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Thread: New York Film Festival 2015

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    New York Film Festival 2015



    Click here for Filmleaf NYFF 2015 comments thread. (Opening night now moved to September 26.)

    Links to reviews:

    Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One/As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 1, O Inquieto (Miguel Gomes 2015)
    Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One/As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 2, O Desolado (Miguel Gomes 2015)
    Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One/As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 3, O Encantado" (Miguel Gomes 2015)
    Assassin/刺客聶隱娘 (Hou Hsiao-hsien 2015)
    Bridge of Spies (Steven Spielberg 2015)
    Brooklyn (John Crowley 2015)
    Carol (Todd Haynes 2015)
    Cemetery of Splendor (Apichatpong Weerasethekul 2015)
    Cowboys, Les (Thomas Bidegain 2015)
    De Palma (Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow 2015)
    Don't Blink - Robert Frank (Laura Israel 2015)
    Experimenter, The (Michael Almereyda 2015)
    Forbidden Room, The (Guy Madden, Evan Johnson 2015)
    Heart of a Dog (Laurie Anderson 2015)
    Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch 1943) - Revivals
    In the Shadow of Women/L'Ombre des femmes (Philippe Garrel 2015)
    Ingrid Bergman in Her Own Words/Jag är Ingrid (Stig Björkman 2015) - Documentary section
    Journey to the Shore (Kiyoshi Kurosawa 2015)
    Lobster, The (Yorgos Lanthimos 2015)
    Maggie's Plan (Rebecca Miller 2015)
    Measure of a Man, The/La loi du marché 2015)
    Mia Madre/My Mother (Nanni Moretti 2015)
    Microbe and Gasoline/Microbe et gasoil (Michel Gondry 2015)
    Miles Ahead (Don Cheadle 2015)
    Mountains May Depart/山河故人, (Jia Zhangke 2015)
    My Golden Days/Trois souvenirs de ma jeunesse (Arnaud Desplechin 2015)
    No Home Movie (Chantal Ackerman 2015)
    Right Then, Wrong Now/지금은맞고그때는틀리다 (Hong Sang-soo 2015)
    Rocco and His Brothers/Rocco e i suoi fratelli (Luchino Visconti 1960) - Revivals section
    Son of Saul/Saul fia (László Nemes 2015)
    Steve Jobs (Danny Boyle 2015)
    Treasure, The/Comoara (Cornelieu Porumboliu 2015)
    Walk, The (Robert Zemeckis 2015)
    Where to Invade Next (Michael Moore 2015)
    Witness, The (James Soloman 2015)

    Opening, centerpiece, and closing night films.

    ===============================

    Robert Zemeckis’s The Walk will make its World Premiere as the Opening Night selection of the upcoming 53rd New York Film Festival (September 25 – October 11), which will kick off at Alice Tully Hall. A true story, the film is based on Philippe Petit’s memoir To Reach the Clouds and stars Golden Globe nominee Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit, the French high-wire artist who achieved the feat of walking between the Twin Towers in 1974.

    ===============================

    Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs is this year's centerpiece selection. Steve Jobs stars Michael Fassbender in the title role, Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld, and Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan.

    ===============================

    Don Cheadle's Miles Ahead has been selected for the closing night film.In the film, Cheadle, who also co-wrote the script, stars as the legendary Miles Davis opposite Emayatzy Corinealdi and Ewan McGrego.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-29-2016 at 06:35 PM.

  2. #2
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    The 53rd New York Film Festival Main Slate

    Opening Night
    The Walk
    Director: Robert Zemeckis

    Centerpiece
    Steve Jobs
    Director: Danny Boyle

    Closing Night
    Miles Ahead
    Director: Don Cheadle

    Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One
    Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One
    Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One
    Director: Miguel Gomes

    The Assassin
    Director: Hou Hsiao-hsien

    Bridge of Spies
    Director: Steven Spielberg

    Brooklyn
    Director: John Crowley

    Carol
    Director: Todd Haynes

    Cemetery of Splendour
    Director: Apichatpong Weerasethakul

    Les Cowboys
    Director: Thomas Bidegain

    Don’t Blink: Robert Frank
    Director: Laura Israel

    Experimenter
    Director: Michael Almereyda

    The Forbidden Room
    Directors: Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson

    In the Shadow of Women / L’Ombre des femmes
    Director: Philippe Garrel

    Journey to the Shore / Kishibe no tabi
    Director: Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    The Lobster
    Director: Yorgos Lanthimos

    Maggie’s Plan
    Director: Rebecca Miller

    The Measure of a Man / La Loi du marché
    Stéphane Brizé

    Mia Madre
    Director: Nanni Moretti

    Microbe & Gasoline / Microbe et Gasoil
    Director: Michel Gondry

    Mountains May Depart
    Director: Jia Zhangke

    My Golden Days / Trois Souvenirs de ma jeunesse
    Director: Arnaud Desplechin

    No Home Movie
    Director: Chantal Akerman

    Right Now, Wrong Then
    Director: Hong Sangsoo

    The Treasure / Comoara
    Director: Corneliu Porumboiu

    Where To Invade Next
    Director: Michael Moore


    Additional NYFF special events, documentary section, and filmmaker conversations and panels, as well as NYFF’s Projections and the full Convergence programs, will be announced in subsequent days and weeks.

    The 17-day New York Film Festival highlights the best in world cinema, featuring top films from celebrated filmmakers as well as fresh new talent. The selection committee, chaired by Jones, also includes Dennis Lim, FSLC Director of Programming; Marian Masone, FSLC Senior Programming Advisor; Gavin Smith, Editor-in-Chief, Film Comment; and Amy Taubin, Contributing Editor, Film Comment and Sight & Sound.


    Films & Descriptions

    Opening Night
    The Walk
    Robert Zemeckis, USA, 2015, 3-D DCP, 100m

    Robert Zemeckis’s magical and enthralling new film, the story of Philippe Petit (winningly played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and his walk between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, plays like a heist movie in the grand tradition of Rififi and Bob le flambeur. Zemeckis takes us through every detail—the stakeouts, the acquisition of equipment, the elaborate planning and rehearsing that it took to get Petit, his crew of raucous cohorts, and hundreds of pounds of rigging to the top of what was then the world’s tallest building. When Petit steps out on his wire, The Walk, a technical marvel and perfect 3-D re-creation of Lower Manhattan in the 1970s, shifts into another heart-stopping gear, and Zemeckis and his hero transport us into pure sublimity. With Ben Kingsley as Petit’s mentor. A Sony Pictures release. World Premiere

    Centerpiece
    Steve Jobs
    Danny Boyle, USA, 2015, DCP, TBC

    Anyone going to this provocative and wildly entertaining film expecting a straight biopic of Steve Jobs is in for a shock. Working from Walter Isaacson’s biography, writer Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War) and director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) joined forces to create this dynamically character-driven portrait of the brilliant man at the epicenter of the digital revolution, weaving the multiple threads of their protagonist’s life into three daringly extended backstage scenes, as he prepares to launch the first Macintosh, the NeXT work station and the iMac. We get a dazzlingly executed cross-hatched portrait of a complex and contradictory man, set against the changing fortunes and circumstances of the home-computer industry and the ascendancy of branding, of products, and of oneself. The stellar cast includes Michael Fassbender in the title role, Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as Steve Wozniak, Jeff Daniels as John Sculley, Katherine Waterston as Chrisann Brennan and Michael Stuhlbarg as Andy Hertzfeld. A Universal Pictures release.

    Closing Night
    Miles Ahead
    Don Cheadle, USA, 2015, DCP, 100m

    Miles Davis was one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. And how do you make a movie about him? You get to know the man inside and out and then you reveal him in full, which is exactly what Don Cheadle does as a director, a writer, and an actor with this remarkable portrait of Davis, refracted through his crazy days in the late-70s. Holed up in his Manhattan apartment, wracked with pain from a variety of ailments and sweating for the next check from his record company, dodging sycophants and industry executives, he is haunted by memories of old glories and humiliations and of his years with his great love Frances Taylor (Emayatzy Corinealdi). Every second of Cheadle’s cinematic mosaic is passionately engaged with its subject: this is, truly, one of the finest films ever made about the life of an artist. With Ewan McGregor as Dave Brill, the “reporter” who cons his way into Miles’ apartment. A Sony Pictures Classics release. World Premiere

    Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless One
    Miguel Gomes, Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland, 2015, DCP, 125m

    Portuguese with English subtitles
    An up-to-the minute rethinking of what it means to make a political film today, Miguel Gomes’s shape-shifting paean to the art of storytelling strives for what its opening titles call “a fictional form from facts.” Working for a full year with a team of journalists who sent dispatches from all over the country during Portugal’s recent plunge into austerity, Gomes (Tabu, NYFF50) turns actual events into the stuff of fable, and channels it all through the mellifluous voice of Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate), the mythic queen of the classic folktale. Volume 1 alone tries on more narrative devices than most filmmakers attempt in a lifetime, mingling documentary material about unemployment and local elections with visions of exploding whales and talking cockerels. It is hard to imagine a more generous or radical approach to these troubled times, one that honors its fantasy life as fully as its hard realities. A Kino Lorber release. U.S. Premiere

    Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One
    Miguel Gomes, Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland, 2015, DCP, 131m

    Portuguese with English subtitles
    In keeping with its subtitle, the middle section of Miguel Gomes’s monumental yet light-footed magnum opus shifts into a more subdued and melancholic register. But within each of these three tales, framed as the wild imaginings of the Arabian queen Scheherazade and adapted from recent real-life events in Portugal, there are surprises and digressions aplenty. In the first, a deadpan neo-Western of sorts, an escaped murderer becomes a local hero for dodging the authorities. The second deals with the theft of 13 cows, as told through a Brechtian open-air courtroom drama in which the testimonies become increasingly absurd. Finally, a Maltese poodle shuttles between various owners in a tear-jerking collective portrait of a tower block’s morose residents. Attesting to the power of fiction to generate its own reality, the film treats its fantasy dimension as a license for directness, a path to a more meaningful truth. A Kino Lorber release. U.S. Premiere

