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    The 57th New York Film Festival Main Slate

    (Officially announced August 6, 2019)

    Opening Night
    The Irishman
    Dir. Martin Scorsese

    Centerpiece
    Marriage Story
    Dir. Noah Baumbach

    Closing Night
    Motherless Brooklyn
    Dir. Edward Norton

    Atlantics: A Ghost Love Story/Atlantique
    Dir. Mati Diop

    Bacurau
    Dir. Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles

    Beanpole/Dylda
    Dir. Kantemir Balagov

    Fire Will Come
    Dir. Oliver Laxe

    First Cow
    Dir. Kelly Reichardt

    A Girl Missing よこがお
    Dir. Koji Fukada

    I Was at Home, But…
    Dir. Angela Schanelec

    Liberté
    Dir. Albert Serra

    Martin Eden
    Dir. Pietro Marcello

    The Moneychanger/Así habló el cambista
    Dir. Federico Veiroj

    Oh Mercy!//Roubaix, une lumičre
    Dir. Arnaud Desplechin

    Pain and GloryDolor y gloria
    Dir. Pedro Almodóvar

    Parasite 기생충
    Dir. Bong Joon-ho

    Film Comment Presents
    Portrait of a Lady on Fire/Portrait de la jeune fille en feu
    Dir. Céline Sciamma

    Saturday Fiction
    Dir. Lou Ye

    Sibyl
    Dir. Justine Triet

    Synonyms/Synonymes
    Dir. Nadav Lapid

    To the Ends of the Earth 旅のおわり世界のはじまり
    Dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa

    The Traitor/Traditore
    Dir. Marco Bellocchio

    Varda by Agnčs
    Dir. Agnčs Varda

    Vitalina Varela
    Dir. Pedro Costa

    Wasp Network
    Dir. Olivier Assayas

    The Whistlers/La Gomera
    Dir. Corneliu Porumboiu

    The Wild Goose Lake 南方车站的聚会
    Dir. Diao Yinan

    Young Ahmed/Le jeune Ahmed
    Dir. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne

    Zombi Child
    Dir. Bertrand Bonello

    NYFF Special Events, Spotlight on Documentary, Convergence, Shorts, Retrospective, Revivals, and Projections sections, as well as filmmaker conversations and panels, will be announced in the coming weeks.

    Tickets for the 57th New York Film Festival will go on sale to the general public on September 8. Festival and VIP passes are on sale now and offer one of the earliest opportunities to purchase tickets and secure seats at some of the festival’s biggest events, including Opening and Closing Night. Learn more at filmlinc.org/NYFF57Passes. Press and industry accreditation for NYFF57 is open now and closes August 16th; apply here.BEA


    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 02:55 PM.

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    PAIN AND GLORY/DOLOR Y GLORIA (Pedro Almodóvar 2019)

    PEDRO ALMODÓVAR: PAIN AND GLORY/DOLOR Y GLORIA (2019)


    ANTONIO BANDERAS IN PAIN AND GLORY/DOLOR Y GLORIA

    Bright moments: Almodóvar's beautiful summing up

    My sense of Almodóvar has always been overwhelmingly visual. Does anybody make more bright-colored movies? In content Pain and glory is darker and more self-absorbed than usual, more of a summing up. Yet the surface is as much cheerful eye candy as ever, its visual delight acquiring the special poignancy of the clown suicidal behind his ludic mask. The utensils on a kitchen counter are all bright red. When somebody pulls out a cell phone, it's red, or wrapped in red. Each shirt the protagonist wears is a different multicolored pattern, except for the robin's egg blue polo shirt he starts out with. But this is a man whose life has gone stale and who has run out of inspiration.

    His name is Salvador, he is a illustrious filmmaker in a creative crisis. He's blocked, he's in all sorts of pain, and he's doing heroin to deal with his sufferings, physical and mental. He chokes all the time, and for that, nothing helps. This is caused by an unusual ailment, detected later, to do with his vertebrae.

    Salvador is played by a deliberately worn and aged-looking Antonio Banderas, in a low-keyed performance that won the Best Actor award at Cannes. Alberto Iglesias won the Cannes soundtrack award. This is one of the director's most important films, even if it may truly please only his most ardent fans, and yet displease some of them because it's atypical.

    Pain and Glory is the segmented picture of a complicated life. From the way Almodóvar started out in the provinces you'd never have known he'd become Spain's most famous movie director and the darling of the Madrid cultural scene. And here, it is hard to see the moody, blocked filmmaker in the small son of impoverished parents who wind up living in a cave house.

