When Woody Met Duke

Richard Schickel‘s “Woody Allen: A Life in Film,” which joins a fascinating study of its subject’s work to an extended interview with the filmmaker, offers an encounter I’d not previously heard about.

Allen, a clarinetist and well-known aficionado of traditional (early) jazz who plays with the Eddy Davis New Orleans Jazz Band every Monday night at Cafe Carlyle in Manhattan, in the course of the interview discusses an early encounter with Duke Ellington.

He brings up fond memories of skipping school and taking the train from his family’s home in Brooklyn to Manhattan, where he’d spend the day at the movies.

duke ellington at the paramount“…going into the Paramount Theater at ten o’clock in the morning, knowing I didn’t have to go to school, and seeing a movie, and then when the movie was over, rising out of the pit would be Duke Ellington and you’d hear ‘Take the A Train’ filling that theater. You know, it would take the top of your head off.”

Schickel’s book, published in 2003, before Allen’s unexpected commercial renaissance with “Match Point,” “Vicky Christina Barcelona” and particularly 2011′s “Midnight in Paris,” his biggest hit, can be found here.

Anyone interested in the Allen/jazz connection might also want to take a look at 1997′s “Wild Man Blues,” the Barbara Kopple-directed film documenting Allen’s 1996 tour of Europe with his band.

Hemingway Sightings in “The Words”

It makes sense: “The Words,” a movie largely focused on writers and the art and craft of writing, offers  several nods to Ernest Hemingway.

In one sequence, a young writer (Ben Barnes, left, with co-star Zoe Saldana) sits at a Paris cafe, just after World War II, smoking, and reads Hemingway’s “The Sun Also Rises”; later, angry about a personal tragedy, he knocks the same book off a shelf and throws his manual typewriter on the floor.

In another passage, set in Paris, circa now, another struggling writer (Bradley Cooper) views a plaque memorializing Hemingway’s stint in the city during the 1920’s.

The film, structured as a story within a story within a story, is well written, and features several impressive acting performances, particularly Jeremy Irons as an elderly man whose long-lost manuscript is discovered, decades later, by another writer, who proceeds to pass off the book as his own.

Great to see Hemingway continuing to get much love in popular culture lately (HBO’s entertaining if misguided “Hemingway and Gellhorn”; Paula McLain’s beautifully written novel “The Paris Wife”; Woody Allen‘s “Midnight in Paris”). Meanwhile, some academics have decided, for reasons of political correctness, to disdain the great writer and his works.

“The Words,” co-written and co-directed by Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal (making their directorial debuts), opens this Friday.

Tribeca Recessionizes Its Lineup

tribecaThings are tough all over, and that includes the Tribeca Film Festival, which just announced a program that’s 28% slimmer than last year’s last year’s lineup – 86 films, down from 120 in 2008.

The eighth edition of the fest opens April 22 with Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, featuring “Seinfeld” creator Larry David, star of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” and Evan Rachel Wood, and continues through May 3.

Tribeca offers another rangy mix of features, including:

  • Stay Cool, directed and written by the Polish brothers (Northfork) with Winona Ryder and Hilary Duff
  • Tony-nominated playwright Conor McPherson’s The Eclipse, with Aidan Quinn, Ciaran Hinds, and Iben Hjejle
  • Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi’s About Elly, winner of the Berlin fest’s award for best direction
  • Burning Down the House, a documentary on late, great NYC punk club CBGB’s
  • Accidents Happen, with Geena Davis
  • Caroline Bottaro’s Queen to Play, with Kevin Kline
  • The Fish Child, directed by Lucia Puenzo (XXY)

Tribeca by the numbers – 48 world premieres, five international premieres, 14 North American premieres, and three U.S. premieres; films represent 33 countries.

The downsizing is largely due to sponsorship woes, as major sponsors Cadillac and Target dropped out, according a report in Variety, written by Dade Hayes.

“When we cut back a few years ago, it was because the festival had grown a little out of control,” fest executive director Nancy Schafer told Bloomberg News. “This time it’s because of financial considerations.”

The festival was founded in 2001 by Robert DeNiro and two partners, on the heels of the Islamofascist terrorist attacks on New York.

For complete details, visit the official festival site. For more coverage of the lineup announcement, click on the below links:

Woody Allen Meets the Woody Allen of the West Coast?

Larry David, creator of “Seinfeld” and star of HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” is the star of Woody Allen’s new Whatever Works, slated to open this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.

larry-david-in-film1The cast of the film, scheduled for a limited U.S. opening on June 19, also includes Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Kristen Johnston and Ed Begley Jr.

Whatever Works marks the quintessential New York filmmaker’s return to NYC after going to Europe to shoot several movies, including last year’s Vicky Christina Barcelona.

“A lovely idea of showing my film in a film festival in my own city,” Allen told festival publicists. “It’s very exciting.”

The festival runs April 22-May 3. For more information, click here.