Thursday, August 11, 2016

LIZ SMITH: The very definition of "intense!"

Matthias Schoenaerts stars as a troubled soldier in "Disorder."
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

"Disorder" — the very definition of "intense!" Also — NYC's Short Play Festival ... Divine peacocks ... and, a European movie version of the Florence Foster Jenkins saga.


“INTENSITY: the quality or condition of being intense ... a high or extreme degree of emotional excitement or depth of feeling.” 

Those are some of the dictionary definitions of intensity.  
AFTER sitting through a screening on Tuesday night of Alice Winocour’s new thriller, “Disorder” the one dominant word I could think of was intense — also exhausting, and then, the more the film sunk in, exhilarating cinematic confusion — can I make up my mind about what I saw, what it meant?

Yeah, it’s that kind of movie.
Diane Kruger stars as Jessie and Matthias Schoenaerts stars as Vincent in "Disorder."
“Disorder” appears to have been released in Europe last year, but is only now making its way to America. It is Winocour’s second full length feature film, as a director — she wrote the screenplay to last year’s “Mustang.” And she scripted “Disorder,” too.

The film is light on plot, heavy on mood. Matthias Schoenaerts (“Rust and Bone,” “The Danish Girl,” “A Bigger Splash”) stars as a troubled soldier back from Afghanistan, working security for a wealthy man and his beautiful, pampered wife (Diane Kruger) and their young son. Hubby’s apparently shady business takes him away from home (a spacious estate.)  Trouble begins.
Dialogue is sparse, and what we hear is spoken in French with subtitles.  But this is not a plot, dialogue or even performance-driven film. (Although Schoenaerts and Kruger are excellent.)  This is a sometimes excruciatingly deliberate, slow-moving mood piece, interrupted by spates of violence and cat-and-mouse wandering through a dark mansion. (To Miss Kruger falls the standard in-the-face-of-a-problem-do-exactly-the-opposite-of-what-normal-good-sense advises.)
Both of the major characters — hopped-up soldier and initially oblivious lady-of-the-manor — unravel as her life appears to fall apart, and his war experiences color/enhance the unexpected problems. Matthias is very good — and very sexy — as the soldier. Paul Hamy provides some light relief as his pal, who wanders into the mess. Kruger has the most difficult role, because she is not clearly delineated, nor is she particularly sympathetic — then again, should she be, considering the circumstances and her insular existence? More questions. Still, Kruger holds the screen.
The end of the film seemed to stun the audience, and generated a lot of speculation — hallucination or reality?  If you’re interested in really watching a movie, and have the patience to concentrate, “Disorder” is for you.
THE CINEMA Society, Chopard Line 39 and Qui Tequila hosted the screening and the after-party at Jimmy (at the James Hotel.)  In keeping with the film, cocktails were named “Riviera Intrigue” and “Nightwatch.” The sliders, tuna tacos, crab rolls and fried chicken were named “food.”

The director and Miss Kruger attended. Mr. Schoenaerts was unavailable. (Before the screening, Winocour said, “I send my warm feelings to Matthias.”  Miss Kruger rolled her eyes a bit.  Her director then said, with a laugh, “Well, my feelings are perhaps a bit warmer than Diane’s!”)
Director Winocour and her actors in Cannes, last year.
Others on hand included Paul Haggis ... Georgina Chapman ... Taryn Manning ... Brandon Victor Dixon (the new Aaron Burr in “Hamilton”) ... Ken Kurson, editor-in-chief of the New York Observer ... and director Linda Yellen. Linda is looking for an actress to play Greta Garbo in a movie she’s preparing. Yellen has had Miss Kruger on her mind for a while, and told her so.  Stay tuned!  (Also stay tuned for the release — at long last! — of Yellen’s “The Last Film Festival” which contains Dennis Hopper’s final onscreen appearance.  More on that, soon.)
Alice Winocour and Diane Kruger at The Cinema Society's after-party at Jimmy at the James.
Georgina Chapman and Laura Michelle Kelly. Paul Haggis and Brandon Victor Dixon.
The view from Jimmy at the James.
I SHOULD have written about this last week — my bad.  But there is still time, until Sunday, to avail yourself of The Samuel French Off Off Broadway Short Play Festival competition. This is happening at the Classic Stage Company’s East 13th Street Theater.
Each play runs no more than 30 minutes; some are as brief as 10 minutes. If you try to get in on the remainder of the festival (go to www.OOBFestival.com)  there’s a selection of 15 plays, with titles as varied and interesting as “Risen from the Dough” (France-Luce Benson) ... ”Grandpa and the Gay Rabbi” (Jonathan Josephson) ... ”A Sari for Palavi” (Sunita Deshpande) ... ”Valkyrie in the Roller Disco” (Seamus Sullivan) ... ”Mama’s Eggnog” (Angela Stern) and “Mama’s Seeds” (Pia Wilson.)   Mom’s always good for source material!

