A NY State of Cannes

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Martin Scorsese looked a little out of place against the lavish backdrop of the French Riviera, but the crowd was still happy to have him there.

Presenting a special restoration of The Red Shoes to an appreciative audience at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival, Scorsese absorbed the spotlight. “We love you, Marty!” someone with a French accent shouted. “Merci,” he replied. “I love you, too.” It must have been the kindest exchange between a New Yorker and a Frenchman in the history of the universe. Perhaps the rudeness canceled itself out.

Earlier in the day, Scorsese announced a landmark collaboration with two new media companies—The Auteurs and B-Side Entertainment—to make films from his library at the World Cinema Foundation available through multiple platforms (including digital distribution, Criterion DVDs and theatrical runs). Using the festival to launch this plan reflects the way the filmmaker has become a Cannes regular.
Now, other New Yorkers are following in his footsteps. Down the street at the festival’s Directors Fortnight sidebar, sibling directors Josh and Benny Safdie premiered their inventive portrait of urban family issues, Go Get Some Rosemary.

Talk about seeming out of place: The Safdies, both in their early twenties, mainly churn out experimental shorts from a messy studio in Tribeca, but they’ve already established themselves at the most prominent festival in the world. Last year, they attended with Josh’s feature directorial debut, The Pleasure of Being Robbed, which screened alongside a short directed by Benny and filled the closing night slot.
Although it had the distinction of being the only American movie in the sidebar’s program, their placement at the end of the proceedings left room for improvement.
When I met up with the brothers and their star, Frownland director Ronnie Bronstein, they sounded energized. (Not since Werner Herzog’s back-to-back visits to the festival with Aguirre: Wrath of God and Land of Silence and Darkness in the early 1980s has anyone attended the Fortnight with a feature two years in a row.) Saturday night’s screening of Rosemary was packed, with people turned away at the door, and the audience visibly connected with the movie. “I felt like we had done something,” Benny said. “That’s success, for us.”

Actually, Rosemary deserves recognition as a success, period. Bronstein’s zest for character idiosyncrasies—which turned Frownland into a deserved cult hit—translates wonderfully into his performance as Lenny, a single dad attempting to charm his pre-adolescent kids before their mother takes them away from him. Unlike The Pleasure of Being Robbed, the plot of Rosemary matters as much as the brothers’ frugal production method. It’s also a finely tuned portrait of New York, with a creepy cameo from underground filmmaker Abel Ferrara and a closing scene on the Roosevelt Island tram that has near-poetic resonance. With Lenny, the Safdies have created a personality that remains likable despite his idiotic behavior.

“He’s not a bad guy,” Bronstein told me. “It’s more important to these guys that they show the nuances of his eccentricity.” Scorsese, an eccentric New Yorker himself, surely can relate.

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