    Arabian Nights: Volume 3, The Enchanted One
    Miguel Gomes, Portugal/France/Germany/Switzerland, 2015, DCP, 125m

    Portuguese with English subtitles
    Miguel Gomes’s sui generis epic concludes with arguably its most eccentric—and most enthralling—installment. Scheherazade escapes the king for an interlude of freedom in Old Baghdad, envisioned here as a sunny Mediterranean archipelago complete with hippies and break-dancers. After her eventual return to her palatial confines comes the most lovingly protracted of all the stories in Arabian Nights, a documentary chronicle of Lisbon-area bird trappers preparing their prized finches for birdsong competitions. Right to the end, Gomes’s film balances the leisurely art of the tall tale with a sense of deadline urgency—a reminder that for Scheherazade, and perhaps for us all, stories can be a matter of life and death. A Kino Lorber release. U.S. Premiere

    The Assassin
    Hou Hsiao-hsien, Taiwan/China/Hong Kong, 2015, DCP, 105m

    Mandarin with English subtitles
    A wuxia like no other, The Assassin is set in the waning years of the Tang Dynasty when provincial rulers are challenging the power of royal court. Nie Yinniang (Shu Qi), who was exiled as a child so that her betrothed could make a more politically advantageous match, has been trained as an assassin for hire. Her mission is to destroy her former financé (Chang Chen). But worry not about the plot, which is as old as the jagged mountains and deep forests that bear witness to the cycles of power and as elusive as the mists that surround them. Hou’s art is in the telling. The film is immersive and ephemeral, sensuous and spare, and as gloriously beautiful in its candle-lit sumptuous red and gold decor as Hou’s 1998 masterpiece, Flowers of Shanghai. As for the fight scenes, they’re over almost before you realize they’ve happened, but they will stay in your mind’s eye forever. A Well Go USA release. U.S. Premiere



    Bridge of Spies
    Steven Spielberg, USA, 2015, DCP, 135m

    The "bridge of spies" of the title refers to Glienicke Bridge, which crosses what was once the borderline between the Federal Republic of Germany and the GDR. In the time from the building of the Berlin Wall to its destruction in 1989, there were three prisoner exchanges between East and West. The first and most famous spy swap occurred on February 10, 1962, when Soviet agent Rudolph Abel was traded for American pilot Francis Gary Powers, captured by the Soviets when his U-2 reconnaissance plane was shot down over Sverdlovsk. The exchange was negotiated by Abel’s lawyer, James B. Donovan, who also arranged for the simultaneous release of American student Frederic Pryor at Checkpoint Charlie. Working from a script by Matt Charman and Joel and Ethan Coen, Steven Spielberg has brought every strange turn in this complex Cold War story to vividly tactile life. With a brilliant cast, headed by Tom Hanks as Donovan and Mark Rylance as Abel—two men who strike up an improbable friendship based on a shared belief in public service. A Touchstone Pictures release. World Premiere

    Brooklyn
    John Crowley, UK/Ireland/Canada, 2015, 35mm/DCP, 112m

    In the middle of the last century, Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) takes the boat from Ireland to America in search of a better life. She endures the loneliness of the exile, boarding with an insular and catty collection of Irish girls in Brooklyn. Gradually, her American dream materializes: she studies bookkeeping and meets a handsome, sweet Italian boy (Emory Cohen). But then bad news brings her back home, where she finds a good job and another handsome boy (Domhnall Gleeson), this time from a prosperous family. On which side of the Atlantic does Eilis’s future live, and with whom? Director John Crowley (Boy A) and writer Nick Hornby haven’t just fashioned a great adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel, but a beautiful movie, a sensitively textured re-creation of the look and emotional climate of mid-century America and Ireland, with Ronan, as quietly and vibrantly alive as a silent-screen heroine, at its heart. A Fox Searchlight Pictures release.

    Carol
    Todd Haynes, USA, 2015, DCP, 118m

    Todd Haynes’s adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s debut novel stars Cate Blanchett as the titular Carol, a wealthy suburban wife and mother, and Rooney Mara as an aspiring photographer who meet by chance, fall in love almost at first sight, and defy the closet of the early 1950s to be together. Working with his longtime cinematographer Ed Lachman and shooting on the Super-16 film he favors for the way it echoes the movie history of 20th-century America, Haynes charts subtle shifts of power and desire in images that are alternately luminous and oppressive. Blanchett and Mara are both splendid; the erotic connection between their characters is palpable from beginning to end, as much in its repression as in eagerly claimed moments of expressive freedom. Originally published under a pseudonym, Carol is Highsmith’s most affirmative work; Haynes has more than done justice to the multilayered emotions evoked by it source material. A Weinstein Company release.

    Cemetery of Splendour
    Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/UK/France/Germany/Malaysia, 2015, DCP, 122m

    Thai with English subtitles
    The wondrous new film by Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (whose last feature, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, was a Palme d’Or winner and a NYFF48 selection) is set in and around a hospital ward full of comatose soldiers. Attached to glowing dream machines, and tended to by a kindly volunteer (Jenjira Pongpas Widner) and a young clairvoyant (Jarinpattra Rueangram), the men are said to be waging war in their sleep on behalf of long-dead feuding kings, and their mysterious slumber provides the rich central metaphor: sleep as safe haven, as escape mechanism, as ignorance, as bliss. To slyer and sharper effect than ever, Apichatpong merges supernatural phenomena with Thailand’s historical phantoms and national traumas. Even more seamlessly than his previous films, this sun-dappled reverie induces a sensation of lucid dreaming, conjuring a haunted world where memory and myth intrude on physical space. A Strand Releasing release. U.S. Premiere

    Les Cowboys
    Thomas Bidegain, 2015, France, DCP, 114m

    French and English with English subtitles
    Country and Western enthusiast Alain (François Damiens) is enjoying an outdoor gathering of fellow devotees with his wife and teenage children when his daughter abruptly vanishes. Learning that she’s eloped with her Muslim boyfriend, he embarks on increasingly obsessive quest to track her down. As the years pass and the trail grows cold, Alain sacrifices everything, while drafting his son into his efforts. The echoes of The Searchers are unmistakable, but the story departs from John Ford’s film in unexpected ways, escaping its confining European milieu as the pursuit assumes near-epic proportions in post-9/11 Afghanistan. This muscular debut, worthy of director Thomas Bidegain’s screenwriting collaborations with Jacques Audiard, yields a sweeping vision of a world in which the codes of the Old West no longer seem to hold. A Cohen Media Group release. U.S. Premiere

    Don’t Blink: Robert Frank
    Laura Israel, USA/Canada, 2015, DCP, 82m

    The life and work of Robert Frank—as a photographer and a filmmaker—are so intertwined that they’re one in the same, and the vast amount of territory he’s covered, from The Americans in 1958 up to the present, is intimately registered in his now-formidable body of artistic gestures. From the early ’90s on, Frank has been making his films and videos with the brilliant editor Laura Israel, who has helped him to keep things homemade and preserve the illuminating spark of first contact between camera and people/places. Don’t Blink is Israel’s like-minded portrait of her friend and collaborator, a lively rummage sale of images and sounds and recollected passages and unfathomable losses and friendships that leaves us a fast and fleeting imprint of the life of the Swiss-born man who reinvented himself the American way, and is still standing on ground of his own making at the age of 90. World Premiere

    Experimenter
    Michael Almereyda, USA, 2014, DCP, 94m

    Michael Almereyda’s brilliant portrait of Stanley Milgram, the social scientist whose 1961, Yale-based “obedience study” reflected back on the Holocaust and anticipated Abu Ghraib and other atrocities carried out by ordinary people who were just following orders, places its subject in an appropriately experimental cinema framework. The proverbial elephant in the room materializes on screen; Milgram (Peter Sarsgaard) sometimes addresses the camera directly as if to implicate us in his studies and the unpleasant truths they reveal. Remarkably, the film evokes great compassion for this uncompromising, difficult man, in part because we often see him through the eyes of his wife (Winona Ryder, in a wonderfully grounded performance), who fully believed in his work and its profoundly moral purpose. Almereyda creates the bohemian-tinged academic world of the 1960s through the 1980s with an economy that Stanley Kubrick might have envied. A Magnolia Pictures release.

    The Forbidden Room
    Guy Maddin & Evan Johnson, Canada, 2015, DCP, 120m

    The four-man crew of a submarine are trapped underwater, running out of air. A classic scenario of claustrophobic suspense—at least until a hatch opens and out steps… a lumberjack? As this newcomer’s backstory unfolds (and unfolds and unfolds in over a dozen outlandish tales), Guy Maddin, cinema’s reigning master of feverish filmic fetishism, embarks on a phantasmagoric narrative adventure of stories within stories within dreams within flashbacks in a delirious globe-trotting mise en abyme the equals of any by the late Raúl Ruiz. Collaborating with poet John Ashbery and featuring sublime contributions from the likes of Jacques Nolot, Charlotte Rampling, Mathieu Amalric, legendary cult electro-pop duo Sparks, and not forgetting muses Louis Negin and Udo Kier, Maddin dives deeper than ever: only the lovechild of Josef von Sternberg and Jack Smith could be responsible for this insane magnum opus. A Kino Lorber release.

