For helmer, one more trip to diner


Barry Levinson is going back to Baltimore. The prolific writer-director will return to his birthplace and cinematic stomping ground with "Sixty-Six," a story about a group of characters coming of age in 1966 Baltimore on the eve of significant historical events such as the counterculture movement and the war in Vietnam.

Levinson will write and direct from his novel.

The protagonist in "Sixty-Six" is a staffer at a local television news program, who some have noted, is a stand-in for Levinson and his professional and personal life. Like one of the director's most famous works, "Sixty-Six" also will feature a diner as the center of social activity.

The film completes an informal series of sorts in which Levinson examines the social dynamics in Baltimore at various periods throughout the 20th century. He kicked that off with 1983's "Diner" set in a very different city of 1959, and covered related ground in "Avalon" (1990), "Tin Men" (1987) and "Liberty Heights" (1999).

"It's really the last of the diner stories," Levinson said of "Sixty-Six." "It's about a world that's on he cusp of a big change and a group of people who are on the cusp of adulthood."

The director said he plans on financing the movie independently and is set to go out to cast shortly.

Levinson most recently completed "Polliwood," which is premiering this week at the Tribeca Film Festival. The documentary generally looks at the intersection of Hollywood and politics and the effect that TV has had on the electoral process in particular.

"Like all great inventions, television has brought some great changes, but I also think it's brought some hugely negative consequences," he said. "And unlike, for example, the automobile, these negative consequences have been far more subtle."

In looking at the interaction of politics and celebrity, the movie explores another passion of Levinson's, which he examined in such satires as "Wag the Dog" and "Man of the Year."

"I've been fooling around with media for a while," he said. "What I wanted to do with this movie was look at the subject as a whole." (partialdiff)