Thoughts on 39th New York Film Festival

Pascal A

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The 39th annual New York Film Festival is currently underway (9/28-10/14). The features films are listed here , in case anyone is interested. Here are my initial impressions on Saturday's line-up:
What Time Is It There? (Tsai Ming-Liang) - So far, the hightlight of the festival for me. Tsai returns to his familiar themes of alienation and longing, but forgoes the pervasive bleakness of The River, and returns to the eccentric whimsy of The Hole. What emerges is an incredibly touching, albeit darky comical, view of love and missed connection, as Hsiao Kang (Tsai regular, Lee Kang-sheng) pines for Paris resident Shiang-Chyi (Chen Shiang-chyi) by setting all the clocks in Taipei to Paris time.
I'm Going Home (Manoel de Oliveira) – A very admirable effort from nonagenarian director de Oliveira, about an aging actor (the great Michel Piccoli) attempting to reconcile with his own mortality and fading talent.
Warm Water Under a Red Bridge (Shohei Imamura) - Fairly lightweight, but amusing, insightful, irreverent, and quintessentially idiosyncratic Imamura. Imamura's well-documented penchant for vital, "juicy" women takes on a literal meaning when a local fisherman Yosuke becomes obsessed with a woman who has an odd, sexually-related physiological problem. Not a bad way to become familiar with Imamura's later works.
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Bill McA

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Pascal
That's great news concerning What Time Is It There? as I absolutely loved Ming-Liang's The Hole, the only film of his that I've seen...
Warm Water Under A Red Bridge sounds interesting

I have seen most of Imamura's works since Vengeance Is Mine (excluding Eijanaika & Zegen) and have quite enjoyed them all...but I did find Narayama very distressing and it actually gave me nightmares!
I wish I could see some of his older works. I couldn't afford to attend that Cinematheque Ontario retrospective a few years back.
Too bad that you are not seeing Mulholland Drive, I would love to hear your views on David Lynch!
Waiting for next week's update...(why the aversion to The Son's Room??
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Ted Todorov

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To cover the movies not mentioned by Pascal:
The opening night feature, Jacques Rivette’s Va Savoir (Who Knows) was pure joy. Chronicling the round robin romantic and familial entanglements of six people in Paris, it centers around the theater as do many of Rivette’s movies. In this case, it is an Italian theater company, performing a play by Pirandelo. It is very difficult to describe a Rivette movie to someone who hasn’t seen one. On the surface Va Savoir seems like a relatively conventional film. But the effect it produces by the end I can only describe as the kind of high one expects get from a bottle of very, very good Champagne, not a mere movie. For more eloquent reviews see: http://www.panix.com/~dangelo/TONYtemp.html (scroll to the bottom) and http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/28/movies/28SAVO.html
Va Savoir was been released commercially on Saturday, at least in New York.
Todd Solondz’s latest provocation…I mean movie, Storytelling was very funny and indeed easier to enjoy than his previous two movies. It consists of two parts: Fiction and Non-Fiction that are not related to each other except with the shared theme. Again for those who wish to read more see: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/29/movies/29STOR.html
There is one element about Storytelling that is guaranteed to cause much debate here and elsewhere when the movie is released: there is one scene which is censored with a huge red rectangle (in Solondz’s words, “what one of Stalin’s commissars might put up on the screen”). Solondz, during the post movie Q & A explained that it was there to get an R-Rating and he had insisted that the movie not be cut but censored through such rectangles and/or bleeping so that the American audience could be made aware of what the rest of the world is allowed to see, but they are not. My comment: ironically two of the other movies I just saw at the NYFF: What Time is it There & Warm Water Under a Red Bridge were just as MPAA unfriendly when it came to prolonged thrusting (you figure it out), but having indie distributors who don’t insist on an R-Rating, they came through uncut. Also two other upcoming NYFF movies Fat Girl & Intimacy are much more explicit and will presumably also remain uncut. Frankly, I’m totally puzzled by what was going through the “minds” of the execs at New Line – having, one hopes, seen Solondz’s previous movies and read the Storytelling script, what exactly did they expect???
One general comment about this year’s NY Film Festival – due to the WTC attack it is very easy to get tickets for all shows, even the “sold out” ones, so if you are in the area, don’t hesitate to avail yourself to seeing great movies on the huge screen and participating in illuminating and lengthy director/cast Q & As.
Ted
 

