Lame Adventure 349: Farewell 2012 New York Film Festival

Sunday night the New York Film Festival closed with several screenings of Flight starring Denzel Washington.  He is one of my favorite actors, but I refuse to shell out $20 for a film opening nationwide November 2nd that I can see at my local multiplex before noon for seven clams.  Milton did snag a ticket, but if he thought that Flight was the greatest movie ever made, he is in no hurry to sing its praises to me.  I am not feeling any suspense as I await his verdict.  It is very likely that when I see him this evening, any discussion of Flight might well be superseded by something as mundane as someone in his office misplacing the precious pizza cutter that he personally guards.

Milton and I did see two more films together – a hit and a miss.  The miss was The Last Time I Saw Macao.  We, along with our fellow audience members attending this sold out screening, chose to see this film because we were so impressed with the Portuguese director, João Pedro Rodrigues’ previous film that played the NYFF in 2009, To Die Like a Man.  That earlier film was a compelling story about a drag queen in Portugal living her life as a woman whose estranged son in the military re-enters the picture.  If this film sounds anything like La Cage aux Folles, that’s unintentional for it’s very different and ends tragically, no heartfelt singing of I Am What I Am here.

For The Last Time I Saw Macao Rodrigues collaborated with João Rui Guerra da Mata, a fellow filmmaker of Portuguese descent that was raised in Macao, a former Portuguese colony in China.

João Rui Guerra da Mata (left), João Pedro Rodrigues, and NYFF moderator Melissa Anderson.

The filmmakers original intent was to shoot a documentary about how much Macao had changed since Guerra de Mata lived there thirty years ago.  Instead, they turned it into a story with film noir-type elements about a man the audience never sees searching for an unseen friend in some sort of trouble with unseen bad guys.  If that last sentence confused you, exalt in the fact that you were not attending that screening.

The dialogue is voiceover of Guerra da Mata reading his memoir about Macao and Rodrigues reading something else I was frankly too bored to recall, but they revealed afterward that they wrote the script after they shot the film.

It showed.  We suffered.

The action is all on the soundtrack while the images are focused on various scenery including numerous stray dogs and cats, building windows, a dead rat in the gutter, a shoe, a cloth-covered bird cage, etc.  While watching these images the viewer hears the action occurring off screen throughout the entirety of the film.  Sometimes the audience hears someone terrified pleading for her life followed with the sound of a loud splash, sometimes the audience hears gunshots, sometimes there’s a fantastically loud rumble as if Armageddon is approaching.  As the ending credits rolled Milton declared:

Milton: I could have made that on my fuckin’ iPhone!

Milton’s iPhone with screensaver featuring Rita Hayworth and Glenn Ford in “Gilda”.

Afterward during the q&a, where much yawning was emanating all around us, one of the audience members volunteered:

Audience Member: I really didn’t understand who was being killed.

The filmmakers explained that they had made “an abstract film noir”:

Filmmakers: Some people get killed.  Some people survive.  Some people turn into animals.

Milton groaned deeply.  Afterward, he told me that the woman sitting next to him didn’t know whether to laugh or sleep.  He found her struggle infinitely more interesting than what was taking place onscreen.  He issued me a dictate:

Milton: If you write about this in your blog, don’t raise it a notch and call it crap!

The next day we saw No, a vastly more entertaining political thriller directed by Pablo Larraín set in Chile in 1988 when the Pinochet government announced they would hold a vote to get the people’s permission to maintain control.  The opposition was allowed 15 minutes of broadcast time each day for four weeks leading to voting day to build a case urging the citizens to vote no.  A clever  ad man played by Gael García Bernal oversees the No campaign.  Larraín intercut many of the actual campaign spots that were broadcast in 1988 within his film which he shot on U-matic videotape, the same format used in that era.  Compared to The Last Time I Saw Macao, No received our vote for the greatest movie ever made.

Pablo Larraín sitting between Antonia Zegers (left) and NYFF moderator Amy Taubin (right).

As Milton and I were leaving Alice Tully Hall for the last time until we return to the New York Film Festival in 2013 he announced:

Milton: This was a lot of fun even though I hated most of the films.

For anyone that would like to know what are Milton’s 100 personal favorite films click here.

