Tag Archives: new york film festival

Lame Adventure 437: Back to the Birds

The New York Film Festival’s closing night feature hit another high note, Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is a pitch black comedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton plays a Hollywood has-been best known as the comic book hero, Birdman, a character that brought him fame and fortune. He is determined to resurrect his sagging career and gain relevancy by adapting a Raymond Carver story for the Broadway stage, even though he is losing his mind to Birdman who has a stranglehold on his identity.

Milton and I doubt that Birdman will come anywhere near the crowd pleasing popularity of Gone Girl, which opened the festival, at the US box office. But Birdman is a beautifully shot and edited film with a great jazz drum score. Michael Keaton, whose own career hit its high mark when he started playing Batman twenty-five years ago (a role he quit before acting in the third film of the series), is terrific as a man who is losing his grip on reality as he directs and stars in a play that is hemorrhaging his life savings. It nails the New York theatrical community with falling props, insecure, egotistical actors and nasty, snobby critics. Adding to the authenticity, much of it is shot at the Saint James theater, where Milton and I have seen many Broadway plays through the years. It’s very entertaining with an ending that’s open to interpretation.

Birdman played eight times on closing night at the festival. Milton and I could not afford to pay the king’s ransom to attend the star-studded gala screening. Our screening at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade theater did not rate an appearance by any of the stars. It was a venue with first come, first serve seating so loitering outside the press tent was not an option. Therefore, the closest we got to rubbernecking the likes of Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts or Zach Galifianakis was this guy vacuuming the red carpet in anticipation of their arrival.

Vacuum-man.

Vacuum-man.

So, how does one follow up sixteen days of intensive film going in Lincoln Center? The first option is to enter withdrawal. The second it to head downtown, specifically to Greenwich Village to indulge in street theater.

Birdboy.

Birdboy.

As a longtime fan of pigeons, I was very excited to read last week in The New Yorker, that Tina Trachtenburg, also known as Mother Pigeon, an animal activist and artist, was conducting a pigeon “flashflock outstallation” in Washington Square Park on Saturday with a rain date on Sunday. Milton and I had tickets to two screenings on Saturday, so I was elated to see rain.

I was even more elated to see Mother Pigeon’s acrylic felt flock on Sunday.

Mother Pigeon's pigeon outstellation.

Mother Pigeon’s pigeon outstallation.

"Why aren't we in MoMA, Mother Pigeon?"

“Why aren’t we in MoMA, Mother Pigeon?”

Flock of feathered felt.

Flock of feathered felt.

She creates these whimsical creatures and gives each unique markings. She explains on her web site, “I like to make them all different because all pigeons are different.” As someone who is quite familiar with the many pigeons in my own midst, that is very true.

Mother Pigeon.

Mother Pigeon with the pigeons in her midst.

Yes, she even created one pecking at a slice of felt pizza.

Mother Pigeon pigeon pecking at pizza.

Mother Pigeon pigeon pecking at pizza.

As I was heading back uptown, I encountered life imitating art.

Mother Nature pigeon enjoying lunch.

Mother Nature pigeon pecking at pizza crust.

Lame Adventure 436: Notes from the New York Film Festival

Milton and I are continuing to attend the New York Film Festival. It concludes next Sunday, October 12. Thus far, we’ve seen a dozen films. Some have impressed us immensely, but even those that did not, we don’t regret seeing.

The Wonders, the second film directed by Italian filmmaker, Alice Rohrwacher, won the Grand Prix earlier this year at the Cannes film festival. Here in New York, getting your film screened is the award.

Alice Rohrwacher mingling after her screening.

Alice Rohrwacher mingling after her screening.

Even though I was well rested when we saw The Wonders, so little happens in this story about a family of rural beekeepers, I nodded out. When I woke, they had added a German boy to their family of four girls. I wondered how that happened? I had barely been comatose for a minute. Milton was fully conscious for the entirety of the film.

Me: Where did that German kid come from?

Milton: I have no idea.

