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Thread: New York Film Festival 2020

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    New York Film Festival 2020



    New York Film Festival 2020

    GENERAL FILM FORUM

    The 58th New York Film Festival Main Slate

    Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen 2020) Opening Night
    Nomadland (Chloé Zhao 2020) Centerpiece
    French Exit (Azazel Jacobs 2020) Closing Night
    Atarrabi & Mikelats (Eugène Green 2020)
    Beginning (Dea Kulumbegashvili 2020)
    The Calming (Song Fang 2020)
    City Hall (Frederick Wiseman 2020)
    Days 日子 (Tsai Ming-liang 2020)
    The Disciple (Chaitanya Tamhane 2020)
    Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky 2020)
    I Carry You with Me/Te Llevo Conmigo (Heidi Ewing 2020)
    Isabella (Matías Piñeiro 2020)
    Malmkrog (Cristi Puiu 2020)
    Mangrove (Steve McQueen 2020
    MLK/FBI (Sam Pollard 2020)
    Night of the Kings/La Nuit des rois (Philippe Lacôte 2020)
    Notturno (Gianfranco Rosi 2020) doc
    Red, White and Blue (Steve McQueen 2020
    The Salt of Tears/Le sel des larmes(Philippe Garrel 2020
    Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue/一直游到海水变蓝(Jia Zhangke 2020) doc
    Time (Garrett Bradley 2020
    Tragic Jungle/Selva Trágica (Yulene Olaizola 2020
    The Truffle Hunters (Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw 2020) doc
    Undine (Christian Petzold 2020)
    The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sangsoo 2020
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Today at 01:08 AM.

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    LOVER'S POINT (Steve McQueen 2020)

    STEVE MCQUEEN: LOVER'S ROCK (2020)




    A celebration staged - then watched

    Lovers Rock, the opening night film of the 58th New York Film Festival, is an hour-plus television series episode that is part of McQueen's five-part "Small Axe" anthology that premieres on BBC One later this year and in the US on Amazon Prime.

    Lovers Rock is nearly zero as a story - boy meets girl, they dance all night, take dawn bike ride, girl sneaks into house in time to go to church - but as a staged event it is enormous, a West Indian soul-reggae house party dance night that Peter Bradshaw, who gives it five out of five stars in a Guardian review, calls "the best party ever." He accurately says "everything and nothing" happens and notes most of this 68-minute film, co-scripted by McQueen with writer-musician Courttia Newland, designed by Helen Scott and (mainly?) shot by Shabier Kirchner, would be a five-minute sequence in a regular film. Dennis Lim, the Film at Lincoln Center Program Director, in a Zoom-style interview with McQueen, suggests this is more like one of the short art films he made before he got started on features, the chronicling of a process-event. I came to scoff (not a fan of McQueen coming into it), but I became a convert. This is a rich, lush, enveloping event. It's alive. It's young sexy blackness as you've never seen it caught on film.


    But Bradshaw is also right in calling it a "novella," because it has characters and mini-backstories to burn ("everything") - only they're brief and sketchy ("nothing"). McQueen told Lim this remarkably rich "staged" event was (became) a real party; it would have happened (gone on, and on and on) whether the camera was there or not; he felt "invited," and (he said this two or three times) "it was euphoric." In a way all but Michael Ward and Franklyn and Amarah-Jae St Augin as Martha, the couple the camera follows out into the night-into-morning at the end, are extras. but they are extras who are stars in their own right, starring in their own movie, living their own party, and they give their all. McQueen just had to "know when to step back" - and watch and let it happen. Self-indulgent? Yes, but no, because he frames it so beautifully.