    In the Shadow of Women / L’Ombre des femmes
    Philippe Garrel, France, 2015, DCP, 73m

    French with English subtitles
    The new film by the great Philippe Garrel (previously seen at the NYFF with Regular Lovers in 2005 and Jealousy in 2013) is a close look at infidelity—not merely the fact of it, but the particular, divergent ways in which it’s experienced and understood by men and women. Stanislas Merhar and Clotilde Courau are Pierre and Manon, a married couple working in fragile harmony on Pierre’s documentary film projects, the latest of which is a portrait of a resistance fighter (Jean Pommier). When Pierre takes a lover (Lena Paugam), he feels entitled to do so, and he treats both wife and mistress with disengagement bordering on disdain; when Manon catches Pierre in the act, her immediate response is to find common ground with her husband. Garrel is an artist of intimacies and emotional ecologies, and with In the Shadow of Women he has added narrative intricacy and intrigue to his toolbox. The result is an exquisite jewel of a film. U.S. Premiere

    Journey to the Shore / Kishibe no tabi
    Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan/France, 2015, DCP, 127m

    Japanese with English subtitles
    Based on Kazumi Yumoto’s 2010 novel, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest film begins with a young widow named Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu), who has been emotionally flattened and muted by the disappearance of her husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano). One day, from out of the blue or the black, Yusuke’s ghost drops in, more like an exhausted and unexpected guest than a wandering spirit. And then Journey to the Shore becomes a road movie: Mizuki and Yusuke pack their bags, leave Tokyo, and travel by train through parts of Japan that we rarely see in movies, acclimating themselves to their new circumstances and stopping for extended stays with friends and fellow pilgrims that Yusuke has met on his way through the afterworld, some living and some dead. The particular beauty of Journey to the Shore lies in its flowing sense of life as balance between work and love, existence and nonexistence, you and me. U.S. Premiere

    The Lobster
    Yorgos Lanthimos, France/Netherlands/Greece/UK, 2015, DCP, 118m

    In the very near future, society demands that we live as couples. Single people are rounded up and sent to a seaside compound—part resort and part minimum-security prison—where they are given a finite number of days to find a match. If they don’t succeed, they will be “altered” and turned into an animal. The recently divorced David (Colin Farrell) arrives at The Hotel with his brother, now a dog; in the event of failure, David has chosen to become a lobster… because they live so long. When David falls in love, he’s up against a new set of rules established by another, rebellious order: for romantics, there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Welcome to the latest dark, dark comedy from Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), creator of absurdist societies not so very different from our own. With Léa Seydoux as the leader of the Loners, Rachel Weisz as David’s true love, John C. Reilly, and Ben Whishaw. An Alchemy release.

    Maggie’s Plan
    Rebecca Miller, USA, 2015, DCP, 92m

    Rebecca Miller’s new film is as wise, funny, and suspenseful as a Jane Austen novel. Greta Gerwig shines brightly in the role of Maggie, a New School administrator on the verge of completing her life plan with a donor-fathered baby when she meets John (Ethan Hawke), a soulful but unfulfilled adjunct professor. John is unhappily married to a Columbia-tenured academic superstar wound tighter than a coiled spring (Julianne Moore). Maggie and the professor commiserate, share confidences, and fall in love. And where most contemporary romantic comedies end, Miller’s film is just getting started. In the tradition of Woody Allen and Paul Mazursky, Miller approaches the genre of the New York romantic comedy with relish and loving energy. With Bill Hader and Maya Rudolph as Maggie’s married-with-children friends, drawn to defensive sarcasm like moths to a flame, and Travis Fimmel as Maggie’s donor-in-waiting. U.S. Premiere

    The Measure of a Man / La Loi du marché
    Stéphane Brizé, France, 2015, DCP, 93m

    French with English subtitles
    Vincent Lindon gives his finest performance to date as unemployed everyman Thierry, who must submit to a series of quietly humiliating ordeals in his search for work. Futile retraining courses that lead to dead ends, interviews via Skype, an interview-coaching workshop critique of his self-presentation by fellow jobseekers—all are mechanisms that seek to break him down and strip him of identity and self-respect in the name of reengineering of a workforce fit for an neoliberal technocratic system. Nothing if not determinist, Stéphane Brizé’s film dispassionately monitors the progress of its stoic protagonist until at last he lands a job on the front line in the surveillance and control of his fellow man—and finally faces one too many moral dilemmas. A powerful and deeply troubling vision of the realities of our new economic order. A Kino Lorber release. North American Premiere

    Mia Madre
    Nanni Moretti, Italy/France, 2015, DCP, 106m

    Italian and English with English subtitles
    Margherita (Margherita Buy) is a middle-aged filmmaker contending with shooting an international co-production with a mercurial American actor (John Turturro) and with the fact that her beloved mother (Giulia Lazzarini) is mortally ill. Underrated as an actor, director Nanni Moretti, offers a fascinating portrayal as Margherita’s brother, a quietly abrasive, intelligent man with a wonderfully tamped-down generosity and warmth. The construction of the film is as simple as it is beautiful: the chaos of the movie within the movie merges with the fear of disorder and feelings of pain and loss brought about by impending death. Mia Madre is a sharp and continually surprising work about the fragility of existence that is by turns moving, hilarious, and subtly disquieting. An Alchemy release. U.S. Premiere

    Microbe & Gasoline / Microbe et Gasoil
    Michel Gondry, France, 2015, DCP, 103m

    French with English subtitles
    The new handmade-SFX comedy from Michel Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind) is set in an autobiographical key. Teenage misfits Microbe (Ange Dargent) and Gasoline (Théophile Baquet), one nicknamed for his size and the other for his love of all things mechanical and fuel-powered, become fast friends. Unloved in school and misunderstood at home—Microbe is overprotected, Gasoline is by turns ignored and abused—they decide to build a house on wheels (complete with a collapsible flower window box) and sputter, push, and coast their way to the camp where Gasoline went as a child, with a stop along the way to visit Microbe’s crush (Diane Besnier). Gondry’s visual imagination is prodigious, and so is his cultivation of spontaneously generated fun and off-angled lyricism, his absolute irreverence, and his emotional frankness. This is one of his freshest and loveliest films. With Audrey Tatou as Microbe’s mom. U.S. Premiere

    Mountains May Depart
    Jia Zhangke, China/France/Japan, 2015, DCP, 131m

    Mandarin and English with English subtitles
    The plot of Jia Zhangke’s new film is simplicity itself. Fenyang 1999, on the cusp of the capitalist explosion in China. Shen Tao (Zhao Tao) has two suitors—Zhang (Zhang Yi), an entrepreneur-to-be, and his best friend Liangzi (Liang Jin Dong), who makes his living in the local coal mine. Shen Tao decides, with a note of regret, to marry Zhang, a man with a future. Flash-forward 15 years: the couple’s son Dollar is paying a visit to his now-estranged mother, and everyone and everything seems to have grown more distant in time and space… and then further ahead in time, to even greater distances. Jia is modern cinema’s greatest poet of drift and the uncanny, slow-motion feeling of massive and inexorable change. Like his 2013 A Touch of Sin, Mountains May Depart is an epically scaled canvas. But where the former was angry and quietly terrifying, the latter is a heartbreaking prayer for the restoration of what has been lost in the name of progress. A Kino Lorber release. U.S. Premiere

    My Golden Days / Trois Souvenirs de ma jeunesse
    Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2015, DCP, 123m

    French with English subtitles
    Arnaud Desplechin’s alternately hilarious and heartrending latest work is intimate yet expansive, a true autobiographical epic. Mathieu Amalric—Jean-Pierre Léaud to Desplechin’s François Truffaut—reprises the character of Paul Dédalus from the director’s groundbreaking My Sex Life... or How I Got Into an Argument (NYFF, 1996), now looking back on the mystery of his own identity from the lofty vantage point of middle age. Desplechin visits three varied but interlocking episodes in his hero’s life, each more surprising and richly textured than the next, and at the core of his film is the romance between the adolescent Paul (Quentin Dolmaire) and Esther (Lou Roy-Lecollinet). Most directors trivialize young love by slotting it into a clichéd category, but here it is ennobled and alive in all of its heartbreak, terror, and beauty. Le Monde recently referred to Desplechin as "the most Shakespearean of filmmakers," and boy, did they ever get that right. My Golden Days is a wonder to behold. A Magnolia Pictures release. North American Premiere

    No Home Movie
    Chantal Akerman, Belgium/France, 2015, DCP, 115m

    French and English with English subtitles
    At the center of Chantal Akerman’s enormous body of work is her mother, a Holocaust survivor who married and raised a family in Brussels. In recent years, the filmmaker has explicitly depicted, in videos, books, and installation works, her mother’s life and her own intense connection to her mother, and in turn her mother’s connection to her mother. No Home Movie is a portrait by Akerman, the daughter, of Akerman, the mother, in the last years of her life. It is an extremely intimate film but also one of great formal precision and beauty, one of the rare works of art that is both personal and universal, and as much a masterpiece as her 1975 career-defining Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles. U.S. Premiere

    Right Now, Wrong Then
    Hong Sangsoo, South Korea, 2015, DCP, 121m

    Korean with English subtitles
    Ham Chunsu (Jung Jaeyoung) is an art-film director who has come to Suwon for a screening of one of his movies. He meets Yoon Heejung (Kim Minhee), a fledgling artist. She’s never seen any of his films but knows he’s famous; he’d like to see her paintings and then go for sushi and soju. Every word, every pause, every facial expression and every movement, is a negotiation between revelation and concealment: too far over the line for Chunsu and he’s suddenly a middle-aged man on the prowl who uses insights as tools of seduction; too far for Heejung and she’s suddenly acquiescing to a man who’s leaving the next day. So they walk the fine line all the way to a tough and mordantly funny end point, at which time… we begin again, but now with different emotional dynamics. Hong Sangsoo, represented many times in the NYFF, achieves a maximum of layered nuance with a minimum of people, places, and incidents. He is, truly, a master. U.S. Premiere

    The Treasure / Comoara
    Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania, 2015, DCP, 89m

    Romanian with English subtitles
    Costi (Cuzin Toma) leads a fairly quiet, unremarkable life with his wife and son. He’s a good provider, but he struggles to make ends meet. One evening there’s a knock at the door. It’s a stranger, a neighbor named Adrian (Adrian Purcarescu), with a business proposal: lend him some money to find a buried treasure in his grandparents’ backyard and they’ll split the proceeds. Is it a scam or a real treasure hunt? Corneliu Porumboiu’s (When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism, NYFF 2013) modern-day fable starts like an old Honeymooners episode with a get-rich-quick premise, gradually develops into a shaggy slapstick comedy, shifts gears into a hilariously dry delineation of the multiple layers of pure bureaucracy and paperwork drudgery, and ends in a new and altogether surprising key. Porumboiu is one of the subtlest artists in movies, and this is one of his wryest films, and his most magical.

