An End at Last

As my friend Daryl Chin notes on his blog, we have finally reached the end of the New York Film Festival press screenings. For me they ended with a bit of a bang, Peter Bogdanovich's documentary Runnin' Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, the closing night film.

Why, one may ask, make a four-hour-plus film about Petty and Co.? Besides the fact that they are a seriously badass rock 'n' roll band, Petty is a genuinely gifted songwriter and the core of the band has been together for 30 years? Of course not every long-lived hitmaking band is worth this much attention, but Bogdanovich certainly justifies the film's length by including a lot of music, many complete numbers, frequently in unreleased versions. And Petty is an engaging guy who is funny and sweet and smart about his music. Rhythmically, Bogdanovich tries to recapitulate the slow burn to a big climax of a good live set and the film is seldom dull. In the last half-hour, I found myself occasionally thinking, "This quote is redundant, you could trim it," but the film is pretty lean as it is and I don't think you could profitably cut more than five or ten minutes at the very most.

Incidentally, some of my favorite moments in the film involve the band's tour with Dylan. I mention this by way of linking you to my other Jewish Week piece on the Film Festival, which has a lot of Dylan in it. As one questioner at the press conference noted, The Man looks more at ease with Petty, et al., than in most of the concert footage we usually see of him. He also rocks like a motherfucker. Great stuff. [The JWeek site seems to be down right now. I'll add the link as soon as it is technically possible.]

One intriguing sidebar: the film is produced by Warner Brothers Records, and it playing for a single night in nearly thirty cities, on October 15. Then it will be screened on Sundance Channel on the 29th, , and will be available in a multi-disc package exclusively at Best Buy, including the 30th anniversary concert in Gainseville complete. This could be an interesting new way to market certain kinds of films -- I wouldn't want it to happen to, say, the new Bela Tarr, but for a music film, it has definite promise. For more info, go here.

Persepolis is an interesting change of pace, although Satrapi is an avid rock fan, as evidenced both by the film, the books and her remarks at the press conference (mainly in praise of Iggy Pop, who is doing one of the voices for the English-language version of the film). Unusual to see an animated feature chosen for one of the festival's spotlight events, in fact, I can't recall too many other animated features playing NYFF in its 45 years of existence. (If you remember ones that I've forgotten, feel free to make yourself known in the comments section.)

The choice of animation is a shrewd one. As Satrapi said, a live-action film gives the story too much specificity, but animation -- particularly with the free-floating abstract backgrounds that she and Parronaud use -- keeps things universal. The film has something of the visual feel of a shadow-puppet film (think of a postmodern, very hip version of Lotte Reiniger) with segmented characters moving across an often two-dimensional visual field. The filmmakers kept the wit and warmth of Satrapi's books and the French-language cast (featuring Danielle Darrieux, Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni) is splendid. Given that one American studio wanted to film the books as a live-action feature to star -- brace yourself -- J. Lo and Brad Pitt as Marjane's parents, we are particularly lucky to have this version of the film.


Margo, the b.w., and I are going to Madison Square Garden tomorrow to adopt two new cats. It has been a decent interval since Walter and Stella died and my hours of working at home are empty without some companionship, whether feline or human. At any rate, the folks who run the Cat Show are hosting a big adoption fair with the ASPCA, the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's Animals and about 20 shelters. If you are interested, go here.

The real reason I mention this, however, is that in the process of reading about this event, I went to the Mayor's Alliance website, where I found a link to a recent story from the Daily News about the severe shortage of funding for the city-run shelters that houses the STAR program (Special Treatment and Recovery), which provides medical treatment to cats and dogs that would have otherwise been euthanized. Animal Care and Control has three shelters, and they are not "no-kill" shelters, unlike the ASPCA's. Without funding to provide treatment for the animals brought there (and their contract with the city requires them to accept all animals brought in or found on the street), some of them will be euthanized anyway. The story may be found here, and if you want to make a donation to the STAR program, send a check made payable to: Liz Keller, STAR Fund, N.Y.C. Animal Care & Control, 11 Park Place, Suite 805, N.Y., N.Y. 10007, or visit online at