    The time is 1980. The setting is set in Ladbroke Grove, west London, over a single evening at a house party in 1980. The people are mostly West Indian first or second generation men and women. Blacks weren't really welcome at London dance clubs, which had quotas for them, and so they made their own so-it-yourself clubs, for themselves. They took a living room, filled it with a humongous set of speakers, and charged a 50p entry fee at the door, extra for food and drink from the kitchen. Men dressed up in tight bell bottoms and fancy dress jackets with eventful hats; women wore fancy, slinky dresses they or their own had made for them. McQueen, who calls this a "blues party," is drawing on the experience of his own parents here, and a female relative whose father left the door open so she could sneak back in after a dance party in the morning, just as Martha (St Aubin) does here, to deceive her religious mother and go to church with her Sunday morning. All this is there, starting with the dragging in of the speakers and setting up of the table to play the vinyl, and dragging of the sofas into the back yard for private, more romantic interludes by couples during the night.

    The music is enveloping. The atmosphere is sexy, and sexier as the night wears on. The music is lover’s rock, soul and reggae. Lovers rock is a thing, a "largely underground phenomenon," London black reggae emphasizing women's feelings, a genre that went global, a Guardian article Bradshaw references explains, but went largely unrecognized at home and faded away.

    I don't know how period-authentic all the gestures are, but McQueen says they avoid gestures that aren't. One is the way the men grab the women's elbow, then slide it down to their hand, asking for a dance. Did men drink bottled beer while dancing? I guess they did. They light a lot of nice long thin spliffs, and the women smoke cigarettes, innocent highs. It seemed like some of the men were very predatory, but it's interesting how they cloak it in an air of chivalry and flowery compliments. Martha comes in with her friend Patty (Shaniqua Okwok), who disappears early on. Martha runs out after her but can't find her, and, with a group of whit men aproaching her, quickly withdraws back into the party room. Apparently Patty is miffed that Franklyn has settled on Martha and not her. Or she didn't get the man she longed for.

    At one point there's a moment in a bedroom with two women sitting on a bed kissing.

    A remarkable and lovely moment comes - though in conventional terms, like everything else, it goes on too long, when the music stops and the entire crowd sings the Janet Kay song "Silly Games," a cappella. It's the kind of thing you'd absolutely insist had to be staged, and it apparently wasn't. McQueen says this just happened, he had nothing do do with it. It's climactic, but there's much, much more. Remember in Aleksandr Sokurov's Russian Ark part of the show-offy single take is the ballroom full of elegant costumed dancers with the Mariinsky Orchestra with Valery Gergiev conducting, and at the end the camera comes back to them, and they're still dancing? You imagine those dancers, dancing hour after hour for the camera. This is like that, only the dancers are having a hell of a good time. And at the end the music gets faster, and they get crazy, and the screen is full of figures jumping and jiving, leaping and down on the floor waggling their arms and legs.

    Before she goes home Franklyn takes Martha to the garage where he works, to make out, to entertainher in privacy. But his young white boss comes in, all unexpected, because it's Sunday morning, and chews him out and says, "You don't bring your Doris here!" At this point, Franklyn drops his Jamaican lilt he's bee speaking in all night and talks to the young white guy in more "multicultural London," a bland of cockney. Was the Jamaican a fake? No, it was probably his first language. This is only a hint of the depth and richness of this remarkable film's cultural and social detail. As I said I cam to scoff, and I admit I did feel bored in the middle of it, feeling it was going on much, much too long, which it does by normal standards. But I was swept away in the deep soul vibe and, the warm eroticism, and the fantastic go-for-broke in-character lived performances of the ensemble. As an opening night film, in a real not virtual NYFF, this would have worked unusually well. It's engaging, energetic, upbeat, and unique. How great it would have been on the Walter Reade Theater's great sound system and big screen.

    Lovers Rock, 68 mins., episode of McQueen's five-part "Small Axe" anthology series for BBC (two othes also included in the NYFF) watched in virtual form as part of the New York Film Festival, for which it was the Opening Night film.


    MICHAEL WARD AND AMARAH-JAE ST AUBYN IIN LOVERS ROCK
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 12:09 AM.

