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Thread: New York Film Festival 2019

  1. #31
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    SWAN SONG (Todd Stephens 2021)

    TODD STEPHENS: SWAN SONG (2021)


    JENNIFER COOLIDGE, UDO KIER IN SWAN SONG

    Udo Kier takes center stage in a quietly flamboyant and touching gay role

    Udo Kier, born in 1944, is a film and voice actor from Cologne, Germany who moved to Palm Springs in the early nineties. A perennial player in pungent small roles, he has appeared in over 200 movies. After playing in Andy Warhol's Frankenstein; he had roles in a raft of horror films or all stripes. He has worked for art house and cult directors like Lars von Trier (extensively), as well as Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Walerian Borowczyk, Gus Van Sant, Christoph Schlingensief, and Dario Argento (whose 1977 classic Suspiria he was featured in). Recently he had a key role in the critically acclaimed Bacarau as the head of a gang of evil American playboys who hunt and kill humans for sport, and also appeared in the phantasmagoric Holocaust saga The Painted Bird, where he plays a raging cuckold who gouges out the eyes of his wife’s lover. This time he's a character referred to as "the Liberace of Sandusky, Ohio." It fits him to a T. And it's a first for him: a lead role.

    In the Sandusky-set Swan Song Udo is Patrick Pitsenbarger (the fiction based on a real person), who was a high class beautician in his heyday who styled all the rich and glamorous ladies of the quiet midwestern town. Now he has had a stroke and has apparently long been languishing in a nursing home when prestigious lawyer Walter Shamrock (Tom Bloom) arrives to convey the posthumous request of wealthy former friend and client Rita Parker Sloan (Linda Evans of "Dynasty") to do the dead lady's hair in grand former style for her final appearance at the funeral home. He is to receive a munificent fee for this job of $25,000. At first he flatly rejects the idea. They had a falling out over her failure to attend his lover's funeral. "I'm retired," he says, Kier flashing that basilisk stare of his. He is living a dreary, curmudgeonly life, his hobbies immaculately folding paper cocktail napkins from the cafeteria and stealing clandestine smokes of Mores with a mute old lady in a wheelchair with pretty hair (Annie Kitral), and not much else. He has come to embrace denial and exclusion.

    But then "Mr. Pat" has a change of heart. Stealthily he slips out of the nursing home dressed in his usual sweat suit and gray fanny pack and sets off on foot for the town of Sandusky and the funeral home. Swan Song becomes an offbeat road movie in the manner of Lynch's Straight Story, a colorful walkabout of reconnecting with the past and making amends. In the course of it, Pat drinks, steals, charms, and learns. This is among other things an unapologetically instructional survey of ways gay life has changed since Stephens was young, with gay married couples raising children, gay bars made obsolete by hook-up apps, disappearing high camp drag shows signaling the gradual loss of a whole colorful ghettoized subculture that no longer seems necessary as gayness comes to be more widely accepted in America.

    Patrick is, of course, himself a gay man. His lover, David, died of AIDS back in 1995, a loss he can never recover from that's movingly celebrated by a visit to their joint grave. In this story, Kier gets to play a down-to-earth and personal role and shines in this unique opportunity to be the featured actor throughout a film this time playing an eccentric minority person who has faults but has never been a monster.

    In addition to learning how gay life has changed, Pat encounters other changes, like the disappearance of the joint home he lost because David left no will. He learns his protege Dee Dee Dale (Jennifer Coolidge) who became a competitor didn't wrong him as much as he thought. He gets several surprises about the dead lady and her grandson (Michael Urie). His exploit at the final drag show is a spectacular surprise for the younger generation.

