Levinson commits to `Diner Guys' showing

Film: Maryland festival premiere lets us catch up with the men behind the boys in his 1982 film.

April 14, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,SUN FILM CRITIC

Barry Levinson will present "Diner Guys," his documentary about the real-life men who inspired his 1982 film "Diner," as the opening-night film at the Maryland Film Festival, organizers announced yesterday.

The festival screening will not only be a world premiere of the film, but it may be the only time the documentary can be seen by audiences. "What I'm going to do with it I don't really know," Levinson said yesterday. "I've had this ongoing documentary that's not finished, and I thought maybe people could see the process."

Levinson began filming nine years ago, when Danny Snyder, his friend since high school, organized a sports weekend for the group. Dubbed "Camp Low Self-Esteem," the gathering featured games, cigars and storytelling into the wee hours. Levinson, in town filming "Avalon," brought along a camera to record the reunion. "Then they started getting together for various events, and I just started filming them," he said.

Levinson wound up filming weddings, reunions, more sports weekends, 50th birthday parties and, in one case, a memorial service. Snyder died of cancer in 1996.

"It's about, in a sense, the first rock-and-roll generation in middle age," Levinson explained. "It's funny, at the very beginning it's a really athletic weekend and they're playing softball and basketball, and at the last one they're just playing golf."

"Diner Guys" in some ways sounds like a sequel to "Diner," wherein the group of commitment-phobic boys become men dealing with the inevitabilities of growing older. But no clips of "Diner" will be seen in the documentary. "I did that once," Levinson said, "but then I thought it began to force [too many] comparisons to `Diner.' It was an interesting idea, but it began to take away from these guys that have known each other for many years and how they interact with each other and their sense of humor and their compassion and what they've gone through."

Levinson hasn't filmed since Snyder's memorial: "I don't know if I'll continue or not."

The version that the festival audience will see will be projected on videotape, because the film is currently digitized for editing.

"It has a slightly grainy feel to it, so it's a rough piece of work, which people can see and make their own judgments about," Levinson said. "It's kind of unusual, but I thought it would be worthwhile. Everything is getting so precious. We're so afraid to screen certain things because of what someone might say somewhere. The stakes become so high that it's nice to be able to put something out and say, `What the hell.' "

"Diner Guys" will be shown at the Senator Theatre on April 22 at 7: 30 p.m. and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Levinson. Tickets are $125 and include admission to a block party at the Charles Theatre.

For more information about the opening night gala, call 410-547-2426. For general information, call ProTix at 410-481-6500. For a complete festival program, call 410-752-8083, or visit the festival's Web site at http: //www. mdfilmfest.com.

Pub Date: 4/14/99

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