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    New York Film Festival 2016




    The Walter Reade Theater

    For the General Film Forum Filmleaf thread click here

    Links to reviews:
    13th, The (Ava DuVernay 2016) - Opening Night Film
    20th Century Women (Mike Mills 2016) - Centerpiece Film
    Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho 2016)
    B-Side, The: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography (Errol Morris 2016) - Documentary Series
    Billy Lynn's Halftime Walk (Ang Lee 2016) - Special Presentation
    Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt 2016)
    Death of Louis XIV, The/La mort de Louis XIV (Albert Serra 2016) - Explorations Series
    Elle (Paul Verhoeven 2016)
    Fire at Sea/Fuocoammare (Gianfranco Rosi 2016)
    Gimmie Danger (Jim Jarmusch 2016) - Special Event
    Graduation/Bacalaureat (Cristian Mungiu 2016)
    Hermia and Helena (Matías Piñeiro 2016)
    I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach 2016)
    Jackie (Pablo Larrain 2016) - Special Premiere Presentation
    Julieta (Pedro Almodóvar 2016)
    Lost City of Z, The (James Gray 2016) - Closing Night Film
    Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan 2016)
    Moonlight (Barry Jenkins 2016)
    My Entire High School Sinking into the Sea (Dash Shaw 2016)
    Neruda (Pablo Larraín 2016)
    Paterson (Jim Jarmusch 2016)
    Personal Shopper (Oliver Assayas 2016)
    Quiet Passion, A (Terence Davies 2016)
    Rehearsal, The (Alison Maclean 2016)
    Sieranevada (Cristi Puiu 2016)
    Son of Joseph, The/Le fils de Joseph (Eugène Green 2016)
    Staying Vertical/Rester vertical Alain Guiraudie 2016)
    Things to Come/L’Avenir (Mia Hansen-Løve 2016)
    Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade 2016)
    Unknown Girl, The/La fille inconnue (Jean-Pierre, Luc Dardenne 2016)
    Yourself and Yours (Hong Sangsoo 2016)


    [Photo by CK]
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-28-2017 at 12:39 PM.

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    AQUARIUS (Kleber Mendoça Filho 2016)

    KLEBER MENDOÇA FILHO: AQUARIUS (2016)


    SÔNIA BRAGA IN AQUARIUS

    Diva v Developer

    This is a less stylistically radical film than Neighboring Sounds (ND/NF 2012), Kleber Mendoça Filho's debut, and differs in focus. But the two films, both firmly set in the director's native eastern seaside town of Recife and around a specific neighborhood, have in common a growing menace, an edge of evil, and keen awareness of class, race, color and habitat. In contrast to Neighboring Sounds' multi-voiced, crabwise narrative, Aquarius, though, focuses headlong on one person, a single apartment, and one issue. The imperious Clara (a magnificent Sônia Braga) has lived in the same flat much of her life, raising her three now grownup children, and though everyone else has left, she won't sell it to developers waiting to tear down the forties building and put up a big garish high rise. Braga is tremendous, and fills every scene with her subtly intuitive diva-hood. The movie isn't otherwise as intriguing or mysterious as its predecessor. But it has made waves at home, and looks like a potential sleeper hit for sophisticated mature Stateside audiences. In this more conventional format the movie yet has its own complexity, visiting Clara in other locations and times and establishing how the apartment has acquired through decades of human use the quality of baraka as Robert Graves defined it in his Oxford Addresses on Poetry. The movie's deeper theme is the pursuit of profit as an enemy of human value.

    Her apartment isn't big, but its ocean views, lovely light, and elegant comforts make you want to move in. (The glorious widescreen images of Pedro Sotero and Fabricio Tadeu are bright and delicious.) At first they ask her nicely, and she just tears up their offers and refuses to talk to the developer, Bonfim (Fernando Teixeira), or his ingratiating but scarily large grandson (Humberto Carrão), fresh from US business school. So then they're not so nice. Notice the sly unity of Mendoça Filho's invention, which once again plays with the auditory. Clara is a retired music critic and public intellectual, Catholic in taste and adaptable to new technology, a user of MP3 in her smartphone, but protected by a wall of vinyl records, whose value over digital as time capsules she points out to a pair of young women come to interview her.