    Where To Invade Next
    Michael Moore, USA, 2015, DCP, 110m

    Where are we, as Americans? Where are we going as a country? And is it where we want to go, or where we think we have to go? Since Roger & Me in 1989, Michael Moore has been examining these questions and coming up with answers that are several worlds away from the ones we are used to seeing and hearing and reading in mainstream media, or from our elected officials. In his previous films, Moore has taken on one issue at a time, from the hemorrhaging of American jobs to the response to 9/11 to the precariousness of our healthcare system. In his new film, he shifts his focus to the whole shebang and ponders the current state of the nation from a very different perspective: that is, from the outside looking in. Where To Invade Next is provocative, very funny, and impassioned—just like all of Moore’s work. But it’s also pretty surprising. U.S. Premiere

    NOTE: Sidebar series and features are listed in the Filmleaf 2015 NYFF Comments thread, links to each below:
    Projections Series and Convergence Series
    Special events and revivals series
    Spotlight on Documentary series
    2015 NYFF Filmmakers talks and new extended shorts programs
    Finalists For the Fourth Annual New York Film Festival Critics Academy


    THE NYFF IS PRESENTED BY THE FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER




    REVIEWS BEGIN BELOW:
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-23-2015 at 06:03 PM.

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    JOURNEY TO THE SHORE (Kiyoshi Kurosawa 2015)

    KIYOSHI KUROSAWA: JOURNEY TO THE SHORE (2015)


    TADANOBU ASANO AND ERI FUKATSU IN JOURNEY TO THE SHORE

    Death and romance confusingly treated

    Journey to the Shore is a new film by the prolific and uneven but sometimes wonderful Kiyoshi Kurosawa (no relation to the supremely great Akira Kurosawa). It is the story of a woman in love with the ghost of her dead husband. Kurosawa excels at creepiness and horror and ghosts should be right up his alley; moreover he dealt richly with contemporary family life in his atypical but excellent 2008 Tokyo Sonata . But this is a confusing mess. It is adapted from a novel, and one may assume that it's such a failure because of a clumsy adaptation that may be trying to deliver too many elements from the book without convincingly integrating them or maintaining a consistent tone. The narrative is choppy and confusing. It is hard to tell who new characters are and why new settings arise.

    The premise is that a widow, Mizuki (Eri Fukatsu), is revisited by her dead husband Yusuke (Tadanobu Asano), and he takes her on a series of adventures while they live in some kind of limbo between life and death. Mizuki a Tokyo resident, is a piano teacher deemed mediocre by the mother of one of her child students but perhaps a fine pianist herself. But this is unclear, and like a lot of the film seems irrelevant to the whole. Yusuke drowned at sea three years ago and eventually we learn he had worked as a dentist.

    After Yusuke casually reappears to Mizuki, they live together for some time and travel around to different places where he has lived and worked and has connections from his previous three-years as a spirit making his way to the spirit world, or to Mizuki. Yusuke has worked delivering circulars, in a restaurant making gyozas, and out in the country with a rural family. Some of the people, Yusuke tells Mizuki, are "like me," others not, among these families. Two ghosts appear to Mizuki, one of them a young girl who plays the piano, another a boy by a waterfall he says is the way to the other world. She also encounters her father, who died when she was 16 and says he has been watching her. He urges her to leave Yusuke. The finale shows Yusuke about to depart, to celebrate which, he and Mizuki can finally make love.

    Each of these segments is like a short story, with the two protagonists in new settings, but they're not presented clearly or engagingly enough and don't add up to a unified whole. Derek Elley of Film Business Asia, an Asian film expert who used to be a principal writer for Variety, thinks that with this film, after his recent flop, Real, Kurosawa "bounces back with one of the strongest films in his up-and-down 30-year-long career." I don't think so. I think Kurosawa's stylish recent TV horror miniseries Penance, a series of separate tales that were nicely unified by a repeated core source-story, was a success, for those who got to see it. But the failed storytelling of Journey to the Shore means he still hasn't made a successful feature since 2008. Journey to the Shore has moments where its attempt to merge everyday and spirit worlds suddenly clicks, and it incidentally provides rarely seen glimpses of contemporary Japanese life. But as a film it never finds its way. All but extreme Kiyoshi Kurosowa fans should avoid.

    Journey to the Shore/Kishibe no tabi/岸辺の旅, 127 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2015; also Munich, Toronto, Melbourne. Screened for this review as part of the 2015 New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-15-2015 at 09:46 PM.

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    CENETERY OF SPLENDOR Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2015)

    APITCHATPONG WEERASETHAKUL: CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR (2015)



    The director's first solid feature in four years revisits themes, quietly

    Justin Chang's description of Cemetery of Splendor in Variety as "eerily becalmed" might go for most of the former Cannes darling's work, but it seems to have less going on in it than previous outings such as his 2004 Tropical Malady, 2006 Syndromes and a Century (2006 NYFF) and 2010 Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010 NYFF), though viewers of these earlier films will get a sense of déjà vu. Events this time center around a rural hospital (converted from an old school) filled with patients, former soldiers, afflicted with their own "tropical malady," a mysterious sleeping sickness; Syndromes was set at several hospitals (a reference to the filmmaker's own "past lives," since his parents were doctors working in hospitals at his home town). Syndromes ended with a large outdoor aerobics class; such a class is featured again here. In all these films, there are visits to spirits and nether worlds; Uncle Boonmee is the most spectacular of those, which helps explain why the director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (nickname "Joe") won the top prize at Cannes that year.

    This time, as Mike D'Angelo said in his Cannes report for The Dissolve, there is more for fans who like Joe's penchant for dwelling on the past and less for those, like himself, who like him for his ability to create moments that are "mysterious and enchanting." Here, D'Angelo says, there are a couple of visually magical things -- he notes the colored lights used to attempt to cure the patients of their sleeping sickness and a cloud-filled sky slowly invaded by a giant paramecium -- but for the most part the film focuses on "the glories that once existed in what’s now a drab location," which people sort of sit around and talk about.

    The main actors here are Joe regulars. Jenjira Pongpas Widner is Jenjira, a version of herself, a woman with a leg-length differential and crutches who's a volunteer at the sleeping soldier's hospital, located in the country near Joe's hometown, Khon Kaen. She tends to a young soldier called Itt (Banlop Lomnoi, of Tropical Malady), who becomes a sort of pet and protégé when he begins waking up in he afternoon and going out with her. She tells Richard about Itt. Richard (Richard Abramson), who appears in person only once, is an American former military man who has met Jenjira online and has come to Thailand to live with her. Itt seems to be inhabited by the spirits of kings who once roamed the region around the hospital, now drab and being bulldozed, perhaps for a fiber optic network. So Itt, who also speaks to Jenjira through a young mind-reader called Keng (Jarinpattra Rueangram), can recall past lives, like Uncle Boonmee.

    True, Joe has "still got it": he pursues his predilections with the conviction and style of an auteur. Even as his slow-moving style and penchant for the long-held static shot make for frequent longeurs, I feel curiously at home with his relaxed, light-hearted characters and their high-pitched Thai voices, and with his instantly recognizable way of framing exterior shots, his delicate sense of color and light, and his offbeat, slightly crazy passion for the folklore and spiritualism of his country and his willingness to use all his considerable cinematic gifts to depict and embody them. But this film, compared to Joe's other ones, has more telling than showing. As Justin Chang puts it, Cemetery of Splendor lacks "the jungle-feverish exhilaration of the filmmaker’s greatest work."

    Cemetery of Splendor, 127 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2015 with French theatrical release 2 Sept. An AlloCiné press rating of 4.3, amounting to a rave, notably from Cahiers du Cinéma and Les Inrockuptibles along with Le Nouvel Observateur, Libération, and L'Express, shows that the French critics remain the most faithful of fans, though Le Monde found Cemetery less involving than previous works. Festivals where it's shown or will show (as of Sept. 2015) number a dozen or so, including Toronto and the New York Film Festival, which will be its US premiere. It was screened for this review as part of the latter. It has been picked up for US distribution by Strand Releasing.

    Strand's theatrical release date has been announced now: 4 March 2016. OPENING MARCH 4, 2016
    NY: IFC CENTER* & FILM SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER.

    *In addition to CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR, Apichatpong's previously unreleased 2012 feature MEKONG HOTEL will also open at IFC Center on March 4 for an exclusive theatrical premiere engagement, with a retrospective of the filmmaker's earlier work preceding the openings of the new films.
    For more details on MEKONG HOTEL and the retrospective, please visit:
    http://www.ifccenter.com/series/myst...weerasethakul/

    Limited US theatrical release 14 Mar. 2016. DVD and Blu-ray 28 Jun. 2016.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 05-31-2016 at 01:27 PM.

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    ARABIAN NIGHTS: VOUME 1, THE RESTLESS ONE (Miguel Gomes 2015)

    MIGUEL GOMES: ARABIAN NIGHTS: VOLUME 1, THE RESTLESS ONE (2015)



    Gomes rails against austerity in a wildly ambitious compendium of genres

    In his previous (2012 NYFF) appearance, his third feature actually, the remembered colonial adultery tale, Tabu, the Portuguese director Miguel Gomes showed himself to be an uneven but original and imaginative filmmaker. With his massive three-feature, six-hour "Arabian Nights" sequence, introduced in Directors Fortnight at Cannes, he reveals even more energy, ambition, and experimentalism. From the first frames of an over-long prelude, he exhibits a sure touch. But as time went on in Volume 1, which blends lengthy footage about Portugal's economic woes brought about by austerity policies with folkloric and documentary elements loosely tied together (rather arbitrarily) through an externally imposed 1001 Nights narrative structure, the combination seemed increasingly uneasy and unconvincing. What have an exploding beached whale, ruminations about massive shipyard layoffs, a fantasy about officials magically given perpetual erections, men narrating their unemployment experiences, a satirical political fairy tale about a cockerel, and documentary footage of a war on wasps to save bee colonies got to do with each other, or with the Arabian Nights? One is impressed, but one has doubts.It's a lot to swallow, and final assessment must await a viewing of all three parts.

