Playing Fri March 23, Mon March 26, and Sat March 31 at 7:00 at Anthology Film Archives
[Program & Tix]
*Director Driver & actress Suzanne Fletcher in person Fri Mar 23
With “Sleepwalking: The Films of Sara Driver,” one of New York’s great underrated experimental poets gets an overdue retrospective, March 23 – April 1. We previously became intoxicated with Driver’s recently rediscovered Paul Bowles adaptation You Are Not I.
The film, winner of the prestigious Cinematheque Francais Prix Georges Sadoul, is preceeded by “The Bowery – Spring (Postcards from New York),” a 1994 short film was commissioned by French national television for a series, in which several New York filmmakers were invited to make a ten-minute video about any aspect of the city they chose. Driver’s piece focuses on the history and changing fortunes of the Bowery, and features appearances by Luc Sante, June Leaf, Joe Coleman, and Driver herself.
Mark Asch for Alt Screen:
An emanation of the mystifyingly hip, secret-password Downtown toured the year before by Martin Scorsese and Griffin Dunne (After Hours). On a graffiti’ed block that is now, if you’ll trust my eye, home to the Housing Works Bookstore Café, we find a print shop whose blinking, whirring, and largely autonomous machinery frames a vivid gallery of zonked-out proto-hipsters, among them a young and finicky Steven Buscemi (who has an unforgettably precise bit of slapstick when he tries to pick up the indeterminately accented Ann Magnuson) and a dancer-thin, boxer-nosed Suzanne Fletcher (whose character happens to be fluent in Mandarin). Forget the cheap rents, this is a movie to make you nostalgic for what was surely Manhattan’s last great era of low-demand day jobs. Fletcher’s character takes a translation job from an obviously sinister Asian man (whose unctuous sidekick is played by future Candyman Tony Todd). The fairy-tale she’s paid to adapt begins to echo her own life with increasing freakiness, giving a paranoid unity to her after-hours encounters with off-kilter flaneurs and frequently unsupervised minors). The No Wave neo-noir score is by avant-garde composer Phil Kline; the photography, in which low-key lighting of deserted streets inflects Hopper-esque loneliness with might-get-mugged creepiness, is by Driver’s NYU film-school collaborator and long-term romantic partner Jim Jarmusch. Lower East Side trainspotters will also thrill to Bill Rice’s morose cameo as a thwarted passenger on the building’s creaky freight elevator, and the closing credits’ Special-Thanks-To “Vince Gallo.”
Playing Thurs Oct 6 at 9:00 at Film Society of Lincoln Center [Program & Tix]
Sara Driver’s long-lost No Wave adaptation of a Paul Bowles short story finally resurfaces. Co-written hot by Jim Jarmusch (with Tom De Cillio as assistant) and featuring cameos by Nan Goldin and Luc Sante, You Are Not I has only screened at the Iceland Film Fest and the Portuguese Cinémathèque in Lisbon – we plan to update as New York critical response rolls in.
Randy Kennedy interviews Driver and details the rediscovery of the film, for the New York Times:
The tale had all the hallmarks of a baroque Paul Bowles short story, set among the remaindered possessions of Bowles himself: a film director gets a call from a stranger, who says he has stumbled across an original print of the filmmaker’s long-lost first film in a windowless Tangier apartment, coated in dust and insect powder. The director, Sara Driver, at first thought the call might be a joke, but for reasons almost as strange as fiction, she kept listening.
In the late 1970s she had fallen in love with a haunting 1948 Bowles story called “You Are Not I,” about a young woman who escapes from an asylum, and decided she wanted to make a film of it. With no money for the rights and the thinnest of shoestrings to make the movie itself — a $12,000 budget, some of it supplied by her small salary at a copy shop — she forged ahead anyway. And before its well-received premiere at the Public Theater in 1983, she shipped a print of the 48-minute black-and-white film, the first screen adaptation of one of Bowles’s stories, to his apartment in Tangier, Morocco, praying simply not to be sued.
“To my great relief, he liked it,” Ms. Driver recalled recently. “And not only that, but he wrote me back with a long, detailed critique of the film, saying, among other things, that he thought one woman overacted — which he was right about.”
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