    She will be assaulted by her own alien "neighboring sounds": a porno movie starts being made, and a crowd parties in the apartment overhead into which Bonfim has moved a slew of mattresses. She responds by pulling out a disc to blast back with "Fat Bottomed Girls." (At Cannes Mike D'Angelo wrote for AVClub he was the only one to laugh, recognizing the album cover and guess at once this would be the cut from the Queen album Jazz she would play.) It's touches like this moment that make Aquarius more specific, yet more universal, than the usual.


    Original "Jazz" album w/ "Fat Bottomed Girls"

    What's a Brazilian movie without music? or a Mendoça Filho film without complex sound design? Alas, the English subtitles fail to explain for us some key Brazilian song lyrics at other points. Anyway, despite her vinyl riposte, the porn has a clear positive effect on Clara. It amuses her, and prompts this lonely, sensual woman to hire an escort for an evening of hot sex the film illustrates with a stylish mix of boldness and restraint.

    The risk is that Mendoça Filho's slow burn (and similar two-hour-and-twenty-minute length) may work less hauntingly in this more straightforward story and just seem like dawdling. But the compensation is that the socio-economic and personal story lines are equally vivid and strong. An early scene celebrates Clara's Aunt Lucia (Thaia Perez) turning 70 in 1980, in the same building, and looking at a humble chest, flashes back to a man going down on her there long before: this is also a celebration of older women as boldly sexual beings. Clara is elegant and attractive, but she is a longtime cancer survivor with a mastectomy, and a man she charms at a dance club with girlfriends (they're lively too, but Clara radiates beauty as if under a spotlight), takes her home the minute he discovers the surgery. What is it like to be so admired and then so rejected? Clara's relations with family and friends are similar. They adore, but are peeved by her. She is sensual, she can charm, she can be a snob, she can throw her long black mane around grandly or menacingly or tie it up in a tight stylish bun.

    As the battle between diva and developer climaxes the film rises to mythical, ex machina, levels, becoming a metaphor for corruption in the whole country that's at once too neat and at too pullulatingly creepy and maybe, as Peter Bradshaw wrote in the Guardian at Cannes, not an ending at all. But Kleber Mendoça secures his position as one of today's most interesting and poignant directors.

    Aquarius, 146 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes May 2016; 18 other international festivals, including Toronto, New York (9 Oct.), London and finally Mill Valley, coinciding there with its limited US release 14 Oct. 2016 (Angelika Film Center, Paris Cinema NYC).

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 11-21-2016 at 10:10 PM.

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    THE 13TH (Ava DuVernay 2016)

    AVA DUVERNAY: THE 13TH (2016)


    ANGELA DAVIS IN THE 13TH

    US prisons as an extension of slavery

    Ava DuVernay's ringing and dramatic The 13th is the first documentary to grace a first night of the New York Film Festival; it's in theaters and also on Netflix, who produced it. Last year saw the release of the director's Selma, a historical film seeking to dramatize key events in Martin Luther King's struggle for equal voting rights, focused on the march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965. The effort was received with acclaim, though it unnecessarily slurs President Lyndon Johnson, a great champion of civil rights, and some of its characterizations were lackluster. The 13th is arguably a more forceful piece of work. Though much of the information it presents is not new, its scope is sweeping, its connecting of the dots so clear viewers may be shocked and enlightened.

    Perhaps surprisingly for the NYFF's spotlight choice - but they've not always been strongest in doc choices - The 13th iis really not original investigative work as was Laura Poitras' Edward Snowden film that debuted at the festival last year, Citizenfour. It's simply a collection of talking heads (though well-chosen and sometimes nicely contrasting ones), statistics, and archival footage, with animated captioning and music to liven things up. Inclusion of DuVernay's film in the top NYFF spot seems mainly aimed at making a strong political statement in an election year (it contains clips stunningly exposing Donald Trump's retrograde racism), when the events addressed by the Black Lives Matter movement are in the forefront of minds.

    In some ways though handsomely crafted, The 13th can also annoy with its jumpy multiple-angle shots of the talking heads and its ADHD-level cross-cutting between speakers and clips. It's an affectation of the film that speakers are rarely seen looking right into the camera, and onscreen IDs of speakers are withheld till they've appeared repeatedly. Some speakers are presented in grand settings, some not. It all takes some getting used to. But when you do, it contains much important information. Even if you may know a lot of it already, it's interrelated in a thought-provoking way.