Alice Rohrwacher had great enthusiasm during the q&a, but I agree with Milton:

Milton: I just hope that she’ll next make a film I like.

French film star Mathieu Amalric did a commendable job adapting a Georges Simenon novel, The Blue Room. It is a film noir that is a jigsaw puzzle of pieces but it’s major flaw is that we still were not entirely sure who did what at the end. But, it was entertaining and there was plenty of nudity. He gives spirited q&a.

Fully clothed Mathieu Amalric outside Alice Tully Hall.

Fully clothed Mathieu Amalric outside Alice Tully Hall.

We have seen several untraditional biopics at this year’s festival including Pasolini, written and directed by Abel Ferrara and starring Willem Dafoe, who Milton considered miscast, in the title role. Although the film was flawed, it was an imaginative telling about the final weeks in the life of the Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini who was murdered under mysterious circumstances in 1975. I liked how Ferrara depicted Pasolini as a guy who was so alive and full of creative energy as he grew closer to his untimely death. I also liked that Ferrara created the film that Pasolini intended to shoot next. During the q&a Ferrara got embroiled in a heated debate with an audience member who claimed that Pasolini had been assassinated. Ferrara didn’t subscribe to that idea and casually stuck his foot in his mouth when he referred to Pasolini as “a fucking filmmaker” further incensing the audience member.

Q&A with Abel Ferrara and Willem Dafoe.

Q&A with Abel Ferrara (l) and Willem Dafoe (r).

Filmmaker Mike Leigh returned to the festival for the tenth time with his 149 minute biopic about the 19th Century British landscape painter J.M.W. Turner, Mr. Turner. Timothy Spall grunts his way through the title role. When he spoke, his British accent was often so garbled; I had no idea what he was saying. I told Milton that I found that film as interesting as watching paint dry. Milton said that there was not enough story to merit almost two and a half hours.

Sneaking a shot of Mike Leigh in-between press people.

Sneaking a shot of Mike Leigh in-between press people.

Our favorite biopic was Bertrand Bonello’s Saint Laurent about the fashion visionary Yves Saint Laurent, featuring a superb Gaspard Ulliel in the title role and Helmet Berger as Saint Laurent at the end of his life. It focused on Saint Laurent’s most creative decade, 1967-1977, and his relationship with his business and life partner, Pierre Bergé. Its 146-minute length flew. The lush tale was full of hedonistic excess, passion, romance, gay sex, drugs, anxiety, torment, beautiful clothes, people and pets; a succession of French bulldogs always named Moujik. That film completely held my attention from start to finish.

Three other films that impressed us very much were thought provoking: Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako, a true story beautifully filmed about the occupation of this city in Mali by jihadists. Music is banned, absurd rules are enforced without explanation, women are pressured into marriages against their will, children are quickly orphaned, and people are tortured and terrified. During the q&a the filmmaker aptly called Timbuktu “a society in crisis.” Audience members were left wondering what we could do to help? A start is to suggest getting word out about this film. If Timbuktu appears in a theater by you: see it. Then, feel lousy like us about what’s going on over there.

Timbukto director Abderrahmane Sissako post-screening.

Timbukto director Abderrahmane Sissako post-screening.

Former NYFF Program Director Richard Pena talking to Kessen Tall, Timbukto co-writer.

Former NYFF Program Director Richard Pena talking to Kessen Tall, Timbukto co-writer.

Two Days, One Night is a wrenching drama by the Dardenne Brothers starring Marion Cotillard as Sandra, a factory worker out on disability, who learns that management has decided to lay her off just when she is ready to return to work. If she can persuade her sixteen colleagues to forgo their 1000-euro bonus (about $1250), she will be allowed to keep her job. Cotillard is riveting. It’s a performance that’s Academy Award nomination-worthy.

Dardenne Brothers, Marion Cotillard and Kent Jones, NYFF Program Director.

Dardenne Brothers, Marion Cotillard and Kent Jones, NYFF Program Director (who our friend, Enchilada, calls Lurch).