    As for Todd Stephens, his gay credentials couldn't be better: he wrote the screenplay for the all-time best American gay teen coming-of-age movie, the 1998 Edge of Seventeen (directed by David Moreton). (Stephanie McVay, the mom in Edge, is back here; also featured are Jennifer Coolidge, Michael Urie, and Ira Hawkins.) This time, Stevens wrote as well as directed. Stevens has set both films in his hometown of Sandusky, Ohio, a place he left long ago but still refers back to as his own. In Swan Song Stephens celebrates the town he grew up in as well as an accomplished and fabulously campy gay man he looked up to when he was a gay youth coming of age in Sandusky. Stephens knows the territory - and the songs of Pat's heyday, like Dusty Springfield's "Yesterday When I Was Young," Shirley Bassey's "This is My Life," and Melissa Manchester’s "Don’t Cry Out Loud." He frequented the real-life Universal Fruit and Nut Company gay bar where here we see the lip-synch drag shows Pat participated in every week are having their final evening.

    Swan Song is a tour de force for Udo Kier, a warm-hearted, nostalgic performance for both him and writer-director Todd Stephens. Resorting to some surreal moments and tricky flashbacks, Swan Song is not as smoothly directed and edited a film from minute to minute as Edge of Seventeen, which had the directorial hand of David Moreton.The new script as the Variety review puts it is on the "earnest but anemic" side and Udo's teutonic accent takes the speed out of Pat's zingers. The movie's rhythm as a whole falters after the midpoint. The narrative teases expectations so often we start to wonder if Pat is really ever going to do the dead lady's hair, after all. Both the physical challenges the elderly protagonist is put through and the quantities of alcohol he is made to consume strain credulity. But with his patience and quiet inner confidence Kier nonetheless succeeds, seeming indomitable and more sincere than campy playing this real-life person.

    Swan Song 105 mins., debuted Mar. 18, 2021 at Austin (SXSW); also scheduled to feature at Cleveland, Provincetown, Nantucket, and other festivals including Frameline (San Francisco). It has been favorably reviewed already at its debt in Variety, Hollywood Reporter, and IndieWire. It is scheduled for limited US release by Magnolia in theaters Aug. 6, 2021 and on demand Aug. 13.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-15-2021 at 05:22 PM.

  2. #32
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    LANSKY (Eytan Rockaway 2021)

    EYTAN ROCKAWAY: LANSKY (2021)


    HARVEY KEITEL IN LANSKY

    A violent gangster biography narrated in the elderly Harvey Keitel's gentle voice

    This is an old fashioned gangster flick, but with a few twists. It's inspired by actual conversations the director's father Robert Rockaway had with the gangster Meyer Lansky before the latter's death. Lansky and organized crime are presented as complex, in Lansky's words "a world of grays," and not all evil-doing. Yes, these are ulra-violent bad guys, and the movie revels in its scenes of violence, though enacted rapidly and at one remove. But Lansky & Co.'s crooked but ably managed gambling industry is also part of the backbone of the early twentieth-century American economy. He also has non-criminal accomplishments. He aids the US war effort and the fight against the Nazis. A Jew himself, he provides financial support to the fledgling State of Israel, though, subservient to the US government, Israel will never let Lansky take up residence in the new country.

    This film seeks present-day three-dimensionality by emphasizing another main character - a well-known but down-on-his-luck writer called David Stone (English actor Sam Worthington), whose work on a book about Lansky frames the unreeling biopic. Stone gets a change of fortune when the aging mob boss Meyer Lansky (Harvey Keitel) unexpectedly summons him to Florida in 1981 for a series of interviews leading to a biography. The movie is ostensibly about Stone's story too. Lansky demands a full picture of the writer's private life including updates on his messy marital and romantic issues.

    While the movie is made up largely of flashbacks of Lansky's life as a gangster kingpin, what's happening to Stone and between him and Lansky in the present time is important too. But the by-the-numbers screenplay by Eytan Rockaway with information from his father Robert can inject little that's structurally or stylistically fresh in its attempt to tell the two parallel tales of the mastermind of Murder Inc. and the National Crime Syndicate and the beleaguered, naive writer with career and marriage problems.