    Begin with some statistics: the US has 5% of the world population but houses 25% of the world's prisoners; 40% of them are black. One in three blacks will serve prison time; one in 17 white men will. And how did this come about? The Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution - to which the title alludes - has a clause in it that clearly excepts prison. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." If you're in prison, it's okay for you to be treated as a slave. Rather astonishing, but that's what it seems to imply. Given this proviso, the logical purpose of DuVernay's exposition is to show that the lives of African Americans since the abolition of slavery, through various means, but increasingly over the last three decades through imprisonment, have involved slavery by another name.

    It's all economics, the film points out. Slaves played a key role in the southern economy, and their removal left it in disarray. The result was to re-enslave them by other means. They were jailed for long times for trivial charges and the prisoners were farmed out as labor. The 2.2+ million incarcerated in the US today are a massive slave labor force, their maintenance itself a highly profitable industry.

    D.W. Griffith's huge hit The Birth of a Nation fed a picture of blacks as dangerous criminals and marauders and rapists. In the wake of this mood, the KKK thrived. Jim Crow rules extended exclusion and humiliation. In this atmosphere the incarceration of blacks was looked on as inevitable. Revolt was difficult. Civil rights leaders during the Sixties were targeted by FBI chief J.Edgar Hoover, and were jailed, executed in their beds, and driven from the country.

    Fast forward to Richard Nixon, then Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. "Law and Order" and the "War on Drugs" are explained as code words or pretexts for incarcerating blacks. The film points out the familiar fact that crack cocaine, which predominated in the ghetto, led to extreme punishments while involvement in the white suburban powdered version was treated much more lightly in US law. Here the film grows more relevant and contemporary, referring to Hilary Clinton's support of her husband's Draconian "three strikes" law and "mandatory sentencing" as a major factor behind the way since Reagan the US prison population has increased by 50% or even doubled every five years.

    Returning to the economic factor which motivated slavery, the film describes the key role of the wide-ranging conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (or ALEC), which has had a many-layered role in increasing the incarceration rate and profiting by it, including the privatization of prisons. Now that public awareness of the prison issue is heating up, the new move is toward home incarceration - spreading the prisons among us - using ankle bracelets and GPS to confine people outside the formal prison system. The film touches on how privatized "detainment centers" for undocumented immigrants are really just prisons too.

    It's plain the film isn't enthusiastic about Hilary Clinton, given her links with her husband's Draconian policies vis-a-vis imprisonment and welfare and her use of the term "superpradator," but the vicious moments - clips of many of them - from Donald Trump at rallies that have a distinct racist flavor makes the message clear: the "least worst" by far is Hilary.

    Given its thorough, forceful nature, The 13th certainly is a film worth seeing, and probably of special importance to young people. It's just a shame that it's more in the order of a summary of what's known than new investigation. The film doesn't steer us otherwise toward a way out, or provide a very positive message, except that "Black Lives Matter" (even without the great black political leaders of the past, including Angela Davis, whom we've directly seen and heard from) is a strong and viable movement for reform.

    The 13th, 100 mins., debuted 30 Sept. 2016 at the New York Film Festival; also LFF. Limited release UK and UK and internet (Netflix) starting 7 Oct. 2016.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-07-2016 at 06:50 PM.

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    FIRE AT SEA/FUOCOAMMARE (Gianfranco Rosi 2016)

    GIANFRANCO ROSI: FIRE AT SEA/FUOCOAMMARE (2016)


    SAMUELE PUCILLO TAKES AIM IN FIRE AT SEA

    Rosi's crabwise look at Lampedusa's refugee crisis packs a gentle wallop

    The star of this documentary, which is of the quietly "observational" kind, is a 12-yer-old oddball kid called Samuele Pucillo, who lives on Lampedusa, an island of fishermen. Samuele, however, considers himself a born hunter, not a fisherman, and therefore a misfit on the island. Samuele is small, with a lazy eye, as he finds out in a visit to the oculist, but nonetheless an ace with a slingshot. He has a droll manner, his replies well considered. The island's longtime principal doctor, Dott. Pietro Bartolo, calls him "il vechierello," the little old man. We patiently observe Samuele's amusements and hobbies and shaky attempts at being seaworthy to suit his fisherman father: he throws up just riding in a rowboat. Slurping spaghetti diligently, he promises he'll rack up time out on the pontoons, to gain sea legs.

    We also visit Giuseppe Fragapane, known as Pippo, the local DJ who plays old Sicilian ballads as requests on his show, "Canzonissima." Samuele's grandma reminisces about sea battles during the war, "Fire at Sea," she calls it -- also the name of an old song ("Fuocoammare," tracked down by an Italian writer Valeria Brigida) whose words nobody remembers. It's all very quiet and quaint and traditionally Italian.