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    Malmkrog (Cristi Puiu 2020)

    CRISTI PUIU: MALMKROG (2020)


    MARINA PALLI AND DIANA SAKALAUSKAITÉ in MALMKROG

    Idle rich with a lot to talk about, c. 1900

    I reviewed Cristi Puiu's The Death of Mr. Laaarescu as part of the 43rd New York Film Festival in 2005. It was my first press screening at my first NYFF. It's also credited with spearheading a "Romanian New Wave." Malmkrog is named for a luxurious estate in Transylvania where the action, if we can call it that, transpires. Five Russian aristocrats in 1900, speaking to each other in stilted French as was their custom, talk from before lunch till after dinner about a variety of general subjects drawn from a book by the Russian 19th-century philosopher Vladimir Solovyov called Three Conversations. A 1915 English version is headed "War and Christianity from the Russian Point of view." It all goes to show the idleness of Russian aristocrats as seen by a latter-day Romanian, and mind-sets in which liberalism is a mask for colonialism and racism. It is largely a sterile exercise, more stagnant pond than New Wave, but the beautiful staging and disciplined acting are wonders to behold.

    Stilted French - that is a determining factor. This doesn't have the quality of speech. There are two men - one man, a general, having left early - and three women. Besides war, the place of Russia in Europe and the world is another topic, and the existence of evil in the world a third big one. There are some characteristics attached to the speakers. For instance, it's the general's wife, Ingrida (Diana Sakalauskaité), who defends war. The letter she reads about her husband's satisfaction at killing a horde of Ottoman Bashi-bazouk soldiers as punishment for their hideous massacre of a town full of Armenians is one of the film's more memorable moments. The "Franco-Russian" Edouard (Ugo Broussot, a theatrically-trained French actor), understood to be a prosperous businessman, expounds at length (several prominent reviews, Jonathan Romney's for Screen Daily and Boyd van Hoeij's for Hollywood Reporter, refer to it as "mansplaining") on Russia's role as a "European" civilizer of the world, in a way that incorporates Solovyov's racist attitude to the "yellow-faced" Chinese. Two other women, Madeleine (Agathe Bosch), a dryly intellectual middle-aged woman and Olga (Marina Palii), young and condescended to but presumably Nikolai's wife, complete the endlessly chattering group. The actors' discipline and stamina are world-class.

    Why is all this relevant, and what makes three hours and twenty minutes of stilted philosophical debate material for a film? The answer isn't evident, and this is a step backward, or further backward, from the lively, humane Cristi Puiu who made Mr. Lazarescu. This is more a test for film buffs and particularly festival-goers who pride themselves on their stamina and Olympic-level attention spans. It's like sitting through a Wagner opera if you're not a Wagner fan, but without the beautiful music. One reviewer recommended coffee "or something stronger."

    There are moments rf hints of excitement. We see in his own shortest of the five chapters headed "István," headed for the butler, who directs a team of nearly silent and diligent servants the outwardly "liberal" five conversationalists studiously ignore, that he hits a kitchen employee guilty of making bad - or could it be lightly poisoned? - tea. Later, there's a disturbance and loud music heard and the bell of the host Nikolai (Frédéric Schulz-Richard) is not answered. Then there is a wild chase of figures from the kitchen and explosions, with the five dropping to the floor. I thought revolution had come, and they had died. But we see them in the distance later out in front of the estate, mysteriously congregating. Maybe it was only firecrackers - after all, this was Christmas Eve. The sounds in the background, perhaps including a music lesson for a child, and the work of the servants, including the bathing and dressing and bedding of a member of the group who is unwell, show Puiu's meticulous attention to every detail, including of course furnishings and costumes. But one detail that has eluded him: making this action interesting or relevant to us.

    "A pristine, sometimes terrifying vision, of the shimmering violence beneath the colonialist's veneer of politesse" says a current NYFF tag for this film. Nice one. But you can't sell this dry summary of a dated book that facilely.

    Malmkrog, 200mins., debuted at the Berlinale FEb. 2020; Belgrade, Vilnius (internet), Cluj, and was screened online for this review as part of the New York Film Festival (Sept. 17-Oct. 11), hybrid with virtual and drive-in screenings.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Today at 01:36 AM.