Pascal A

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One general comment about this year's NY Film Festival – due to the WTC attack it is very easy to get tickets for all shows, even the "sold out" ones, so if you are in the area, don't hesitate to avail yourself to seeing great movies on the huge screen and participating in illuminating and lengthy director/cast Q & As.
Hmm...that's good to know. I was told that Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums and David Lynch's Mulholland Drive were both sold out. It may be worth trekking to NY next Saturday then. I wanted to see Youssef Chahine's Silence, We're Rolling anyway.
By the way Bill, I guess I overstated my lack of interest in The Son's Room.
I was neutral on Caro Diario, and since this film has already been picked up by Miramax, I know that I will have other opportunities to see it. I guess, I'm more passive about this film than an actual aversion.
I do have tickets for Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou-Chou and Patrice Chereau's Intimacy for 10/13, which I'm also looking forward to.
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Ted Todorov

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Lots of tickets are being sold out front for current and future shows. We were even offered free tickets to go to the Tavern On The Green party on opening night, but my girlfriend was to sleepy and I didn't feel like mingling with movie stars on my own. There have been empty seats at every show so far, including opening night -- we moved from our nose bleeds to the center of the orchestra.
Truth be told, I have never had a problem buying tickets for sold out movies before the show other, better attended, years. I buy in advance, but sometimes extra friends come along, etc. The key is not to bother with "standby" lines but to position yourself, money in hand in a spot where people approaching the theater pass by -- there's always someone selling tickets (back when tickets were $10 it was very simple -- you just held up a $10 bill.) The only "impossible" movie tickets are to the annual French Film Festival at the Walter Reade where tickets do not get bought far in advance (except by me
) so there are far fewer no shows and lots of demand. I practically started a fight on the standby line selling one ticket this year.
Ted
 

Ted Todorov

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If Italian For Beginners (seen last night) were any more charming one would suspect it is a Miramax release. Wait, it IS a Miramax release. But really, don’t hold it against it.
The latest Dogme 95 certified (natural light only, no added music, no editing tricks, etc.) Danish film is a (mostly) light hearted comedy about a group of small town Danes, their Italian class & romantic entanglements. It is very funny and does not have any of the “This is a movie!” contrivance of the latest Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks romantic comedy. Just because it is lighthearted, doesn’t mean it can’t honestly deal with everything from death to bad manners. Recommended.
A couple of the shorts seen so far are worth mentioning: Gourmet Baby from Singapore about a middle aged uncle who borrows his niece to be his dining companion is a must see for any food lover (or movie lover, for that matter). It is also a very realistic look at growing up.
Swimming Out To Holly is a gorgeous cinemascope look at how we see ourselves vs. how we appear to others.
Next up: The Night of the Hunter
Ted
 

Pascal A

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Thanks for the insight on Italian for Beginners, Ted. I must admit, every time I see a Dogme 95 certification, I head for the back of the theater in case of either: 1) exploitation of an overused gimmick, or 2) extreme nausea

quote: The key is not to bother with "standby" lines but to position yourself, money in hand in a spot where people approaching the theater pass by -- there's always someone selling tickets...[/quote]
Umm...wasn't this the pickup scenario in Exotica?
If I get arrested for solicitation, I'm naming you as my accomplice.