    But Lampedusa, a mere eight square miles between Sicily and the coast of Libya, is also something else: the Italian territory boatloads of desperate refugees most often sail toward when they escape from Africa. It is Rosi's alternating coverage of Samuele & Co. with quietly searing observation of the arrivals of refugees on overcrowded boats that gives Fire at Sea the impact, at once direct and metaphorical, that led to Rosi's receiving the Golden Bear at Berlin this year for this film. The refugees are received out in the water, with care, efficiency and kindness, by the looks of it. But the inhabitants of Lampedusa barely see them. Where do they go?

    Gianfraco Rosi is a documentary filmmaker who would not seem to seek the limelight. His last film, Sacro GRA (Open Roads 2014), loosely connected to Rome's ring road but mainly a gallery of oddball portraits, won a prize at Venice but was a snooze for some. Obviously he continues to come at his subject matter indirectly in Fire at Sea, but his crabwise and personal look at the urgent problem of mass immigration is bringing him controversy and a sense of relevance as well as a US distributor, Kino Lorber.

    Though chatty and ebullient in person, and fluent in English from having studied at NYU Film School, Rosi is self-effacing and shy as a filmmaker. But he is also persistent, and perhaps braver than at first may appear. He also has a sense of humor and a sense of poetry. What impresses is how invisible he appears following Samuele's and his familiy's lives and yet how close he gets to the desperation and vibrant life of the mostly African immigrants he films arriving on boats, dead or alive. Dott. Bartolo, seen at one point attempting to detect the sex of an immigrant woman's unborn twins with ultrasound (he has no idea what her native language is), also recounts his experiences, looking off into space, as the doctor who must not only examine the sick and the healthy foreign arrivals but take samples of the bodies of the many who arrive dead.

    The boatloads arriving from Syria, Chad, Niger and who knows where we come back to repeatedly, see them arrive, be patted down, the sick or dying (of dehydration and heat) from the holds of the boats removed as Dott. Bartolo describes. A group of young men play wild makeshift soccer. The dark faces coming off the boats looking into the camera. Another group from Niger chant a "hymn" while one yells a rhythmic voiceover description of their odyssey in English. Dott. Bartolo speaks of pregnant women or women who have just given birth arriving dead. Many, many die in the horrible conditions on board the overcrowded vessels. Or arrive covered with serious burns from the dangerous diesel oil permeating the hold. Once, briefly, we glimpse a hold that is a pile of dead bodies. An inferno. They are like slave ships. It's a relief to return to Samuele and his sliing shots. His life seems simple and fun. But be warned: he tells Dott. Bartolo he has trouble breathing, and the doctor thinks it is not cardiac disease, but anxiety, stress. That's odd, because he seems utterly self-possessed.

    Three years ago a boat nearing Lampedusa carrying 500 Eritrean men, women and children caught fire and capsized. Only 155 people survived, and 364 bodies have since been recovered. Dott. Bartolo alludes to this, but Rosi's film is not explicitly factual or informative. It may leave you with many questions. It makes the human details it shows real enough so the questions may linger; but an article in the Guardian will show that Rosi's film is an artificial construct, if one had not figured that out by oneself. For one thing, it leaves out all the details of what happens to the refugees after they're taken off the boats -- though it does seem that in humanitarian terms, Lampedusa has an unusually clean slate.

    Fire at Sea/Fuocoammare, 104 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 2016, winning the Golden Bear and three other awards there; some other nominations and awards. Nearly two dozen other festivals, including Telluride and Toronto, and the NYFF Main Slate, as part of which it was screened for this review. It is also Italy's entry for the 2016 Best Foreign Oscar competition. Limited US release 21 Oct.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-13-2016 at 02:16 PM.

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    THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN'S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY (Errol Morris 2016)

    ERROL MORRIS: THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN'S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY (2016)


    ELSA DORFMAN SHOWS A 20X40 OF HERSELF WITH GINSBERG IN THE B-SIDE

    A casual portrait

    Elsa Dorfman is an old lady of 79 and also a friend of Mr. Morris. They both live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Of this film, an unpretentious gesture of a 25-year friendship, Morris said, in a NYFF Q&A, that with a subject like her "you just have to get out of the way," and for good or ill that is pretty much what he did. He lets Elsa ramble on, filming her in her garage-archive at a large drafting desk pulling out one photograph after another from ranks of flat files containing nearly fifty years of work, or decades anyway. Morris adds some illustrative material, but mostly his film is her talking and her work. So presented, it turns out to be thin material, and the 76 minutes feel like more than enough.

