Best in Show

The Top 40 Picks of the Tribeca Film Festival

Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank

Gerald Fox's documentary follows photographer and filmmaker Robert Frank around his twin demesnes of the Bowery and Nova Scotia, frequently in the company of his longtime partner, artist June Leaf. Early on, it's unclear whether Fox or the cantankerous Frank is directing this picture. Copious interspersed footage from Frank's photography, films (including Pull My Daisyand Cocksucker Blues), and video diaries join the artist's street-side and studio-bound reminiscences and observations, piecing together an image of a man whose life and art could never be truly extricated. E.H.

Lunacy

Inspired by—or rather, a self-proclaimed "infantile tribute to"—Edgar Allan Poe and the Marquis de Sade, Jan Svankmajer's latest is a bracing blast of old-school surrealism. The Czech master punctuates live action with delirious stop-motion animation of assorted meats (steaks, tongues, mince) in this brooding meditation on freedom and control—the final film on which he collaborated with his late wife, Eva, and a cranky allegory that views the world as mental institution. D.L.

Maquilopolis

Though not the slickest anti-globalization doc to head through the festival pipeline in recent years, Maquilopolis may be one of the most brutal in its indictment of how multinationals run roughshod over the lives of third-worlders. Visiting the near-border cluster of Mexican maquiladoras where low-paid women assemble goods ranging from toys to TVs for first-world consumption, the filmmakers reveal a ravaged landscape of sewage-filled streets, toxin-threatened children, and 19th-century-style workplace conditions. The story, focusing on a successful group of activist workers, attempts hope, but the bigger picture implies otherwise. E.H.

Men at Work

Four middle-aged Iranian men on their way home from a ski trip come across a mysterious rock formation, which they, just as mysteriously, become obsessed with trying to dislodge. Allegory with a capital A, Men at Work happily doubles as a knowing comedy of contemporary masculine anxieties—the endless difficulties with women, the inevitability of aging, and the perpetual inadequacy of the available tools for the job at hand. Based on a story by Abbas Kiarostami, director Mani Haghighi's feature debut cribs a few signature shots of cars winding their way along mountain roads. Joshua Land

The Mist in the Palm Trees

One of the most concentrated acts of imaginative filmmaking in years and a tempestuous contender for the richest found-footage feature ever made, this Cuban faux memoir by Carlos Molinero and Lola Salvador dips in and out of the lost consciousness of a fictional scientist, freedom fighter, and vanished father, roaming around the history of the early century as it climaxed with the advent of the Manhattan Project. Unlikely nexuses are formed between fin de siécle nudie postcards, the history of Havana, Orson Welles, nuclear physics, and the home movies of countless forgotten childhoods. A rousing, intoxicating blast of movie-movie enigmatism. M.A.

My Dad Is 100 Years Old

Made with Guy Maddin, Isabella Rossellini's shrewd and tender childlike tribute to Italian neorealism's founding figure visualizes Roberto Rossellini as the big belly against which she once hurled herself. The actress takes pleasure in portraying her father's aesthetic antagonists—Hitchcock, Selznick, Fellini—as well as an angelic Chaplin and her mother, Ingrid Bergman. Maddin, another anti-Rossellini, frames this grave, hilarious psychodrama as an educational film, manfully accepting its implied criticism: "My father would call those camera moves immoral, because they are pretentious and unnecessary." A new print of Rossellini's 1950 The Flowers of St. Francis completes the bill. J.H.

On the Bowery

On the Town, On the Waterfront, on the bum . . . Newly restored, Lionel Rogosin's 1957 skid row documentary—two years in the making—is a quintessential chunk of New York history and not just because the old Third Avenue elevated is a harsh and haunting presence. Rogosin frequented Bowery dives and flophouses; he used a hidden camera and some cannily staged scenes to dramatize a particular white working- class culture where desire under the el is mainly for a bottle of cheap muscatel. Running just over an hour, the result is closer to underground movie than cinema vérité. J.H.

The One Percent

Doc-maker Jamie Johnson—already famous as the scion of the Johnson & Johnson dynasty and sardonic navel-gazer behind 2003's Born Rich—takes on the current state of real-life American economics from a privileged place inside the citadel. Johnson doesn't know very much, but he talks to the right people: Ralph Nader, Robert Reich, Adnan Khashoggi, Milton Friedman, Bill Gates Sr., and scores of citizens from the bottom rung, including members of the Katrina displaced. Best of all, he grills his family, effectively trying to piss off his self-righteous elders and get himself written out of their wills. M.A.

Ontic Antics

Laurel and Hardy give their greatest posthumous performance in Ken Jacobs's transformation of the team's 1929 two-reel talkie Berth Marks into a feature-length sensory blitz. A fantastic pulsating strobe created by the alternation of (flipped) frames, as well as various other forms of screen-splitting repetitions, this hyper-visceral presentation is not for the fainthearted (or for anyone prone to epileptic seizure). The original narrative isn't deconstructed, it's detonated—Ollie is made to dance and Stan to fly. Predicated on the fundamental fact of motion pictures, the experience is avant-garde yet archaic. Ontic (as in ontological) Antics indeed. J.H.

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