This year, New Directors/New Films is "breaking precedent and presenting a film nearly 20 years older than the festival itself."
Nick Schager in Slant: "So loathed by Stanley Kubrick that the legendary director reportedly confiscated all existing copies to keep it out of circulation, Fear and Desire proves a modest, if relatively promising, 1953 debut for the late auteur, touching on his trademark themes via the allegorical tale of soldiers shot down behind enemy lines in an unnamed country in an unspecified time. Kubrick's story, penned by Howard Sackler, is deliberately vague with regard to nationalities and politics so that its focus can remain squarely on the psychological turmoil of its characters, a ragtag quartet that includes ruminative Lieutenant Corby (Kenneth Harp), gruff Sergeant Mac (Frank Silvera), meek Private Fletcher (Stephen Colt), and sensitive Private Sidney (future filmmaker Paul Mazursky) — men whose narrated internal monologues articulate, with frequent pretentiousness, Kubrick's investigation of the thin line between civilization, animalism, and madness."
"Spotted by Sackler in an off-Broadway production, Mazursky was cast after a brief audition in Kubrick's New York apartment. Fear and Desire was the future director's first time on camera, and he gets the big scene: Sidney, left alone with a captured woman (Virginia Leith) they've tied to a tree, emotionally unravels in front of her, assaults her, recites Shakespeare, and then really snaps." Justin Stewart interviews Mazursky for Film Comment.
A bit more from Dustin Chang (Twitch), Eric Kohn (indieWIRE) and Farihah Zaman (Filmmaker).
Update, 4/8: "Expect Fear and Desire to be a forgotten masterpiece, and you'll be disappointed," warns Tim Grierson in the Voice. "Treat it like a wobbly, precocious demo from a 24-year-old with mighty aspirations, filled with hints of what he would become, and you'll be properly enthralled."
Oslo, August 31st, the "long-awaited follow-up to Norwegian director Joachim Trier's Reprise — still the best, truest, saddest and funniest post-80s hipster-dude comedy made anywhere in the world — is a simpler, more stripped-down film, on a similar theme but with an even more devastating impact." Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "Anders Danielsen Lie (also a star of Reprise) plays a 30-ish recovering addict facing a Hamlet-like existential crisis during one gorgeous summer's-end day in the Norwegian capital. Watch this, absolutely; it's beautiful and will break your heart."
"Mr Trier fills in his portrait both bluntly and obliquely, and with a minimum of narrative noise," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. "There are several brutal conversations but mostly there is the revelation of Anders's phenomenological reality: the heavy silences that surround him like a penumbra; the wary glances of friends and uninterested ones of strangers; the overhead chattering of other people (in a cafe, he tunes in to conversations as if changing radio stations); and moments of ordinary beauty, as when a butterfly flutters onto him, briefly returning him to the world. Detail by detail, and through Mr Trier's expressive framing and fluctuating depth of field — at moments, Anders looks in focus and his surroundings are blurred, and then the reverse — you come closer to a man who at the same time is slipping away."
More from Melissa Anderson (Voice), Ela Bittencourt (Slant, 3.5/4), Dustin Chang (Twitch), Howard Feinstein (Filmmaker) and David Fear (Time Out New York).
Update, 4/8: More from Megan Ratner in Film Quarterly.
Teddy Bear is "a 'moving out' movie starring 38 year old, 6'7", 300-lbs Danish body builder Kim Kold rather than some scrawny, rebellious teenager," writes Dustin Chang at Twitch. "To top it all, this teddy bear finds love in the seedy streets of Thailand. This all might sound cringe inducing, but thanks to Mads Matthiesen's light touch and his group of non-actors' earnest performances, Teddy Bear works as a soft, huggable light comedy."
On the same page, Peter Gutierrez finds it "easy to see why Teddy Bear made director Mads Matthiesen a winner at Sundance." This is "a movie romance that's really a belated coming-of-age story much in the manner of 1955's Marty."