    Hardship is downplayed in a masterful opening scene of little Salvador (Asier Flores) with his mother (Penelope Cruz) and other women singing as they do the wash by a stream, wishing they were men so they could swim naked. This luminous sequence is like a musical. Even the cave house the poor family moves into turns out to be flooded with sunlight - a part of it has no roof. The boy gets sunstroke - or is he just love-struck? - reading while he sneaks looks at Eduardo (César Vicente), his "first object of desire" - a ready-made Almodóvar movie title.

    Eduardo is a handsome, strapping young workman who's illiterate, till little Salvador, who loves books and writing, is called in to give him lessons. The exchange is that Eduardo puts up tiles (bright colored) and whitewashes the cave. He gets so dirty doing that one day he asks Salvador, while his mother is away, to let him take a bath in a tub, and hence the boy gets treated to a spectacular display of beefcake. Eduardo probably knows what he's doing. Handsome young men are usually aware when they're being admired.

    Creating what will become a kind of Rosebud, Eduardo, who's artistic, does a drawing of young Salvador reading that long gets lost but then turns up by chance many years later and is bought by the blocked, or perhaps now unblocking, filmmaker. Isn't he unblocking, since he's making this film? Pain and Glory eventually begins to reflect back on itself - another Almodóvar trademark being deft plot construction that, like psychedelic color, delights despite, or even because of, its artificiality.

    A voiceover sequence very early in the film where the mature Salvador lists his multiple ailments, which include back trouble, tinnitus, and depression, to name only a few, is illustrated by a dazzling series of bright-colored diagrams and symbols. If he's sad, he doesn't let us see it in his choice of visuals. If only Power Points were like this, students would stagger out of lectures high on imagery. (Even the opening credits sequence of this film is memorably elegant, simple, and gorgeous.)

    The movie's sketch of the family side concludes later with the grownup Salvador sweetly caring for his aged mother (Julieta Serrano), a sequence among the film's most mundane yet most poetic. There is no detailed, practical picture of the protagonist's creative life or his love life except in reference to his most famous film, Sabor, from thirty years ago, the lead actor he's been estranged from all those years, and a long lost lover who was a heroin addict. The grownup portion of the film is about Salvador's lingering unease, hypochondria, troubling physical ailments, and writer's block. Hope appears through reunions with the actor and the lover. Salvador finds the actor Alberto Crespo (Asier Etxeandia) and they collaborate on a new performance called "Addiction." By coincidence (Almodóvar's plots also have a fairy tale aspect) the former lover, Federico (Leonardo Sbaraglia), long a resident in Argentina but in town to collect an inheritance, sees "Addiction," realizes it's about him, and seeks out the author, even though it was presented anonymously.

    Alberto, the actor, and Salvador seem two egocentric basket cases when a restored print of Sabor is shown and they can't manage to show up for the post-screening Q&A and only answer some questions for the emcee on the phone broadcast to the audience. It's an enthusiastic crowd, an ego boost to the director, and at the end he is about to have the choking problem solved. Somehow this ending seems hopeful, happy, sad, and scary all at once: it's overwhelmingly emotional, and satisfying if you want a good cry.

    In his Hollywood Reporter review Jonathan Holland complains repeatedly that Pain and Glory isn't funny enough, hardly funny at all. This is true. But the surface of the film is continually pleasing. And Banderas' low keyed performance gets to you. In my case I have always liked best when Almodóvar was quiet and magical, especially in Talk to Her. Perhaps the giddy comedy he developed so fluently in the Eighties was a mask to hide whatever was going on inside. Anyway after 36 films the director has a right to be serious. Yet at the same time, Pain and Glory has Almodóvar's distinctive look and structure. It may take repeated viewings to perceive that it's a triumph. But obviously there were inklings at Cannes.

    Pain and Glory/Dolor y gloria 113 mins., it opened in Spain Mar. 22, 2019, then as mentioned debuted in Competition at Cannes in May, winning Best Actor and Best Soundtrack awards. Other festivals included Sydney, Melbourne, Taipei and Munich, Toronto. Showing today at the NYFF. US theatrical release from Oct. 4, 2019. Current Metascore 82%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-03-2019 at 06:40 AM.

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    WILD GOOSE LAKE, THE 南方车站的聚会 (Diao Yinan 2019)

    DIAO YINAN: THE WILD GOOSE LAKE 南方车站的聚会 (2019)


    FROM DIAO YINAN'S WILD GOOSE LAKE

    Noise, color, romance and doom

    With this new film, which was in Competition at Cannes, Diao Yinan establishes himself as some kind of Asian B-noir master, I suppose, yet while he touches all the bases, something feels missing, or he is just trying too hard. Nonetheless there are pleasures in The Wild Goose Lake (whose Chinese title means something different, South Station Gathering), pleasures of the senses above all, sight and sound.

