Grounded by a deadpan performance from Alan Rickman as bar owner Hilly Kristal, “CBGB” takes a breezy, comic-book approach to New York’s shabby drop-dead era and the cacophony it raised.
Kristal’s Lower East Side bar opened in 1973, and while the initials stood for “Country Blue Grass Blues,” the notoriously filthy, rat-ridden club became the incubator for underground rockers like Patti Smith, the Ramones, Blondie and Television.
“CBGB,” though, is a Kristal biopic, sprinkled with cover-band impersonations of the musical icons audiences cared about.
And it is something those clamoring, three-chord amateurs rarely were: harmless. (And, for the most part, drug-free).
Among the more entertaining pretenders: Jared Carter, in preppy sweater, nails the angular moves of David Byrne (doing “Psycho Killer”), and Tom Verlaine himself might need a second look at doppelganger Max Reinhardsen mouthing “Marquee Moon.”
The only outright groaner is Mickey Sumner, Sting’s daughter, as a prettified Smith performing “Because the Night,” a crossover hit from well after Smith’s CBGB heyday.
Director Randall Miller makes good use of the actual bar’s remnants -- the toilets are as disgusting as legend insists -- but the decision to use original studio recordings is a miscalculation. These punks hit the stage polished and in-tune, with no hint of the untrained anarchy that was as essential as bad attitudes.
“CBGB,” from Xlrator Media, is playing in select theaters. Rating: ** (Evans)
The sculptor Camille Claudel (1864-1943) was first a student, then the mistress of Auguste Rodin. Abandoned, she fell into a psychotic decline marked by persecution mania.
“Camille Claudel 1915” unfolds over three days in the Provencal asylum where her family keeps her incarcerated.
It’s quickly clear that her madness is of a milder order than that of the chortling imbeciles around her. No longer creating, she lives in a hell of boredom and forlornness.
Writer-director Bruno Dumont gives her few words; almost all the drama takes place of the face of Juliette Binoche. No dialogue could express more than the way her features contort when she stoops to shape a clump of clay, the artist in her momentarily reawakened.
Dumont’s decision to surround Binoche with real mental patients was astute. The camera treats them unflinchingly but not unkindly: We understand Camille’s revulsion even as we see their harmless sweetness.
The only figure the film judges harshly, and rightly so, is Camille’s younger brother, the writer Paul Claudel (Jean-Luc Vincent), an immaculate prig who lectures her about God.
Quiet, slow and sad, this is obviously a film for a small audience. But it’s moving and humane, with a beauty as austere as the rocky hills around the asylum Camille will never leave.
“Camille Claudel 1915,” from Kino Lorber, opens Oct. 16 in New York. Rating: **** (Seligman)
A 1944 murder provides a fresh take on the Beats in “Kill Your Darlings,” starring an earnest Daniel Radcliffe as “Howl” poet Allen Ginsberg and Dane DeHaan as his killer pal Lucien Carr.
Carr was the effete, visionary lynchpin in the incipient literary circle that included Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston) and William S. Burroughs (Ben Foster).
Radcliffe, while nicely conveying Ginsberg’s tortured sexuality, is just too darned cute to pass for the real thing.
Michael C. Hall gives a subtle, desperate performance as the man obsessed with, and ultimately done in by, Carr, but DeHaan’s is the breakout performance. (Evans)
“Kill Your Darlings,” from Sony Pictures Classics, opens Oct. 16 in New York and Los Angeles. This is a condensed, revised version of Greg Evans’s Sundance Film Festival review from January 23, 2013. Rating: **1/2
What the Stars Mean: ***** Fantastic **** Excellent *** Good ** So-So * Poor (No stars) Avoid
(Greg Evans and Craig Seligman are critics for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are their own.)
Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater and New York Weekend.