    Two things are fascinating: a network of notables, artistic and intellectual, and a unique large view camera "instant" photographic format, doggedly pursued. Elsa, who married a civil rights lawyer, knew a lot of Beat era writers and poets as well as some rock stars and Harvard big shots,and was a good friend of Allen Ginsberg from his most creative period up to the end, and made many portraits of him, including huge nude ones. One of Morris' best ancillary moments is two phone messages from Ginsberg and a friend when he was about to die. The other thing is Elsa's long and faithful association with the big format Polaroid cameras, the 20x24 and the more rare 40x80, though she points out that to Polaroid she was no one special: other photographers got preferential access to the special cameras. It was only by persistence and renting a large space that she was able to have regular access to one of the cameras and use it to shoot paid portraits. Surely Richard Avedon's use of large format view camera portraits in his In the American West series blows Elsa's big Polaroid efforts away for artistry and drama, though he probably could never have achieved her funky down home charm either, and her work, though unpretentious, has a consistent positivity and warmth Avedon's attention-getting oddities lack. As she explains, she doesn't do unhappy people. Her arbitrary, thrown-together shots, however, despite their charm, don't set her with the great, penetrating artists of photographic portraiture.

    Elsa's rambles provide a somewhat sketchy picture of her life, a job with Grove Press in the sixties, and other connections after she left New York that brought her in touch with Beats and other notables. Details, lacking here, are partly filled in by her Wikipedia bio, which says she organized a "Paterson Society" that gathered Beats and kept up a correspondence with them afterwards "as they traveled the world." Maybe she met more of them through Ginsberg, or even her husband; who knows? She managed to photograph Bob Dylan at a concert when others were excluded. She also is shown selling her (smaller) photos on the street from a cart; apparently her husband's civil rights expertise helped her evoke her Second Amendment rights against police harassment when doing this.

    As with all photography just as a record of people and their times it is interesting to see Elsa's photographs, even the "B-side" ones, which she explains are those out of two big Polaroids made that clients chose not to keep, and left with her. A more efficient presentation might have included a panorama of them, carefully photographed; seeing Elsa manhandle and pull them out randomly adds little but a sense that there are many and she has not seen them for a long time. Learning more of what she has to tell would have taken a lot more interviews, edited into the best moments, and including a more complete picture of her life and of her relationships with the notables.

    At the New York Film Festival presentation of the film, a special surprise was an appearance of Dan Stern, President of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, with one of the 20x40 Polaroid cameras he arranged the Society to buy, along with a stock of the necessary film and other supplies that Polaroid no longer makes. For some years now the FSLC has had several photographers do portraits of filmmakers and artists it has featured using the big camera. They are displayed in Film Society lobbies and hallways at the Walter Reade Theater and the new film center across the street. On this occasion the camera was set up for Elsa to shoot Errol, and the results were shown to the audience. But when all is said and done, as Walter Chaw also has commented from Telluride, Morris' portrait of Elsa Dorfman, while it has touching and exciting moments, is too careless an effort to rand with Morris' best work.

    The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman's Portrait Photography, 76 mins., debuted at Telluride 4 Sept. 2016, also showed at Toronto, New York, Chicago. Screened for this review at the New York Film Festival.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-10-2016 at 04:57 AM.

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    MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins 2016)

    BARRY JENKINS: MOONLIGHT (2016)


    ASHTON SAUNDERS, ALLEX HIBBERT, TREVANTE RHODES (LITTLE, CHIRON, BLACK)

    Blackness and gayness

    In Moonlight, a movie set in south Florida, Barry Jenkins has made a humdinger of a sophomore feature eight years after his debut Medicine for Melancholy. The latter, very ruminative, urban, and middle class black, was surprisingly original and intelligent, though I quoted Karina Longworth's comment: "Medicine for Melancholy offers a self-contained rebuttal to claims that precious, naturalistic dramas about the existential dilemmas of hipster singles are exclusively a white man’s game." It takes place in San Francisco, by the way. Well, forget all that. Moonlight is visceral and intense and very black. It shows a boy who grows up in the depths of the ghetto with a crack whore mamma and a drug dealer de facto foster daddy, and can still be gay. Maybe everybody knows this, but it's new to the screen, and with this film Barry Jenkins level of accomplishment has made a great leap forward. Moonlight is a deeply original and memorable black gay coming-of-age story.

