If you enjoy flipping through the first eighty pages of Vogue, Tanner Hall is the film for you. Evident throughout were the beautiful people, the beautiful clothes, the beautiful places. Less evident was the story. While it bore the trappings of a coming of age story of a group of young girls at boarding school, Tanner Hall, which premiered at the Gen Art Film Festival on Monday April 12, never penetrated the pouty-lipped veneer of their trust funded lives.
The film features two teachers, played by Amy Sedaris and Chris Kattan, in a dysfunctional marriage. But with the film’s unabashed focus on fashion and money, Sedaris and Kattan provide much needed comic relief on an otherwise austere canvas. While long shots boasted a saturated autumnal palette redolent of New England money, the film made me continuously curious about who designed the boots, cashmere sweaters, and pillowcases that furnished their habitat.
That fashion and money are the essence of the narrative doesn’t come as a surprise. The twin elements run through the lifeblood of the co-directors Tatiana Von Furstenberg and Francesca Gregorini, who have been best friends since their boarding school days. Von Furstenberg is the daughter of legendary designer Diane Von Furstenberg, and Gregorini the daughter of Barbara Bach, a former Bond Girl. At the post-screening Q&A, Von Furstenberg and Gregorini gushed and giggled like schoolgirls. “Tatiana loves to talk about herself, in the best way,” said Gregorini. Von Furstenberg, wearing a baby doll dress, gave a big-mouthed smile. While they employed more conventional approaches to filmmaking, for casting, the directors said that they sent crewmembers around fairgrounds looking for a “cute guy” to cast. The director of photography was hired based on his knowledge of color in Rembrandt’s paintings.
At the Q&A, when asked if the sex scene between the underage Fernanda (Rooney Mara) and the husband of her mother’s best friend, Gio (Tom Everett Scott) was awkward, Rooney responded “It was more awkward to watch it in front of my family.” The very tall Everett Scott towered coolly, making an expression of disbelief at the question. Everett Scott, the directors revealed, was the priciest of the actors.
The boarding school besties had even more reason to gush and giggle as they walked away with the festival’s Acura Grand Jury Award for Best Feature.
The Gen Art Film Festival is a unique fesival that is comprised of seven feature length films, seven short films, and seven after-parties celebrating emerging independent filmmakers. The Tanner Hall premiere also came with a pre-film party with tequila cocktails and kettle corn, both of which proved to be tricky for the high heeled women making their way down the slippery sloped theater aisles.
It’s been said that the Gen Art Film Festival has the best festival audience, at least according to Gen Art Associate Director of Film Aaron Levine. Giving out alcohol is a great way to facilitate guffaws and ahhs, and it doesn’t hurt that audience members don’t need to choose which films to attend. One film a day is a very manageable festival and one would hope the extremely competitive acceptance rate would keep the quality high.
Tanner Hall was picked up by Moving Pictures Film and Television. So while you may have missed the Gen Art screening and the after-party at the MePa Club, you can catch this motion picture fashion catalog when it hits theaters in September.