Milton’s iPhone gotcha shot of Pablo Larraín.

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41 responses to “Lame Adventure 349: Farewell 2012 New York Film Festival

  1. abstract film noir is a scosch redundant.
    I used to go to Sundance all the time and it was glorious. However, the last time I went, we saw this horrid film about what I can’t remember and the filmmakers (using that term oh so loosely) said that they were going to just ‘feel their way through the process’–I’m sure they ‘felt’ it when people walked out in droves and no one bought that horrible waste of precious celluloid.
    What a crock of rotten shit that film was. But, I did run into John Waters on the way out, had a chat with him and told him about the shitstain I saw. he laughed and laughed. How glorious it was.

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  2. Roughly translated, “Guerra de Mata” means “War of Death.” Maybe he’s living up to his name.
    Great post, V.
    Film festivals are a fun and exiting way to see films that we normally wouldn’t get to see and as seasoned veterans, I suspect you and Milton enjoy most of the moments, even if you hate some of the films. Glad to go along for the ride. Thanks for including us in these recent posts.
    Cathy

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  3. I knew it was going to suck from the description in the website. We saw another Portuguese film, Tabu, which was really lovely.
    Thanks for linking to Milton’s beautiful list. I have minor beefs with it, but it is a great list for anybody who wants to become a fineschmeker about movies like us.

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  4. It makes me wonder how it even got into the festival… to say it sucks, may be too mild…

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  5. I look forward to the review of Milton’s iPhone movie at next year’s festival. I am sure that he can come up with better imagery than a birdcage and dead rat.

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  6. Oh, well, so it goes. So it ends. At least now you’ll get some sleep. Wish I could have seen even one. Happy Tuesday, my friend.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

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  7. writerwendyreid

    I don’t see “films”, I watch movies. New York’s culture and class would be definitely lost on me. Glad you and Milton enjoyed the film festival. :-)

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  8. I have never been to the Film Festival. For all the reasons you and Milton discussed. But I have thoroughly enjoyed hearing about all the films here!

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  9. Again, appreciate the reviews. Milton’s a riot!

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  10. I have no clue what you are talking about but I enjoyed my “pop in” as always. Love to see things through the LA view finder (smile)

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  11. was lame!

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  12. I’ve been to a wine festival, an apple festival, a sauerkraut festival, a blues festival, some church festivals, .. but not to a film festival … thus appreciate the reviews and tips —- especially from someone well versed!

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    • I checked out Cincinnati’s film festival. Wow, slim pickings. I feel your pain Frank, but you’ll always be the guy that enlightened me about the bell ringers playing Lady Gaga hits! Maybe one day you’ll visit the Big Apple when the NYFF is happening. Milton grouses that the Film Society seems to sell the house seats (the best seats) to the man (or woman) off the street a day or two before screenings. This drives my dear friend crazy. Maybe one day you’ll be the guy that’s able to snag a pair of those precious perfectly located ducats?

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  13. Painful. A prime example of a not too auspicious start in film making: not being sure what you wanted to do, but possessed the equipment to do it with. I do that with my paintings sometimes, but I don’t expect people to pay to watch it. I’m in the wrong craft.

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  14. Sounds like the evening was rather a trial, Lame. Though Milton seems to have brightened it up noticeably.

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  15. I would love to go to a film festival! However, it would likely be similar to the times I went with my husband to academic discussions at the University of Chicago: I would act like I totally knew what was going on, but when pressed about my feelings about the subject, I’d just blank and talk about Home Alone.

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    • Emily, Chicago has an excellent film festival, and it’s going on right now through October 25th! I urge you to go if possible. Seeing films does not require you to participate in the q&a. I have much higher respect for audience members that don’t ask questions as opposed to the nimrod that tries to sound smart when he offers his critique of the use of natural light at the location only to have the director shoot him down when he reveals he shot all the interiors on a soundstage.

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  16. Although it’s sad that the film festival is over you can always look forward to that seven dollar Denzel matinee. :)

    Dude and what was up with that movie that had the script written after it was shot? What is that? How does something like that get into the festival? Dude. I totally agree with Milton … he could have made the movie on his fancy phone and it would have been better. Most def.

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