Oren Moverman’s Time Out of Mind starring Richard Gere as a homeless man named George living on the street in New York City was a film with a gimmick that works. Much of this film was shot with hidden cameras as a disheveled Gere panhandles, sleeps on park benches and rides the subway. As longtime residents of New York, Milton and I are very familiar with seeing people like George who are on the fringes of society . We thought Richard Gere was terrific and his performance is Academy Award nomination-worthy.

Kyra Segewick, Richard Gere and Oren Moverman.

Ben Vereen, Kyra Sedgwick, Richard Gere, Oren Moverman and Kent Jones.

We also attended the centerpiece screening, the world premier of Paul Thomas Anderson’s highly anticipated adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s novel, Inherent Vice. I asked Milton if he ever read any Pynchon novels.

Milton: They’re about a thousand pages long with no punctuation.

Translation: no. This film is 148 minutes long and the plot is a convoluted detective story that is  impossible to follow featuring a fun pothead private investigator played by Joaquin Phoenix (who is excellent). It’s not a comedy, it’s not a drama, it’s not a thriller, but what it is most is tedious. If we had been stoned, or at least subject to a contact high, this plotless pile would have been far more entertaining and far less pointless.

Empty Inherent Vice press tent.

Empty Inherent Vice press tent.

Lame Adventure 435: Celebrity Stalking and the New York Film Festival

One of my former companions, Rockets Redglare, insisted that the older a woman grew, the more she disappeared. What a huge advantage that cloak of invisibility was for wily me on the opening night of the 52nd New York Film Festival where David Fincher’s latest film, Gone Girl, received its world premier.

Outside Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, eight posters promoting Gone Girl, rubbing it into the eyeballs for anyone without tickets.

Outside Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, eight Gone Girl posters rubbing it in to anyone without tickets.

I scurried around the press tent virtually unnoticed.

Press tent.

Press tent.

The area had heavy police presence.

Police barricades be damned!

Police barricades be damned! I am woman, I am invisible, hear my camera roar!

The cops ordered rubber necking pedestrians eager to glimpse the stars to keep moving. One cop thought he was hilariously funny when he barked:

Barking Cop: C’mon people, move it! That’s only Ben Affleck — not Matt Damon.

"Matt's here?"

“Matt’s here?”

But I was able to exploit my ability to impersonate air to photograph the stars Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike.

Rosamund Pike

Rosamund Pike

Ben again.

Ben again.

My luck ran out every time I tried to snap a shot of Tyler Perry, who was obscured by camera crews.

If only I was that tree!

I envy that tree’s view of Tyler Perry!

Milton and I have tickets to about half of the festival’s thirty-three main slate screenings.

Nice haul of tickets.

Nice haul of tickets.

Gone Girl screened nine times on opening night. We scored tickets to one of the cheap seat screenings at the Francesca Beale Theater, located across the street from Alice Tully Hall,  where David Fincher and the cast were in attendance.

Prized Gone Girl ducat.

Prized Gone Girl ducat.

Prized opening night playbill.

Prized opening night playbill.

I did put the camera away while watching the film.

I did put the camera away while watching the film.

The film was highly entertaining. The movie web site IMDB identifies it as a “Drama Mystery Thriller” but I prefer Milton’s succinct classification:

Milton: It’s a modern day film noir.

David Fincher has directed a riveting film about a couple hit hard by the recession. The husband (Affleck) finds his living room ransacked and his wife (Pike) missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. The plot is a wild ride full of many twists and turns about marriage, money and the media. Gillian Flynn, who wrote the novel that was the source material, adapted her book into a very impressive first screenplay. Come awards time, this film will likely receive multiple nominations.

Over the weekend, we attended screenings at Alice Tully Hall, and were promptly plummeted back to earth. On Saturday, we saw the North American premier of Italian filmmaker Asia Argento’s Misunderstood. In her introductory remarks, Amy Taubin, a member of the NYFF’s selection committee and a veteran film critic, gushed about seeing that film earlier this year at Cannes. She claimed that it was about “girlhood”.

Asia Argento, holding microphone; Amy Taubin sitting at her right.

