Posts Tagged ‘Cinema’

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The “Lost Bohemia” Of Carnegie Hall

May 26, 2011

A documentary doesn’t have to be technically perfect, but if it has compelling personalities and is emotionally honest, well,  those stories win me over every time.

“Lost Bohemia” is one of those documentaries, now playing in a limited release.

It chronicles the accomplished, eccentric, spirited singers, dancers, photographers, musicians, actors and myriad other artists who lived and worked in studios located above Carnegie Hall…some for 40 years and longer.

Until, Carnegie Hall wanted them out.

Photographer Josef Astor, one of the residents, started filming his most colorful fellow tenants after he moved into the studios in the 1980s. He didn’t know then that 20 years later they would all be embroiled in a landlord-tenant dispute with Carnegie Hall that would last several years and result in each and every artist being evicted. Despite a charter by Andrew Carnegie himself providing for artist space above the incredible hall.

The documentary is worthwhile if only to see the charismatic photographer Editta Sherman, who held out as the last tenant until age 97 or so.

I saw the doc Sunday at IFC on 6th Ave and  I was reminded how this story has played out again and again: artists, who find affordable space and a supportive community, end up getting kicked out when there’s just too much profit to be made or efficiencies to be had, by the corporate ownership.

For at least three years I covered the battle between artists working (and a few living) in a warehouse on the waterfront of Jersey City, New Jersey. 111 First Street. I was there covering the case so much, in fact, I got asked by a couple artists  if I wanted to move in “off the lease.” But that would have put me in a conflict of interest.  But it was an intriguing idea.

In the 111 First Street saga, the warehouse was in terrible shape, a relic of the city’s industrial past and of no use except to the artists who did flourish in the gigantic studios and cavernous exhibit spaces. And it was located in a part of town no investor wanted to touch for decades. Until the 1990s when the local economy took off and 111 First Street became prime real estate for posh waterfront redevelopment.

So, the fight was on with the owners wanting the artists out and the artists claiming the demolition and gleaming hi-rise planned for the site went against the city’s arts district master plan.

It ended as well for the 111 First Street artists as it did for the ones in Carnegie Hall. In March 2005, I was there as the very last tenant turned in his keys and told the manager he hoped the big hi-rise someday collapsed on her head. Or something like that.

What makes “Lost Bohemia” stand out is the larger than life personalities of the artists whom most of us would never have known without this film. Some died over the years of filming.

I wonder how many artists are living this same story in cities and towns across the country right now?

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A Look Inside “Peep World” The Movie

March 26, 2011

I was walking by the IFC theater on Sixth Ave and saw “Peep World” was playing and that it stars Michael C. Hall. I hadn’t heard of it but it sparked my interest and I got inside just as the matinee previews ended.

I don’t love when IFC  shows movies in its black box type theater…the space that seats about 25 people, if that. It’s like watching a big screen tv in a living room filled with strangers.

But “Peep World” more than made up for the cramped quarters. The first genuinely funny, character driven film I’ve seen in months. It’s a dark comedy about the neurotic and dysfunctional adult children of a real estate tycoon. Hard feelings boil to the surface after the youngest child writes a tell-all that includes his married brother’s (played by Michael C. Hall) escapades at an adult entertainment shop.

My favorite moment wasn’t on screen, though. Ten minutes in, the woman two seats down wearing a colorful, furry hat turned to me and asked in a heavy Russian accent, “are you here to see ‘My Perestroika?”

“No, this is ‘Peep World.”

“Oh my Gahd, this ees not eet!”

I wonder what finally tipped her off that she wasn’t at the documentary on Russians who grew up during the Cold War, which was showing in another screening room? All the scenes with Americans driving around with California license plates was probably her first clue…

I helped her as she urgently made her way out the dark theater to actually get to see what she came for.

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Elizabeth Taylor And ON THE SCENE This Weekend

March 25, 2011

With the death of Elizabeth Taylor, we’re presenting an ON THE SCENE encore of our interview with paparazzi, Ron Galella.

Galella shot Taylor for decades, most frequently during her marriages to Richard Burton, and often to the couple’s great chagrin.

But his stories of his encounters with Burton are fascinating and with the current interest in Taylor and her relationships, it’s an appropriate time to have another look at Galella’s work.

Tune in March 26, 27th, 7 AM, 12 PM, 4:30 PM each day for a revealing look through the paparazzi lens of Ron Galella.