    We're told Gomes worked for a year (2013-2014) with journalists recording the devastation caused in Portugal by austerity programs; that this is linked together by a local Scheherazade (Crista Alfaiate). But despite a bold (and loud) style, this seems, in its first part, more a matter of ambition than actual accomplishment or coherence. Above all it is coherence that is lacking. Gomes announces (in his free use of big inter-titles) that he is not adapting the Arabian Nights, merely using its structure. But this is simply a way of saying that his use of the classic Arabic folktale framework is superficial, and tacked on in an effort to hold together unrelated material whose combination he himself admits at the outset was foolish.

    Variety's Jay Weissberg points out that Gomes has hired Apichatpong Werrasethakul's usual dp Sayombhu Mukdeeprom here, but this hasn't the magical glow of a "Joe" film. Gomes achieves an amusing self-reflectiveness at the outset by showing himself running away from his own film crew, depressed at economic and social events in the country and overwhelmed by the absurdity of his own hubris in planning to depict them in a way that blends the folkloric and the epic. But this only illustrates the film's tendency, and ability, to incorporate all elements that arise, including the director's self-doubts. Whether anyone other than Gomes's most devoted fans will want to stick around remains uncertain, but the flashy series, enlivened (however artificially) by the use of fire, fireworks, and the aforementioned exploding beached whale and by an effective, and loud, use of music ranging from Rimsky Korsakoff to Aarvo Pärt, shot in brightly colored widescreen 16mm., is ideally suited for the more dedicated festival goers, especially those opposed to the right's ill-fated Great Recession austerity measures. The Volumes will be reviewed one by one.

    Arabian Nights: Volume 1, The Restless one/As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 1, O Inquieto, 125 mins., debuted in Directors Fortnight at Cannes, May 2015. Many other festivals, including the New York Film Festival, in connection with which it was screened for this review. Released 24 June in Paris, it received excellent reviews (AlloCiné press rating 4.2). The French critics admired Volume 1's blending of poetry and politics.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-23-2015 at 08:40 AM.

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    Arabian nights: Volume 2, the desolate one (2015)

    MIGUEL GOMES: ARABIAN NIGHTS: VOLUME 2, THE DESOLATE ONE (2015)



    More meandering narrative from Gomes fails to deliver his message

    Guy Lodge in Variety: "Only three tales are told here by the project’s wily mythical narrator Scheherazade, though one in particular sprawls and subdivides itself in such alluringly vine-like fashion that viewers will hardly notice 133 minutes ticking by." That is debatable. However, that long open air "trial" session, held under cover of darkness seemingly with a whole community presided over by a female judge, reminded me of both the actual Arabic 1001Nights, with its succession of sometimes outrageously fanciful and interrelated folkloric tales, and Abderrahmane Sissako's (incomparably superior) open air trial in his Bamako by representatives of the African people of the IMF and the World Bank in a public square where villagers go on pursuing their normal lives. There is an example of a brilliant wedding of politics, philosophy, and everyday life, which may be what Miguel Gomes is striving for. But while he becomes more involved in narrative and less preachy in Volume 2, he also rambles, his film as much of a messy hodge podge as Volume 1.

    Gomes has fun with a classic storytelling tone with this summary: "In which Scheherazade tells of how desolation invaded men: 'It hath reached me, O auspicious King, that a Judge will cry instead of giving out her sentence. A runaway murderer will wander through the land for over forty days and will teletransport himself to escape the Guard while dreaming of prostitutes and partridges. A wounded cow will reminisce about a thousand-year-old olive tree while saying what she must say, which will sound none less than sad! The residents of a tower block in the suburbs will save parrots and piss inside lifts while surrounded by dead people and ghosts; including in fact a dog that…'. And seeing the morning break, Scheherazade fell silent." There is a hint of self-satisfaction here,though, at the sheer richness of his own invention.

    This is not all of it. The concluding section is a series of stories that take place in a poor housing development, which concludes with an old couple who give their found dog, Dixie (a Maltese poodle whose photogenic friskiness helps enliven things for a while) to an impoverished younger couple, and then commit suicide. Here Gomes comes back more clearly to his initial concern with Portugal's state of economic crisis and the failure of the austerity policy to address it -- though the woes of these people could exist in any economy. This segment made me think of Krzysztof Kieślowski's Decalogue -- another comparison that, like the Sissako one, leaves Gomes in the dust, sputtering for air, signifying little.

    [I]Arabian Nights: Volume 2, The Desolate One/As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 2, O Desolad 131 mins., debuted, like Volumes 1 and 3, at Directors Fortnight at Cannes, and shown at over a dozen other international festivals, including the New York Film Festival 1 October. Screened for the latter for this review. A Kino Lorber release. U.S. Premiere.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-23-2015 at 08:47 AM.

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    ARABIAN NIGHTS: VOLUME 3, THE ENCHANGED ONE (Miguel Gomes 2015)

    MIGUEL GOMES: ARABIAN NIGHTS: VOLUME 3, THE ENCHANTED ONE (2015)


    AN IMAGE FROM MIGUEL GOMES' ARABIAN NIGHTS, VOLUME 3

    Gomes dives deeper into documentary territory with two hours about chaffinch fanciers

    After watching Volume 3, we can sum up what each of the three films is like. Volume 1 is at once self-referential (the director running away from his crew); playful about its frame-tale; and observational-documentary. It's overtly -- and somewhat repetitiously and annoyingly -- self-conscious and doctrinaire in its protest against Portugal's destructive period of economic austerity. Volume 2 does something of an about-face and stops preaching to the viewer. Instead it delves into narrative with a vengeance, imitating the original 1001 Nights tales' far-fetched and intertwined incidents, though still blending fantastic and documentary elements, since it relies largely on non-actors. Volume 3, in effect, narrows the focus further, playing around with the Arabian frame-tale idea eccentrically for a bit in a Mediterranean setting at the outset, but then hunkering down into a single narrow focus: a lengthy, rambling documentary on a Portuguese passion we didn't know about and maybe didn't need to: catching, breeding, and training chaffinches and entering them in competitions where they are judged for the richness and complexity of their vocalizing.

    There is a vague tie-in to the trilogy's economic theme in that the chaffinch-enthusiasts seem often to come from the working class housing blocks Gomes referred to in Volume 2 -- blocks he explains here were built where formerly there were shanty towns -- though how poor Portugal has long been as a country isn't gone into. It isn't made clear, but some of these men may get so involved in their hobby because they're unemployed. Be that as it may, what we get is just one observed scene after another in a long ramble quite artificially broken up by announcing that Sheherezade has ended one night's storytelling and begun another.

    Perhaps to break the monotony, but not successfully, this Volume is exceptionally replete with yellow on-screen texts constantly adding notes and jottings about history, the birds, and this and that. Some may see these excessive texts as amiable eccentricity; others may call it reckless self-indulgence. Either way it is tedious, and Volume 3 emphatically confirms the impression that Miguel Gomes has put one over on the festival juries with this attention-getting, loud, colorful, eccentric, but ultimately unrewarding set of films.

    Arabian Nights won the top prize at the June 2015 Sydney Festival, so Guardian's Australian correspondent Luke Backmaster was obliged to write about it, though he is less than enthusiastic. He begins by describing it by its length: "The first and most predictable adjective that comes to mind when describing Miguel Gomes’ surreal, colorful, funny, poignant and at times befuddling Portuguese comedy-drama Arabian Nights is 'long'." He notes that at "some 338 minutes" it's "a thoroughly butt-crunching affair, one part cinematic endurance test and two parts intellectual exercise, more likely to induce back pain or deep vein thrombosis than any other film you’ll see this year or, probably, ever." He's not far wrong (though there are other endurance tests in the festival world). But I would add one other detail. Not only is this marathon a butt-cruncher, it's also frequently ear-splitting. Gomes has the sound ramped up to blockbuster actioner level or beyond. He seems bent on periodically turning festival halls or art house cinemas into discos during those six-plus hours he has taken out of our lives.

    Buckmaster appears mistaken in calling the chaffinch segment faux documentary. I don't think the men are playing anybody, just doing their hobby thing. The only question is why this obscure activity should be deemed worthy to take up most of the last third of such an ambitious and flashy trilogy. But the Aussie is right again in his conclusion: Gomes' thingie "is everything a brave cinephile broaching a six-hour hit of Portuguese cinema feared Arabian Nights would be: dull, exhausting and seemingly endless, with symbolic significance only for those willing to make loose and creative connections."

    Arabian Nights: Volume 3 - The Enchanted One/As Mil e Uma Noites: Volume 3, O Encantad, 125 mins, debuted with Volumes 1 and 2 in Directors Fortnight at Cannes May 2015, thereafter at fifteen other festivals. Screened for this review as part of the New York Film Festival. US premiere. A coming Kino Lorber US release set for 18 December 2015.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-20-2015 at 07:17 PM.

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    DE PALMA (Noah Baumbach, Jake Paltrow 2015)

    NOAH BAUMBACH, JAKE PALTROW: DE PALMA (2015)


    BRIAN DE PALMA

    A New York Film Festival Special Event film celebrates director Brian De Palma

    This affectionate but also relentless film portrait features the American director Brian De Palma talking to young directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow about his films, his filmmaking style, and his life. In his Variety review Guy Lodge describes De Palma as "New Hollywood’s foremost Grand Guignol artist." That is how he is seen: gloriously over-the-top. And he did begin with and often go back to lurid horror. Perhaps because of his loud popular style, he was championed by Pauline Kael, which he says meant he was always debated. Given the right material, like the surreal tabloid world of James Ellroy, De Palma could be precise and just. I found his version of The Black Dahlia closer to Ellroy than the celebrated L.A. Confidential. But De Palma's luridness is not to everyone's taste.