    In her Variety review Jessica Kiang rightfully credits Dong Jinseng, the cinematographer, with visual beauties that are almost but not quite as gloriously artificial as Wong Kar-wai's films and Chris Doyle's work. She notes the "whole sequences in neon pinks and garish reflected blues." And the sound design and score are just as essential, making the images "throb with particular sleaze" behind "B6’s clanging, dramatic score." This score isn't crudely obtrusive, like a modern American comic book thriller, but selective - though there are clangs and bangs like a John Cage symphony that filled the Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln center cranked up to the max, all the more to be appreciated from my front balcony seat. Sound design and set design are also top notch.

    What the movie's all about logically comes second, though unlike Diao's Berlin prize-winning previous film Black Coal Thin Ice, there is a well-worked-out and clear plot line. There's a - noisy, vivid - fracas at a gathering to train a gang of motorcycle thieves and assign them districts to work in. It's infiltrated by cops and one gets shot. This basis provides plenty of action and noise. The shooter becomes a police fugitive. His flight bookends the whole, and a soulful prostitute who comes to get, or rescue him. He plans to turn himself in so his wife can get the reward - though I never quite saw how that could work. The meeting of the wanted Zhou Zenong (Hu Ge), to the with Liu Aiai (Gwei Lun Mei, the Black Coal, Thin Ice star as well) in heavy rain, just one cluster of intense but renewed noir clichés, sets the tone of romantic doomed B-gangster movie artiness Diao strives for, and mostly achieves.

    Some devices, or genre routines, are so enthusiastically worked as to be almost silly, perhaps intentionally so. The largely young and Chinese Alice Tully Hall audience laughed a lot, but not too much; they were having a good time, not scoffing. How often does somebody ask for a light so we can her the clack and click of the classic Zippo lighter? A unique running joke is the colorful T-shirts worn by the (often doomed) young men, which are pointed to when an undercover cop is called out and told to switch his designer T for something drabber. See Kiang's review for a listing of all the other wonderful things that go on, including Zhou Zenong's twisty dance to bandage his wounded torso without help.

    But this points to an artificiality and lack of what classic noirs have, emotion. It's impressive how Diao renders both intimate and (tackily) epic-scale sequences with equal panache, but the stars aren't quite charismatic (or even good looking) enough. This relationship can't match the doomed romance of Jia Zhang-ke's superb Ash Is Purest White, nor can Gwei Lun Mei quite match Jia Zhang'ke's wife and muse Zhao Tao in that and other films. Diao's well-developed plot leaves no room to breathe, to pause and savor the doom. Still, there is a lot for us to savor, and one walks out with pleasingly intense visions of glowing neon and clanging noises in one's head.

    The Wild Goose Lake 南方车站的聚会, 113 mins., debuted at Cannes in Competition, with seven other top festivals (some to come) listed on IMDb. Reviewed here as part of the Main Slate of the New York Film Festival (Sept. 29, 2019). Theatrical debut to be in France Nov. 27. Current Metascore 74%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-02-2019 at 11:14 AM.

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    SYNONYMS/SYNONYMES (Nadav Lapid 2019)

    NADAV LAPID: SYNONYMS/SYNONYMES (2019)


    QUENTIN DOLMAIRE, TOM MERCIER, LOUISE CHEVILLOTE IN SYNONYMS

    Nationality malaise as a form of madness

    Synonyms is a bracing, invigorating film with an explosive young star (found in acting school) and a series of astonishing high-energy, highly-verbal set pieces. They only begin to pall toward the end when things go on a bit too long and as you realize Lapid isn'g going anywhere, that the astonishment hides a certain emptiness. It's surprising to learn the movie's autobiographical because its protagonist is borderline crazy, maybe full-on crazy. But Lapid's treatment of his own experience is free and fanciful and riffs off the distinctive abilities of the lead who's little like him. He has reimagined himself as an idealistic superhero.

    Yoav (Tom Mercier, a 26-year-old Israeli* whose actual father is French) arrives in Paris from Israel, enters a large unoccupied apartment and takes a shower. The movie revels in Mercier's well-built, well-hung young body throughout: he has a background as a judo champion and dancer. One of his main assets is his intense physicality and boldness (no apparent hesitation about frontal nudity), which in fact is the picture. Once out of the shower, he discovers that his clothes and his whole big sack of possessions are gone. He runs around frantically from one big empty room to the other naked, freezing. There seems to be no heat. Was there hot water? The movie is vague about details, including how the protagonist speaks French so well.