Asia Argento, holding microphone; Amy Taubin sitting at her right.

The film, set in Rome in 1984, is about a nine-year-old named, Aria, whose megalomaniac showbiz parents hate each other’s guts, divorce and treat their youngest daughter with varying degrees of anger, indifference and rare affection. Throughout the entirety of the film Aria shuttles from one parent’s home to the other’s after she inevitably steps on a landmine pissing off these insufferable clods. Twice this kid attempts suicide. As the ending credits rolled I said:

Me: I feel like I’ve been bludgeoned.

Milton: I didn’t believe a single word of it.

During the q&a, Taubin asked Argento that considering that her name is Asia, one letter different than Aria, she is the daughter of famous parents (the filmmaker Dario Argento and the actress, Daria Nicolodi), and she was nine in 1984, was any of it autobiographical? Argento looked baffled, but volunteered that her name is Aria on her passport. She also revealed that the film was a comedy. That took us by surprise. But, we appreciated that she showed school spirit and attended her screening.

Asia Argento outside Alice Tully Hall following her screening that compelled us to eat pasta for lunch.

Asia Argento following her screening that compelled us to eat pasta for lunch.

The next day, we saw David Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars, which had its US premier the night before. It is based on the novel written and adapted for the screen by Bruce Wagner. He was the only member of the production to attend the Sunday afternoon screening. He delivered a brief, but memorable, introduction. Possibly, he was quoting a fortune cookie:

Bruce Wagner: The road to hell is paved with laughter.

This film began as a clever satire about Hollywood: the egomania, desperation and how people invent themselves. Many of the jokes are hilarious. A secondary storyline features Julianne Moore as a middle age actress in a career slump obsessed with landing a particular part. Her performance was outstanding. But, the film derails in the last third. Even though it is not at all in the running for the worst film we’ve ever seen, it is one that we could not recommend to approximately 98 percent of the people we know.

My snack of choice this NYFF has been an organic dark chocolate bar I get at Trader Joe’s. Naturally I offer to share my bar with Milton but he prefers milk chocolate. He told me that the next time he eats a piece of my candy bar:

Milton: I’ll bring my own sugar to sweeten it.

Yum to me. Yuck to Milton.

Yum to me. Yuck to Milton.

Lame Adventure 391: Blue is the Longest Color

Au revoir 51st New York Film Festival.

Au revoir 51st New York Film Festival.

Milton and I have attended our last screening at the New York Film Festival, the highly anticipated and critically acclaimed 2 hour and 59 minute lesbian opus from France, Blue is the Warmest Color. Adapted from a graphic novel written by Julie Maroh and directed by Abdellatif Kechiche, it stars Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It won the prestigious Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and the jury gaveExarchopoulos and Seydoux an Honorary Palme d’Or of their own. I had originally thought they shared a Best Actress award.

This is a coming of age story about the sexual awakening of a teenage girl named Adèle who experiences love at first sight when she sees Emma, an art student with blue hair, walking arm in arm with her girlfriend on the street. The hype surrounding it is a ten minute graphic sex scene that Kechiche shot with a handheld camera. I had hoped that this film would be on par with Brokeback Mountain in depth and quality, but  now that I have seen it, I declare it a straight guy’s wet dream about pretty girls who are the Energizer Bunnies of the boudoir.

Milton’s two-word review:

Milton: Major disappointment.

Thus far, critics have been praising this film all out of proportion which is baffling. This is certainly not the lesbian Citizen Kane. Stephen Spielberg’s Lincoln ran 2 hours and 30 minutes, 29 minutes shorter than Blue. Is a slender tear-drenched and snot-soaked ode to first love on the same level as an historic epic about the man who freed the slaves Milton?

Milton: I hated most of the film. It was boring.

There just was not enough story to merit that length. A family dinner sequence showing the character, Adèle, ravenously eating spaghetti with her parents while all three are watching TV seemed shot in real time. I got the point that they were not members of the French aristocracy when Adèle licked her knife, but did I need to watch her scarf seconds to hammer home that she’s a girl with a voracious appetite?