    De Palma's career is varied, ranging from his blockbuster bid with Carrie, wich won him studio clout, to the violence and depravity of Scarface, to the more sensitive gangster picture Carlito's Way. And ranging, Baumbach noted in a post-screening Q&A, over most of the things that can happen to a director working with and without studio support. His notorious, grand failure is The Bonfire of the Vanities, an adaptation of Tom Wolfe's perhaps un-adaptable novel in which he says he failed because he gave in too much to pressure from studio executives to make alterations.. Another big failure was Mission to Mars. Perhaps because he's Italian-American, he has been a darling of the Venice Film Festival. Even his Redacted (NYFF 2007), a fairly crude indictment of the US Iraq war, won the Silver Lion at Venice.

    As De Palma talks, apparently in a single long interview, Baumbach and Paltrow, who claim a decade-long friendship with him, edit in clips to illustrate the movies and their influences. De Palma is very specific and not very theoretical, but makes several key general remarks along the way. The rest we have to deduce by ourselves. First he says he doesn't work from character as they (Baumbach and Paltrow) do, but starts with "structure" and lets the film develop from there. He also says that everybody remarks on the genius of Hitchcock, but he is the only director to follow Hitchcock's methods extensively. De Palma indeed has constantly used Hitchcock films as a source, starting from his early admiration of Psycho and Vertigo. It's well known how otherwise frankly derivative De Palma's work has been. Obviously his Blow Out grows directly out of Antonioni's Blowup, with Coppola's The Conversation as a kind of catalyst. He explains how The Untouchables' finale in the train station is has a direct borrowing from the famous Odessa steps sequence from Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin. Hitchcock's Rear Window and elements of Vertigo were the basis for Body Double, and Vertigo was also the inspiration for his Obsession. Dressed to Kill is a homage to Psycho, including the similar early killing off of lead actress and the concluding exposition delivered by a psychiatrist.

    De Palms explains that because of the long silences and long tracking shots in his films he had much need of a score and so had strong relationships composers, notably Bernard Hermann (six films), Pino Donnaggio (seven films), and Ennio Morricone (for The Untouchables, another of his notable later successes, as was the first Mission: Impossible ). De Palma has some interesting stories to tell about these composers and his use of their music. He comments that contemporary films too often allow sound effects and dialogue to spoil the effect of the score.

    The one long interview that seems to provide the material for this film includes De Palma's description of his dysfunctional family, his Quaker education, his undergraduate studies at Columbia and graduate work at Sarah Lawrence, and his various marriages and divorces, but personal details are firmly subordinated to the 28-film oeuvre, but he does describe his early and in some cases long-term relationships with major film figures who were contemporaries: Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola, Scorsese, De Niro. Baumbach and Paltrow's illustrative material is invaluable. Clips showing long tracking shots (Pacino, Nick Cage), of chases and shootouts, help give just a glimpse of De Palma's technical gift for storytelling with motion.

    The chronological approach means De Palma can describe developments in the film industry, his role in the New Hollywood when briefly directors could be independent and creative in a studio setting, followed by the takeover of the bottom-line obsessed aesthetically challenged producers of the Eighties and onward. As he comes to the end of his of a nearly fifty-year career, De Palma says a director's best work is usually done in his twenties and thirties and forties, and suggests that he may not be up to the physical demands of the job now as he nears seventy: so he takes us from the beginning to the end. He may not be the most profound or uplifting filmmaker, but he must be one of the frankest, humblest, and clearest. This is a highly informative film about De Palma's work; it's actually the kind of film one should have on DVD and watch over and over to focus on and cull out elements.

    De Palma, 107 mins., debuted at Venice 9 September 2015; also 30 September at the New York Film Festival, as part of which it was screened for this review. US theatrical release 10 June 201 (limited, Angelika Film Center NYC).

    Video of the Baumbach-Paltrow post screening press conference.
    Guy Lodge review for Variety.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-10-2016 at 05:08 PM.

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    LES COWBOYS (Thomas Bidegain 2015)

    THOMAS BIDEGAIN: LES COWBOYS (2015)


    FRANÇOIS DAMIENS IN LES COWBOYS

    Overambitious and under-involving directorial debut for Audiard scriptwriter

    Thomas Bidegain, who has written for director Jacques Audiard (his 2009 A Prophet and 2012 Rust and Bone), turns to directing for Les Cowboys with a script by Noé Debré. Unfortunately, it's a disaster, tendentious and overwritten. It begins with an interesting milieu, French people who adore the American West and like to gather in cowboy clothes, ride horses, and sing western songs. The time is 1995. There, a man called Alain (François Damiens) sings a verse of "Tennessee Waltz" to warm applause and shares a waltz with his daughter Kelly, and then, as the evening wears on, gradually realizes Kelly has disappeared. Events follow hard -- too hard and fast -- upon one another as it turns out she has a secret Arab boyfriend who's a jihadist, and she's run off with him.

    Alain gets fed up with the police and tries to intimidate the boyfriend's family, then launches his own search for Kelly, even though she has sent a letter saying she has run off voluntarily with her Muslim boyfriend and not to look for her. He traces Kelly to gypsies, then to Belgium, then farther afield, going on a rampage of angry searching, bent on revenge like some John Ford hero, meeting a sudden end after being seen in Syria and apparently having been in Yemen; the plot skips ahead, difficult to follow, as 9/11 and the emergence of Al Qaeda deepen motivations. The usually sympathetic Damiens never seems to find a rhythm of his own either here. In a Variety review Peter Debruge points out a relationship to Ford's The Searchers, and thinks Bidegain is carrying further the explorations of machismo he pursued in his scripts for Audiard. (That may be, but less plausibly; and Rust and Bone already strained the limits; but Audiard seems capable of making anything come to life, and is brilliant with actors, a quality Bidegain may not share.)

    As abruptly as the father's search is forcibly ended by his accidental death his son takes over. Georges, or "Kid," his cowboy nickname (Finnegan Oldfield), hitherto passive and silent, but who had stubbornly refused to go with his father on his last search, drop his job as a short order cook and sets out with his own kind of fervor on his own dogged search, losing himself in faraway countries, more flexible and changeable than his father, following hints and traces of his sister. He runs into John C. Reilly in Pakistan, of all places, where Reilly's character, of all things, is a human trafficker. Reilly seems to play it for laughs, which won't wash, and his presence stands out by a mile. The script is heavy on events and local atmosphere, with the ersatz French cowboys ironically the most authentic -- and weak on characterization. Characters have little depth and behave implausibly.

    With Kid as the new protagonist in countries where French isn't known, English takes over. Though Kelly's boyfriend/abductor was Maghrebi, Arabic is not heard from, nor, despite references to 9/11, Madrid, and the London bombings, is there any exploration of the origins and nature of jihadist thinking or of how Europeans, particularly women, can be drawn into it. (A late scene does briefly show a mainstream French dislike of hijab-wearing.) In Pakistan, Kid suddenly has a European charitable organization girlfriend (Antonia Campbell-Hughes), randomly thrown in and later as quickly dropped. Movement from one situation to the next tends to be jerky throughout the film, which isn't always easy to follow.

    Thanks to some astonishing coincidences, Kid's search turns out more successful than his father's, and he ends up involved in a relationship more surprising than anything hitherto in this too arbitrary-feeling tale. The film's attempt to be topical and important and the absurdity of the overplotting suggest Bidegain, who certainly has much talent as a screenwriter, could still use a strong sure hand like Audiard's -- a collaborator more aware than he seems to be of how things play on screen and what moves audiences. Let's hope he has a stronger collaborator for his next directorial outing. Debruge calls Les Cowboys "an elliptical art film that’s tough to watch, yet continues to haunt in the weeks that follow." True, there are several memorable scenes. But the opacity of the characters and the crudeness of the transitions between plot developments mar these memories, and in some ways Les Cowboys echoes the worst mainstream "topical" conventions.

    Les Cowboys, 114 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2015 in Directors Fortnight; also in other festivals, including Toronto, Busan, and London. Screened for this review as part of the New York Film Festival. French theatrical release scheduled for 25 November 2015.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-19-2015 at 10:19 AM.

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    INGRID BERGMAN IN HER OWN WORDS (Stig Björkman 2015) Spotlight on Documentary)

    STIG BJÖRKMAN: INGRID BERGMAN IN HER OWN WORDS/JAG ÄR INGRID (2015)



    Ingrid Bergman's life reviewed in interviews and pictures

    Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words/Jag är Ingrid is a Swedish documentary that was screened in the Cannes Classics section at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival -- where it received a special mention for L'Œil d'or award.

    This is a warm picture of a great actress who had a complicated life with three husbands, and lived in Sweden, the US, Italy, France, and London. It is not just in Swedish. There are interviews in English, French, and Italian as well. Ingrid's loss of her parents when she was young may have contributed to her intentional rootlessness. And she compensated for this by scrupulously preserving her old photographs, journals, school papers, and other memorabilia, always carrying them from one new life to the next. We hear from the journals. We also get more than our fair share of what the Italians call "filmini" -- home movies, mostly showing Ingrid's young children. If you don't want to see a famous star's home movies, avoid this film.

    "In Her Own Words" is not entirely entirely a good description of the documentary. In fact, Ingrid Bergman's children appear and speak very frequently, in various languages. Pia and Isabella speak only English. Roberto (the son, not the husband) speaks frequently in English, and occasionally in Italian. The gist is that while Ingrid's career and her love affairs came first and she was not a mother figure to her children, she played the role of friend to them as they grew up, and however imperfect she was as a parent, she was so charming and such fun to be with that they never felt any resentment.

    New to some viewers is the fact that Ingrid had a significant affair with Robert Capa, the great photojournalist. (He died in 1954 in Vietnam, but this isn't mentioned, nor how the affair ended.)

