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Screen Grabs, 10-03-07

Screen Tourism

“I've always felt like a tourist because I have never fit in anywhere,” Running with Scissors memoirist Augusten Burroughs remarked a few years ago. It's a sentiment surely shared by Burroughs' compatriot in quirk, director Wes Anderson, whose eccentric new odyssey of Indian tourism and not fitting in, The Darjeeling Limited, kicked off the New York Film Festival last Friday before opening in theaters the following day. As expected, nearly everyone agreed that Anderson's fifth film was as precious as can be, but no one could agree on whether its preciousness was a good thing--there were the Anderson lovers and the haters, several cautious new converts, and one mad dog, namely the famously cranky Rex Reed, who unleashed a hilariously histrionic broadside in the New York Observer, bitchily declaring the story "so thin it evaporates like a puff from a hookah"; not content to stop with Anderson, Reed turned his hatchet job into a trifecta, taking down two other NYFF faves, Noah Baumbach's Margot at the Wedding and Todd Haynes' I'm Not There, as well. But the whimsical fantasy of Anderson's filmmaking world may not be so far removed from his actual reality, as New York magazine suggests in a profile showing the boy wonder wandering half-aimlessly from Venice to Rome to Paris—appropriate enough for a director whose recent set of AT&T commercials depicted regular folks with lives as peripatetic as his own.

Feeling-like-a-tourist-and-not-fitting-in may not be such an uncommon affliction for Hollywood types, and tourism can be a real drag when the locals are hostile, or worse, larcenous. Nicole Kidman and Ralph Fiennes found about unfriendly natives, after their request to film scenes from the upcoming erotic thriller The Reader, directed by Stephen Daldry, on the site of a former concentration camp north of Berlin was denied by the German government (only documentarians are allowed to film there). Meanwhile, Frances Ford Coppola got ripped off away from his home turf when the Buenos Aires branch of his Zoetrope production company got burglarized last week. The take included not just cameras and computers, but also Coppola's screenplay for Tetro, a film about Italian-Argentine families starring Matt Dillon that begins production next year; on Monday, Coppola made a public appeal to the thieves to return it. Hopefully, no ill will befall Gwyneth Paltrow, who today sets off in a fleet of Mercedes with celebrity chef Mario Batali and others on a four-month food-tasting road trip that will be made into--what else?--a reality TV show.

The dark side of world travel was on display at the box office, with films like The Kingdom (Saudi terrorism), In the Valley of Elah (fallout from Iraq misadventures), and Trade (international sex trafficking) all opening in theaters. For a more uplifting brand of screen tourism, there was TFF '07 entry Darius Goes West, the heartwarming documentary tale of a 15-year-old Georgian with muscular dystrophy who leaves his hometown for the first time ever, bound for California in hopes of convincing the crew of MTV's Pimp My Ride to trick out his wheelchair; the film continued to roam the festival circuit (it plays NYC's CMJ Film Festival later this month) while also setting out on its own special 14-city screening tour.

Meanwhile, with the fall festival circuit in full swing, cinephiles were traveling not just to New York, but also to such far-flung locales as Vancouver and Reykjavik, or preparing to head off to Chicago, Pusan, or Rome (where Coppola will will premiere Youth Without Youth, his first new film in a decade), to see movies from equally far-flung locales. And if you too hope to become an international cinema troubadour, YouTube has offered to help. The video sharing site yesterday announced a short film contest, Project Direct, to be judged in part by director Jason Reitman. The catch? Films must depict a character "facing a situation above his or her maturity level," and include the line "I demand an explanation for these shenanigans! What do you have to say?" Got that? The winner will get spirited off to an unidentified international film festival, perhaps to talk development deal with Fox Searchlight execs. Calling all misfits!


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