Below you will find an index of our coverage of films—and posters!—at the 2018 New York Film Festival:
Movie Poster of the Week: The Posters of the 56th New York Film Festival
Of all the photographic designs the official festival poster, created by Faces, Places co-director JR and ace cinematographer—and NYFF regular—Ed Lachman, is the most interesting—and one of the best NYFF posters in recent years—with its Manhattan alleyway filled with oversized monochrome prints of famous filmmakers’ eyes (held aloft by NYFF staff).
—Annual round-up of main slate posters by Adrian Curry
The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Favourite, whose ‘family’ unit to be (self-)destroyed is of an aristocratic or rather royal kind, comprising the inner circle of the queen, is Lanthimos’ first attempt in directing only; the script was written by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Nevertheless, the Greek philosopher’s-a.k.a.-filmmaker’s idea that humans live on this planet in order to con- and detest each other happily continues. Just like in real life (especially in the actual White House version of it, with its abundant upper-class ties), there lurks an intrigue in every flattery, every comfort is rooted in relentlessness, every reaching-out-for-the other (‘liaison’) is an act of self-establishing. Manipulation is the sole common denominator; relationships are games, no more, no less, sometimes vicious, sometimes voluptuous, always joyful.
Though based on the director’s family home and conceived as an ode to the three women of his childhood—the maid, his mother, and his grandmother—the film remarkably remained unstained by the sentimentality of nostalgia. Roma evinces a hyperrealism achieved not through visceral technique that interprets verisimilitude as hectic impressionism, but rather as the extreme density of historical and social observation of everyday things made monumental by overwhelming production design, massive film format, and the big screen. [...] In fastidiously re-creating a year in his nation’s history through the details that surrounded his own life, Cuarón makes Roma an homage to the cloistered and distanced existence of the rich during national (social, political) tumult, to the safety such an environment provides for a minority of lower class workers, and how this redoubt thereby lends the blinkers of the rich to those poorer than themselves.
In brief, the film follows Panahi and veteran actress Behnaz Jafari, both playing themselves, as they journey to the Azerbaijan region of Iran to search for Marziyeh (Marziyeh Rezaei), an aspiring young actress who, according to a video sent to Panahi, had committed suicide after her requests for help to Jafari were ignored. It's a distinctly Kiarostami-like setup, and the early sections, in which Panahi and Jafari interact with various villagers—most of whom know Jafari through her television appearances—have a shambling, but generative quality. (Alternate title: Visage, Village.) [...] A cracked frame occasions the elegiac, hopeful final shot (again indebted to Kiarostami), which is not without a certain resonance, particularly given Panahi's continuing political confinement. But the lingering question—and a literal one, in terms of the ostensible plot—is: Where does Panahi go from here?
...3 Faces emerges as both a culmination and farewell to the strictures within which Panahi has flexed and maneuvered his cinematic vision over the last eight years. The film serves as an exemplary piece from which to reflect upon the continued political pertinence and cinematic innovation of Panahi’s filmmaking.
The seductiveness of this delicate romantic mystery is profuse its ambiance, but so too is a multivalenced ominousness, coming from slant rhymes with Hitchcock’s Vertigo and similarly ghostly love stories, unshowy shadowplay by cinematographer Yasuyuki Sasaki, and associations of Masahiro Higashide with two eerie recent pictures by Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Creepy and Foreboding. (Higashide’s gangly frame and gentle demeanor as Ryohei feels at times a variation on Jimmy Stewart’s awkward sweetness.) Which is not to say that Asako I & II is a genre film, but rather that its story pinpoints spectral qualities of the uncanny and unpredictable that can cling to relationships over time. It has the frame’s edge paranoia of Jacques Rivette's films and the unpredictable life flow of those by Jacques Rozier. [...] A ghost is ever present in Asako’s psyche, haunting with the suggestion of other paths taken, other lives lived, other stronger, truer passions than this one in the present that are possible in a world that is so open to change.