Length aside, Kechiche took many liberties with Maroh’s story. He has used her characters as a springboard for his own version of who lesbians are, and that offended me so much. At a party sequence that made my skin crawl, men, undoubtedly representing Kechiche’s warped viewpoint about gay women, are opining about lesbianism and female orgasm. If only I had a mute button.

Sitting at left moderator Kent Jones with director Abdellatif Kechiche and actress Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Sitting at left moderator Kent Jones with director Abdellatif Kechiche and actress Adèle Exarchopoulos.

Maroh has expressed her dismay that she was excluded from the filmmaking process, but she has not condemned the film. I suspect she was paid well, so she is not going to kick a gift horse in the teeth. If the Koch Brothers want to buy my book for a chunk of change and turn it into a Tea Party manual, sold! Maroh might be anticipating a backlash from lesbians and anyone else that can see through this sham no matter their gender or which way their pendulums swing.

Maroh has spoken out about the notorious sex scene that occurs about halfway into the film. She has called that scene “unrealistic”. It was the Cirque du Soleil of scissoring and ass slapping set on a mattress. The sighs and groans the characters emitted were ear piercing. I emailed Milton:

Me: I enjoyed it voyeuristically while watching it, but at the same time, I have never in my life had sex like that. A lot of what they were doing was in these strange positions that my partners and I never do.

Milton: I’m glad you said that because, although I found the scene steamy, at times I didn’t know what the hell they were doing. That penetration without penetration thing? What the fuck was that?

As for our audience, men, presumably straight, exceeded the number of women in attendance. Milton said never before did he have to wait in a line of 500 guys to use the bathroom. He is going to monitor how this film does at the box office. It enters general release in the US, but not in Idaho where it is already banned, on October 25th. It is being released uncut and rated NC-17. I am sure that by showing it uncut that will guarantee increased box office revenue. Kechiche has announced that he wants to release a director’s cut that is forty minutes longer, presumably that will be the DVD. More go-to viewing for the undeclared target audience: drooling straight guys. Milton wonders if lesbian orgasms merit ten or fifteen million dollars at the box office over here in the land of the free, home of the bored. I anticipate that it will sell even better.

Lame Adventure 390: New York Film Festival-time

The most wonderful time of the year.

The most wonderful time of the year.

Milton and I have been going to the New York Film Festival. Thus far, we have attended four screenings, but he recently rubbernecked the red carpet arrivals without me. He took this gotcha shot of Robert Redford entering a screening of All is Lost.

"Get that iPhone out of my face."

“Get that iPhone out of my face.”

Our selections span the globe provided you are only traveling to China and France. Milton was very eager to see Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin. For weeks he talked avidly about this film. He urged me not to read anything about it so I would view it with a completely open mind. I heeded his advice. Finally, the night of the screening arrives. Milton mentions for the 127th time that he’s very excited. The program begins. Out steps the moderator, Amy Taubin. Cue downbeat.

Milton (loud whisper): I hate her!

Me (barely audible whisper): No, it’s Annette Michelson that you hate. She’s the one that burped into the microphone that year.

Milton (insistent whisper): I hate her, too, and I hate this one! She was a second rate critic at the Village Voice and now she’s here!

Milton emits a groan of disgust normally reserved for seeing a rat the size of a toaster scampering across the subway platform. Fortunately, the film, four loosely interconnected stories about members of the working class in modern day China who grow increasingly enraged by the economic divide and react memorably, was riveting. Milton was so impressed he intends to see it again. We left craving noodles, but settled for nachos.

Center, Jia Zhangke with his lead actress and his wife, Tao Zhao. Amy Taubin at right.

Center, Jia Zhangke with his lead actress and his wife, Tao Zhao. Amy Taubin at right. Translator at left.

