The fourth annual edition of the American Documentary Film Festival got underway with a curious mix of music, film and a special award presentation.
For reasons unknown to cinephiles, the evening began with three songs (“Summertime” from Porgy and Bess; “Pretend You Don’t See Her” made famous in the film Bigfellas and “An Evening in May”). The affable vocalist was Gerald Colucci, accompanied by a very thin digital “karoke” orchestra pumped out of a single speaker stand. The balance was uneven with the voice overpowering the synthetic backups and the ensemble more or less together. Any relationship to the upcoming film seemed non-existent, raising the single-word question: “Why?”
More apropos was the sorry-I-can’t-be-there-with-you video introduction by Jeff Bridges to the man of the hour: Peter Bogdanovich.
Thus the stage was properly set for the Palm Springs première of:
One Day Since Yesterday: Peter Bogdanovich & The Lost American Film.
2014, 120 min.
How curious—it seemed at first—to have this festival pay homage through a production that celebrates the art and life of one of America’s finest feature filmmakers. But as time went on, the notion that Bogdanovich’s creations are filled with family, friends and colleagues make many of them, arguably, slices of the director’s life all dressed up in convenient narratives.
Central to Teck’s point of view is the extraordinary amount of time spent on the acknowledged masterpiece of screwball comedy, They All Laughed. The drama around the film being the perfect example of life imitates art: this time to deadly effect.
On-screen interviews with directors Quentin Tarantino and Wes Anderson were as glowing in their praise for the film as the tragic murder of one of its stars (Dorothy Stratten, 20-year-old Playmate of the Year and brief love of Bogdanovich’s incredible life)—before the edit had been completed—overwhelmingly brought the sense of family to the foreground then seldom surrendered its importance to anything else for long.
Still, the footage of Bogdanovich working with his cast (notably Ryan O’Neal), will reward any viewer with first-person insight into the filmmaker’s craft.
After receiving the 2015 Filmmaker Who Makes a Difference Award, Bogdanovich admitted that it was still “a little painful” to relive some parts of his life on the big screen. He also wryly concluded (with Teck and novice producer Victor Barroso sharing the stage for the Q&A) that this version “was much better than it was the first time.”
Not coincidentally, Bogdanovich’s redone portrait (2006) of John Ford (Directed by John Ford—original version 1971) will also be screening at the festival. Like his father the artist, Bogdanovich is never fully satisfied with the initial result. Others should do half so well. JWR