Revealing an ambitious, sprawling tale with sidelong storytelling that focuses on grace notes of a much bigger picture, it is an elegant evolution of the Chinese director’s neo-melodrama style showcased in his last film, Mountains May Depart. Like that film, Ash Is Purest White follows Zhao’s character across three eras (in this case, 2001, 2006 and 2018) of contemporary China as her life is turned upside down, the country evolves in the background, and those once close to her become irrevocably different. Continuing a formal approach begun in the earlier picture, each section in Ash Is Purest White is shot a bit different than the others, including format (film, Digibeta, HD digital), aspect ratio, and decoupage, and each self-reflexively calls back to and revises different films from Jia’s own career. It is a film that roves across the director’s country, his own filmography, and across time, with the magnificent Zhao Tao as the constant factor, the spirit and the hope.
The true pleasures of The Ballad of Buster Scruggs come never from the plot (it is threadbare), nor the structure (there is little), but as always with the Coen brothers from the ambience created, the dialogues constructed, the characters imagined. From James Franco’s luckless bank robber, who has the glory of being a man unlucky enough to be hung twice, to Liam’s Neeson’s morose Impresario, faced with a thorny personal dilemma, to the grizzled grouchy prospector of Tom Waits, confronted by a “weasely skunk,” each role filled feels like a bespoke casting, and each scene woven with its actor in mind. [...] Each vignette in The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is worth a chuckle or three, and the diverse little pictures don’t ultimately have much of a point other than pleasure, even taken together they remain little more than an assemblage of unconnected minuscule episodes, like a collection of illustrated plates from a book, like beads on a string.
Adapted (and expanded) from Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning” and co-written with Oh Jung-Mi, Lee’s film is a sinuous evocation of a thriller, yet somehow devoid of outright incident. A trip to Africa leaves Jonhsu with the task of feeding Haemi’s notoriously shy cat, whom he never sees; her return with Ben (Steven Yuen), wealthy, worldly and mysterious (a Korean Gatsby, in Jonhsu’s assessment), leaves him with a new acquaintance, but without a girlfriend. Meanwhile, Lee’s camera moves with assurance, capturing an awkward dance and the pulsing gyrations of a club with equal acuity. [...] When two weeks later, Jonhsu runs into Ben but remains unable to reach Haemi, the details quiver with possibility. [...] Always, Lee’s patient, expansive vision aims to reveal. If Secret Sunshine was a methodical excavation of melodrama, Burning is a masterful explication of “simultaneous existence.” It’s a film that understands the power of suggestion—the force of a silent, fiery nightmare—and “rings to the very bones.”
Jongsu in Paju, and Ben in Gangnam—the wealthiest, quietest, and most clean district of Korea—the two of them exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. But a lot of young people today live somewhere between these two poles. Many feel the helplessness that Jongsu feels, but they want to live like Ben. Some even assume that they are currently living like Ben. [...] The film is a mystery that regards the question, “Who is Ben?” as it follows its suspicions of Ben’s character. But in the conclusion, we transition into the question, “Who is Jongsu?” Jongsu is a young person who carries rage. We see how the originally seemingly pure Jongsu evolves into a different person, and witness what Jongsu’s naked body has become.
Pawlikowski’s previous film, Ida(in which Kulig appears as a bar singer), is a film both sensuous and suffocating; there’s a rigor to the Polish director’s style that seems to take the weight of history and place it on his characters' shoulders, so that rich human detail is traded in for the allegorical. And that’s true of Cold War as well. Tableaux of gorgeous idylls alternate with passages of music and dance; the lovers separate and reunite and separate again, beset by forces greater than themselves. But here, always, the music remembers. Far more than the deterministic closing passage, it’s Kulig’s desperate, yet joyous dance to Bill Haley & His Comets' “Rock Around the Clock”—a rare, bracing moment of liberation—that will linger.
The promise and heartbreak of its story [suggests] a unique combination of autobiography, Taiwanese tour, spy film, family reunion, and behind-the-scenes look at independent Chinese filmmaking. [...] All the while, the filmmaker suffers from her creative inactivity since her previous film, her attempt to bring a project about Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement to completion, the pressures this has put on her marriage, her status as an exile, and the generational and ideological disconnect she finds in meeting after meeting with her mother. It is, as one may easily see, a very loaded work, and one fraught with a muffled, anguished quality. Like Mohammad Rasoulof’s Manuscripts Don’t Burn, Ying's film is produced in a clandestine manner, forced to turn inward, and racked by conflicted feelings of home. That such a film was made—about such a thing, under such circumstances—is remarkable. But I couldn’t help but feel there could be a more alive film that juggled such ambitious ideas, rather than what felt more like an introduction of concept, situation and pain, rather than their electric animation.
