Fourteen years is more than enough time to have eased the pressure on the Hamptons International Film Festival to become a Bigfoot presence among its peers. Right now, it’s the kind of event that encourages its spectators to amble around and let whatever discoveries or oddities happen.
Given the way Bigfoot festivals compel you to make your way to whatever’s being touted as the hottest film of the moment, the Hamptons’ still laid-back ambiance feels like the decompression chamber of the movie festival calendar year. There are far worse things for a festival to be, and the people who run the Hamptons festival seem to know it – and embrace it.
So with expectations locked in neutral, your moviegoing agenda at a Hamptons festival is fairly simple: Look for things you haven’t seen before, probably won’t see again and, if you’re lucky, discover something neglected or unusual enough to tell others about. One wonders, for instance, whether “If I Didn’t Care’s” Hamptons locale made it such an “inside” attraction for the festival that it wouldn’t be taken seriously as a candidate for broader release. But co-directors-producers-writers Orson and Ben Cummings (yes, they’re brothers) have made themselves a neat-and-nasty little gem, a combination of cozy whodunit and noir romance that follows the playbooks of those genres without making them feel threadbare.
The film stars Hal Hartley veteran Bill Sage as a philandering real estate agent who plays footsie with another agent (Hadley Templeton) while his wife (Noelle Beck) works in Manhattan. The real estate agent and his mistress plot to kill the wife, but someone else gets killed instead. A Columbo-esque Long Island cop named Linus (Roy Scheider, above), who owns a dog named Schopenhauer, smells a rat.
This should all sound too cute for comfort (especially that dog’s name), but “If I Didn’t Care” looks shiny and plays smart, except for its somewhat perfunctory ending. Also, if Scheider can shed the raincoat (too reminiscent of you-know-who), he could take that crusty character and his dog into cable or PBS. If a tiny English village can have enough murders to fill a 13-week schedule, why couldn’t East Hampton?