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.

Advertisements

76 responses to “Lame Adventure 390: New York Film Festival-time

  1. Hooray for the Chinese movie not being a bust! Meanwhile, a critic of moderators – wow – Milton’s skills continue to impress.

    Like

  2. Thanks for reviewing these four films, most (if not all of which) I will never actually see. You’ve no doubt saved me nearly $60 if I were to see them commercially and around 6 hours of my otherwise boring life. I say this despite the fact that at least 2 or 3 of them rated a Lame/Milton Thumbs Up. My decidedly lower brow tastes will have to be satisfied by America’s Fall Showcase that is (are?) Major League Baseball’s Post-Season.

    Hey Audra, Go Sawx!!!

    Seriously, thanks for the critiques and they weren’t so lame after all.

    Like

    • I did my best to keep the reviews short since we’re all at that point in life where one’s ADD can only bear so much blather about movies that fall into the category of “I would sooner ice climb in the Arctic naked that ever see any of these” for most visitors to LA.

      As a New Yorker, it is not in my DNA to root for your hometown team, but I figure if I ever need to find you, in front of your TV is a safe bet most evenings during this particular Fall Classic.

      Like

      • Thanks. I will be the guy wearing the 9 year old Sox hat replete with (hopefully) enough JuJu to keep us winning.

        Like

        • Who’s “us”? I tolerate your beloved Sawks, but if the Yankees, Mets or San Francisco Giants are not playing in the post-season, I’d rather watch films.

          Like

          • “Us”would be me with my JuJu as well. That and my hat, my mug and my shirt. Ready to rock n roll baby. It’s all rather fantastic.
            Oh and by the way. I enjoyed your movie reviews. The first one and Bastards will be on my DVD watch list. Or maybe they’ll make it to our tiny cinema here.

            Like

            • Audra I need you to fully explain the finer points of JuJu to my bride. She pretends to understand but does it more to humor me. I had it going on while we were in Greece and Croatia and I was up at 3 in the morning following the games via ESPN Gamecast. She is having me committed next Wednesday.

              Like

              • Juju is never touching my Red Sox mug the home version all season. And drinking only out of my work Red Sox mug at work but never after the all star break. Juju is saving my Red Sox socks only to be worn while they play in the World Series. Juju is me screaming like a wild banchee :). Mike marrying a red six fan was a mandatory quality in a husband for me

                Like

            • They’re both very good films. They’ll make it to Netflix.

              Like

    • GO SAWX INDEED. Yea Baby!!! My hubs bought me the official playoff sweatshirt the boys wear in the dugout. I ready to suit up!!

      Like

  3. Snoring Dog Studio

    Excellent critiques! Milton at his best for sure! The next time we have any film fest here in Boise, I’m going – as long as I’m done watching all the episodes of Breaking Bad. Redford still looks pretty great.

    Like

  4. How come we haven’t seen you? We are seeing a bunch of stuff and this year is definitely disappointing. I happen to disagree with your assessment of the French double bill. We loved the Breillat and, I can’t stress this enough: thoroughly loathed the Claire Denis film. I wanted to wash my brain with lye after watching it.
    As for Stranger By The Lake, here is my review: cut to the chase, si vous plait.
    Have not seen the Chinese movie, but like Milton, I am dying to. I love that director.
    There is something I love about disagreeing so thoroughly on movies. It may spark intense debate, but, to each his/her own! Vivre sa vie, as Godard would say! I hope we run into you one of these days…

    Like

    • We have been looking for you and the Magnificent Arepa and have been equally baffled by your absence! When Lola was with us, she joined in the hunt. Were you at the Vivre sa Vie screening, too? I was, but Milton-less. He is still in Godard hangover from when we attended Film Socialisme three years ago, but I’m hoping that he’ll recover next year when the NYFF screens his 3D opus Adieu au Language. According to Wikipedia: “The film revolves around a couple who cannot communicate with each other until their pet dog acts as an interpreter for them.” How can we possibly miss that? We’ll be back on Friday to see Blue is the Warmest Color. I hope we’ll see you then.

      Like

  5. Thanks once again for taking me to the movies.

    R.

    Like

  6. Sorry that the film about the stroke victim turned out to be a bust. Sounds like it should have been interesting. The Chinese one also interests me. Wonder if one can catch any of these on Netflicks? LOL

    It’s events like this I miss here in Ecuador. Though I really have no excuse as film festivals in Cuenca are common and all viewings are FREE!

