' ' Cinema Romantico: Romance By Any Budget

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Romance By Any Budget

At my best friend's bachelor party in Brooklyn our posse of six ventured across the river to the Russian & Turkish baths in the East Village. We sat in a variey of steam rooms, sweated, sweated some more, hopped in an ice cold pool, sweated some more, and wound up for a spell sitting on their roof deck with a couple of congenial ladies laying out across the way, not that I was ogling them between sips of my crisp beer. It was idyllic. It was......New York.

No doubt a real New Yorker would scoff at me when I say that (more power to him/her) but that is because, like Woody Allen's '79 surrogate Isaac, I tend to "romanticize things all out of proportion" and sitting on a roof in the summer heat of Manhattan with a beer and buildings rising up all around me like no one lives in them because they are merely the backdrop in the expressive painting of my melodramatic life is how I think of New York. (I also think of New York in terms of Kate Beckinsale & John Cusack gallivanting in Midtown snow flurries. But that goes without saying.)

Then a gunshot sounded.

No. Really. A gunshot. In fact my best friend's one other New York friend in our posse confirmed for us without batting an eye: "Yeah. That was a gunshot." And I remember thinking: "Oh. Right. This is still the real world."

Of course, that's any city, but I feel as if the dichotomy is more immediate and more dramatic in New York. That's the ultimate symbolism of Central Park, no? It's an oversized sleepy village green smack dab in the middle of The City That Never Sleeps. It is forever and ever a fantasy and reality at once.

"Gimme the Loot" was a teeny-tiny film that generally passed unnoticed by the masses in 2012, mostly because it was limited to the festival circuit. Granted, it hit up some fairly significant festivals - Cannes, SXSW, SFIFF and CIFF (where I saw it). It is set for a limited release beginning on March 22 (in New York, expanding to L.A. and Chicago a week later and onward from there) which will be coming on the heels of its Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature (where it's up against, amongst others, the bigger pedigreed "Perks Of Being A Wallflower"). And because it's teeny-tiny and because its actors are non-professionals and because it employs handheld photography on authentic NYC streets and because it is about graffiti artists it would be easy to simply assume the film is all hard edged realism.

That is there, to be sure, but even more so, the film, despite a budget below $100,000, evokes an old-fashioned NYC too. Not so much in its appearance or in its verbiage (which is off-the-cuff and very profane) but in its spirit and in its air. It feels bygone even if it looks urban. It's the two New York's - romanticized and real - running right into each other.

The film's thrust is Malcolm (Ty Hickson) and Sofia (Tashiana Washington) trying to hustle up $500 to pay for the right to be snuck into Shea Stadium (Citi Field) to spray paint the Home Run Apple in centerfield. They swipe sneakers, a cellphone and a few bags of weed to sell for a profit. They run into and afoul of a few not-so-nice people. But this is not an ominous hip-hop song, it's a smiling, stomping jazz standard. It stays on the sunny side of the street. Because simmering just below the surface, conveyed in their bickering, in Sophia's agitation and in Malcolm's cool detachment, is a mutual attraction they both come to realize they are not willing or ready to admit.

But maybe, in the end, they do admit it. One of the film's final shots, Malcolm unostentatiously offering her a rose, seems so much of another time you can practically see Model-T's whizzing by and and a bowler atop Malcolm's head. It is so, to borrow a word repeated often throughout the film itself, fucking sweet that it will make you smile like you just saw your son pin the corsage to the dress of his prom date.

Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan are nowhere to be seen. This is Adam Leon, not Nora Ephron. It doesn't end at the Empire State Building but it's still an affair to remember.

It's the most romantic movie I saw in 2012.


Anonymous said...

Lovely post Nick! Nice to see you highlighting a hidden gem on Valentine's day. Romance has no formula and often, it's the frill-free encounters that one remember most. Happy V day!

– ruth

Nick Prigge said...

Thanks, Ruth. You too. Hope it was a good one for you.