Challenging a hierarchy that destructively designates what kind of information is and is not essential to a story, Llinás is, once more, reluctant to offer a resolution that could—retroactively—make the viewer’s 3-, 9-, or 14-hour investment “worthwhile.” [...] La Flor—so courageously self-aware of its own disposability—instead asks its viewer not to call Llinás’s bluff, and to find their gratification elsewhere. Fortunately, in this sometimes deadpan, sometimes slapstick comedy caper—a film full of present-tense pleasure and so playfully in love with narrative as a tool of “knowing” (“gnarus”) and “telling” (“narro”)—there is, as of now, no shortage of places where one might find it.
The thought of a shorter La Flor, the need to finish a story, the need to connect its threads, are utterly alien to the film and the experience of watching it. Indeed, that mere thing, the experience of watching it, is the primary reward that La Flor offers its viewers.
A miniature ensemble film of couples meeting for coffee, meals and drinks, each observed, to some degree, by Kim Minhee, playing someone who seems to be taking notes on the conversations, arguments, and accusations she overhears, Grass at first seems like a hodgepodge collage portrait of how someone like Hong (but not Hong) constructs his films: by observing the heartfelt, perverse, and innervated relationships around him that people make surprisingly public. But despite his always charming—to this viewer, at least—use of sparse aesthetics and awkwardly self-conscious conversations, nothing is ever quite so simple as it seems in a film by Hong Sang-soo. [...] Is this a dream? Imagination? Fantasy? A wake? A brief but truly unexpected use of lens focus and shadowplay, for this usually formally minimalist director, ripples with such uncertainty. Whatever state of existence Grass is taking place on, one thing is for certain: It’s Hongian playfulness of surprisingly soulful intrigue.
Shot on film with a great eye towards texture—aqua blue skies, sage green brush, the feeling of sun, stone, leaves, hay, clothing—and no goal towards evenness, at the onset the film feels pleasurably gawky, a rural oddball and charming in its strange occurrences. Most strange of all is Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo), a wide-eyed naïf on the estate whose sweet nature, unfailing generosity and tireless work ethic sees him casually exploited by owners and slaves alike. Lazzaro is both the film’s hero and its emblematic example of Rohrwacher’s approach, a flourish of the fantastic amid, in this case, tactile feudal exploitation. [...] Fellini might take such a situation and turn it into a giddy cavalcade of debasement, irony and idealism, and a lesser director would make this all very whimsical and quirky, but Rohrwacher resolutely turns this surprisingly high concept tale into something calmer, less pretentious, and organically unkempt.
Like her 2001 erotic vampire-cannibal film Trouble Every Day, Denis oscillates between tenderness and cruelty, a sadism of mind and body in a space where lawlessness reigns supreme. Though that earlier work continues to eat at itself until nothing remains, High Life holds tight to the unusually warm notion that there is still one ruling law that lives on, even after the ship becomes emptier and emptier: that a family is not defined by the genetic ties of its members, but by their decision to hold onto each other. But Denis carves out enough room for even the vice versa, and other variations of it, to be true. The multiplicity of High Life is the fruit of her thoughtfulness, even though it progresses so swiftly, as if weightless. One gets the sense that Denis herself is hitting walls of ideas, sitting in a lab with test tubes, scratching her head as she stirs and mixes, asking questions and altering them in real-time. But this experiment of hers, however lofty, is an undeniable masterpiece.
After searching through the film’s formal ploys and finding nothing particularly transformative, one begins to take its mostly solemn conversations and interactions at face value, even though these conversations and interactions don’t seem so different from the ones in earlier films that were undercut by absurd juxtapositions. The film seemed to go a little slack and sentimental for me at times, but perhaps this is a first-viewing effect that results from Hong not meeting my expectations. What I’m really wondering is whether a more straight-ahead, serious Hong will prove as compelling as the deadpan trickster we’ve come to know. In any case, Hong is so clearly the greatest filmmaker of his time that I’m in no hurry to come to conclusions about whatever new moves he chooses to make.
