OMG! Who put the four shots of espresso in the old lady’s coffee? Suddenly, the New York Film Festival (NYFF) has exploded into a true 21st century three ring Cinema Circus. How exciting that at the 50 year old festival new Executive Director Rose Kuo swooped down and fearlessly reinvented NYFF. While preserving its reputation as the most elegant and erudite of US Film festivals, she brought a tech savvy crew including Indie-Wire founder Eugene Hernandez and award wining documentary filmmaker and former Executive Director ofNew Fest, Lesli Klainberg, to reinvent NYFF.
Catching up with Sundance and Tribecatook less than a year. Now, full frontal digital access woos, seduces, excites and educates the public to the fast changing face of cinema today. In addition to the up-to-date tech equipped Walter Reed Theater, the best sounding room and the most comfortable seats in NYC’s consumer theater, Kuo has three new, smaller venues including a hip food lounge (singles alert!).
For his final year, Programming Chair Richard Pena has one of the strongest programs in years. Not only is his programming team’s survey of world cinema exceptional, he introduces a Masterworks section and oversaw a daily convergence conference which will cover new technologies and the intersection between art and commerce. Restoration is a necessary buzz word on the festival circuit and the restoredRolling Stones 1965 Ireland touras well as Iranian masterpiece Downpour are must sees!
Remember the best way to attend a film festival is to ask yourself what is being shown that will not be playing in theater soon. That is the best criteria to get the most out of the NYFF.
NYFF 2012 Must See:
- Main – Amour, Beyond the Hills, Bwakaw, Barbara, The Last Time I saw Macao, Memories Look At Me, Leviathan, Tabu.
- Cinema of our time: John Cassavettes/Shirley Clark, Erich Von Stroheim, Catherine Breillat, Joseph Von Sternberg, George Cukor, Chantal Akerman
- Cinema reflected: The War of the Volcanoes (Anna Magnani/Ingrid Bergman), Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out
- On the arts: Punk in Africa, Ingrid Craven, Music and Voice
- Masterworks: Filmstudie (Hans Richter) Nothing but a Man, Downpour, William Rothman: Reintroducing Hitchcock’s MARNIE
- Men of the cinema: Joseph Losey – The Prowler, Jules Dassin – Night and the City, Otto Preminger – Whirlpool
- Avant Garde: The Extravagant Shadows
Look at the NYFF festival web site and search Youtube for trailers
LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES
The Sessions dir Ben Lewin
Two of the most talked about films at Sundance 2012 were Kyle Henry’s Foreplay and Ben Lewin’s The Surrogate. Both dealtwith paraplegics and sex. Talk about taboo! Americans do not want to deal with the human needs of people who look or act differently than the norm. Hollywood does not make features that takes a direct look into the lives of people we try to not look at. Independent cinema thinks all stories are worth telling.
With a name change to The Sessions, Ben Lewin’s off beat comedy is based on the real life experiences of noted poet and iron lung habitant Mark O’Brien, 36, who is a devout Roman Catholic. He has never experienced penetrative sex and wants to know what that human experience is like before he dies.
John Hawkesagain delivers a jaw-dropping performance as O’Brien. He seeks out the advice and hopefully permission from his priest played by, with remarkable compassion and subtle tongue in cheek self deprecating humor, William H, Macy. The priest in essence says go for it. Helen Hunt plays Cheryl Cohen Greene, a happily married mother who works as a surrogate sex therapist. She is contacted by a social worker and agrees to be a surrogate for a man in an iron lung.
Lewin’s script carefully navigates past the sinkholes of shock, disgust and judgment to humanize the man in the iron lung and the woman who is going to help him experience sexual intercourse. Mark of course first thinks he should treat her like an escort and she quickly makes clear she is a professional therapist and there will be only six sessions; she tenderly proceeds to calm down the excited and befuddles poet. Naturally, he falls in love with her. She teaches him the difference between sex and love as she too falls in love with him; not erotic love but human compassion.
Helen Hunt, John Hawkes and William H. Macyeach give extraordinary, natural performances that allow these three people to, despite their circumstances, become in their needs and expression, very ordinary humans who care about each other.
