“Typical American, Smiling and Optimistic” Resumes His Life as Typical New Yorker, Miserable and Jaded

by on April 12, 2011Posted in: Festivals

Just got back from the NexT International Film Festival late last night and, not withstanding a little jetlag, I’m feeling pretty good. The new-media and arts-journalism panels I spoke on were informative and surprisingly fun, and I enjoyed getting to know my roundtable colleagues. Two young Bucharest-based critics–Luiza Vasiliu of the city’s alternative weekly Dilema veche (“The Old Dilemma”) and Cristi Luca of Observator Cultural and Tabu–made me feel particularly welcome. Many thanks to them and to Letitia Stefanescu, Ada Solomon and Andrei Gorzo for their generous invitation.
I also made fast friends with co-panelist and Parisian critic-cum-filmmaker Jacky Goldberg (truly the most un-French name imaginable), a reviewer for the uber-hip Les Inrockuptibles where he writes about everything from international auteur cinema to Hollywood studio comedies. Jacky was a peerless partner-in-crime and endless source of amusement, and not only because of his accent (“Thees feelm is colled Thee Leetle Luvfurs“) or trans-Atlantic enthusiasms (his generation’s answer to Jerry Lewis: Nicolas Cage). He also dropped some great anecdotes, including one from an interview with Zack Snyder (300, Sucker Punch) wherein the director cited the late-18th-century painter Jacques-Louis David as a major influence: “David is great. He’s like the Michael Bay of French neoclassicism.”

The one plaintive note was the premature death of Romanian film critic Leo Serban, who died at age 52 from lymphatic cancer. Serban was a much beloved and widely influential figure both in his native country and on the international film circuit where he frequently lectured and sat as a festival juror. His books include Lars von Trier: The Films, the Women, the Ghosts (cowritten with Mihai Chirilov), Why We Watch Movies and the 2009 essay collection 4 Decades, 3 Years and 2 Months with the Romanian Cinema–all of which are currently unavailable in English translation. You can, however, read Serban’s essay on director Cristi Puiu in the Jan/Feb 2011 issue of Film Comment (where I am, full disclosure, a contributing editor). I can tell you from personal observation that Serban’s loss will be deeply mourned.

*       *       *

I’m eager to settle into the swing of things now that I’m stateside and able to give the site some undivided attention. I’ll be taking most of the day to knock a bunch of items off of my To Do list (finally syncing up the Twitter account, etc) then hopefully by tomorrow the engine will be warmed up and ready to roll. In the meantime, why don’t you go see a movie with this guy?:

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