Above the crime that serves as its foundation—an allegation that is as justified and respected by the film as it is also narrowly avoided—If Beale Street Could Talk is about love’s role in the everyday survival of black communities. Not as a feeling, but as a tangible daily action. Between Tish’s visits to the jail, the film waltzes through her and Fonny’s first days of flirtation, then passion, culminating in their search for a loft, somewhere for Fonny to make his wood sculptures and for the couple to eventually have children. In warm orange and brilliant blue lighting—a sweet mirror to Moonlight’s humid greens, pinks, and purples—their story unfolds, largely without the backstory Baldwin provided of the two as childhood friends. But Jenkins has intentionally omitted such details, instead filling the gap left behind with images of black Americans in fields and in the city, in prisons and in churches—an unavoidably straightforward statement that even this singular work of fiction is imbued with the tale of a people.
Undoubtedly the most experimental feature ever shown in Cannes competition, collaging clips of film and news, some recognizable and much not, using sources of various resolution and quality and often distorting the material with extreme color filtration or smudged clarity, the soundtrack a beautifully abrupt edit of text readings (some by a beleaguered-sounding Godard, as if murmuring or reciting to himself late at night), film dialog (much unsubtitled) and music samples, The Image Book feels like notes from the underground, a bunker film, trying to assemble and learn from the moving image remnants of humankind in the 20th and 21st century. This is as much “a film by Godard” as it is “research by Godard,” a work of poetic scholarship infused in equal measures by despair and aspiration.
Köhler has crafted a lean but evocative allegory asking questions about what is essential and makes life worth living. A high concept film paradoxically told in an efficient, underplayed and down-to-earth manner, the seeming simplicity of In My Room belies its primal tale of a mediocre man who has to engage with the world around him to give himself meaning.
I really liked some novels that play with this idea that you’re the last man, this castaway idea. Like a novel by Arno Schmidt called Black Mirror, and obviously Marlen Haushofer's The Wall, [David] Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress, and some other books like that. I felt that, for me as a filmmaker, I was ready to do this kind of megalomaniac story that touches so many different issues. It couldn’t have been my first film, if that is the question. I don’t think it’s really a comment on this particular moment of time, though there are obviously some issues that are treated which for me are expressive of our time, like the gender issue, but it’s not...I cannot say it had to be shot now in this moment. In my personal biography, it had to be shot.
...it is a triumph of pure sensation; there’s not likely to be a more tactile, transportive experience at the festival. As in Kaili Blues, Bi Gan’s arena here is that of time and memory, so the film evokes temporal, and thus spatial transcendence. [...] As in the films of Tsai Ming-liang, even the decrepit, blackened walls themselves seem to weep. Planes and surfaces shimmer and dissolve before your eyes. Always, a sense of unreality permeates, as if one were “trapped in a dream." Bi Gan’s inspirations range far and wide: the English title draws from Eugene O’Neill, the original Chinese (Last Evenings on Earth) from Bolaño; Chagall’s paintings and Modiano’s novels are acknowledged referents; a quivering glass of water draws a line to Tarkovsky’s Stalker. But Long Day’s Journey Into Night is less a pilfered melange than a daring fusion. [...] Suspended between the transient and eternal, Bi Gan's is the kind of vision that fulfills that Lynchian exhortation for a film with “room to dream.” The world spins.
No one mentions Trump in Monrovia, Indiana, but by opening his film with a minister making an awkward case for the balm of religion in times of tribulation ("we bring the tribulation on ourselves," he concludes), and ending with an astounding funeral eulogy that promises a better life in the hereafter, it is impossible not to take this film as a slice of a specifically American kind of malaise, not the chic kind of Antonioni’s rich man's ennui, but the deadening of the soul that can come from an average life being hollowed out, whether economically, culturally, or spiritually. The scale of the film is fairly modest for this director of sprawling inquiry, and runs shorter than most of his pictures, which means the film's articulation of this argument is less firm than its knife-like evocation of an atmosphere—but this is perhaps befitting a documentary that approaches the feeling, as a friend remarked, of a zombie film.