    Keitel, now 82, arguably shines in the relatively static role of the elder Lansky. He seems honed by his years into a being both mellow and sharp. He's lost the external blather: it's all real and unmediated now. Wortington is handsome and troubled. He gets that part right. The writer part - well, that's always hard to convey in a movie.

    Stone is staying at a motel. Early on in his conversations with Lansky, we learn Stone is estranged from his wife, with whom he has two little kids, one only 18 months. The lonely writer befriends a pretty girl at his motel, Maureen (Minka Kelly) who one day is menaced by big Ray Hutchinson (James Devoti). Stone steps in and gets knocked out. Subsequently, we learn Maureen was hired by the FBI. Schematic scenes show the feds are frustrated and desperate after decades of tracking Lansky and being unable to find the large sums he's reportedly got tucked away. Gangsters in prison have been small help, but we see one provide a tip: "Geneva."

    Stone's starting issue is the big one: "Mr. Lansky, what about the $300 million they say you have hidden away? Where is it? Does it exist?" Lansky dismisses this claim, saying he wishes he had even one million. The FBI would very much like to know about the money too. Their bosses have almost given up on ever finding out. Lansky is impenetrable, and strolls unbothered down the Miami boardwalk walking his Spitz dog from year to year.

    As old Lansky starts telling Stone his story, the thirties period flashbacks roll out. As the young Lansky, John Magaro is sly, cool, with a remote, tunnel voice, and David Cade is both pretty and menacing as Lansky's early muscleman and womanizer partner Ben Siegel (don't call him "Bugsy"). They are Jews. Lansky is a Jew who came to America from Russia as a youth. He tells Stone about only one remote, grim memory - undramatized - of an scary attack by Cossacks. Young Lansky is good, very good, with numbers, and amid lowlife New York figures out dice and gambling and how people cheat at them.

    He's the smartest gangster of his time, and the most businesslike. He runs casinos as businesses. The brutality, of which there is plenty, is shown as always managed by Siegel but with Lansky the complicit, ever-present observer. This movie is notable for its breezy, near-constant scenes of violence. How these soft-hand, hard-hand partners, Lansky and Siegel, become so powerful so fast we hardly know. But soon they tie in with gangland kingpins, starting with Charlie Luciano (Shane McRae).

    After skimming through the thirties, the movie moves on to the forties and show scenes of Lansky's War efforts, the major evidence for his "good" side. It begins with the scene of a vicious attack by organized by Lansky and his gang on a Nazi rally, severely beating the Nazis. This gets into the newspapers and puts Lansky in the public eye. His wife - he's married now - demurs (she does nothing as a character but complain), saying because they know her husband's a criminal, people look away in scorn from her and their two kids when they walk down the street. For the FBI, Lansky hunts down pro-German spies on the docks, using his men. We glimpse their medieval style interrogation methods used on the captured spies. The mobster's doing good is as violent and cruel as his criminality. A haunting images shows a row of men hanging upside down to be tortured.

    When Salvatore Maranzano (Jay Giannone), "Little Caesar," Italian gang boss of the bosses of all New York, wants to move in on Lansky's business, Lansky has Siegel kill him, brutally. They set up Murder, Inc., a group of merciless killers. Lansky gets a seat on the high table of the mafiosi, Joe Banana, Al Capone, "Italian, Jewish, and Irish mob bosses from across America. Together they formed the largest organization of crime the world has ever known, the national crime syndicate" says the omniscient voiceover.

    Not for the first time, the movie relishes a moment of violence: it shows us Ssiegel hacking Maranzano's torso into pieces with a big knife. Lansky is guilty by implication through his constant presence when acts of sadism are performed. But the movie never stops stressing that he's the brain, the smart numbers man, who lectures his cohorts that he runs his side of organized crime just like Ford Motors or Coca Cola, a business. (This movie is billed as "The man who turned crime into a billion dollar business.") It's almost like they're trying to tell us Lansky's a gangster who's not really a gangster. Maybe this is meant to be the point of view of the out-of-luck writer humbly grateful to the celebrity oldster who's given him a break, a man of wisdom, an old charmer, whose famous name will sell books.