More from David D'Arcy at Artinfo ("He's like Shrek — kindhearted and oversized, minus the wit"), Manohla Dargis ("forgivably commits the often unpardonable sin of sentimentality") and Elise Nakhnikian in Slant, 2.5/4: "Matthiesen lays out his story in a literal-minded, unadorned style that matches Dennis's [Kold] lack of guile, but he holds our interest by keeping the fate of this steadfastly decent couple uncertain right up to the end."
Both you and [Film Comment editor] Gavin Smith have told me that Donoma is a film you're excited about.
The director of Donoma [Djinn Carrénard] is a rather young man from a Haitian family that moved to Paris when he was young. He began making films, got together with this group and the film started as a short and evolved over time. They kept on adding more and more part and plots. And what was interesting was that once the film opened in Paris in November, they all went around France on a bus tour opening the film with the director, producer, and about half the cast. A kind of grassroots promotion. And it got a very nice, appreciative write-up in Cahiers du Cinéma in November.
And you it encountered at Cannes?
I didn't see it at Cannes or know anything about it. It was shown in a section there, but nobody I know said anything about it. I think a Cahiers writer caught it somewhere and one thing led to another.
One of the fresher voices I've seen coming out of the French cinema in a while.
"This French independent film," writes David D'Arcy at Artinfo, "made for all of $200, we're told, moves from struggling characters to struggling relationships, to what borders on the pathological as she ties three stories together in the unfashionable reaches of Northeast Paris and the suburbs beyond. Sometimes its look has the modern classical purity of a 1960's love story a la francaise. Other sections have a handheld brusqueness that mimics the fickleness and emotional volatility of its young characters."
Update: "Remarkable as the micro-budget miracle of Donoma's production history is, the film's supple handling of its somewhat familiar material proves even more noteworthy," writes Matthew Connolly in Slant. "Little in Donoma will seriously jostle those familiar with art-cinema trends, particularly its deployment of heterosexual romance as a canvas on which to layer issues of race, class, and gender in contemporary France. Carrénard's deft interweaving of his various plot strands nevertheless sticks with you. The slowly revealed connections between characters is less a neat mosaic than a knotty web, with many threads left intriguingly blowing in the breeze."
Karl Markovics, "mainly an actor (The Counterfeiters), shoots and edits in that crisp, almost symmetrical style shared by fellow Austrians Ulrich Seidl and Nikolaus Geyrhalter, each of whom ventures beyond our normal expectations." Howard Feinstein on Breathing for Filmmaker: "Here the subject is local. A 19-year-old boy, Roman (Thomas Schubert), lives in a facility for juvenile delinquents. He was responsible for the brutal murder of another boy four years before, so his chances for parole are nonexistent. When he was a baby, his single mother had dumped him at a government children’s facility; she feared her own capacity for violence. He does not know her and has expressed no curiosity about finding her. Unable to keep a job, a necessity for yet another upcoming parole hearing, Roman discovers his calling. He becomes a mortician’s assistant, and likes the job so much that he becomes open to some sort of transformation."
"In lesser hands the story about a young man who discovers life among the dead could be impossibly cute and contrived," writes Manohla Dargis. "Nothing if not astringent, Mr Markovics smartly concentrates on the concrete particulars of Roman’s life — on his humble belongings, the faces of his morgue co-workers, the curiously banal work of caring for the dead — which keeps the film firmly tethered in his everyday experience. Although Mr Markovics sometimes slides into poetic allegory, as in short scenes of Roman swimming in the center’s pool, the film earns its power through its revelation of a material reality so palpable you can almost smell the perfume in a dead woman’s home. In the end this blurred young man emerges with clarity and force because he paradoxically joins a real, lived-in world of other people."
But in Slant, Joseph Jon Lanthier asks, "Can a film be faulted for being too sympathetic toward its characters, for limning a milieu with extraneous humanism?" More from Dustin Chang at Twitch.
Updates, 4/8: "Thinking about life while dealing with death — the whole of Karl Markovics's debut feature (the top prizewinner at last year's Sao Paulo International Film Festival) seems to inhabit this middle point." Aaron Cutler for the L. And the FSLC has a few questions for Markovics.