Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 10, 2015 1:58 pm 
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2015 NYFF: final ramble (roundup).

Todd Haynes' Carol I admittedly expected to be great (that was the buzz from Cannes) and it was. Lázslo Nemes' Son of Saul also looms large -- a bold, horrifying film that is a technical tour-de-force. So they are my Palme d'Or and Grand Prix.

French: I want to rewatch Desplechin's My Golden Years/Trois sourvenirs de ma jeunesse to see if I can make more sense of the framework; the ado love I get. Bidegain's Les Cowboys seemed overwritten. Michel Gondry's Microbe & Gasoline is a charmer and big success for him; may be a hard sell for the US market. Philippe Garrel did it again with In the Shadow of Women/L'Ombre des femmes -- a neat study of jealousy and adultery in beautiful black and white. Stéphane Brizé's The Measure of a Man/La loi du marché is the prizewinner of the set, a heavy social statement about moral integrity and unemployment with a performance by Vincent Lindon that won the Best Actor prize at Cannes this year.

Asian: A success, a failure, a beautiful bore and an okay-but-could-be-better. Hong Sang-soo's Right Then, Wrng Now is an excellent example of what he does so well. Jia Zhang-ke's Mountains May Depart seemed unconvincing, too in-the-head, not felt and immediate like his great earlier films. Hou Hsio-hsien made a gorgeous wu xia film in The Assassin -- but he is not an action film director and it is a leaden bore, a stinker (which devotees nonetheless adore). The Thai Cannes darling Apichatpong Weerasethekul's Cemetery of Splendor was solid, but not his best work, lacked the magic.

Hollywood, mainstream. Carol is arguably that too. But while I am not crazy about the NYFF's increasing efforts to promote itself by offering more and more premieres you will soon find in your local cineplex, the choices actually were excellent this year. First the Opening Night Film, Zemeckis' 3D The Walk starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His accent and his French and even his tightrope walking are fake, of course, but he does them really, really well and this is as exhilarating as the James Marsh doc Man on Wire. Spielberg (Spielberg is good; we know that) provides a really entertaining Cold War spy-swap tale in Bridge of Spies and I found myself wanting to hug Tom Hanks, he's so damn sterling and admirable. I was disappointed by Danny Boyle's collaboration with Aaron Sorkin, Steve Jobs and I'll show you what Armond White* said about it below; but it is still sophisticated stuff for the cineplex. So is John Crowley's period Irish love story from the Colm Tóibín novel Brooklyn, a bit too low-key and fairytale-ish for me, but beautiful and subtly understated. Then the Closing Night film, Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead, studiously avoiding biopic clichés in a pretty fun, wacko way. And these were all premieres? Gee, I guess they knew what they were doing. I am sorry, I did not like Rebecca Miller's repetitive and dinky Maggie's Plan or see what was so great or innovative about Michael Almereyda's The Experimenter.

Alien. I guess I am not a real festival person because I was very bored by the Romanian film, Porumboliu's The Treasure, and I thought I hated Miguel Gomes' six-hours-out-of-your-life trilogy Arabian Nights -- till I saw Yorgos Lanthimos' The Lobster, which I really hate. I find it nasty and mean and cruel. I also hated Chantal Ackerman's No Home Movie about the death of her mother and I am sorry because she herself died during the festival. People were crying in the Walter Reade theater. I did not hate Guy Madden's The Forbidden Room. I don't really get Guy Madden, he's not my thing (another failure to be a festival person), but this really impressed me; the technique is dazzling and pretty personal.

Revivals. I am getting into sidebar items now and there are more and more of them; the Film Society of Lincoln Center can turn out series and sub-festivals at a rate that is breathtaking. I did not see many of them but did re-watch Visconti's Rocco and his Brothers/Rocco e i suoi fratelli after many years. It has lost some of the emotion and seemed a bit long. My friend Aubrey is determinedly retro and his favorite film of the festival was Ernst Lubitsch's 1943 Heaven Can Wait. Sweet! Sorry I missed Hou Hsio-hsien's The Boys from Fengkuei ; I've never seen it and it has sounded like a part of his oeuvre one should know.

Documentaries. There were a lot of these too, but really the oly one I cared about is Don't Blink: Robert Frank. He is a really important figure people need to know about ant this is a well-made, beautiful film that honors his great The Americans with many beautiful rich black and white images. I think people should cut some slack for Michael Moore, whose Where to Invade Next was part of the festival. His heart is in the right place, and he is just pointing out a lot of specific ways in which the United States could be a whole lot better. He only does this because he loves this country.

Was this as good a festival as previous years? I do not know. Sometimes some of the films knocked my socks off more than this year. But I do not know if this is in general a less good year for cinema, or the jury erred, or it is a false impression due to the fact that I'm not as thrilled or naive as I was eleven years ago, in 2005, when I watched and was thrilled by my first New York Film Festival. It changes. The people running the show change. It still maintains. It still remains a uniquely great experience for someone who does not go to Sundance, Cannes, Telluride or Toronto. I still want to see The Green Room as well as The Witch: A New England Folktale (Robert Eggers) from Sundance, Anomalisa (Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) from Toronto, and some others. Some of them are coming to US theaters.

Gratitude. Thanks to all who make this possible, Kent Jones the director, the FSLC selection committee ( Dennis Lim, Marian Masone, Gavin Smith, and Amy Taubin), the publicity staff headed by Courtney Ott, David Ninh, and as always, to Glenn Raucher and his staff for running the theaters with humor and skill and dealing with any crazy problem or demand that arises. And thanks to all the volunteers, and all the press and industry people and patrons who attended and whose reactions and conversation make it all worth while.
*Armond White's review of Steve Jobs here.

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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