This is a remarkable festival/showcase for new and emerging playwrights.  And it’s such a “New York thing.” The winners are announced Sunday afternoon, at 1:00 PM.
SOMETIMES the oddest, least earth-shaking things you see or read, stick in your head unaccountably. About a week ago, I was struggling with the New York Times — not the content, the physical size of it; one can actually get a fairly good upper-body workout by opening, closing, folding the pages! 

Anyway, in the Style section writer Alix Strauss conducted a brief interview with Lori Bodinizzo, who is a bartender at the Carlyle Hotel’s famous Bemelmans bar. The only female who has ever held that position in 69 years!  That alone made me prick up my eyes.

We learned about Ms. Bodinizzo’s affection for coffee, what she wears when out of uniform, favorite breakfast, reading habits and her ability to make a four-cheese sausage lasagna.
Lori making The Carlyle Punch (thanks to Celina De Jesus for InStyle.com)
But what stuck with me, what I’m still thinking about, are Lori’s visits, with wife Nicole Riley, to St. John the Divine. They take in the various art exhibits, music, and commune with their spiritual side.  Ms. Bodinizzo also noted: “Two peacocks who wander around and never run out.  The gate is open and yet they never leave, which is weird.” 

So, now I have these peacocks on my mind!  I want to go see them! Perhaps they have taken vows and are not inclined to leave the order?  Maybe they’re married?  Or it could be a simple disdain for the crowds and clutter on the streets of Manhattan, up on Amsterdam Avenue.

I know I should go to St. John’s to become a better person.  Maybe that will happen. After I see the peacocks!
2 of the 3 peacocks on the grounds of St. John the Divine. That's Jim (or Harry!) blue males, and white-feathered Phil.
MERYL STREEP is collecting her standard raves in advance of Stephen Frears’ “Florence Foster Jenkins” which arrives in all its off-pitch glory tomorrow. (Streep plays Florence, a wealthy real-life woman who couldn’t sing, but thought she could.  In her delusion she went so far as to book herself, infamously, into Carnegie Hall. Jenkins might have single-handedly helped invent “camp” in the first half of the 20th century.)

Florence’s tale is funny; a bit tragic around the edges, but at least she got what she wanted! 
Meryl Streep as Florence Foster Jenkins.
If you are interested in another cinematic rendering of this unusual woman’s life, you might check out a movie titled “Marguerite.”  Released last year, this is a French-Czech-Belgian production that is Jenkins’ story, slightly fictionalized.  (The heroine’s name is Marguerite Dumont — yes! Like the famous matron of Marx Brothers movies, Margaret Dumont, who generally appeared as some sort of pretentious patroness of the arts, getting pushed around and semi-seduced by Groucho.)

The director/writer is Xavier Giannoli, and Marguerite — the singer who cannot sing — is played by the well-regarded French actress Catherine Frot. 
Catherine Frot as "Marguerite Dumont."
After we wrote about Meryl and Hugh Grant and Simon Helberg in “Florence Foster Jennings” we received a spate of emails from various cinephiles, in various states of annoyance — why were we ignoring “Marguerite?”  Well, it’s easy to ignore something you don’t know exists.  The film has had a very limited release.  But by now it might be on DVD?  It is said to be excellent.

I think the most charming thing about all this is how pleased Florence herself would be that her life has been immortalized in not one, but two motion pictures. 

Somewhere, she is singing.  And the angels weep.

Contact Liz here.