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    Like

    • What’s the catch to the film festivals in Cuenca, Kathy? Are all the films in Spanish without sub-titles, or if they’re in other languages, are they dubbed in Spanish? (And is that sound I’m hearing Sara’s head exploding?) If there’s movie going in Hell, that would certainly be it for this English-only speaking doofus.

      Eventually, I imagine most, if not all the films screened at the NYFF would be available on Netflix.

      Soot-covered hugs back from New York,
      V

      Like

  7. Sounds like out of your four I will need to add two to the list of movies to look out for.

    Touch of Sin and Bastards.

    Thanks for the reviews and seeing them first.

    Like

  8. What a fun couple of days/nights! Milton is a force. I love the comments about the French film with Isabelle Huppert. “Let them eat salt!”

    Like

    • Tania, Milton’s surliness aside, we do enjoy attending the NYFF very much. The venue is great and the people-watching is satisfying, too. I saw filmmaker Jim Jarmusch standing in the lobby at Alice Tully Hall. My pal, Lola, recognized Kim Gordon (formerly with Sonic Youth) standing behind us in the lobby. Note: it’s a big lobby. If we were paid better, or someone very drunk who is a fool with his or her money, gave us a festival-wide pass, we’d go see everything — and everyone.

      Like

      • Wow. That’s a lot of decent celeb sightings in one mouthful. I’m sure you are (or Milton is) getting pretty proficient with the subtle camera phone photos. Besides the famous ones, I’m sure you also see a lot of the more ordinary NY crowds. Like those who spit gum on the sidewalks. Culture abounds! Will you see any more films?

        Like

        • One year Lou Reed sat in our row. Milton took a gotcha shot of him on the street outside Alice Tully Hall (where the main slate screenings take place). He looked at Milton with such contempt I feared for my pal’s life. The only thing ordinary about the NYFF crowd is gadflies like Milton and me. We’re going to see Blue is the Warmest Color on Friday. We’re psyched!

          Like

          • Lou Reed! Cool.
            Just read the Blue movie summary. Sounds rich! Looks like some wonderful cinematography. A feast for the eyes and senses.

            Like

            • We have seen other films directed by Abdellatif Kechiche. His work impresses us very much, but this one is his most controversial thus far. He and his two stars have had a huge falling out since Blue won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May. His actors are now trashing him mercilessly. He is going to attend the screening, but if his leading ladies show up, this could be the first time the New York Film Festival meets Jerry Springer. Tears might flow and chairs could fly. We’re sitting near the front so I hope furniture will not bounce off Milton’s shiny bald pate.

              Like

  9. I love your NYFF reviews, V. “A Touch of Sin” sounds great and “Bastards” as well. The fact that Milton would go see the first one again is definitely a thumbs up! Sounds like you’re having fun at the festival.

    Like

  10. One of these days I’ll come to NYC to this fest and hang with youse and Milton.

    Like

    • An easy way to find us at the NYFF Jules is to look for the people wearing glasses who look like they’re bursting with opinion. I might also be eating unsalted peanuts to control my munchies.

      Like

  11. I echo Robert’s sentiment–thanks for taking me to the movies. I rarely get to go, and when I do I’m sure the popcorn has been pissed in.

    Like

  12. Yes, thanks for taking us to the movies, V. I find your reviews, and Milton’s comments — the hiccupper and the audience commenter, too — so very entertaining, and given my tastes, I suspect way more so than any of these films.

    However, I must agree, Robert Redford does still look good. Indeed, next time you go to one of these things where you know he’ll be there, please take a camera with a strong zoom lens. 🙂

    Like

    • When the hiccuper was hiccuping, he somehow managed to keep them on mute, Samantha, but every time he hiccuped he shook and consequently, I could feel the vibration. For a flash frame, I thought he was suffering a seizure or some other health issue requiring medical assistance, but in reality what he suffered most was embarrassment.

      You might not want to look that closely at the Sun Dried Kid’s face these days, but according to Milton, word is out that RR’s performance could be Oscar nomination quality. That would be his first acting nomination since 1973 when he was nominated for The Sting. I know some think facial lines show character. My mother raised me to believe it showed not enough sun block and night time moisturizer.