Despite the title referring to Billingham’s parents, they aren’t precisely the subject of this very intriguing film, which is told in a part-humorous, part-tragic tone and is immaculately dressed and shot to be at the height of the overlap between bric-a-brac slovenliness and the textural splendor of clashing wallpapers, carpeting, paisley dresses, and rooms that haven’t been scrubbed in ages. Billingham seems more after the evocation of an environment engendered by his parents’ seemingly lackadaisical negligence rather than semi-fictional portraiture of his childhood (his character appears mostly in the sidelines in both sections). This is layered subtly with the knowledge that we are watching a re-creation, and one which seems very, very meticulous. [...] The Ray and Liz of the title, and so known from the director’s photos, seem less proper characters and more like fields of perverse influence, aloof gods of indolence who tinge and taint not just the environment, but the lives of those around them.
While the core of Shoplifters is not much different in in affect than, say, Like Father, Like Son (2013), the underlying subject of the film is actually quite provocative—indeed it is a subtle twist on this conventional aspect of Kore-eda. [...] At first the film seems a portrait of a family of criminals. But in fact, it’s a criminal family: No one, not the grandmother, the two elder sisters, the father nor the son are related to each other. [...] This scenario is like something from a Shoehi Imamura film from the 1960s, pinpointing the bottom of society and finding in supposedly the worst of Japan that which in fact makes it best. [...] This switch in address is thrilling: an audacious and indeed moving complication to a film that, up until that point, suggested something otherwise quirky but quotidian. It is, in fact, a radical underbelly to a deceptively placid surface.
Although Sorry Angel’s initial efflorescence of emotion dissipates over its considerable 132 minutes, shifting from melancholy to outright maudlin, numerous flashes of pleasure abound, from pleasing planimetric stagings (a luminous nighttime stroll and hotel-front flirtation; a phone call that collapses the space between the two lovers) to the immersive strains of its varied soundtrack (Ride, Astrud Gilberto, an impromptu burst of “Pump Up the Volume,” among others). The image that adorns the film’s poster—of three generations of gay men sharing a single bed—is a crucial one. But the film's essence is contained in what follows: that is, in its observation of one generation slipping away (“We’ll be nothing,” says Jacques at one point), so that the next may have its turn at a hard-won existence; of sorrow blossoming into fulsome, gossamer joy.
This movie’s chill vibe is a peculiar one; this is one of the few shaggy hangout movies to possess a sharp-edged visual rigor, far from the loungey pleasures of the genre’s highlights. Too Late to Die Young, then, is at times loose and at times heavily choreographed. Each shot, each configuration of the space of the commune in which the film is set, is a true original—Sotomayor is capable with images of depth, of people passing through distant brush as toddlers snooze in the foreground, and she’s capable with potent single images, as when the main character, Sofia (Demian Hernández), sings for a crowd at a New Year’s celebration. The pleasures of the film range from the pictorial through to the gestural.
For the film, I didn’t want to make it that concrete, to base it on my own experiences exactly; I think it embodies the spirit of the 90s but I didn’t want the first layer to be political. It’s a political film but it’s not about concrete things. More about the spirit of change. [...] I like to play with this timelessness. I was captured initially by the idea of making a film about teenagers, about adolescence. But also about a country—Chile—that is adolescent. I was trying to portray a period so full of hope for the future that it may have been necessary to forget the past a little bit.
Like a Fritz Lang film, Transit is plotted relentlessly, but Petzold, as is his style, keeps the mise en scène and perspective spartan to a razor’s edge of alienating. From this comes the vivid sense that each twist and turn of events is not just about narrative surprise, but that the film is making greater points—of ideology, of politics, and reflective ones about how cinema relates to reality—along a story path mined at every angle with meaning. It’s a kind of diagram cinema that calls upon our collective love with the movies and then proceeds to question it, often very subtly, as a familiar tale is told askew with an inquisitive gaze.
You know in the structuralist theory there are two words: the one is metaphor and the other is metonym. The metaphor means one over the other, and metonym, one beside each other. I think history is not just [layers hands on top of one another] over and over and over, it is also something where in the same time you have the old and the new things together. You have the subjective and the objective in the same moment: this conception I try to bring into Transit, and also in the skills we used making it: all camera positions, all departments are working with this theory.
