After William Friedkin in 2009, the Beaune International Thriller Film Festival keeps on honouring great filmmakers.
Last year, the first edition of the Beaune International Thriller Film Festival celebrated the city of Paris, its influence and its mythological dimension within the thriller film genre, through a film selection called “Paris Noir”.
This year, a real cornerstone to the genre takes over with “New York City Noir”, and the Festival has naturally chosen to pay tribute to one of its most promising ambassadors in recent times, New York-born director, screenwriter and producer.
Born in New York in 1969, James Gray grew up in Queens and graduated at the University of Southern California School of Cinema and Television in Los Angeles.
In 1994, at age 25, he directed his first movie, “Little Odessa”, which received critical acclaim. In the film, Tim Roth portrays a cold-blooded hit man who comes back to his old neighbourhood (Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, home of the Russian community) for a contract, and has to face his father and young brother, interpreted by Edward Furlong, who had banished him. The film earned the Critic Prize at the Deauville Film Festival and the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival. That year, it was also nominated at the Independent Spirit Awards for Best First Feature and Best First Screenplay.
In 2000, James Gray wrote and directed his second feature film, “The Yards”, whose cast includes Mark Wahlberg, Charlize Theron and James Caan. This film noir was selected in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and marked the beginning of a long collaboration with actor Joaquin Phoenix, who was to be Gray’s hero and alter ego in his next two films.
Seven years later, after a long conflict with Miramax about the final cut of “The Yards”, James Gray directed “We Own the Night”, a dark film dealing with the director’s favourite topic, family, and set again in the microcosm of Russian mafia.
The film was selected in the official competition of the 2007 Cannes Film Festival, became a worldwide success and proved James Gray to be the most promising director in American cinema. Shot in less than forty days and edited without a break, “Two Lovers” caused a stir a year later at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was also selected in the official competition.
While the movie used some of the storyline ingredients exploited in his detective trilogy (the Brooklyn Russian Jewish community, family ties), James Gray broke with film noir and teamed for the third time with alter ego Joaquin Phoenix who occupies, opposite Gwyneth Paltrow and Isabella Rossellini, the centre of a realist romantic drama, both melancholic and dark.
On the occasion of this tribute, the Festival will show the director’s complete works.
James Gray will honour the festival with a “Cinéma Class” on Saturday April 10th, at 4 pm, at the Beaune Palais des Congrès.