      Like

      • Ah, “That face is a thing of beauty but in a different way.” Thanks, V., for sending me the link to Maureen Dowd’s Redford profile; I would have missed it, otherwise. I wish there were a video of this conversation; I’ll bet it’s a trip — she’s such a flirt, herself. I’ll add this movie to my Netflix queue for whenever it’s available on DVD. Having unwittingly gotten somewhat older myself, I tend to “just glance” in the mirror. On the other hand, as I have reached this age, I notice that I find more beauty in older, storied faces than in those of youth, which seem somehow unfinished to me, like the sculptor got hungry, set down his chisel and went and ate lunch before he finished.

        Two nights ago I watched Redford in the 1974 Great Gatsby, for the nth time. I was comparing the adherence of the script to the novel to Baz Luhrmann’s adherence. I was amazed that Redford was only 15 there, or so he looked.

        Also, it’s a pleasure to be in the age group of the droolers; that is, I draw support from knowing I’m not alone. 😉

        Like

        • I much preferred Baz’s take on Gatsby to Coppola’s and I was very pleased with Leo in the role, Samantha. I tought his performance blew RR’s out of the water. My favorite RR romance is hands down, The Way We Were and boo hiss to all the Barbra detractors. They had fantastic on screen chemistry together. If anyone dares to give me guff about this, be prepared to deal with Milton who completely backs me up here.

          I know you will find this about as shocking as a bowl of luke warm oatmeal, but Milton is not wild Maureen Dowd. He has yet to read her RR story and I have the impression that he’s going to get to it at Tai Chi pace.

          Like

          • I figured that you’d prefer Baz’s take, V. So does my friend R., whom, when I phone him, I often awaken from dozing through an old movie. But, his Baz preference is why I rewatched the Coppola version — just to prove that I am right. 😉 (I do tend to be a classicist.)

            Luke warm oatmeal aside, I didn’t figure Milton for a Maureen fan. Having published a number of magazine and newspaper profiles, I was interested in Maureen’s technique. I thought she did pretty good. 😉

            Oh, and re your comment to another of your followers, I’ll join you on that worst-seller book tour. Together we could promote our books; that way we could draw a crowd of 2 or 3 rather than 1 or 2.

            Like

            • Well, you certainly have good takes on all of us, Samantha! Yeah, I figure that I’m usually on the same page as R. As far as our books go, you are miles ahead of me in the marketing department. I have yet to shift my car out of park.

              Like

  13. My friend’s film is going to be featured in the Big Apple Film Festival. Do you and Milton attend that one? It’s much smaller than Tribeca and features indie films, but this is his first film so it seems like a big coup to get accepted into the festival.

    Like

  14. I can’t believe Isabelle Huppert is 60. I saw her in Amateur back when I used to go to the movies. Now I watch hour upon hour of Richard Scary’s Busy Town. I think Milton would love it. He reminds me of Mr. Gronkle.

    Like

    • Isabelle Huppert is amazing. She’s lean and lithe, she’s been married to the same guy for 32 years, she has birthed three kids (her oldest daughter is 30 and is following in her mother’s footsteps career-wise) and she’s appeared in a warehouse full of films going back 42 years. I can barely walk and text at the same time and it’s a struggle not to cross the line into full time residency in Flab City. Back to Isabelle, she has lines in her face, and it does not look like she’s had work, or much work. But her skin looks fantastic and clearly her hair is dyed by a spot on colorist. In contrast, I thought about 46-year-old Nicole Kidman who has so much work done to her face she can barely register an expression anymore. Milton once quipped about all of her cosmetic surgery, “She’s having it done in-between takes.”

      Does Mr. Gronkle have strong opinions about movies?

      Like

  15. Left craving noodles, but settled for nachos. Ha! That line killed me! How are you doing? I haven’t seen you in my reader in a while. So glad I popped in and got a nice surprise … and some laughs. So jealous that Milton got to see Robert Redford. Duuuuuuuuuude. I would so want to run into him or De Niro. And I agree with Milton prosciutto after a stroke? What’s up with that? 🙂

    Like

    • Guat, good question about the prosciutto! That drove Milton CRAZY. Our bud, Lola, was not too wild about that detail, either. The character mentions that she had to give up wine, but she did not have to adjust her diet?!? And following a stroke that left half her body paralyzed or as the character says in the film, “I’m half dead.” I highly doubt that eating prosciutto will be kind to her other half. Milton and Martini Max loved the noodles/nachos line so you’re in good company!