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    GUNDA (Victor Kossakovsky 2020)

    VICTOR KOSSAKOVSKY: GUNDA (2020



    Gunda
    Victor Kossakovsky, 2020, Norway, 93m documentary
    Gunda is a sow who lives on a farm in Norway. When documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky first visits her, she has just given birth to a litter of piglets, and his patient camera watches as they grasp for her milk and take their tentative, teetering steps into a new world. This remarkable intimacy extends and evolves, building into an unprecedented portrait of animal life—encompassing herds of cows and curious, uncooped chickens—that brings us uncommonly close to these creatures, and manages to express their consciousness without overtly anthropomorphizing them. Entirely wordless, Gunda boasts immersive natural sound design and crisp, pastoral black-and-white cinematography to tell its compassionate tale; like all of Kossakovsky’s work (¡Vivan las Antípodas!, Aquarela), it’s visionary in its simplicity, wonder, and urgency. A NEON release.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 11:30 PM.

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    THE CALMING 平静 (Song Fang 2020)

    SONG FANG: THE CALMING 平静 (2020)




    I reviewed Son Fang's first film, Memories Look at Me, as part of the 2012 NYFF.

    The Calming
    Song Fang, 2020, China, 93m
    A film of arresting beauty and tranquility, the second feature from Song Fang—whose Memories Look at Me (NYFF50) was a work of graceful autobiography—follows a young film director as she makes her way around Japan, China, and Hong Kong after a relationship breakup: presenting her work, engaging with friends and artists, and dealing with the realities of aging parents. Amidst all of this, Lin (an effortlessly inquisitive Qi Xi) takes in both lush nature and imposing cityscapes, a woman both alone and constantly engaged in the ever-shifting environment around her. Song’s film refuses to impose psychological motivation on Lin’s perambulations or her art, instead allowing the viewer to experience the world’s disappointments and felicities along with her, and perhaps bear witness to creative rejuvenation.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 04:19 PM.

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    TIME (Garrett Bradley 2020)

    GARRETT BRADLEY: TIME (2020)



    Time
    Garrett Bradley, 2020, U.S., 81m documentary
    The tireless 21-year campaign of Louisiana woman Fox Rich to secure her husband’s release from prison after he received a 60-year sentence for robbery becomes a work of nonfiction cinematic alchemy in the hands of filmmaker Garrett Bradley. She has made a film composed of both newly shot material and archival footage from decades of home movies that Rich recorded to document her days, months, years of waiting. Delicate yet forceful, it’s an exquisitely stitched-together narrative of the strength and resilience of one mother of six that also functions as a personal perspective on the crisis of Black mass incarceration in America. Featuring evocative black-and-white cinematography that creates a sense of timelessness even as we feel time passing inexorably, Bradley’s film is a rarity: a work of both aesthetic nerve and social import. An Amazon Studios release.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 04:28 PM.

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    NIGHT OF THE KINGS/LA NUIT DES ROIS (Philippe Lacôte 2020)

    PHILIPPE LACOTE: THE NIGHT OF THE KINGS/LA NUIT DES ROIS (2020)



    Night of the Kings
    Philippe Lacôte, 2020, France/Ivory Coast/Canada/Senegal, 93m
    At the Maca correctional facility in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan, the inmates run the prison, a place all but ruled by superstitions. Tonight, upon the rising of a red moon, a newly arrived prisoner (Koné Bakary), jailed for pickpocketing, has been selected by the autocratic Lord Black Beard to assume the position of “Roman” (storyteller): he must keep his fellow inmates entertained with wild tales or risk his own life. As this Scheherazade-like scenario unfolds, he tells the story of Zama, his childhood friend who became a legendary crime boss. Paying homage to the tradition of the griot in West African culture, Night of the Kings is a work of Shakespearean fabulism and gripping, energetic cinema, an altogether original vision from breakout Ivory Coast filmmaker Philippe Lacôte.

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