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Tribeca 2011: Elton John sings the audience its song

April 21, 2011 |  9:15 am


Film festival openings have a tendency toward the grand spectacle, a tendency that Tribeca took seriously as it kicked off its 10th edition Wednesday night outdoors in lower Manhattan.

The Bangles (?) came out and performed "Walk Like an Egyptian" with a choir of schoolchildren (??), Cameron Crowe premiered his Elton John documentary "The Union" and John gave a concert at a site overlooking the Hudson River, adjacent to where the World Trade Center once stood.

"The Union" marks Crowe's first film in six years, but the director, off shooting "We Bought a Zoo" and a Pearl Jam documentary, wasn't there. The film is an artistic-collaboration study along the lines of Michael Jackson's "This Is It," examining John's creation of a record with Leon Russell, the hirsute keyboard legend who's had more than his share of hard times.

But it was John's piano-playing that got the crowd going, particularly an elaborate, high-register riff at the end of "Rocket Man." John tossed out the obligatory this-is-my-favorite-place-to-play as he also told the audience he was a "frozen lollipop" on the April evening. He closed the set of about half a dozen tracks with "Your Song."

Tribeca, which has a particular focus on music this year, has historically gone with a novel group of opening-night events, from a screening of "United 93" with relatives of the crash's victims to Woody Allen's "Whatever Works" to a set of environmental shorts.

Tribecapromo The Crowe/John double bill stood out as one of the few big-ticket screenings at this year's installment. For the first time in recent memory, Tribeca isn't showing a "Shrek," "Mission: Impossible" or other big Hollywood movie in a feature that had become a fixture, if an uneasy one, at the festival over the past few years.

About 90 features will screen at the festival over the next 11 days, including the Julia Roberts-produced coming-of-age dramedy "Jesus Henry Christ," the Keira Knightley-Sam Worthington romantic drama "Last Night" and Alex Gibney's sports-goat documentary "Catching Hell."


Music is theme of this year's Tribeca Film Festival

-- Steven Zeitchik in New York


Photo: Elton John performs at the opening night of the Tribeca Film Festival. Credit: Jason Kempin / Getty Images