    There is some treatment of the scandal aroused, especially in the US, by Ingrid's abandonment of her marriage to Dr. Peter Lindström and taking up with Roberto Rossellini, which led to her being condemned in the US Congress and effectively banned from the US for years. But she was able to make a big comeback with the movie Anastasia in 1956, for which she won her second Academy Award, of three. Ingrid's Hollywood career with David O. Selznick, later with Hitchcock, was an immediate and great success. She was a glowing beauty and a natural on camera: she was a star. Yet her restlessness and desire for change led her to abandon Hollywood. She loved Rossellini ore than his filmmaking method; neorealism and improvisation were not her style, though she made one film with him that is mentioned, Stromboli. Mention is omitted of the four other films Rossellini made with Bergman in them: Europa '51, Viaggio in Italia, Giovanna d'Arco al rogo, and La Paura (Fear). The first Italian film is covered in the film, and also Casablanca; but all Ingrid's Hollywood career isn't covered, nor is there much detail about her life in Hollywood. The home movies only show the Benedict canyon house and the family cavorting around the pool. The limitation of home movies is so much happens away from home, if you're a big star.

    The documentary goes into some detail about Ingrid's her 1978 final screen appearance, when she was seriously ill with cancer, in Ingmar Bergman's Autumn Sonata.

    The kids don't want to speak ill of their mother (who played Joan of Arc so often they had to see her bur a lot), and another limitation of this film is that it offers no criticism of a life and lifestyle that must have produced enemies as well as detractors. All in all this is only a middling documentary with a preponderance of talking heads and archival footage. But its subject is too remarkable and beloved for this not to be a must-see for fans of film history.

    Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words/Jag är Ingrid, 114 mins., debuted at Cannes; other film festivals followed. Screened for this review as one of the Documentary section films of the 2015 New York Film Festival. Showed on French TV in Aug. 2015. US theatrical release scheduled for 13 November 2015.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-23-2015 at 04:16 PM.

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    ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (Luchino Visconti 1960) - Revivals

    LUCHINO VISCONTI: ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS/ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI - Revivals (1960)


    ALAIN DELON IN ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS

    Visconti's operatic epic of a southern family disintegrating in Milan arouses mixed feelings today

    There are five Parondi brothers, and the film is divided into five chapters moving from eldest Vincenzo (Spiros Focás) through the lazy, badly flawed Simone (Renato Salvatori) to the saintly, self-destructively innocent Rocco (Alain Delon), to the hard working young Ciro (Max Cartier), who goes to work at the Alfa Romeo factory, to the child Luca (Rocco Vidolazzi), who gets only a brief coda. After a difficult arrival from Lucania, four of the brothers and their traditional earthy southern Italian "mamma" (the great Katina Paxinou) settle into public housing and the eldest, Vincenzo, who was already in Milan with a job and fiancee, fades from the picture: the main focus for most of the film is on the tragic conflict between Simone and Rocco which turns on their love of the prostitute, Nadia (Annie Giraudot).

    Another 4K restoration from Bologna, with a couple of pieces of previously excised footage restored, this most populist, Italian, and emotional of Visconti's films is certainly worthy of a reexamination and a reassessment, which turns out to be problematic. There's no question about the scope of Visconti's vision signaled by the immersive 3-hour run-time. This was the heyday of International productions combining actors from different nations dubbed into the same language, a speciality of the Italians. Spiros Focás and Katina Paxinou were notable Greek actors; Alain Delon and Annie Giraudot, French ones. Some fine Italian thespians include Renato Salvatori and the veteran Paolo Stoppo (who plays a boxing impresario). The blending in works well, with only Giraudot never quite seeming Italian. Delon, whose skill at mime can be seen in Melville's Le Samuraï, was in his prime, and starring in an important Italian movie added to his luster; in this role he runs the whole gamut of emotions.

    But the artificiality of dubbing seem more obvious today, and sometimes the lip-synching doesn't convince. Sometimes Visconti's blending of neorealism and baroque melodrama is jarring, and the whole film doesn't entirely gel. Certain scenes seem excruciatingly drawn-out, such as the long fistfight between Simone and Rocco outside the housing project, and the sordid murder by the canal. The conflict between Simone and Rocco hijacks the film. This is meant to be like a Greek tragedy, with a touch of Dostoyevsky, not to mention Vasco Pratolini and several other inspirations and sources; but that's one of the troubles -- too many sources. The narrative hardly adds up to a convincing or informative picture of the life of southern Italians who migrate north. What once was overwhelming and irresistibly moving now seems impressive, but overblown and lacking in unity.

    Rocco and His Brothers/Rocco e i suoi fratelli, 180 mins., is now being released by Milestone in the US (and in Blu-ray) in a new 4K restoration on DCP by Cineteca di Bologna at L’Immagine Ritrovata laboratory in association with Titanus, TF1 Droits Audiovisuels and Martin Scorsese's The Film Foundation with restoration funding provided by Gucci and The Film Foundation. It is included in the Revivals section of the 2015 New York Film Festival, and its US theatrical release begins 9-29 October at Film Forum, New York.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-22-2015 at 09:12 PM.

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    HEAVEN CAN WAIT (Ernst Lubitsch 1943) - Revivals

    ERNST LUBITSCH: HEAVEN CAN WAIT (1943) - Revivals


    DON AMECHE AND GENE TIERNEY ABOUT TO MEET IN HEAVEN CAN WAIT

    A roué on the brink of Hades reviews his life in a minor film that shows Lutitsch's light touch and charm

    This is not one of Lubitsch's best films, but still shows his charm and light touch in a remastered version that does full justice to its "glorious, candy-box Technicolor. . . beautifully restored by Schawn Belston and his team at 20th Century Fox." It's a wartime triumph of the Hollywood dream machine. It's a historical fantasy about a time when the richest people in New York lived in big greystone mansions on Fifth Avenue. The framework is a consideration of whether the protagonist, the recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (an excellent Don Ameche), warrants admission to Hell by a courtly Satan (Laird Cregar). The interview leads Henry to recall his past life. There are just a few scenes at different stages, when Henry was a cocky teenager, as a young man who steals Gene Tierney from his boring cousin when they are about to get married; winning her back when after a decade she runs to her rich, boring, squabbling parents in Kansas; and Henry's attempts to remain a "player" when a (by Forties standards) superannuated sixty-year-old; and ready for extinction at seventy.

    There is sharp verbal promised in the frame tale exchanges like Satan: "I presume your funeral was satisfactory." Henry: "Well, there was a lot of crying, so I believe everybody had a good time." The body of the action co-scripted by Samson Raphaelson is more romantic and kind-hearted. Also with Louis Calhern, Eugene Pallette, Marjorie Main, and Charles Coburn as Henry’s grandfather and fellow black sheep. Gloriously cinematic in an old-fashioned Hollywood studio way, this is a succession of grand interior sets created to expand the original play by Lazlo Bus-Fekete.

    Henry tells his life story to Satan at the elegant gate of Hades to see if he qualifies. He turns out to have been a better guy than he realized, despite a bit of womanizing. No connection to the 1978 Warren Beatty/Buck Henry movie; no traipsing back and forth between earth and the beyond in this one. It's more a sequence of scenes that dramatize a romanticized rich class of naive Midwestern beef moguls and Fifth Avenue millionaires for whom work was a choice, not a necessity. I'm not so keen on this kind of fantasy -- there's not enough of an edge in this rote Hollywood version of it -- but I can appreciate the polished studio work and the beautifully artificial Technicolor.

    Heaven Can Wait, mins., 112 mins., was originally released in the US 11 August 1943. Restored and rereleased by Twentieth Century Fox in collaboration with the Academy Film Archive and The Film Foundation. Screened for this review as part of the 2015 New York Film Festival where it was presented as part of the Revivals section.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-23-2015 at 06:52 PM.

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    MICROBE AND GASOLINE (Michel Gondry 2015)

    MICHEL GONDRY: MICROBE AND GASOLINE (2015)


    THÉOPHILE PAQUET AND ANGE DARGENT IN MICROBE AND GASOLINE

    French teen boy road trip à la Gondry

    Burned by the disaster of his over-produced Boris Vian adaptation Mood Indigo/L'Écume des jours (R-V 2014), or just wanting a change of pace, the DIY-gadget-mad French filmmaker Michel Gondry turns in his new film, Microbe et Gasoil,to a simple and intimate tale of two outcast, creative lyçée boys in Versailles who go on a highly original summer road trip. They're Danièl (Ange Dargent), whose over-loving eco-nut mom (Audrey Tautou) is a bit depressive, and Théo (Théophile Baquet), with a mean, unlikeable junk/antique dealer dad and an overweight mom whose health is precarious. Danièl is called "Microbe" because he's slight, and his long blond hair gets him mistaken for a girl. Théo is called "Gasoil" because his tinkering leads him to have a smell of gasoline about him. Danièl is an excellent artist who's so good he gets a gallery show (nobody comes, though, except Théo). He has painted many impressions of his brother, who sleeps in the same room and is a would-be punk musician. Théo has an older brother who's in the military.

    You can see where things are going when Danièl sees his bike, equipped with a variety of sound effect gadgets. Théo finds an outboard motor and supervises their building of a strange auto run by it. They can't get a license for it, so they build a wood shack on top of it so it can pass as a cabin by the road if authorities come by. They don't tell their parents where they're going, of course.

    This setup allows Gondry to lightheartedly indulge his penchant for handmade gadgetry (Les Inrocks calls the film "bricoludique"). But if for a while their makeshift vehicle is at the center of the boy's lives, the main focus is their rapid-fire, slangy conversation and the "ado" things they talk about -- girls, masturbation, courage, and philosophical issues Théo's isolation has caused him to ponder. There is something wackily analytical and French about these sometimes searching and witty chats. There is the girl called Laura (Diane Besnier) who Danièl falls for, who seems unattainable, but in the end turns out to be pining for him.

    Along the way they have several adventures. They're kidnapped by a lonely couple "abandoned" by their own kids. Danièl has a tricky encounter with an oriental massage parlor where he tries to get his girly hair cut off. The boys' vehicle is seriously damaged when it's mistaken for part of a gypsy encampment that's raided in the Morvan. They lose all of it when Théo "speed tunes" the engine and it can't be stopped. When they're back in Versailles they're separated: Théo's mom has died and his dad sends him off to boarding school in Vincennes, where his older brother lives.

