino and Tagalog with subtitles 


This film was screened on: 4/22, 4/23 and 4/24. 


“All of my films are based on true stories,” said director Brillante Mendoza to an audience after a screening of his latest film — “Lola” — at the Tribeca Film Festival. 

Drawn from headlines and news features in Manila, the film tells the story of a grandmother, Sepa (Anita Linda) — who must submit herself to begging neighbors in order to procure funds for her murdered grandson’s burial expenses. Meanwhile, another grandmother, Puring (Rustica Carpino), must endure similar humiliations while trying to raise enough money to pay off court costs her family faces when her grandson is charged with the crime. Mounting expenses place a toll on both seniors. One puts up her ATM card as collateral for a loan, while the other must hock her TV and barter off her personal belongings with passersby. 

Material possessions aren’t the only casualties. Both women must make choices that result in them ultimately sacrificing their honesty and pride in pursuit of what they each feel is justice. The majority of the action of takes place during the rainy season. The rain and monsoons serve as additional catalysts — other roadblocks that both matriarchs must struggle to keep their balance. 

Mendoza, whose last film (“Kinatay”) won him the best director award at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival, shot “Lola” entirely with hand-held cameras. “I have never used tripods on any of my films,” Mendoza admitted. 

The style of shooting, coupled with the natural quality of the performances (particularly Linda’s,) gives the film an almost documentary feel. The scenes that show the incarceration of the Puring’s grandson, Mateo’s (Ketchup Eusebio), were shot in a prison — with real prisoners used as extras. 

The movie offers a glimpse into the reality of legal system in the Philippines — when Puring’s attorney suggests that the best way for her to insure her grandson’s release is to amicably settle with his family outside of the court (in other words, pay them off to drop the suit). 

Mendoza’s movie is visually intriguing, but it is ultimately Linda and Carpino’s performances that give the film its sense of truthfulness. Both actresses balance humor and heartbreak effortlessly in their performances. Lola is the Filipino term for ‘grandmother’ — and the film’s themes of maternal love and devotion translate to a universal audience.