Recap: ‘Gazzara’ and ‘Uncomfortable Silence’ Close the Soho Film Festival

Posted on: April 15th, 2013 at 12:12 pm by
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[Cast of Uncomfortable Silence/Photo: Lindsay Davis]Gazzara (2012), a feature length documentary about the late, legendary actor Ben Gazzara, had its US premiere in NYC when it closed the Soho International Film Festival last Thursday night. It was conceived and directed by actor/director/writer Joseph Rezwin, who also acts as the on-camera interviewer in this interesting hybrid of a bio pic and (almost) buddy film.

In town and walking the red carpet to celebrate the evening were Rezwin, Gazzara’s beloved widow Elke Gazzara, Summer of Sam screenwriter Victor Colicchio and NYC director/writer/producer John A. Gallagher, who knew Gazzara well and gave a personal, touching introduction to the screening.

From the opening scene in which Gazzara takes the empty Radio City Musical Hall stage and performs a monologue from Macbeth, thus fulfilling his bucket list dreams of performing Shakespeare and appearing at Radio City, it’s hard not to fall in love with him again or for the first time. Gazzara’s spirited, literal walks down memory lane throughout the city that raised him (he was born and grew up on 29th St in Kips Bay) are intimate, funny and honest. There are theater district run-ins with Matthew Modine, priceless reactions to overly friendly fans and stories about James “Jimmy” Dean, Brando and his notable friends/collaborators, director John Cassavetes and actor Peter Falk. An assortment of interviews with those who knew Gazzara well – director Julian Schnabel, actor Al Ruban, and Elke Gazzara, to name a few – lovingly round out the picture along with footage of his TV and film performances, though with a body of work as prolific as Gazzara’s it’s impossible to include them all.

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[Steve Stanulis & Victor Colicchio of Gazzara/Photo: Lindsay Davis]The relationship between Gazzara and Rezwin is where Gazzara does not quite fulfill one of its intentions. Rezwin set out to make a movie not just about Gazzara’s life and career but about his personal connection to the actor. After meeting briefly in 1977 on a Cassavetes movie, Rezwin spent years loving and idolizing Gazzara from afar. Shooting this film was his effort to close the gap. While clearly Gazzara trusted Rezwin enough to share himself on film, their bonding feels like a half told story. At times, Gazzara doesn’t seem as invested as Rezwin’s does in an emerging father/son dynamic. He’d rather speak candidly about his life and share his memories. While Rezwin is searching for something, Gazzara is content to simply live, breathe and express himself on screen while practicing the art of being in his element. That said, in the film’s final moments Gazzara bestows a dose of wisdom on Rezwin that completes their journey in a very satisfying way. It works well and so, ultimately, does Gazzara.

The short film lead-in to Gazzara was Uncomfortable Silence, a cinematic meditation on the way smart phones and other technology disrupt genuine, authentic connection between people. Shot in NYC and Rome with an original sound track recorded in France using live, string instrumentation, it stars the lovely Deborah Twiss and endearing Brian Kelly as a married couple with two children (played by Twiss’ own son and daughter, child actors Sydney and Matthew McCann) whose relationship and family dynamics have been thwarted and over-run by iPhones, video games, and even the saving grace of road tripping families with kids, DVD players in the backs of SUVs. Directed by Gabriele Altobelli, who co-wrote the screenplay with Kentucky based writer Kathleen Randolph, Uncomfortable Silence is an eye opening picture that suggests the dystopian state into which the global community could be spiraling if it continues to ignore the warning beeps (of a text, presumably) and believe in the the illusion of false connectivity.

Writeup, photos, and interview by Lindsay Davis

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