    Lansky's particular innovation is a change in gangland policy: not snuffing out failing or cheating business underlings, but straightening out their books and propping them up so they make more money for the syndicate. In short: he emphasizes profitability over cruelty and fear.

    Anne Lansky (AnnaSophia Robb), Lansky's wife, is an example of this movie at its most one-note. She is nothing but a constant nag and accuser. She is also, it suddenly seems, unstable. In a brief scene, she rapidly becomes hysterical and suicidal: Lansky has her taken away. We see her given period, primitive shock treatments. One longs for a more female-centric and lighthearted gangster movie like Jonathan Demme's great Married to the Mob. Women are mere objects here.

    An interjected scene depicts a man arriving with an appeal and Meyer contributing to the fledgling State of Israel, in the name of Golda Meir (who will have a cameo later, with someone playing her, when he gets turned away).

    Writer David Stone is in deep shit. FBI agents inform him he has unwittingly horned in on a decades-long investigation. They have been watching him. His motel "girlfriend" was arranged by them to collect information from him and he has unwisely (and perhaps rather implausibly) told her a lot of what he's been learning from Lansky. But the interviews continue, with Stone telling Lansky nothing about his new problems, even though Lansky keeps observing that something looks wrong.

    Lat in the aciton, Stone asks Lansky to tell about Vegas. The film has already rapidly sketched in his involvement in lucrative, tax-free gambling casinos in pre-Castro Cuba. "Vegas?" Lansky begins. "We built that town. And it turned out to be our biggest headache."

    Despite good casting for the young and old Lansky, this is a movie that never steps outside genre convention. It takes on a tough and interesting gangster topic: Meyer Lansky would seem to be peculiarly mysterious and complex. Some claim he was never as big as legend has made him, though clearly Irish and Italian mafiosi respected and feared this tiny man under five feet tall who weighing 136 pounds at his heaviest. And speaking of smallness, one biographical summary cites a rumor of lifetime earnings of $20 million, not three hundred. It acknowledges his mellow advice to children and grandchildren (not seen in this film) "akin to poetry" and provided in a soothing, gravely voice. But it says "some claim" he was never more than an "expendable middleman", and that he was an "overzealous rogue" who "squandered away" whatever fortune he had. It's possible his claim in the film to Stone that he wishes he had even a million dollars is truthful. According to Wikipedia Lansky's accessible net worth when he died was $57,000.

    Due to its violence, this is not suitable for younger viewers. For cinematic sophisticates, it will soon pall. It nonetheless does reasonably well what it sets out to do: dramatizes a famous American gangster's life story in all its ambition, ingenuity, illegality and violence. And it's complications: it's just not easy being a good guy if you also happen to be a notorious criminal.

    Lansky, 119 mins., has no festival or debut history. It opens in Russia June 24, 2021, in the USA June 25 and in Spain August 27. Released by Vertical Entertainment.

    An article in the Tampa Bay Times about Meyer Lansky's daughter Sandra retells this story from the inside.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-17-2021 at 04:30 PM.

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    KENNY SCHARF: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (Max Basch, Malia Scharf 2020)

    MAX BASCH, MALIA SCHARF: KENNY SCHARF: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE (2020)


    SCHARF, CENTER, IN FRONT OF ARTWORK IN WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE

    A Vibrant Portrait of the LA-Based Pop Art Icon,
    Co-Directed by His Daughter,
    Launches in Theaters and Virtual Cinemas on Friday, June 25