    The movie will return to the fact that Yoav, though he goes out and bangs on other apartment doors, begging in French in vain for help, he never descends to the street and instead returns to the bath tub. Cut to a young (very) French couple who discover him lying there asleep or unconscious. Émile (Quentin Dolmaire of Desplechin's My Golden Days) and Caroline (Louise Chevillotte), partially revive him and carry him out to the big posh nearby apartment they share. The situation that develops may remind you of Bertolucci's The Dreamers, but without the period flavor and graceful ménage ŕ trois interactions of Eva Green, Louis Garrel, and Michael Pitt. In its deliberate unreality, its young seekers, and its eccentric declarations Synonyms suggests Godard films like La Chinoise. The shock-value set pieces also somewhat resemble Ruben Östlund's 2017 The Square.

    The opening is shot with vigorous handheld photography whose deliberate brutality conveys a sense of Yoav's dislocation, and is marked by Mercier's sheer exhibitionism. He's a dazzlingly confident , go-for-broke actor whose skill is only undermined by a certain blankness. He's as much a performance artist as a dramatic actor. But is his whole nature perhaps symbolic of Israel itself, bold, brave, intense, but essentially rudderless and heedless? Underlying the whole film there is the implied sweeping, if superficial, critique of Israel. Yoav turns out to have come to France intending to abandon his native country though a decorated soldier. He has no other real plan but to cease being Israeli, stop speaking Hebrew, and become French. He calls Israel "nasty, obscene, ignorant, idiotic, crude and mean-spirited" (méchant, obscčne, ignorant, hideux, vieux, sordide, grossier, abominable) and a string of other expressive derogatory adjectives he pronounces with pleasure in the poetic sound of the French words.

    "It can't be all those at once," Émile says. "Choose." All this is in French, and Yoav refuses to speak Hebrew throughout except for one humiliating "artist's model" gig and declares his intention to become French. However he gains no other French friends besides Émile and Caroline, though he bonds with a tough, violent Israeli security guard called Yaron (Uria Hayik). He goes to live in a tiny chambre de bonne where he survives on ultra-cheap meals of pasta and canned tomato sauce, whose preparation is dwelt upon almost fetishistically. Eventually Caroline comes there and sleeps with him, overlapping Émile's decision that she should marry Yoav so he can become a French citizen. Godardian, absurdist scenes of a citizenship class follow, along with sequences of semiviolent macho Israeli encounters, some involving the Israeli embassy, and meetups by Skype and in person with Yoav's parents, whom he directs with polite firmness to leave him alone.

    The movie presents one scene after another featuring Yoav, in no particular order. Émile, the son of a wealthy industrialist, and his girlfriend Caroline, who plays the oboe in a local arrondissement orchestra, adopt Yoav and want to protect him. One of the movie's most obvious weaknesses is the thinness and wanness of the two French characters. Émile is a would-be writer, who has written 40-odd pages of a novel, but lacks energy and invention. Caroline's main character trait is that she plays the oboe. Yoav begins spouting stories in his odd but curiously fluent French, to augment which he acquires a "good, but light" French dictionary at a bookstore. The film is dominated not only by Mercier's physical presence but by his harsh, confident male Israeli voice, spouting French. He often recites series of words he likes with similar sound, or similar meaning - hence the title. Sexy, graceful, strong, and somehow sensitive, Mercier is always attractive, though with his pointed nose and little mouth he's not handsome.

    Instead of mal de pays, longing for homeland, Yoav has the opposite, a kind of nationality malaise. The specific details of why one might be discontented with his native land, its racism, its chauvinism, its militarism, its brutal repression of the Palestinian people, are things Yoav never goes into, though there is a telling scene in French citizenship class where the teacher proudly vaunts the "laďcité," the secularity of France. But this lack of detail reenforces Synonyms' Godadian, Brechtian fable quality. Yoav repeatedly tells Émile how his father told him as a boy the story of Hector and Troy, but refused to reveal to him how it ends. He tells other stories of his life, in an intense, fable-like style, and announces he "gives" these stories to the story-deficient would-be fabulist Émile, who accepts them gratefully.

    Yoav becomes increasingly crazy as the oddball distinctiveness of Tom Mercier's personality and thespian skills is slowly but surely ramped up. When asked a profound question about Israel, redemption through nationality vs. inner change at a NYFF Q&A, Lapid answered "Sometimes I just have to say I am only a filmmaker." This movie is notable for its effective theatricality and gritty cinematic qualities - as well as the spot-on editing by the director's mother that's so breathtakingly flashy at times you don't know whether to cheer or jeer. It's not noted for its calm and thoughtful exploration of ideas, or for a meaningful plot line beyond the stunning initial premise.

