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Entries in NYFF (105)


NYFF: Voilà... "The Walk"

Nathaniel reporting from NYFF 53 though this movie is now in IMAX theaters and next week wide for all y'all. This piece was original published in a shorter version in my column @ Towleroad

The Walk  begins in mid air with a jaunty circus-like score from composer Alan Silvestri accompanying the clouds. Our birds-eye view is quickly revealed as just above Manhattan, perched on no less a tourist icon than the Statue of Liberty. That we’re looking at something purely presentational is abundantly clear as crinkly-eyed Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes his first appearance, smiling and speaking directly to the camera. And he speaks with a cartoon French accent to boot. (To be fair to JGL, many real French people sound like cartoon people when they speak English. This is meant as a compliment because who doesn’t love cartoons and/or French accents?). What’s more, at least to these only super-marginally trained ears (I watch a lot of French movies and I took French in high school –that’s the extent of it!) JGL’s actual French sounds impeccable in his subtitled scenes with French co-stars.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt's adorableness can be so distracting? Is that why filmmakers keep trying to make him look not so much like Joseph Gordon-Levitt? We already know he can sing / dance / act and in this film he juggles and wirewalks and speaks fluent French. Is there anything he can’t do? 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s adorableness can be so distracting! Let’s get back on topic...

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NYFF: 10 Best Things About "Carol" (First Impressions)

Todd Haynes' highly anticipated Carol screened a week ago for NYFF press and I immediately began marking time P.C. "POST CAROL". It was that impactful. For something that appears so delicate it breaks with immeasurable force. Carol recounts the relationship between a posh 40something society wife (Cate Blanchett), no stranger to lesbian affairs, and a curious 20something photographer/shopgirl (Rooney Mara) who has never been in love. Haynes's sixth feature is one of his best and thus both a marvel and a relief since he had gone AWOL from movie screens for eight years. The film which began the long drought, I'm Not There, is the only one that this longtime Haynes fanatic doesn't cherish.

Herewith 10 favorite things (in no particular order) about Carol right after meeting her. This infatuation is too potent to think clearly at this point for a traditional review. A word of caution: exciting first dates don't always lead to fullblown rewarding relationships but this one appears to be a (celluloid) romance for the long haul. 

1. Gifts & Gift-Wrapping
We like to think of final quarter movies as "gifts" since so much of awards season is centered around the holidays. This one is beautifully wrapped (the production values are breathtaking on literally every level) and even better once you start tearing the careful packaging apart to see what it's gifted you with. Carol also takes place during Christmas just like Tangerine so in one single cinematic year we've received the best Lesbian Christmas movie and the best Trans Christmas movie. How about that? More...

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NYFF: Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words

Manuel, adding a belated capper to our Ingrid Bergman centennial coverage. While I’m well-versed on Streep, Davis, Hepburn, and other towering female stars, Bergman has always eluded me. It is my one big actressexual blindspot. Is it because she’s effortlessly aloof, somehow always beyond my grasp?

When I wrote about Cactus Flower and that amazing dance sequence, I realized the only other film of hers I’d watched is (obviously) Casablanca. So, when I saw the New York Film Festival would be screening Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words, well, I couldn’t deny myself the pleasure of taking Bergman 101, a general survey of the actress crafted out of Bergman’s own letters and diaries (hence the title) and made up mostly of her own home videos. You get to see a young Isabella Rossellini, a bumbling Hitchcock, and Rossellini playing papa to his young kids, and even Ingrid’s very first “no makeup” screen test; I’m sure they had to add the qualifier because those deep red lips popped even in black and white.

I’m unsure how the film plays for those who know everything about the mythic beginnings of that enigmatic Swedish star, all the gossip surrounding her banishment from Hollywood (and her triumphant return), and who can trace the history of cinema by tracking the star’s own move from small national markets to Hollywood to Europe and back again, all the while gracing the stage in Italy, France, the West End and Broadway. But for those of us uninitiated -- or at the very least, not well-versed -- in Bergman, this was a treat, particularly paired with so many home movies that showcase not only her great eye. As her daughter Ingrid says, while most families have as many home tapes as them, Bergman’s were never boring, and you can see in her obsession with recording her visits with her kids an attempt to capture moments that were always much too short and fleeting. 