    This is a film about Kenny Scharf, made by his daughter Malia Scharf and another person over a period of eleven years. Scharf is a colorful pop-style artist who became famous during the early New York East Village eighties art boom, though not quite so famous as his tragically doomed but now blue chip art buddies of the time, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat, which is part of the story. Full of good footage of those eighties art boom years with talking heads and Kenny's own present day interviews, this is largely a light, impressionable, personal film, though it contains tragedy too. It's an emotional film. It projects to us Kenny's fun-loving, pop sensibility, his art obsession, his passion for making fun, silly things and for trash and for plastic. It shows us a lot of his art, and it's very interesting, some of it very beautiful. It's more varied than we may have known. I particularly like the dark post-AIDS work. The combination of bright pop imagery with the darkness of tragedy makes for something more subtle. But tis is not so much a delineation of the range and variety of the artist's work as it a lively account of his life as an artist and of the period. It may leave out a few key details: for instance, it seems not to credit sufficiently the dealer Tony Shafrazi for early promotion of the artist.

    Kenny, who lives back in LA today after an interlude in Florida, came from Los Angeles, where he was originally born and raised, to New York in the late seventies when it was bankrupt, and therefore a haven and incubator for artists and the art boom of the eighties. After geting a BFA at School of the Visual Arts, which he said accepted anybody, he was soon in the thick of it, the club scene, the art scene, making art every day and partying every night.

    He and Keith Haring were like brothers. (Only later do we see Kenny today revealing he had a gay side, that he would now be called sexually fluid, which may have been essential to the bonding.) He was good buddies also with Jean-Michel Basquiat for a while, a friendship whose end we hear Basquiat say was not due to a falling out, though he's unable to explain it. Kenny reports going to cities primarily for their garbage and finding the garbage of Bahia best. His wife is Brazilian, met on the plane on his first trip to Brazil with friend Bruno Schmidt (one of the talking heads).

    We see a lot of Kenny's work, street art, murals, wall art, constructions, painting on anything, from appliances to furniture to clothes. We see the artist making paintings with brushes and spray cans. We learn about street art and how it came to life then - he, Haring, and Basquiat all were street artists first. No one exactly describes Kenny's imagery. In a live description he makes his paintings sound very random but another description by someone else points out his work is careful. It's bright, clear, precise, drawn in part from a television-obsessed fascination with early animated and Hana Barbara cartoons and bright and shiny and 3D-on-a-flat wall surface, rounded, highlighted, full of serpentine twirls and buggy eyes on the end of stalks. These are my observations; they are not offered by voices in the film. Part of any film like this is simply the opportunity to see the work in quantity looking alive, in a sympathetic atmosphere. That we get here.

    Many voices are heard and heads talk, including: Dennis Hopper, Yoko Ono, Ed Ruscha, curator Jeffrey Deitch, collector/publisher Peter Brant, artist, friend and Juxtapoz mag founder Robert Williams, artist Marilyn Minter, Rose Scharf Kenny's mother, childhood friend Stefan Hayes, gallarist Tony Shafrazi, art critic Carter Ratclif, Whitney curator Jane Panetta, Brazilian-Italian SVA artist friend Bruno Schmnidt, artist (girl-)friend Samantha McEwen, Fab 5 Freddy, artist friend Kitty Brophy,writer historian Carlo McCormick, art critic Linda Yablonsky, wife Tereza Scharf, former assistant/friend Min Sanchez, collectors Andy and Christine Hall, arty real estate developer Tony Goldman, artist Kaws, curator Dan Cameron.

    As there was an element of infantilism (noted in voiceover and shown in film clips) among the eighties art stars. Kenny Scharf in turn, with his childlike love of art fun, is described as never having been practical, always losing his checkbook or passport. He also had a hard time facing up to the tragedy of AIDS.