    I enjoyed this film - it's fresh, has an unforgettable opening, and holds your attention much of the way - but in the end I was left wanting more. It may be best discussed by Israelis: its theme is one worth their taking seriously. But it has reminded me that I found Lapid's first two films, both of which I reviewed as part of Lincoln Center film events, were similarly bold and striking yet crude, vague, and lacking structural coherence.

    Synonyms/Synonymes, 123 mins., in French with some Hebrew and English, premiered at the Berlinale, winning the Golden Bear top feature prize. Opening a fortnight later in Israeli cinemas, it was slated for nearly two dozen other festivals, including Toronto, New York, and Mill Valley. Watched at a NYFF screening Oct. 1, 2019. It opened in France in March with a fair critical reception (AlloCiné press rating 3.4, but top praise from Cahiers du Cinéma and Les Inrocks). Coming to US theaters Oct. 25, it has a current Metascore of 85%.
    _____________
    *See more about Mercier in Haaretz
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-02-2019 at 12:50 PM.

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    OH MERCY!/ROUBAIX, UNE LUIČRE (Arnaud Desplechin 2019)

    ARNAUD DESPLECHIN: OH MERCY!/ROUBAIN, UNE LUMIČRE (2019)


    SARA FORESTIER AND LÉA SEYDOUX IN OH MERCY!

    A sumptuous but pointless detour for Desplechin

    The director departs from bourgeois intellectual families and love affairs to focus on a slow police procedural focused on the death of an old woman, set n his poor, crime-ridden hometown of Roubaix near the Belgian border, and made in declared admiration of Hitchcock's The Wrong Man.

    Everything here is beautifully done - yet misguided. The main focus is on the sordid murder of a helpless old woman by a lesbian couple, Marie (Sara Forestier) and Claude (Léa Saydoux), and the captain in charge of the investigation, Commissaire Yacoub Daoud, played by the estimable Roschdy Zem. There is the obligatory rookie detective on the case, Louis Cotterel (Antoine Reinartz). The first hour is spent on other things, a half drunk man caught out in a fake insurance claim, a house fire seen to be arson, cocky young men evading he police, Daoud's angry nephew in prison and his love of horse racing, which Cotterel turns out to be good at betting on.

    And still the process of getting Marie and Claude to confess to their murder takes an hour that seems very long. We see the cops work in threes separately on each of the two suspects, a woman and a good cop-bad cop, with Daoud always playing the quiet, restrained good cop. Earlier he has confirmed to Cotterel the rumor that he always knows who is innocent and who is guilty. But such a sixth sense is hardly needed for Marie and Claude because there is so much evidence of murder and of their presence before they[re brought in for questioning. So there is no mystery and nothing interesting to discover. Then when they have separately and together both confessed, with the tougher Claude holding out longer, we have to watch them taken to the crime scene to act it out in more detail. I found this scene, which is gruesome yet trivial, a true banality of evil moment, particularly hard and unrewarding to watch.

    This would seem to misunderstand what makes us interested in dramas that depict detailed police investigations. Who cares whether both women had their hands on the poor old lady's neck as she was strangled? This is indeed a detailed introduction to French police methods, but not in a way that holds our interest. It is true that Desplechin departs from the conventional, but only in minuscule ways. Jay Weissberg observed in his Variety review that Daoud is the interesting character, not the women (both actresses rather wasted, especially Seydoux). There's a hint of more to come (as if this were a series pilot) in the news that all Daoud's family have all returned to the "bled", to North Africa, while he's chosen to stay here where he grew up. There could be more about Cotterel, perhaps an emotional trajectory of the relationship between rookie and oldtimer as in Xavier Beauvois' moving The Little Lieutenant .

    At the same time the film excels in its rich cast details, nuanced depiction of Roubaix at and just after Christmstime (with a memorably drab shot of street decorations coming down). But somehow this doesn't read as any kind of portrait of Roubaix beyond what we're told at the outset of its former vigor and present poverty and decline.

    Desplechin is one of the best and most distinctive contemporary French directors when he's got the right material. The 2015 My Golden Days was great; last time's Ismael's Ghosts was a misfire. This is another of the latter: so much good work, with the wrong material.

    Oh Mercy!/Roubaix, une umičre,/ 119 mins., debuted in Competition at Cannes, released in France in Aug. 2019, with very good reviews (AlloCiné press rating 3.7); apparently only in four other festivals, including New York and Vancouver. Screened for this review as part of the NYFF, Oct. 2, 2019. Metascore 51%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 10-03-2019 at 02:33 PM.

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