Lewin himself is physically disable, giving him the insight to bring the necessary humor that turns what could have been a freaky sex flick into a warn and funny feel good movie.
As to Kyle Henry’sForeplay we will keep you posted.
Liberal Arts dir Josh Radnor
The second feature from the television actor, best known for starring role in the hit sitcom How I Met Your Mother,premiered at Sundance where it received a standing ovation at each screening…deservedly so.
Hollywood has hit upon a payday formula: 30 something men releasing their inner adolescent, bonding in acting out rituals that sometimes have them collectively blacking out in Vegas or waking up with a woman whose name he can’t remember, only to find out a few months later he made a baby with a stranger. Apparently millions of Americans find this hilarious.
Liberal Arts is a film about a 30 something college admissions director whose girlfriend has just moved out. He receives a call from his favorite college professor (Richard Jenkins) who is retiring and invites him to attend his farewell dinner. He attends and almost immediately becomes infatuated with a 19 year old student, the daughter of another professor. She is smart, a poet and s philosophy student. Most importantly, she is played by the best new young actress in independent cinema, the wholesome, full bodied Elizabeth Olsen. The core of the narrative is his coming to terms with ethical and moral choices while deep in lust.
It is a serious comedy.
Jenkins again gives an academy award deserving performance that confronts retirement, age and leftover life to live. Radon’s script confronts the “put-them-out-to-pasture” attitude increasingly seen at private colleges where intern and adjuncts are expected to replace expensive, tenured professors by an administration cutting corners. Jenkins would have walked away with the film except this comedy is so brilliantly cast withAlison Janney playing a first rate female professor with the man-eating appetite of an Ayn Rand and the emotional availability of a sleep walker out for a midnight snack.Thr audience benefits by the interplay. Josh Radnor, as the producer, director, writer and lead actor holds his own by making complex and confusing the role that a less gifted actor or director would have played for the cheap shot.
Unlike all the hangover clone flicks, Liberal Arts actual looks at how an adult is confronted by ethical choices end raises the question of appropriateness of age related liaisons. It does not ask for a simple check off pro/con list. Many things recommend this smart comedy, not the least are the performances from Olsen, Jenkins and Janney. In addition, the fine production values and tone never allow the film to become too serious as it asks very serious questions about age, sex and love.
Josh Radnor is a director to be reckoned with in the future. While he plays with dangerous, complicated questions, he never resorts to physical brutality or fast food sex to distract the viewer.
Arbitrage dir Nicholas Jarecki
In the last months of a presidential campaign, Arbitrage has been released by director/writer Nicholas Jarecki. It delves inside the world of hedge funds, the men that run them and their family life. It is a Wall Streetthriller that exposes clearly how wealth and power breeds it own separate standards of ethics and morality that in critical ways, is differentfrom that which moderates the lives of the 99%.
Jarecki, brother to noted documentary film makers Andrew (Capturing the Friedmans) and Edward (The House We Lived In/ Why We Fight) has previously worked mostly in documentary film. Here, as a first time dramatic feature director, he uses a narrative story telling license to introduce us to the Miller family with Richard Gere in his best performance since American Gigoloas well as Susan Sarandonand Tim Roth.
We see how they play the game in the market and at home. Gere has everything: the wife, the homes, the children, the mistress and the perfectly groomed hair. He is a risk taker at the millions of dollar level.
We meet him as he risks financial failure because of a transaction that is taking too long to complete and he buys time by cheating; I am sure it is NOT a word he would use. He is playing the coolest guy in town as his desperation wreaks havoc on his private world. His daughter, an executive in his company, discovers it, confronts him and then remains silent. The 1% do live differently and only seem to live and to play top gun; their families are like a mafia family all a part of the game. Script, production design and especially Gere, Sarandon and Roth obscure that Jarecki has not yet fully master the art of directing. Recommended.
Essential Cinema Alert – Film Forum: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is a reality based political drama that shows why political films are the best drama. Citizen Above Suspicion is the yardstick by which all subsequent political thrillers are measured. Beautiful new print Italy, 1970.
(c) jim fouratt nyc