    AIDS is described as the eighties generation's nuclear holocaust. It destroyed at least a third of the best artists of the time. Weeping, thirty years later, Scharf describes holding Keith Haring's hand and coaxing him into an acceptance of death. AIDS and Haring's death devastated Kenny and led him to flee the tragedy, moving to Miami with his wife and children. Today, his wife says it might have been better if he had stayed in New York and "pushed through" his troubles. Anyway, Kenny's work became unfashionable, and his work was not selling. An art dealer talking head says how rare it is for any artist to become known. Scharf says art making was all he has ever known - he has never been "a businessman," and had, apparently, no teaching, writing, or other alternative way to make money when the art stopped selling.

    The West Coast artist Ed Ruscha is a friend and supporter and his respect obviously carries weight here. So does the friend who says what makes Kenny "a mensch" is that with him family has always come first. We see many scenes in different years suggesting Scharf has been a good father and his artist's family has been a fun place, with all the crazily "customized," Scharf-ed objects around declaring every inch to be a house of art and fun. He always looks healthy and in shape. Dare one guess that Kenny didn't do a lot of drugs? If he did, it's a truth that's glazed over. We do hear from addiction expert Gabor Maté, but not about drugs or recovery.

    The film follows Kenny to the Jan.-May 2017 Whitney Museum "Fast Forward" show of American art of the eighties, where a giant joint 1985 painting by him and Keith Haring called When Worlds Collide was featured, Haring's art a giant black and white frame and Scharf's a big colorful center. He says its meaning is there can be calm in the middle of chaos. It also signifies that he is a significant part of eighties art that must not be forgotten. Younger people keep saying they have never heard of Kenny Scharf. That just means they don't thoroughly know the American art of the eighties.

    At the film's end it takes a rest and stays with him, showing both him at work and colorful worlds he has made, which celebrate magical multicolored lighting and objects and create a childlike world of psychedelic color. He says the time has come for the environment he creates, "The world has caught up with me." His work is art that invades life, in a spirit of celebration crashing boundaries between fine art and popular culture, boundaries this film says are more and more coming down right now, today.

    Trailer
    A review: https://film-forward.com/documentary...h-doc-nyc-2020
    Another review: https://www.mygaytoronto.com/moving_...s/20210414.php

    Kenny Scharf: When Worlds Collide, 80 mins., debuted at SXSW Mar. 2020 and also has been shown at Slamdance (Park City), Woodstock, Annapolis, Perth, Provincetown, DocNYC, and other festivals. June 25, 2021 it opens in select theaters and virtual cinemas nationwide, including New York, LA, Chicago, Miami, San Francisco (The Roxie), Boston, Seattle, Minneapolis, Houston, Portland, and Denver.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Today at 01:40 AM.

  4. #34
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    M. HULOT'S HOLIDAY/LES VACANCES DE M. HULOT (Jaccues Tati 1953)

    Tati’s pipe-smoking, tan trench coat-clad alter-ego heads out to a seaside resort for a little rest and relaxation—but there’s never much of either on offer when the accident-prone Hulot is around. The spectacle of vacationers working overtime to relax provides a canvas on which Tati paints intricate and ingenious sight gags in this, Hulot’s first big screen outing, a sun-kissed delight that wrings belly laughs from fireworks, a befuddling train station, and uncooperative tennis balls, horses, and cars, all amounting to the “peculiar comic triumph [of catching] the ghastliness of a summer vacation at the beach.”—Pauline Kael, The New Yorker.- Metrograph

  5. #35
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    A FIRST FAREWELL (Lina Wang 2018)

    WANG LINA: A FIRST FAREWELL 第一次的离别 (2018)



    KALBINUR AND ISA IN A FIRST FAREWELL

    Growing up and saying goodbye

    The Uyghur people are a persecuted muslim minority in China. Filmmaker Wang Lina, whose debut feature this is, provides an intimate, beautiful picture of a vanishing life. She focuses on children living in a village on the edge of a desert in Xinjiang Autonomous Province. It's not idyllic, but there are moments of great sweetness and beauty. Begin with the sharp, alert features of the main character, Isa Yasan, a boy of ten or so.