Much like Bernstein’s look at his mother Nora Ephron (boy what is it with mothers at this festival!), Stig Björkman’s film is not really interested in hagiography; frank conversations with her children paint a picture of an ambitious woman who did everything and anything she needed (and wanted!) to do what she wanted to do above all: be in front of the camera, in many cases at the expense of her children and her marriages. Pia Lindström, her daughter from her first marriage, is asked at one point whether there’ll one day be a Mommie Dearest book about Bergman. Oh no, she says, I can’t imagine that ever happening. She was always so loving. If anything, we all just wanted more of her.

Ingrid Bergman - In Her Own Words plays Monday October 5th and Tuesday October 6th.



NYFF: Microbe & Gasoline

Here's Jason reporting from NYFF on Michel Gondry's latest film.

I've always been fascinated by, in this modern day-and-age of super handy internet pornography (ha ha handy), the cartoonish sort you'll sometimes stumble upon online - with access to the billions upon billions of pixelated private parts available at the click of a mouse just who's getting off to this hand-drawn stuff? Michel Gondry offers up the answer with Microbe & Gasoline, and of course it had to be Michel Gondry. The best known purveyor of cinematic hand-stitched whimsy, who's turned everything from dreams to clouds to memory itself into tactile seeming sensations, would want to get his mitts smudged with the detailing of wank-book pencil lines. 

This isn't as odd an entry point into Microbe & Gasoline as it might seem at first blush. The film, which tells the tale of the bloom and blossom of friendship between two teenage outsider princes, their crowns two matching heads of thick provincial locks, is somewhat obsessed with body functions, as teenage boys are prone to. It's not just getting laid (although that is there too, waving wildly) - it's haircuts and bathroom stops and strangers (putting the strange in stranger danger) wanting to caress your molars.

But then Gondry is our tightrope practitioner of phantasmagorical practicality - when he soars, he soars along a surface of scratches and knicks and splintered wooden beams. Whereas somebody like Christopher Nolan will go out of his way to scrub the surface of his imagination into a flat gleaming cube, inscrutably too scrutable, Gondry's gonna flip that mirror over and get to work on its underbelly, hammer in hand, nails in teeth.

It doesn't always work! It hasn't really worked in awhile, save moments here and there - I liked bits of Mood Indigo but it always felt like somebody else's story, too dour by several degrees. And don't get me started on The We and the I, which felt like being trapped in an echo chamber of humiliation and teenage horror which I hardly made it through - Gondry can almost be too generous a soul, allowing his folks to tip far too far towards screech instead of sing. Microbe & Gasoline though, it works. He keeps himself in check - the whimsy bumps and chugs along the road with precision-crafted engineering, and his two lead actors have an endearingly low-key rapport. It's his best film since Eternal Sunshine.

Microbe & Gasoline is screening at the New York Film Festival on Sunday, October 4 and Monday, October 5.


NYFF: The wonderful absurdities of "The Lobster"

About five disorienting minutes into The Lobster, all pretense of disorientation for disorientation's sake is stripped flatly away as the headmistress of the hotel (a terrific Olivia Colman) where Colin Farrell's character has found himself lays out the movie's premise. And oh how small the word "premise" seems in relation to what The Lobster has up its sleeve: Singletons will be turned into an animal (meaning a literal non-human creature) if they cannot find a mate in an ordained amount of time! 

It's a moment as surprising as it is funny (her notion of what is and what isn't absurd is the definition of absurd itself). While director Yorgos Lanthimos' previous films Dogtooth and Alps both reveled in their inscrutable rules, forcing the audience to pick up the fragments of what's offered and chase behind the film, trying to cram them together, everybody in The Lobster instead can't stop telling us exactly how this insane world works ("Didn't you read the guidebook?" is asked multiple times), and the more they lay it out the funnier and funnier it all gets.

And The Lobster is a very very funny film, seemingly finding all new ways to be funny that have never been found funny before - I wouldn't want to spoil its dark surprises but let's just say some of its punchlines got several audience members at my screening up on their feet and right out the door with madcap quickness. 

But for all of its laugh-out-loud cynicism about the way our own world works, refracted through the not-so-fun-house mirrors of how its own world works, Lanthimos' film has a heart, maybe black but beating hard, under its strange shape. He manages to make the old-fashioned obstacles of another sad love story hum with newness, scraping the gunk off romance and holding this bright shiny new thing high and proud. It's a marvel, like nothing else, singular from every single stupefying angle.

