"The American Film Institute's decision to transform its venerable fall film showcase (October 30 - November 7) from a paid event into a gratis one is an unprecedented gesture for a festival of this size and stature," writes Scott Foundas, who adds that, "depending on where you stand, AFI's free festival arrives at one of the best or one of the worst moments for the health of 'indie' movies." Talking with AFI Fest artistic director Rose Kuo and newly appointed programming director Robert Koehler, the LA Weekly film editor turns up more questions, such as: How do you charges like the one the New York Times' AO Scott leveled at the New York Film Festival, that is, in a word, "festivalism"?
Or in other words, "how to challenge an audience without alienating them?" Scott Foundas: "How, in Koehler's case, for a passionate champion of radical and avant-garde filmmaking (his 'certain kind of cinema' in a nutshell) to program a festival with movies that Joe the Plumber might also want to see? As Koehler himself puts it, it all comes down to 'finding a balance of tendencies, of kinds of films. You certainly want to avoid both a vanilla drift toward the middle on the one hand, and you also want to avoid an ideological purity that veers on the obnoxious on the other.' To these eyes, this year's AFI Fest lineup walks that tightrope ably."
You may remember Koehler's byline in Variety; he's no longer a reviewer for the trade, but that is where you'll find a fresh profile of him by FX Feeney.
Back in LA Weekly, you'll find a slew of AFI Fest capsule previews, Scott Foundas's interviews with Pedro Costa (Ne change rien; NYFF entry) and Maren Ade (Everyone Else; NYFF entry), his notes on "two standout films already disqualified from this year's Oscar race before it has even begun," Lu Chuan's City of Life and Death and Jean van de Velde's The Silent Army, and FX Feeney's preview of the shorts on offer.
This year, for the first time, the festival is blogging. AFI Fest Daily News, edited by Doug Cummings, is a source not only of practical news (screening schedules and the like) but also of some pretty engaging original content, such as Debra Levine's interview with Frederick Wiseman (La Danse).
Mike Everleth highlights a few underground selections and LACMA's Bernardo Rondeau picks five titles he's looking forward to.
To New York, where the BAMcinématek series 1962: New York Film Critics Circle rolls on through November 9. "An amazing year," sighs J Hoberman, midway through his terrific overview in the Voice. "Had I but known." In the New Yorker, David Denby recommends Sam Peckinpah's Ride the High Country.
"More than 25 movies rescued from the ravages of time and neglect will be featured in this year's edition of To Save and Project, the Museum of Modern Art's annual festival of recently preserved films." Dave Kehr's overview for the New York Times is also an appreciation. Through November 16.
The Viennale is on through Wednesday. Besides his first dispatch for The Auteurs, Neil Young has also posted rankings for the many, many films he's caught at his own Jigsaw Lounge. For reports in German, turn to Lukas Foerster at Cargo; in French, Antoine Thirion in Independencia.
The exhibition Roman Polański. Actor. Director is drawing international crowds to the Muzeum Kinematografii in Lódz, reports Stephane Alonso for Spiegel Online: "Curator Krystyna Zamyslowska is happy with the success, but is also concerned about it. 'It seems as if we are jumping on current affairs,' she says. 'Nonsense. You don't organise an exhibit like this at a moment's notice. This took two years of hard work.' With the cooperation of the director, who opened his personal archive for the exhibit. Polanski never saw the end result."
Andy Horbal's laid out his schedule for Pittsburgh's Three Rivers Film Festival (November 6 through 21).
Via Toronto J-Film Pow-Wow comes news of Image Forum's Takashi Ito retrospective, running November 28 through December 11, and a two-disc region-free DVD.
"A superior British film about John Lennon's teenage years that smartly avoids the usual pitfalls of music bio-pics, Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy proved a fitting climax to this year's London Film Festival, which ended last night," writes... well, someone at the Telegraph. More from Ray Bennett (Hollywood Reporter), Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Dave (Film Experience), Fionnuala Halligan (Screen), Wendy Ide (Times) and Guy Lodge (In Contention).
Sight & Sound's LFF roundups: 1 and 2.
The Guardian wraps with a photo gallery; here's their special section. And the Times'.
So what will Londoners do now? One option would be "the first UK exhibition of the two-screen and multi-screen works of revered German filmmaker Harun Farocki" at Raven Row, November 19 through February 7, 2010.