    All this is merely a rough structure to make possible the dialogue between the two boys. The chemistry between the two young actors is palpable. This return to simplicity for Gondry is akin to his earlier straightforward films, the family portrait The Thorn in the Heart and his Bronx bus ride -- another example of his ability to tune in to young people, The We and the I. It may be true that this very French, very low-keyed road trip coming-of-ager will be a hard sell in the Anglophone world, as Peter Debruge says in his sympathetic Variety review. But it deserves a special place in the genre for its charm and specificity. This is a movie full of little offhand details so it would reveal another layer on further viewings. Gondry who rarely (well, never) has found a perfect collaborator for his surreal fantasies like Charlie Kaufman in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, here with his own personal invention quietly achieves one of his best and most intimate works.

    Microbe and Gasoline/Microbe et Gasoil, 103 mins., "Quietly released in France after being slighted by the festival circuit" (Debruge) 8 July 2015, it received raves from French critics (AlloCiné press rating 4.0). Screened for this review as part of the New York Film Festival, where the film's US premiere was set for 4 October 2015. US theatrical release begins 1 July 2016. (Northern Califoronia 15 July.)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-27-2016 at 02:55 PM.

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    IN THE SHADOW OF WOMEN/L'OMBE DES FEMMES (Philippe Garrel 2015)

    PHILIPPE GARREL: IN THE SHADOW OF WOMEN/L'OMBRE DES FEMMES (2015)


    STANISLAS MERHAR AND LENA PAUGAM IN L'OMBRE DES FEMMES

    Garrel offers a new twist on his favorite theme, but with what seems a flat follow-up

    A memorable experience of my first New York Film Festival, in 2005, was Philippe Garrel's dreamy black and white almost three-hour epic about the aftermath of 1968, Les amants réguliers, Regular Lovers, starring his glamorous son Louis, Clotilde Hesme, and others. There is magic in this long, meandering film, which is a far more authentic picture of those days than Bertolucci's glamorous candy-box depiction of it in The Dreamers (2003), which first brought Louis (then 19) to wide attention. You either love Louis or hate him, it seems; I've chosen to love him, and I've pursued the dream his father offers in Regular Lovers ever since. In 2008, also at Lincoln Center, as part of Film Comment Selects I saw Garrel's 1991 J'entends plus la guitare (I no longer hear the guitar), which takes us back closer to the autobiographical material that feeds all his work. Louis was just a boy of eight then, though his father filmed him as a boy. The next year FCS showed the 2008 Garrel film, starring Louis, as another suicidal artist (in Regular Lovers he committed suicide as a poet abandoned by his girlfriend). It's called La frontière de l'aube (The Frontier of Dawn), and typically it's in gorgeous rich black and white, but it's unmemorable. I had to see the 2011 Un été brûlant (A Burning Hot Summer) on my own in Paris, in an obscure cinema, for obvious reasons. In color, set partly in Italy, inexplicably costarring Monica Bellucci with Louis, suicidal as usual, this time a bad painter.

    Hope was provided by the 2013 La jalousie (Jealousy), starring Louis, included not without reason in that year's New York Film Festival. It's a modest and concisely edited treatment of the named theme. Philippe Garrel returns to it and to the same economical style (and usual lush black and white) in this year's L'ombre des femmes, a third Garrel père main selection of the New York Film Festival, and a worthy one, but also a bit of a disappointment -- or is it just so concise it requires re-watching? The justification of returning to the theme and the method (with son Louis present only as a Nouvelle Vague-style voice-over narrator, which he does in an elegantly detached manner) is that it does offer a sharp new twist in a screenplay written by the great Jean-Claude Carrière, who collaborated notably with Buñuel. Pierre (Stanislas Merhar)and Manon (Clotilde Courau) are a married couple, working together on a documentary about a French resistance fighter (Jean Pommier). Pierre starts an affair with a PhD candidate he meets at a film library, Elizabeth (Lena Paugam) without Manon's knowing it; Elizabeth is curious and spies on the couple to see what her lover's wife looks like -- he has confessed right off that he's married.

    Then, by sheer chance, Pierre's masculine superiority is neatly undercut when Elizabeth later spots Manon in a café near the Grands Boulevards métro -- with another man (Mounir Margoum). Eventually what goes around comes around, and the fascination of In the Shadow of Women (odd title, come to think of it) is that while it focuses on Pierre's disdainful, inconsiderate behavior toward both women, the overall effect of the story is to shift from Garrel's usual male-centric point of view. No cell phones or internet or other modern trash here, and no subplots or secondary characters, other than a somewhat annoying - but not funny -- mother (Antoinette Moya), who turns up in cafés and offers advice. And somehow this simplicity makes Garrle's sensiblity seem feminine. When the second revelation comes, there's a bat-squeak of classic French cynicism and farce and female revenge à la {Les Liaisons dengereuses[/i] -- which, however, gets lost in the absurdly feel-good ending. I'm still sorting this out; it may be quite as good as Jealousy; but at the moment it feels like a film that promises more than it delivers. But the same economy has been maintained; in fact this is four minutes shorter than La jalousie. Festival reviews have been good (Metacritic 75%); the French critics loved it (AlloCiné press rating 4.1--a level rarely achieved by a film d'auteur).

    In the Shadow of Women/L'Ombre des femmes, 73 mins., debuted at Cannes May 2015 with a quick, well-received French theatrical release (27 May 2015; AlloCiné press rating 4.0); eight festivals are listed on IMDb, including New York, where it was screened for this review. US theatrical release 15 Jan. 2016 Lincoln Center and IFC Center NYC.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-07-2015 at 04:27 PM.

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    EXPERIMENTER (Michael Almereyda 2015)

    MICHAEL ALMEREYDA: EXPERIMENTER (2015)


    PETER SARSGAARD IN THE EXPERIMENTER

    Almereyda's stylized presentation of Milgrim seems inevitable, but not brilliant

    Michael Almereyda’s portrait of Stanley Milgram and his "obedience" tests invites immediate comparison with Kyle Patrick Alvarez's similarly themed recent movie Stanford Prison Experiment. Everyone prefers Almereyda's film, it would seem, because it's more stylish. I was disappointed in Experimenter and suggest rethinking this judgment. Both Milgrim and Dr. Philip Zimbardo carried out experiments, or simulations, that were clearly abusive to the volunteers and arguably unethical, and both remained lastingly famous and included in psychology textbooks for their landmark efforts. Both troublingly reflect how group psychology can bring ordinary people to do Eichmann-like or Abu Ghraib-like things.

    The difference between the two films comes from the nature of the two experiments. Milgrim's isn't very interesting, and calls for jazzing up. He induced volunteer "teachers" to think they were applying progressively more severe and painful electric shocks to a heard but unseen "student." This behavior is compared to Eichmann in the film -- tried in Israel during Milgrim's time. The "obedience study" was repeated over and over with simple variations. It's shocking in its implications, but there's not much to watch. Though Almereyda might have examined it more minutely, he perhaps wisely chooses not to.
    The Stanford study involved two teams of young male volunteers thrown together in a mock-up "prison" location, separately assigned the roles of "prisoners" and "guards." This was meant to go on for several weeks but was ended in a few days because it turned so nasty. The Stanford film simply recreates this event and the experimenters' reaction to it -- because it's an event rich in a variety of incidents that makes good theater. There's more to it as an event than Milgrim's setup. Alvarez assembled some of the more interesting young male movie actors of the moment for his recreation, plus Billy Crudup as the somewhat creepy and dishonest Zimbardo.

    Almereyda is dealing with a deceptively simple fake setup. The "victim," the "student," is someone Milgrim has hired (the actor looks like Philip Seymour Hoffman: what if there had been more interesting actors besides Sarsgaard involved?). The real victim is the volunteer "teacher" who is induced to violate his or her own morality in giving, they think, electric shocks to someone they hear protesting and crying out in pain. But this volunteer just sits there. It's not very cinematic. Hence, Almeyreda's movie, which ingeniously treats everything from the outset as make-believe, and gives that quality troublingly pervasive. Backgrounds of interiors and exteriors are just giant black-and-grey photographs. Unlike the overwrought Zimbardo-Crudup, Milgrim-Sarsgaard seems more like an articulate blank, whose detachment is further enacted by having him frequently address the camera. This self-reflective approach still seems original, fifty years after the time when it seemed so in fiction.

    Milgrim's career was more tricky, because he was banished from the Ivy League to CUNY, while Zimbardo got to stay at Stanford for life. But the trouble with making Experimenter into a biopic is that Milgrim, like Zimbardo, essentially lived off his one landmark experiment for the rest of his (less long) life. It is not clear to me how we are meant to take his relationship with his doggedly supportive wife (a colorless Winona Ryder). Experimenter skates along, taking Milgrim from one place and career situation to another, embroidering with information about the implications of the "obedience studies." Despite its review of Milgrim's post-obedience career and life, the rest of a movie is essentially just a review of the implications of what happens in the first few minutes. The one ironic moment comes when Milgrim's study is dramatized and distorted for television. What we can say is that the 90-minute Experimenter is more economical than the 122-minute Prison Experiment. Perhaps Milgrim's basic work has more scientific clarity than Zimbardo's setup. Sarsgaard is an interesting actor, who's suitably enigmatic here. His enunciation at times seemed unclear.

    Perhaps I'm missing something in failing to see the festival blurb's claim that Experimenter depicts "the bohemian-tinged academic world of the 1960s through the 1980s with an economy that Stanley Kubrick might have envied." Experimenter may be clever, but Stanford Prison Experiment is a more involving watch. Both are disturbing, interesting, and instructive. Neither is a great movie.

    Experimenter, 90 mins., debuted at Sundance; over a dozen other festivals. Screened for this review as part of the New York Film Festival. US theatrical release 16 October 2015. (Metacritic rating 81%/)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-16-2015 at 02:36 PM.

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