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He must be a beginner. Writer/director Nick Gomez professes himself slightly stunned that anyone would want to see his debut feature Laws of Graviot, let alone programme it among the best US indie productions of the year at the ElFF or pick it up for UK distribution. That all of this has happened, however, doesn’t make the 30-year-old Brooklyn resident any less surprised: ‘Until we showed it to the guys at the Toronto Film Festival, we didn’t even know we had a movie. The whole thing came about because we'd been trying to get the ﬁnancing together for a larger project, but we only got as far as about $38,000. Instead of just doin’ nothin’, we thought “fuck it — let’s do somethin’ anyway", so I wrote the script in three weeks and pretty soon after that we were out on the streets shootin'. We kinda did it to see if we could do it.‘
A raw, urgent, sometimes over-eager New York slice of life, Laws of Gravity lies ﬁrmly in the stick-to-what-ya-know school of ﬁlmmaking, both for its director and fresh young cast. Peter Greene's Jimmy and Adam Trese’s Jon are a couple of Brooklynite likely lads, whose daily round consists of petty thievery, hustling and hanging out. Their latest wheeze is to hook up with distinctly dodgy ex-con Frankie (Paul Schulze, also excellent), who has turned up after a dubious sojourn in Miami with a trunkful of stolen guns, so they can help him sell off his merchandise, take a nice cut and make more than a few fast bucks. However, in the background lurks smiling loan shark Sal (Saul Stein), who’s got the markers on Jimmy to come up with the money he owes, and the scenario is set for escalating levels of tension and violence.
With Jimmy the sensible one and Jon the slightly out-of-his-box one, comparisons with Scorsese's Mean Streets have been swift. considering the NYC milieu and the ﬁlm’s authentic swirls of the local scattershot lingo. Down the line from his apartment, Gomez sounds distinctly like he's fed up hearing them. ‘Yeah, yeah, l’ve seen
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Law: of Bruit! the movie and everything, but it’s not like we sat down and tried to copy it,’ he reckons, words coming casually and
quickly, pretty much like his characters.
‘That whole story’s a pretty classic dramatic structure, ya know, so it‘s not as if Scorsese invented it. Sure, the actors were really into that movie, but I based the script more on what I hear around me, and on a particular experience I had myself. I was at college and my room-mate was gettin’ more and more into crime, rippin’ off shops and houses, and I just wanted out of there. He was losin‘ control.’
Having rehearsed his actors fairly extensively to get them inside their characters before ﬁlming began, Gomez was able to keep within his ridiculously compact budget by shooting a lot of exteriors and using the best documentary cameraman he could lay his hands on (Jean de Segonzac, whose other work includes Common Threads: Stories From The Quilt) to provide the largely hand-held 16mm footage. While the immediacy of the camerawork sometimes shows up the over-contrivance in the part-improvised ensemble dialogue scenes, Laws of Gravity's ungainly vividness and the sheer commitment on view mark Gomez out as another of the current crop of American independent talents to keep an eye on.
For his own part, as someone who ‘fell into ﬁlmmaking because I couldn’t ﬁgure out what else to do with my life’, he shrugs away the hype. ‘OK,’ he reckons, in downbeat, cool-as-fuck manner, ‘there’s a lot of independent movies around and the studio guys are pickin’ up on ‘em. But a lot of these movies don’t make much money domestically, so after you've done your no-budget debut, it’s tough to get the money to do the next one. I’ve spent a year haggling with Universal over my next movie. It’s just so frustrating.’ (Trevor Johnston)
Laws of Gravity. Cameo 1, Sat 21. 8.30pm; Wed 25, Cameo 2. 8.15pm. The ﬁlm goes on general release at the Cameo from Friday 27 Aug.
I The Wedding Banquet American-based Taiwanese director Ang Lee's wry look at his homeland's attitudes to homosexuality centres on the plight of Real Estate dealer Wai-Tung’s (Winston Chao, a chamier of a debut) who is happily ensconced with his lover yet forced by his parents' demands for marriage into getting hitched to hard-up tenant Wei-Wei. With both wit and assurance, Lee extracts the bottom-line emotional complications from the scenario. while playing the frenzied nuptial celebrations Taiwanese-style for all their comic worth. A hugely enjoyable and wisely perceptive Berlin Golden Bear winner. (TJ)
The Wedding Banquet. Filmhouse 1, Sat 2/. 8.30pm; Cameo 1, Sun 22. 2pm.
’ - u I The Wild East A community of midgets living in a Kazakhstan desert hire a disparate group of down~and~outs and drifters to protect them from the motorcycle gang who are raiding their village. A post-nuclear, post-Soviet twist on the Seven Samurai/Magniﬁcent Seven plotline makes for the Film Festival‘s most unexpected cult discovery. (AM) The Wild East, F ilmhouse 1, Tue 24, 8.30pm; Cameo I , Wed 25. 2pm.
I Boswell and Johnson’s Tour of the Western Isles A comedy sketch ‘in the style of’ the late 18th century writer and his biographer? John Byme's ﬁrst turn at directing his own script gets beyond the intellectual smugness of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, even with the presence of John Sessions as the Edinburgh lawyer and Robbie Coltrane as the grouchy Sassenach. A literary Laurel and Hardy, their Scottish tour opens the eyes of both men to the nature of the country - scenic beauty, almost exclusively peopled by landowners with Kensington addresses — while Byme adds another perfectly crafted string to his artistic bow. (AM) Boswell and Johnson, F ilmhouse 1, Thurs 26, 6pm; Filmhouse 1. Sun 29, 8.30pm.
88 The List 20—26 August I993