By twhalliii | THE BACK ROW MANIFESTO by Tom Hall February 20, 2009 at 2:25AM
Off for a weekend of family and work work work. In the meantime...
This poster posting is a shout out to John Vanco, the man who runs the terrific IFC Center in Manhattan, and also the man who, has the head of Cowboy Pictures here in the US, was responsible for some of the best film distribution work in the late 1990's/ early 2000's. Shall we run the list? Fat Girl by Catherne Breillat, George Washington by David Gordon Green, La Cienaga by Lucrecia Martel, Benjamin Smoke by Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen, Devils On The Doorstep by Wen Jiang, Warm Water Under A Red Bridge by Shohei Imamura; along with Wellspring, Lot 47, Strand, Zeitgiest and the others, Cowboy was a part of a definitive group of passionate, small distributors who filled New York's cinema screens with amazing films. Their hard work represents my introduction into the world of New York cinephilia, of film programming and festivals, and a landscape (literally) where you could walk between Houston and 14th street, dashing from film to film, theater to theater, to find amazing treasures. I miss those times.
One of my favorite of the Cowboy bunch is Movern Callar by Lynne Ramsay, which I saw while working at The Hamptons International Film Festival back in 2002. Samantha Morton came to the festival just to do one Q&A for this film, and she skipped into the theater only to find an emotionally drained audience. "Hey guys," she said, "I came all the way out here to talk to you, so fire away..."
A single hand is raised.
Moderator: "Yes, sir?"
Man: "Have you been in any other movies before?"
I nearly shit myself.
Samantha: "I was just in Steven Spielberg's Minority Report... did any one see that?"
Sighs of pleasant surprise at the recognition of Steven Speilberg's name. A smattering of applause.
Samantha: "Yes, I was Agatha, the Precog, but you might not recognize me in this hat, because I had a bald head in the movie... I was also in Woody Allen's Sweet and Lowdown and have done loads of other things..."
Another smattering of applause at the recognition of the name Woody Allen.
I have to hand it to Ms. Morton, she was a game and generous professional that night, but oy, the things that come out of film festival audience Q&A's... I have presided over my own slew of disasters, including a lengthy lecture by one audience member demanding over and over that the attending director dub his film because no one wants to read his movie, but this one is up there in my memory... I'm just thankful I wasn't moderating!
Anyway, I think that Morvern Callar is a truly beautiful film and at the time it heralded amazing things from Lynne Ramsay who, as I remember it, came off of numerous festival awards for Morvern and was signed on to direct the screen adaptation of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. I have no idea why Ms. Ramsay has not made another feature since then; I know she has a script in development and I also know she was on the Sundance Jury in 2007, but it's sad to thik that a filmmaker this gifted would be silent for seven years. In that time, Samantha Morton has become one of the most interesting actors (her turn in Oren Moverman's The Messenger is terrific), Peter Jackson is prepapring The Lovely Bones for a December 2009 release, and Cowboy Pictures in the USA is no more.
That said, despite the way in which the world changes, this beautiful Movern Callar poster sits defiantly on the wall in my living room, a reminder of happy times. Yes, things carry on and change is the only contsant, but sometimes, I'm sentimental, too.