Editor’s Note: The following capsule reviews are part of our coverage of the 2015 3 Rivers Film Festival. For more information on the festival visit http://3rff.com/ and follow 3 Rivers Film Festival on Twitter @3rffest.
The 3 Rivers Film Festival is one of the oldest film festivals in the U.S., currently celebrating its 34th year. The festival this year includes eight Foreign Language Oscar submissions as well as filmmaker Q & A for some of the films.
In the Shadow of Women (2015)
Dir: Philippe Garrel
Director Philippe Garrel’s love letter to the French New Wave is the answer to the likely never-asked question, “What if Eric Rohmer directed a Woody Allen screenplay?” The film is shot in beautiful black and white in widescreen, and it tracks the relationship of a documentary filmmaking couple, played by Stanislas Merhar and Clotilde Courau, who of course fall to the temptations of others. What follows is a sometimes funny, sometimes poignant and sometimes repellent view of a couple that was meant to be together as they break apart. It’s short, clocking in at only 75 minutes, yet it compacts its emotional impact and makes every minute matter.
The Amazing Nina Simone (2015)
Dir: Jeff L. Lieberman
This documentary of the late singer/songwriter Nina Simone is something to behold, like the subject itself. An obvious labor of love from director/writer/producer/editor/narrator Jeff Lieberman, the film explores Simone’s training as a classical pianist and reluctant entry into the jazz scene, as well as a woman who confronted racial injustice as someone on the forefront of American Civil Liberties. Lieberman consciously chose to show the many sides of Simone, including her ever-intensifying bipolar disorder, and refusing to gloss over any of the unpleasant aspects the disorder had on her personality or what it did to her personal relationships with her husbands and her daughter. Featuring a wide array of interviews from many people who worked directly with her, primarily her brother and band mate Sam Waymon, to great effect, and tightly editing the picture and the information so it never becomes overwhelming, Lieberman has created a comprehensive and well-researched document to one of the great and often ignored singers to emerge from the 1960s.
What do you get when you assemble some of the world’s greatest film directors to discuss a book written by a seminal director about one of the greatest filmmakers who has ever lived? A fascinating documentary, that’s what. Writer/director Kent Jones, best known to cinephiles for his essays that accompany Criterion Collection disks, has done just that, gathering Martin Scorsese, Wes Anderson, David Fincher and many others to discuss Francois Truffaut’s monumental accomplishment, his book of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock (which is a stunning read and more than worth your time if you haven’t read it yet). In addition to the directors discussing the book’s impact, Jones also goes into the writing of the book based on Truffaut’s documentation regarding the events, and utilizing the audio that was recorded as reference for the book, some of which has been previously released as special features on the Criterion disks for six of the seven Hitchcock features they’ve released (three of which are unfortunately out of print). The film moves at a lightning pace and when it’s over, you don’t want it to be. I’m sure Jones could have made the film at least twice its length and still made it captivating, given the subject, but it’s still wonderful at its final length and is something that will be able to be gone over as much as the text it is about.