Sequels are usually more easily found at summer multiplexes than prestigious film festivals, but this year’s Tribeca Film Festival abounds in unusual follow-ups and intriguing companion pieces.
None of these films bears a Roman numeral or (for the most part) recurring punch lines. Instead, these atypical sequels offer different perspectives and left-turn digressions for familiar characters.
"The Swell Season" is a kind of inversion to "Once," the 2006 indie hit that won an Oscar for best original song. "Once" is a fictional film that starred Irish musician Glen Hansard of the band the Frames as a busker who falls in love with another musician, played by Marketa Irglova.
But "Once," a realistically shot film about love and music, became real, to a certain extent. A romance bloomed between Hansard and Irglova and the two formed the band the Swell Season. The documentary "The Swell Season" chronicles the years that followed, in which they struggle with fame as their romance fades.
"The Swell Season," which was directed in black and white by Nick August-Perna, Chris Dapkins and Carlo Mirabella-Davis, shows Hansard and Irglova trying to live up to the myth of "Once."
Dapkins calls it "kind of the dark and shadowy counterpart to ‘Once.’"
"We were of course highly mindful of ‘Once’ when making this film, but we wanted this film to be its own entity," says August-Perna. "In fact, we wanted it to be contrasting in certain elements. Just as ‘Once’ was a fiction film with the aesthetic of a documentary, we liked the idea of this documentary, if possible, to have the aesthetic and feel of a classic fiction film."
"God Bless Ozzy Osbourne" exists largely as a kind of response to the MTV reality show "The Osbournes," which highlighted the comedy of the heavy metal legend living a suburban, family life. "God Bless Ozzy Osbourne," a documentary produced by Ozzy’s son, Jack Osbourne, offers a portrait outside of the reality TV lens.
Michael Winterbottom’s 2005 comedy, "Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story," was a very meta movie about a film production trying to adapt Laurence Sterne’s famous novel. Several of the most enjoyable scenes were largely improvised exchanges between British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, each playing exaggerated versions of their selves.
Winterbottom reunited Coogan and Brydon in "The Trip," in which the two take a road trip of haute cuisine restaurants in northern England. The film essentially carries on where "Tristram Shandy" left off, with Coogan and Brydon bantering throughout.
"I remember thinking it would have been nice if we did a bit more of that, but not so much that I thought (of another movie)," says Coogan on their improvising on "Tristram Shandy."
"A bit more, but not as much as this," chimes Brydon. "But obviously Michael had this vision and he could see it working. And it does. Now I think, why did I ever resist?"
Mateo Gil’s "Blackthorn" is one of the more unorthodox sequels, particularly because of its revered source material. Gil’s film imagines what Butch Cassidy’s life may have been like had he survived in Bolivia after fleeing the US.
It’s a kind of extension to 1969’s "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid." But while "Blackthorn" is still a Western about Cassidy, it’s about life in exile and its tone is mournful. Cassidy (Sam Shepard) is now an old man living under the name James Blackthorn.
But perhaps the film that most dons the traditional role of a sequel is Chris Paine’s "Revenge of the Electric Car," a follow-up to his popular 2006 documentary, "Who Killed the Electric Car?" The title nods to "Star Wars" and there, too, is a sense of villains turning heroes.
"Who Killed the Electric Car?" investigated auto manufacturers’ reluctance to embrace electric cars and General Motors’ destroying of its EV1 model. "Revenge of the Electric Car" plots the comeback of electric cars, including GM’s change of heart in manufacturing the Chevy Volt, a gas-electric hybrid.
"I wasn’t planning to make another film about this topic, but I thought this could be one of those really rare moments where something turns around," says Paine. "And I already have the access, so I should probably step into this and see if we can capture a moment of transition."
Paine has essentially shifted from pessimist to optimist.
"Sometimes it happens in America and in capitalism: Great ideas get killed," says the director. "But it’s not always the way things go."
Sam Shepard is shown in a scene from "Blackthorn." (AP Photo/Tribeca Film festival).