This goal—let’s call it Giving Voice to the Enemy—is noble, but intrinsically problematic. It is these two competing impulses—of listening to opposing opinions but also of validating the abhorrent—that define and propel American Dharma, and Morris zigzags—or stumbles—between them without ever being able to resolve the tension, perhaps because that tension is ultimately not resolvable. [By] implicitly using Bannon’s words to ironically wink at his knowing audience, Morris still makes himself complicit in them; that is, he has fallen into the inevitable trap he set up for himself when he chose to Give Voice to the Enemy. By organizing the entire picture around Bannon’s worldview, he cannot escape those mental preconceptions—he can only articulate his own vision of the world within Bannon’s conceptual framework, his limited intellectual sphere.
The stage is Austria in March, 1986, in the midst of the presidential election when revelations come to light regarding candidate, and former UN General Secretary, Kurt Waldheim’s war-time record between 1941 and 1944 in Yugoslavia and Greece, whereby he is accused of possible involvement or at least having had knowledge of war crimes, including the deportation of Thessaloniki’s Jewish population—details that he conveniently chose to omit from his autobiography. Less concerned with establishing the facts and validity of these charges, Beckermann chooses rather to zero in sharply on Waldheim’s own dance around the truth, his waltz from one obfuscating statement to another, his shameful gaps in memory and frustratingly daft expressions of bewilderment when questioned by the media about the issue. Yet Beckermann’s indictment extends beyond the one man; her film is an interrogation of all of Austria, a country that, until then, sat comfortably and complacently in its illusionary role as the first victim of National Socialism with the Anschluss in 1938.
At a certain point I wanted to call the film “Waldheim’s Truth,” because for me it is a film about lying. So I thought this quote, and as Lincoln was also President, would fit perfectly. I mean, it is not the most original quote, it is very well known, but I wanted to give the audience from the beginning the idea that this was about lying. And it was always about that because I was not interested in his wartime record. I was interested in the way he behaved, in his denial, which is also Austria's denial.
What You Gonna Do When The World's On Fire? (Roberto Minervini)
[The] film, shot digitally in confrontative, high contrast black and white, gets close, very close, to his subjects, weaving together three separate stories of black Americans from New Orleans such that we’re aggressively faced with their strength, anger, fear and sorrow much more than with the details of their lives and homes. [...] WhatYou Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire? plunges into the thick of it, conjuring long histories of pain and anger engendered by American society and institutions—and conjured in the immediacy of those things blazing directly before our eyes. Any kind of cinematic distance would be an effective denial of the profound acuteness of subjects’ tenacity in the face of a fearful, deeply imbalanced existence in their home country.
Even though I’m not sure that we can say in the final analysis that it really is an Orson Welles picture, given that he didn’t edit it in its entirety—a distinction that’s especially important in his 70s work when his editing became increasingly hyperbolic and idiosyncratic—the film struck me as emblematic of both Welles’s late-career aesthetics and biography. For those rabid Welles fanatics like me who’ve been defending his late career for decades, the movie feels like a perfect realization of his vision—for better or worse—in all its audacity, unruly extravagance, and fascinating imperfection. [...] Watching the movie, I was reminded once again how Welles in his late stage forces us to approach him as an anomaly: like some rupture between alternate dimensions in a science fiction film. So much of the enjoyment of watching a movie like this—and coming back to it again and again, as I’m sure I will—derives from intellectual analysis rather than the emotional surrender that most well-made entertainments offer us. The movie may not have been entirely successful, but it was enormously fruitful.
The Wild Pear Tree proved immediately engrossing, like that wonderful experience of starting a hefty book late at night and finding oneself reading until dawn. Expanding upon Winter Sleep's conversation-heavy approach that signaled a shift in Ceylan's style towards discourse, his new film tells a story that one is more likely to find in American independent cinema, that of a young man transitioning from youth to adulthood in the limbo between school and life. [...] Ceylan gives us an impressively detailed, if occasionally ponderous portrait of a new generation of young men in Turkey, one unmoored from established positions and instead exhibiting a contradictory blend of impulses and beliefs.