Seriously though, I'll try your tactic to see if I can scrounge up some tickets to Saturday's shows, especially The Royal Tenenbaums. I just realized that I have a three day weekend coming up, so the timing is ideal.
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[Edited last by Pascal A on October 03, 2001 at 05:14 PM]
 

Ted Todorov

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I am going to the Saturday (Midnight show) of the Royal... as well as the noon Blue Wild Angel at the Walter Reade (that's the Jimi Hendrix docu -- I'm really eager to see it) and the 8PM Mulholland Drive -- all in all my craziest day at the fest. I had planned to see TRT on Friday, but that show was sold out when I got my tickets.
{about Dogme 95} 2) extreme nausea
I know what you mean, but the camera movement in this case was restrained.
Ted
 

Ted Todorov

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Best movie at the NYFF so far (out of an unusually strong bunch) Y Tu Mama Tambien (And your mama, too). For the more eloquent review see: http://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/06/movies/06MAMA.html
This is a road trip/passage to adulthood movie involving two just out of high school Mexican boys and a (slightly) older woman. The movie is very, very funny, startlingly well acted and has far more to say about life and the human condition than many, many serious and over praised dramas ever have or will.
The good news is that Y Tu Mama Tambien has a distributor. The bad news is that the said distributor (according to the director, writer, and two lead actors who were present at the NYFF screening) will insist on a R rating which IMHO will render this freewheeling, steamy film unwatchable. The filmmakers joked that the US version will be just the trailer, or at most twenty minutes long. This NYFF is a vivid illustration of the infantalization of what we are allowed to see in the US courtesy of the MPAA. Yes, true indies are allowed to distribute unrated material (the studios, being MPAA signatories are not), but unfortunately the reality is that in most cases the choice is cutting the movie or not having it released in the US in any form. For those of you out there who missed the NYFF screenings, the best hope for Y Tu Mama Tambien will be a (probably non R1) DVD release. And it is worth going to any length to see it – if not the year’s best picture, definitely in the top 3.
The short films at this NYFF have also been exceptionally strong, and I saw yet another great one this weekend: Music for One Apartment and Six Drummers -- http://us.imdb.com/Title?0283326
I don’t know how you can see it, but if you can – run, don’t walk to the next screening.
Ted
 

Pascal A

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Two more films this weekend:
Silence...We're Rolling (Youssef Chahine) - I've only seen Chahine's semi autobiographical Alexandria Trilogy (Alexandria..Why?, An Egyptian Story, Alexandria, Again and Forever), but I was aware of his great reputation as a storyteller, so I was looking forward to the film. Like An Egyptian Story, there is an interweaving of reality and fiction. Although Silence…We’re Rolling is likeable and well done, it plays more as an homage to lost cinema (specifically, the musical), rather than the simple, yet deeply personal stories that have made his films great.
The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson) - I can't say that I had great expectations out of this film, especially since it already seemed to be destined for success with its ensemble power cast. However, while I found it to be a good effort, it was far from perfect either. The film seems to suffer from a deeply entrenched malaise (particularly symptomatic of American independent films of the past 10-15 years) that dysfunctionality should be played to the hilt, and is attempting to be a little too clever and unnecessarily convoluted in structure for my taste. Worth seeing, but probably won't make my top 10 for the year.
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Pascal A

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Two more films from the closing weekend:
All About Lily Chou Chou (Shunji Iwai) - Another exceptional film from Shunji Iwai. A very intelligent and well conceived modern drama on a fictional pop singer's effect on the disaffected and impersonal online youth culture. Much like the marginalized immigrant society (and pop band), Yentown, in Iwai's earlier film, Swallowtail Butterfly, Lily becomes the embodiment of all the hopes, dreams, and tragedies of her alienated audience. Very well done.
Imtimacy (Patrice Chereau) – Posssibly Chereau's best, and certainly one of his most emotionally rich films on the complexity of modern relationships, Intimacy is a provocative and intelligent film that revolves around an anonymous, and increasingly obsessive love affair between two people. The film confronts difficult issues on love, carnality, fidelity, trust, and emotional intimacy. A brilliant film - another festival standout.
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