    But it's more complicated than that, because Moonlight focuses on three different intense periods of the young man's life, and he's three distinctly different people (and three different actors). First he's shy, silent ten-year-old "Little." At the next stage he's intense, angry high schooler Chiron. Finally after prison time he's a big muscular brute called Black. He had all these names as a boy but he grows into each of them and each stands for the different person he's become - while he's also all these and other people. He does not know who he is, but whatever he is, is intense.

    It's hard to overstate the passion and accomplishment behind the scenes that unfold in this picture, which sometimes feel hurled at you, or hurled across the screen. The language makes no concessions to cliché or to what white people may expect to hear. Some dialogue at least in the third episode is hard to follow and may require repeated viewings.

    The story of Moonlight takes place over the course of fifteen years or so, and is based on the playwright and fellow Miamian Tarell Alvin McCraney's short theater piece, "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue." There is a poetry and an unmistakably earnest epic quality in the film, with its classical music and James Laxton's elegant Steadicam cinematography which gives even violent, precipitous action a studied look. Rapid camera moves, rapturous moments, bright color, intense pop songs show a clear debt to Wong Kar-wai.* Jenkins and his crew do beautiful things with big old cars, the glint of metal, and water: a great scene is the one in which the boy takes a luxurious ghetto bath using dishwashing liquid and a big tub of boiled water. Camerawork is panoramic, adding sweep to the boy's confinement.

    Each manifestation of Little-Chiron-Black also makes no concession to good looks or gay sensitivity, though the small runt of a boy (played by Alex Hibbert with silent composure) and the two other iterations each has an intense, palpable beauty in his blackness that mocks the conventions of commercials and TV casting. Right from the start other boys mark the boy as "soft" and he's chased into a crack house, rescued by Juan (Mahershala Ali), the mentor-to-be who takes him back to his girlfriend Teresa (Janelle Monáe) to get him to talk and becomes his protector. The time will come when he asks Juan what "faggot" means; he gets a kindly, tolerant answer. What the boy has to contend with all the time besides the bullies is his mamma, who keeps descending into drug dependency and scrounging for money, so as a tall, skinny teenager played by Ashton Sanders he tells Juan he "hates" her.

    The one he will love-hate is his continuing "friend" Kevin (Jaden Piner at 9; Jharrel Jerome at the crucial moment of 16; André Holland as the adult Black seeks out a decade or more later). These are the moments that are the emotional heart of the film and of Little-Chiron-Black's experience, and though it's not that kind of story or relationship there's the same kind of heartbreaking longing hovering over Kevin as in Brokeback Mountain. Moonlight is another gay tragic epic love story that has the possibility of making its way to a mainstream audience and perhaps even into their hearts, but this time with the addition of blackness. As embodied by Jharrel Jerome, the high school Kevin who is Chiron's only friend and only betrayer, is a weak young man; he will admit to that weakness, to only doing what other people wanted him to do, as a grown man and a cook. But he has one important thing: the ability to reach out and touch Chiron, which makes all the difference. Jerome's weakness is heartbreaking; when he returns as André Holland, he's an eager charmer. His weakness now impresses, and his chattiness may need Black's (like Chiron's, and LIttle's) silence, which may be wounded but is also strong. One of the beautiful moments is when Juan teaches Little to swim; this is a time when we can see his strength, also when the 9-year-old Kevin teaches him to fight back.

    When Chiron has returned as Black, and is played by Trevante Rhodes, he's an astonishment. The audience has to accept the transformation isn't what you'd expect, as must Kevin. This final sequence makes sense if you conceive of it as growing from a Brokeback kind of longing and loneliness, and in those terms, it's beautiful, strengthened by the intense presence Trevante Rhodes provides. It's an intensity of blackness, which Jenkins revels in, and Moonlight yields its remarkable pleasures only if we revel in it too. In which case it becomes one of the year's best films.

    Moonlight, 110 mins., debuted at Telluride, Sept. 2016; also at Toronto, Edmunton, New York, London, Vancouver, Hamptons, Mill Valley, Rome, Philadelphia, Chicago in close succession, US theatrical realese 21 Oct. 2016.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-11-2016 at 03:24 PM.

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