      As for why my posts have not been showing up in your reader, it can only be for one of two reasons: 1. WordPress has it in for me personally so they’ve created a conspiracy to drive traffic away from Lame Adventures or 2. I only post three or four times a month, if that often, so it might be easy to miss a Lame Adventure when I find the energy to push the ‘publish’ button. It’s been a very busy year for me and I have not had the time to spend on the blogosphere as I had in earlier years. Glad to see you here buddy!

      Like

  16. I second Irate Moviegoer’s complaint. Why DO those subtitles have to be in white?!

    Like

    • If you run that question by Catherine Breillat, she’ll be amused, then she’ll mumble something softly in English that is in such a heavy French accent, your question will remain unanswered. The translator couldn’t even figure out what Breillat said. A baffled time was had by all.

      Like

  17. LA, I can’t watch films with subtitles. I also can’t watch films that have been ‘dubbed’… I just can’t concentrate on anything. The foreign movie market is quite limited for me. Glad you enjoyed the movies you enjoyed!

    Like

  18. Toaster size rats. Goodness. I also hate the white subtitles on white. I already can’t see that far and then they add that challenge. I’m impressed that you two know the moderators. I did recognize Redford’s evil stare. Your partner is a brave man.

    Like

  19. I heard about the Chinese movie, I have a friend who is a cinema freak, he recommends me the craziest and most bizarre sometimes even good movies of all. However, he hasn’t talked about the French movie, I gotta use your review as mine and “surprise” him, he’ll find it amusing to say the least.
    Incidentally, I finally got your book, gonna start reading it this same weekend!

    Like

    • Leo, see Stranger by the Lake but you might want to take Doggy for a walk during the last 20 minutes. And do trick your friend into thinking my reviews are yours. Hey, that’s the least I can do for a guy who is so supportive of me and my book. Thanks buddy!

      Like

  20. What a blast! I saw the last Robert Redford movie on PPV called The Company You Keep. It was horrible. The ending was the most ridiculous I’ve ever seen. The plot hole could have fit the entire state of New Jersey. I would rather see him in person! How cool for Milton!

    Like

    • As I was reading your comment about having seen The Company You Keep, I was thinking, “Why, Susie, why?” Then, when you continued with your review, you more than redeemed yourself! His latest, All is Lost, sounds much more promising. Milton is so thrilled that he got that close to an acting legend. I’m thrilled that his finger didn’t obscure his camera’s lens.

      Like

  21. Sounds like you guys had fun. Glad you enjoyed some of the movies, but sometimes its just as much fun I think to bitch about things.

    For some reason I’m tickled that Milton had such a specific disagreement with a film scene (stroke & prosciutto). Ironically, it would most likely take a stroke to get me to eat prosciutto at all, as I do not consume the flesh of swine.

    Can you imagine if the French stalker film HAD ended with Meeshell settling down with some nice girl from the Alsace and popping out a bunch of kids? I get a chuckle just imagining the response. People would flip.

    Like

    • There would have been a riot if that film ended like the second coming of the Brady Bunch, but in real life Dad Brady was gay so maybe there is a precedent of sorts here.

      Milton does take pleasure in bitching and I do find his rants rather entertaining. The more incensed he gets, the wittier he is. He has that gift of spot on gay male pith and prattle.

      I used to enjoy prosciutto, but over a year ago I eliminated dry, salty Italian meat from my diet only because I thought I have reached an age where consuming less sodium and fat might be a good idea. For the same reason, I all but stopped eating red meat late last winter. I have eaten two or three beef burgers since, but overall, I don’t miss cow or pig at all.

      Like

  22. Sounds like fun V…..unless the film sucked of course. That’s why I never go out to see films. A $5 rental isn’t a big deal if it sucks. If I paid $50 to see it and it sucks, I’d have to kill someone on my way out.

    Like

    • It wasn’t the worst movie in the world, Wendy, but it takes 100,000 hours to show what could have easily been covered in two hours or less. The adaptation loosely follows the graphic novel, so it reflects the director Kechiche’s fantasy lesbians than the far more realistic characters in the author Julie Muroh’s book.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s