Next, we made our way to France when we saw The Stranger by the Lake, a thriller about gay male cruising that was shot entirely outdoors by a lake. It was written and directed by Alain Guiraudie and had a distinct Hitchcockian feel if Sir Alfred had ever been inclined to shoot a film showing hardcore sex between guys. The NYFF had disclaimers all over the place warning: Please be advised that this film has scenes of a sexually explicit nature. That evening’s Milton-approved moderator, Dennis Lim, again reminded the audience comprised of approximately 98% gay men, about this fact. The guys applauded and cheered the announcement.

Center, Alain Guiraudie, right, Dennis Lim and left, handsome young translator that made 98% of the guys in the audience cheer.

Center, Alain Guiraudie, right, Dennis Lim and left, handsome young translator who rated vocal gay male  audience approval.

Stranger delivered on many levels, and I agree with Dennis Lim that it’s a film about watching. All eyes were glued to the hyper masculine character Michel. Michel reminded me of Mark Spitz. Milton said Michel reminded him of every gay male porn film icon of the Seventies and Eighties. Stranger was highly entertaining until the last twenty minutes when it veered in a direction we wish it had not and no, I’m not saying that Michel announces that he’s straight and has decided to marry his long lost love, Mary Ellen Flaubert. We just wished it had gone in a different direction. A chatty chap sitting behind us kept referring to the protagonist, Franck, as “a ninny”; an opinion Milton found immensely irritating.

Over the weekend, we were joined by our friend, Lola, for a double header. First, we saw the latest from filmmaker, Catherine Breillat, Abuse of Weakness, starring screen legend, Isabelle Huppert. This is a drama based on true events in Breillat’s life after she suffered a severe stroke and when she had a relationship with a notorious conman who milked her for hundreds of thousands of Euros. Again, the moderator was Amy Taubin, but Milton practiced restraint and simply glowered at her. Huppert, now age 60, looks luminescent. She personifies that je ne sais quoi factor French women exude. I whispered to Milton:

Me: I’ve seen Isabelle Huppert in person. I can die happy!

Right, Isabelle Huppert, center Catherine Breillat, left, Amy Taubin.

Left, Isabelle Huppert, center Catherine Breillat, right, Amy Taubin.

Milton smiled warmly; he was thrilled to see her, too. About the film … did it suck! Behold, Milton’s two word review:

Milton: Pure torture.

Milton was livid that Maud, Huppert’s stroke victim character, would be eating prosciutto after a stroke.

Milton: Who the hell does that? That’s like eating straight salt!

The only way Huppert could have saved this story might have been if she uttered the French word for “rewrite”. What impressed Lola about it was a question an irate audience member sitting in the balcony bellowed during the q&a.

Irate Audience Member: Why can’t the French have subtitles in yellow? Why does it always have to be white on white? I can’t read that!

Next we saw an infinitely more engrossing film, a meticulously crafted and very clever thriller directed by Claire Denis appropriately titled Bastards. She unfolded the story in fragments. The audience never knows more than Marco the protagonist who we’re rooting for to solve the mystery about what happened to his niece. This is a film that requires full attention. When the guy sitting next to me suddenly got the hiccups that was briefly distracting, but I maintained focus.

This time the moderator was Kent Jones, the Director of Programming, and a serious Claire Denis cheerleader. Bastards was pure cinema. Milton had no complaints.

Lousy zoomed in iPhone iDistant shot of Claire Denis and Kent Jones.

Lousy zoomed in iPhone iDistant shot of Claire Denis and Kent Jones.

Responding to SOS text, Lola takes this shot of Claire and Kent from her third row seat.

Responding to my SOS text, Lola takes this shot of Claire and Kent from her third row seat.

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.

Lame Adventure 347: New York Film Festival 2012

The New York Film Festival is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.  Milton and I have been there every day since Saturday, even though we’ve only seen three films thus far.  Milton, who has been a longtime member of the Film Society of Lincoln Center, has not been wild about the location of our seats.  For many screenings we seem to be sitting in the nosebleeds.

Guy playing the piano with his dog outside Alice Tully Hall on Saturday.