    Isa, an adorable, sweet, earnest youth. The youngest son of a goat-herding family, he helps his father (Yasan Kasimu) with farm work, herding goats, feeding animals, picking cotton. He also tends to his mother (Ugulem Sugur). An (meningitis) has made her not only deaf and mute, but mentally handicapped in some way that's not quite clear. Isa loves her very much. But one day on his watch she escapes and wanders off. He goes all over rather desperately looking for her. Isa's mom is a worry, and his father wants to put her in a nursing home. (So there is one, somewhere.) Isa goes to school, but maybe not enough. It seems he needs to learn Mandarin better. (We see him briefly in a class, where all chant under an instructor.) But it is the increasing imposition of Mandarin that is cutting off the Uyghurs from their own culture.

    Isa spends his free time with his best girl friend, Kalbinur Rahmati, and they have a baby lamb they raise together. Moments they spend together are priceless. Filmmaker Wang Lina captures magic in this and some other scenes of A First Farewell, whose theme is that the world is somewhat leaving Isa behind. We see his older brother Moosa (Moosa Yasan) leave to further his education. This puts more burden of work on Isa. and what of his education, his future? But when we see him lovingly feed milk to a baby goat from a bottle, the moment is all.

    Another priceless time is when Kalbinur is picking cotton with her parents (Tajigul Heilmeier and Rahmati Kranmu) and her father sings a poem he wrote for her mother. Kalbinur groves with it in a way that expresses the spirit of all music. And then her mother jokes and teases. Yet Kalbinur says they fight so much she's afraid they will divorce.

    This film made me think of the incredible and somehow similar though more strictly documentary, Honeyland (ND/NF), a remarkable feat of humanistic ethnographic documentary filmmaking, which is coming to regular theaters soon (Friday, July 26, 2019). A First Farewell is as remarkable in its own way, more personal, and more staged, but also about a threatened, remote way of life seen from the inside. The filmmaker herself dedicates this poetic film to her own hometown of Shaya in Xinjiang.

    There is a Variety review by Richard Kuipers, who relates this stylistically to "fine Iranian films such as Majid Majidi’s The Color of Paradise (1999) and noting that it's primarily geared for young viewers, while also "offering plenty" for adults who "to read between the lines." Indeed its simply, poignant, authentic scenes offer much to ponder, while bypassing Chinese censorship that would have been aroused by reference to the political issues of Uyghur life.

    This film is a gem, and there is a top notch team behind it. The editing was by Matthieu Laclau, of Ash Is Purest White, the cool, understated score by Xi Wen, and the cinematography, shot over the period of a year, by dp Li Yong.

    A First Farewell 第一次的离别 (Di yi ci de li bie), 86 mins. debuted at Tokyo Oct. 2018 (winning the Asian Future best film award) and also showed at the Berlinale Feb. 2019 and winning the Crystal Bear of the Generation Kplus section there. It was screened for this review as part of the NYAFF. In Uyghur and Mandarin.

    Releasing online June 25, 2021 on Amazon Prime Video, Hoopla, Vimeo on Demand, Cathay Play, Smart Cinema USA, Montage Play (more at AFirstFarewell.com).

    A more critical than most Feb. 2021 LA Times review by Michael Ordona questions some of Wang Lina's methods finds it dangerously unclear about the current Uyghur situation. He feels Wang's "filmmaking techniques blurring documentary and narrative" and her dodging of censorship have led to problems. He says the director admits deceiving the child actor to make her cry when chastised in school and never revealed the deception. He points out the film never so much as mentions the humanitarian crisis the Uyghurs are in, a situation the US has officially designated as "genocide." The film's lack of direct criticism of Chinese policy toward the Uyghurs, he notes, must have been necessary to "get it past stringent censors, but this makes the film "murky." Can the use of fictionalized documentary methods have brought about dangerous distortions in this case?
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 09:21 AM.

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