Monday, October 23, 2017

LIZ SMITH: "Fluidity"

Linda Yellen and Gabriel Kosuth shooting a scene from her new film, “Fluidity,”  a candid, funny, sometimes sad, sexy look at Millennials.
by Liz Smith & Denis Ferrara

Director Linda Yellen Uncovers “Fluidity.”

“FLUIDITY (noun) “the state of being unsettled or unstable; changeability: tactical considerations can change rapidly give the fluidity of the situation.”

So goes one of the dictionary definitions of the word “fluidity” — a word indeed heard more and more these days when it comes to relationships, gender, sexual entanglements, life and love in general.

Linda Yellen with her Emmy for “Playing for Time," 1980
It seemed only a matter of time before a film — or a TV series — would glom onto the word.  It has happened.  Not surprisingly, “Fluidity” a coming feature film has sprung from the extraordinarily smart head of my old friend, the director/producer/writer Linda Yellen.

I’ve known of Linda since her time as the producer of Arthur Miller’s “Playing for Time,” the shattering TV movie about the Holocaust, starring, among others, Vanessa Redgrave.

I actually met Ms. Yellen while she worked with Elizabeth Taylor and director Nicolas Roeg on the 1989 TV version of Tennessee Williams’ “Sweet Bird of Youth.”  We became fast friends, and I was amused and fascinated to learn she knew La Liz very well indeed, had actually traveled with the star of stars, back in day, mixed in with ET’s crazy entourage.  We had a lot to chat about.  

In years to come, I was increasingly impressed as Linda produced/directed/wrote such fascinating indie offerings as “Parallel Lines” ... “End of Summer” ... “Chantilly Lace” ... “The Simian Line.”  
She had a sensitive, uncanny ability to draw new and surprising things out of actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Lynn Redgrave, Gena Rowlands, JoBeth Williams, Liza Minnelli, Ally Sheedy, Martha Plimpton, Jim Belushi, James Brolin, Ben Gazzara, Mira Sorvino, LeVar Burton, Jacqueline Bisset, Julian Sands, Peter Weller, William Hurt, Tyne Daly, Jamey Sheridan, Cindy Crawford, Eric Stoltz, and on and on.)
Linda wIth Dennis Hopper on the set of “The Last Film Festival."
She won my deepest respect spending five grueling years finishing up Dennis Hopper’s final film, “The Last Film Festival” — Hopper died before filming was complete, money was short, and considering Hopper’s iconic status, interest was not overwhelming. But nothing could stop Linda from presenting Hopper’s farewell to audiences — a movie that also included a rich comic turn by her old friend Jackie Bisset.  “I have an obligation,” Linda told me as she struggled.  “Not just to Dennis and Jackie” but to all the actors, all the crew.  This was a labor of love, and I can’t stop until it’s done.”

Linda is a true creature of film and a professional par excellence.  To have her on your side is to be protected, loved and presented at your very best.
Linda with Jacqueline Bisset.
Linda Yellen with “Fluidity” star Nico Tortorella.
LAST WEEK Linda sat me down to watch a rough cut of her new one, “Fluidity.”  This is a ruthlessly candid, funny, sometimes sad, sexy look at Millennials.

It is a crash course through modern life, showing the unapologetic but inevitably vulnerable side of the social media generation — swaths of young people who grew up on selfies, swiping left or right and perhaps not understanding — or ever knowing — enough empathy or intimacy.

“Fluidity” has no shame but considerable visceral sensuality, confusion, disengagement, all-too-instant connection, and — but of course — the search for a “real” love, the natural human desire for an occasional power blackout in a world where everybody is connected to the nth degree!  (In a way, it reminds me of a 2017 version of “Sex, Lies and Videotape.”)  It’s searing, honest, realistic and — as everything about sex and relationships is — funny!

From what I saw, in its rough state, “Fluidity” looks very beautiful indeed (highest kudos to cinematographer Gabi Kosuth). Produced by Alyxzander Bear, it is pungently written by Yellen, Michael Leeds and Stephanie Wahlstrom.

There are also ten beautiful actors, whose performances are marvelously natural and eye-catchingly sensual. 
Nico Tortorella & Rosa Parks Community School Dance Ensemble in a scene from “Fluidity."
They are Nico Tortorella, such a big deal these days on the series “Younger” ... Isabella Farrell ... Tommy Dorfman ... James Chen ... Ford E ... Danni Wang ... Kate McGonigle ... Luke Guldan and Leyna Bloom. (Ms. Bloom, a gorgeous transgender model in real life, also plays a model in the film. Recently, she appeared on the cover of Vogue, in India.)
Leyna Bloom & Ford E.
James Chen and Miles McMillan.
Isabella Farrell and Luke Guldan.
“Fluidity” is totally of the moment. It exploits and explores the concepts of “normal” romance, without judging or pretending to know the answer to the disconnection of today’s world. No preaching, just presentation. The human condition always faces a void of feeling and understanding.  It's simply seems less human and more obvious now. But is it for those who know nothing else?  “Fluidity” shakes the box and puts a spotlight on that age-old question:  what is the right way to love?

As the film ended, I turned to her and blurted, “This could be a series, too!” 
Kate McGonigle and Tommy Dorfman.
Kate McGonigle, Danni Wang, and James Chen.
As a feature and a series it has Netflix or Amazon or Hulu written all over it. (Linda was sphinx-like after my exclamation. Either she was thinking it over or allowing my passion for TV binge-watching to run amok.) 

What impressed me about “Fluidity” was its, well — fluidity; the easy confidence, hard edge, intelligence and wit.  After Linda’s strong but long and winding road with “The Last Film Festival,” I worried if her vital artistic engine was understandably a bit wary.   

What “Fluidity” showed me is that talent, ambition and fresh ideas are evergreen, at least they are for Linda Yellen.
Millennials on phones in “Fluidity."
Contact Liz here.