ORIGINAL POST: 9/15 – It’s 6:30 am, I just got three hours of sleep on a four and a half hour bus ride, and I’m writing this next to man I’ve vaguely met before snoring on the couch I’m meant to be sleeping on. Definitely feels like New York Film Festival, my annual period of resting awkwardly on friends’ couches between periods of rushing to see as many films as I can.
My festival experience has certainly been different from most critics’ in the past. For the past three years my purview has been limited by only having a week at the festival, an unfortunate setback of still having college classes to devote myself to. Now, though, with my workload and responsibilities significantly loosened, I can attend nearly every film at the festival, with the only real limiting factor being how many I actually want to see. As I arrived in the early hours of Tuesday morning, it hit me that perhaps I don’t have an urge to see Journey to the Shore, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s follow-up to Real, his ironically artificial film that played the 2013 festival.
What’s more, I’m not seeing many of the festival’s gala screenings or world premieres. It seems irrational for everyone to be rushing to catch The Walk, Steve Jobs and Bridge of Spies when each will be released nationwide nearly a week after screening. That’s admittedly not stopping me from excitedly catching up with Guy Maddin’s The Forbidden Room, Hou Hsiou Hsien’s The Assassin or John Crowley’s much adored Brooklyn. I will be seeing closing night film, Miles Ahead, an intriguing proposition as it’s Don Cheadle’s directorial debut, but not one I’m waiting in bated breathe over.
All the films listed below are films I plan to see over the festival’s four weeks of press screenings, not counting rush ticket impulse buys. There are some I’m more starved to see than others – Hello Carol – but I’m not seeing anything I have no interest in or hope for, so that’s comforting. I’ll be posting full reviews once the festival proper starts on September 25th, but until then I’ll regularly post my tweet-length responses here (I am admittedly stealing from Nick Davis’ format, but being succinct in my hot-take responses isn’t an ill approach to emulate).
Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One (Gomes; B+) Chaos is my life! Call for socio-politically conscious communal storytelling. Restless activity amid deprivation. (Full Review)
Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One (Gomes; A-) Melancholy cycles seize Gomes’ less frenzied, yet richer, expansively intimate stories. Joy is but a ghost (dog). (Full Review)
<Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One (Gomes; B+) Be silent; you’ll be happier. Joyous grasp of music & beauty, till abused for hegemonic dominance. Listen & love.
<Bridge of Spies (Spielberg; B/+) No congratulatory political exercise. Acute, intelligent inquiry of legal/cultural ignorance in crisply polarized times
Carol (Haynes; A) Queer love as bright song penetrating the dark. Disarmingly casual in wit, passion, and loving attention to bodies amid barriers.
<Cemetery of Splendour (Weerasethakul; B/-) Sedate, too easily decipherable reality v. Enchanting, rarely accessed dreamscape. Delightfully strange ending had me.
De Palma (Baumbach/Paltrow; B+) Knowledge of oeuvre unnecessary. Honest, universal testament to fascinating, permanent imperfections of films & their makers.
<Don’t Blink: Robert Frank (Israel; C+) Does any shot last more than one second? Rapid, out-of-step condensation that should be a patient microcosm.
Everything Is Copy (Bernstein; C+/B-) Typically kindhearted bio-doc. Compassionate focus on Nora Ephron’s fierce, combative need for control. Sweet, funny, fine.
Experimenter (Almereyda; C/-) Rambling, inert monologue of life as experiment, more interested in thesis than subjects. Wouldn’t slow for contemplation.
The Forbidden Room (Johnson/Maddin; B+) Digitally convulsive celluloid orgy of transformations, deformity & transcendence. A gorgeously daft fever patchwork.
Heart of a Dog (L.Anderson; B) Inquisitive, conflicted psychological patchwork of memory, death & their distortions. Adorable, unfocused, heartrending.
In Jackson Heights (Wiseman; A-) Zero passivity, all fight portrait of community’s action for free expression & prosperity. Solidarity AND activism.
In the Shadow of Women (Garrel; B+) Garrel’s intuitive framing & lighting applied to rich self-satire. No privilege/double-standard goes unquestioned.
Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words (Bjorkman; B) Title’s a fib, and Bjorkman’s amateur in construction, but both Ingrid and her family’s voices are full of warmth, wit, irregularity & insight.
Les Cowboys (Bidegain; C+) West floods into east, and vice-versa. Blunt masculinity turns to forced ethnic empathy. Viewed through Audiard glasses, but not his eyes.
<The Lobster (Lanthimos; A-) Deliriously funny, hopeful, aching extrapolation of love, devotion and the damaging(ly unacknowledged?) lapses between.
<Maggie’s Plan (Miller; C+/B-) Warm, Funny, Gerwig’s genuine and Moore’s a riot, but insufferably formulaic, artificial & affluent white people problems
Microbe & Gasoline (Gondry; C+/B-) “To the dignity and comfort of my balls.” KINGS OF SUMMER by way of boyish, French DIY road trip. As sweet & amusing as its devaluing of women is frustrating.
Minotaur (Pereda; A-) Mexican Days: The Indolent One. By turns restless, enchanted & desolate. Excitingly vast portrait of debilitating interiority.
Mountains May Depart (Zhang-ke; B) Explosive opulence fades to moving emotional poverty. 3rd act strains believability, but melodrama suits Jia well. (Full Review)
My Golden Days (Desplechin; B+) Pure, autumnal romanticism. Too joyously engorged to sustain, yet still bright and bold in its crisp collapse.
No Home Movie (Akerman; B-) Physically turbulent with unfocused conversations. Still finds potency in moments of extreme intimacy & harsh separation.
Right Now, Wrong Then (Sang-soo; B) One drunk affair in two keys. One awkward, artificial, manipulative. The other honest, self-effacing, tender.
Shorts Program 1: International (Misc.; C+/B-) By turns unmotivated & thematically obvious. MAREA DE TIERRA lingers most w/vivid texture & intimacy.
Shorts Program 2: Genre (Misc.; D) Bludgeoning displays of hack-some violence & defenseless women. Best, long take revenge trip RAMONA, comes too late.
The Sky Trembles and the Earth is Afraid and the Two Eyes are Not Brothers (Rivers; B-) Appropriating body made reflective, till bare beauty is seen. A mystifying trip, if a trying one. Most reliable takeaway is gorgeous interplay of sand, sky and tin
Steve Jobs (Boyle; C-) “Sounds good; doesn’t mean anything.” Way to self-shade Sorkin. Ear-splitting collection of words/images. Senseless exhaust.
The Treasure (Porumbiou; B) Porumboiu’s coolly placid surfaces tough to engage, but modern economic subversion of fable narrative delightfully ironic.