Alchemy will distribute The Lobster in the US. No date has been announced. For previous posts on the Lobster click here. Follow Jason on Twitter and read his blog MNPP


NYFF: The Forbidden Room

How can you knock the chance to watch Udo Kier have multiple brain surgeries for his derriere dependence? Or the shot to experience the languid afterlife of a few stray mustache hairs? And what about the opportunity to contemplate the oxygen levels of flapjacks? You really can't, and Guy Maddin's latest ode to the ticklish underbelly of film archival offers all of that and more, so very very much much more. The Forbidden Room presents itself as a series of nested-doll silent films, fanning in and out of each other at rhythm's whim, and structurally it's audacious stuff with a trance-like atmosphere. You hear the drums, drums against the air, you feel the drums, you feel the air. There simply is nothing else like this, no other movie experience that will roll you around under and inside of this exact dream.

Perhaps the closest thing I've experienced, the most similar singular sensation, (besides other bits of Maddin's own work, of course) was portions of David Lynch's Inland Empire, but Maddin is Lynch's looser trickster double - Guy will always reach for the fart joke if handy. The Forbidden Room is ultimately too much of a too-much-thing, but also like Inland Empire its mind-numbing length and, uh, girth, is intentional - how better to sand off the edges of your audience's eye-line and sink them truly and completely under your spell? The outside world, like centenarian film-stock, dissolves in acid-hued pools right around you. Outside world? What outside world? We are all film down here. And by the time you stumble out of The Forbidden Room you're probably gonna be seeing inter-titles when you try to speak.

The Forbidden Room -- Teaser 02 from Guy Maddin on Vimeo.


The Forbidden Room opens in extremely limited release in one week



NYFF: Julianne Moore in "Maggie's Plan"

Manuel here with your weekly reminder that Julianne Moore is an Academy Award Winner.


Rebecca Miller's Maggie's Plan plays like a New York City screwball comedy with a Jane Austen protagonist at its center. If all of those elements feel like they would pull the film in opposite directions, you would be correct. Greta Gerwig is Maggie, a Gerwig-type gal too busy trying to match-make and keep everything within neat little plans to notice what’s right in front of her. Maggie, you see, wants to have a baby by herself, a plan that like many of the ones she cooks up throughout the film, goes awry when she falls for a married man (Ethan Hawke) whose brilliant, ice-cold wife Georgette (a bonkers accented Julianne Moore) is making him horribly miserable. That’s the basic premise. Or, perhaps, “everyone is self-absorbed, impossibly verbose, and in some sort of marital disarray” is just as good a summary for Miller’s film.

Miller, who you may know as “the writer-director of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee” (or even as “Lady Day-Lewis”), has a knack for skewering the pompous urbanity of New Yorkers and much of the comedy in Maggie’s Plan is derived from putting these characters in awkward situations their loquaciousness cannot solve. This is a world where people are “pickle entrepreneurs,” specialize in Ficto-Critical Anthropology, suggest the word like “is a language condom,” and rejoice when they hear Slavoj Žižek will be attending a conference in Canada. Gerwig, Hawke and especially Moore do a great job of walking the thin line between satirizing and humanizing these characters, though Miller’s script sometimes strains for credulity, her characters at once too childish and too self-aware to make many of the choices they make, like write an autobiographical academic book about the affair that destroyed their marriage to a promising anthropologist who’s intent on writing a continuously ballooning mess of a novel.

Thus, while the overall plotting is a bit off (Maggie is compared to Titania, Shakespeare’s meddling fairy Queen, though she’s closer to Austen’s clueless protagonists in the way she approaches relatively simple endeavors with needless complexity), it gives these performers some howlers to milk. Moore in particular finds ways of making lines like “No one upends commodity fetishism like you do!” have you double over in laughter. Part of it is her Danish accent. Part of it is her pineapple-like hairstyle. And part of it is the withering looks she gives as she spouts her dialogue in contempt: “There’s something so pure in you. And stupid” she says to Maggie at one point.

 And so, while there’s plenty to enjoy in Maggie’s Plan, including wonderful bit parts by Maya Rudolph and Bill Hader as Maggie’s bickering married friends, it’s all ultimately a bit too precious. But know this: you haven’t really lived until you’ve seen Julianne Moore faceplant while walking in the snow only to later whimper: “Are we going to die here?!”

 Maggie’s Plan plays NYFF on Sunday October 4th (with Miller, Gerwig, Moore, Hawke, Rudolph, and Travis Fimmel in person) and Monday October 5th (with Miller in person). Sony Pictures Classics will release Maggie's Plan though a date has yet to be determined.