Diamantino is an impressively permeable film, pivoting and shapeshifting from moment to moment, satire to satire, here scoring points about image culture and celebrity worship, there joshing with the footballer's ecstatic visions on the playing field of puppies scampering through cotton candy pink clouds of powder. This image is the film at its cutest and most extravagant, using unexpected special effects to again toy with our expectations for this kind of film (whatever kind of film this is!). For me, the irreverence eventually proved exhausting, especially as so many jokes, like Diamantino’s guest room pillows and sheets being adorned by his image, were one-off rather than expanded, elaborated and taken to new extremes. Yet for all the easy jokes made about an empty-headed footie god, Diamantino surprisingly elicits a great deal of compassion and feeling from its titular hero, from his pet kitten (“Mittens”) to his sex-free naïveté.
Transparently low budget, if not knowingly shabby in means yet precise in its dusky 16mm form, Fendt’s new film, like his previous works, employ the director’s friends as actors in deadpan and deceptively off-hand little moral stories, plotted as twenty-something Philly or suburban New Jerseyans might live out Rohmer’s tales. [...] As with Straub-Huillet, much pleasure and invigoration is supposed to come from the audience encountering a book or text, as well as encountering the presence of its unique interpretation as being read by a particular actor. Cal’s strange aspect as a free-floating repository of knowledge lends his readings the respectable air of monkishness, his character an ode to the gentleman scholar. But his quote-heavy manner, used as much for knowledge-drops as for humor by Fendt, also has the ability to become overbearing, stressing a life whose main reference points are the written word rather than the living world.
It’s something I always find annoying about films, what I find irritating about films, what I don’t like about films are those where I feel there’s a moment where the movie is very blatantly telling me how I should be feeling. It’s then easy to check how I’m feeling, and there’s always a gap. The bigger the gap between the two is a sign that its not working, that I should get out of the theatre, feeling defeated. I like this kind of openness and freedom to relate to the film how I will and I find that this is something I was trying to do. There’s very little audience direction in my films.
One could watch (and listen to) all this in the simple, gay pleasure of the playful and colorful abstract delights, but The Grand Bizarre’s flatness speaks volumes. It uses a world tour as a conduit to document and trace the beauty and language of textiles, their design, creation (by hand and by machine), sale, international movement, and cross-cultural infiltration. It sees, plays with, and integrates languages as similar traveling currency, complex articulations of base materials arranged to create and exchange meaning, and that meaning (and the base materials) changing in its meeting with other letters, words, and places. The direct analogy is made with the fabrics, and then with the 16mm film itself, all forms of communication at once aesthetic and transactional, and each with bountiful possibilities. Like many of Mack’s seemingly straight-forward short films, this feature has layers of depth literally woven into its surface.
Whatever my ideas were about these patterns, between textiles and music, it really came to be about the alienation of labor for me. What it meant to experience place through the lens of a filmmaking experience. What it means for people to have to work and to not be able to do whatever they want. These Marxist ideas for how there would be varying types of alienation for the laborer: from themselves, because they can’t spend their time how they want; from the people they know, because they can’t spend their time with them; from the product they are creating or selling because usually someone else is making the money from it, et cetera. To me, it became more about that. Alien nations and alienation, and what that means in terms of an individualistic identity vs. a dualistic identity.
Though it is of interest and merit to focus on the rural communities of Ohio, the question must be asked as to whether the film is really interested in the life of the people or if it just uses the place as a setting for a gnarly story about incest. Compared to some European films that are also not neo-realist but employ certain stylistic elements of the Italian cinema of the 1940s, such as Farrebique by Georges Rouquier, Mudar de Vida by Paulo Rocha or Déjà s'envole la fleur maigre by Paul Meyer, Spring Night, Summer Night does not really show the places the action takes place. It is not interested in the work of those people or how they relate to nature. [...] It is not enough to pick up dialects and use them in a script. One never has the feeling that the characters in the film play themselves. Instead they play a character invented by the director based on his observation and narrative.
was skeptical about another Bill Cunningham documentary. I mean, Richard Press’s Bill Cunningham: New York (2010) was so good, why would you even bother? Cunningham’s pretty charming, but he is, after all, a fairly insignificant figure—he was just a staff photographer for the Times, right? And indeed, the film does cover mostly the same ground as its predecessor. As an aesthetic object, admittedly, it’s not particularly imaginative. Director Mark Bozek presents us mostly with Cunningham’s voice and Cunningham’s images. And yet, surprisingly, I enjoyed and was moved by this movie more than by almost any of the other films I saw at the festivalbecause it gave us the portrait of a vibrant human intelligence.
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