The first film we saw was Amour, written and directed by one of our favorite filmmakers working today, Michael Haneke.  He won the Palme D’Or at Cannes for this very unsentimental story set in Paris about Georges and Anne, a longtime married couple coping with the ravages of old age after one suffers a stroke and the other is the caregiver. The octogenarian actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, both give extraordinary performances. Veteran actress Isabelle Huppert plays Eva, their middle-aged daughter that resides in London, who feels increasingly frustrated and helpless every time she visits her parents.  Although this film is depressing,  Haneke is such a talented filmmaker, it is riveting and packed with brilliant moments including a chilling nightmare sequence that elicited gasps from the audience.  Of course the real horror is the physical decline that likely awaits many of us as we approach our own mortality.   Yee ha.

Paparazzo Milton sees Michael Haneke milling around the Alice Tully Hall lobby pre-screening of “Amour”.

We noticed that our audience was full of senior citizens including a woman that inched toward her seat with half the energy of a sleeping snail before she settled in front of us.  All the while her friend repeatedly bleated in a thick New York accent, “Fran!  Over here, Fran!  Fran, over here!”  This agitated Milton who kept muttering fluent monosyllabic. There was also quite a lot of loud phlegmy coughing around us prompting him to mutter:

Milton:  God, we’re seeing this in a tuberculosis ward.

Fortunately, the film was excellent, even though we were sitting in row U.

The next day we had tickets to Beyond the Hills, written and directed by the Romanian filmmaker Christian Mungiu.

Milton’s iPhone gotcha shot of Christian Mungiu mingling with fans post “Beyond the Hills” screening.

We’re sitting in row T and Milton is fixated on the two and a half hour running time:

Milton:  This better be good.

I reminded Milton about the Bela Tarr screening we attended last year for The Turin Horse, a film about the futility of existence as illustrated through an ill work horse and two peasants eating potatoes. It was 146 minutes long – but we both loved it.

Beyond the Hills, is a story set in the present about two 25-year-old women that were best friends in a Romanian orphanage after they were abandoned at a very young age by their parents.  One woman is essentially an atheist, but the other has joined a monastery.  When they were in the orphanage, the relationship was sexual.  The secular woman, after working as a waitress in Germany, misses her friend terribly, so she visits her in the monastery.  She wants to rekindle what they had before but the religious woman has decided to devote her life to God.  Life in the monastery provides her with security and a sense of home. The besotted secular friend, grows increasingly unhinged.  The members of the monastery, a priest and several nuns, resort to a barbaric religious ritual to control the situation.  It ends miserably.

Milton declared this film:

Milton: Brokeback Mountain meets The Exorcist.

Milton iPhone gotcha shot of Anjelica Huston trying to slip into Alice Tully Hall through a side door.

On Monday night Milton and I had tickets to a film written and directed by Sally Potter called Ginger and Rosa.  We have third row balcony seats, seats he despises because they’re located a time zone away from the screen.

Ginger and Rosa is a pretentious 89-minute film with a terrific classic jazz soundtrack that seemed to run five hours as I drifted in and out of consciousness.  The story is set in 1962 England during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time when 17-year-old Ginger, a budding radical suffering extreme anxiety about a potential nuclear holocaust, worships her best friend, Rosa, a full fledged slut, who sleeps with Ginger’s cad of a father.  The worship ends, the world continues and Ginger writes a poem where she forgives Rosa.  Milton delivered a one-word review:

Milton: Awful.

I would have almost preferred watching a black screen with Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing on the audiotrack.

Afterward he revised it when he assessed the talent of the 63-year-old filmmaker, Sally Potter:

Milton: She’s too old to be making a film this bad.

Then, he revised his assessment a third time; he was impressed with Elle Fanning’s performance as Ginger:

Milton:  I don’t know what’s in the water those Fanning sisters drink, but they all have talent.  Too bad they can’t find a filmmaker that knows what to do with them.

Elle Fanning sitting in the center during post “Ginger and Rosa” screening q&a. Photo taken from third row balcony seat i.e., the moon.

He added authoritatively:

Milton:  This was so bad it made Beyond the Hills seem like Gone with the Wind.

Red carpet.