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A black-and-white love letter to pre-gentrification New York City, Phil Hartman's NO PICNIC captures a remote time and place - the East Village circa 1985, a vibrant, seedy neighborhood ... See full summary »
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Adam Coleman Howard,
The Way It Is or Eurydice in the Avenues (title as seen on screen) played tonight at French Cinematheque, in Paris, in front of a crowd of about 40 people, seriously silent while facing this quite hard-to-follow homage to Cocteau and film noir, mixing street theater rehearsals and no-budget sequences revolving around the death of an aspiring actress set to play Eurydice. The long flashback is reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard, just to add to the influences.
Seeing Gallo and Buscemi in their first roles was quite moving, they were the only able actors out of the bunch, and really get something out of their scenes. Gallo, always in a white tank top, already lands this tormented lover profile (never loses his cool though), and Buscemi gets to play the unfathomable funky sidekick (at one point, with Kai Eric, he attempts a sort of break dance routine, throwing himself onto a cardboard layer in Central Park).
Filming was done in B&W 16mm, mostly in the street and very obviously without any permission by NY authorities ! Most of the filming was done without any sound and so got entirely post-synchronized, quite badly to say the least, but verism was probably not the main goal of Eric Mitchell, who deliberately sticked to the New Wave "artificial academism". At one point the bunch of friends go to a cinema and watch Mad Max (a whole sequence of the Miller's film can be seen), and then debate about it at a cafe terrace.
New York is nicely captured, as a quiet, sunny, seemingly broke-down neighborhood with hardly any cars, just bikes and pedestrians in no haste. The long closing credits sequences (5 minutes, with a wonderful dream-jazzy score by Gallo) is a series of moving vignettes across the streets of New York, with decrepit building facades filmed from the streets with a tilted viewpoint.
The film has a plot, but doesn't try too hard to have a story. I guess it can be seen as a poetic statement, or as a declaration of love to film, to theater or to NY... or most likely to all of these at the same time. The amateurism doesn't make it as magnetic or unforgettable as its royal brother, Permanent Vacation.
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