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.

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63 responses to “Lame Adventure 436: Notes from the New York Film Festival

  1. You’ve seen more flicks in a theater in one week than I have seen in the past 30 years. Looks like a grand week for you 🙂

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    • Watching films on TV just isn’t the same for me, even if the TV is state of the art. If I’ve only seen a film on TV, I don’t feel like I’ve fully seen it the way it was meant to be seen. I think that movies are made to be seen on a large screen and heard via a theater’s sound system. The projection and prints at the NYFF are always world class.

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  2. LOVE your annual film festival posts! How else would I learn what’s worth seeing–most of which I will never get to watch here in Cuenca? No, that’s not totally true. I just feel SO out of touch, what with our wifi only being connected 4 days ago. Crazy summer, but I’m back. I’ve missed you, V! Thanks for the email, while I was on hiatus.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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  3. Love it thanks for the reviews and heads up!!!

    Cheers,

    R.

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  4. I so enjoy your NYFF reviews, V. I will definitely look for Two Days, One Night – as I love Marion Cotillard and pretty much everything she has ever done in film.

    Too bad Inherent Vice was so tedious. I like Joaquin Phoenix too.

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    • Two Days, One Night is terrific, Cathy. This one already has Oscar buzz about her performance, but it’s an overall excellent film. You should still see Inherent Vice. Considering that you live in Colorado, nibble on an Alice B. Toklas brownie as you watch it and you’ll probably think it’s the second coming of The Godfather.

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      • Just because I live in Colorado doesn’t mean that I partake, V. But I might enjoy it just because of Joaquin Phoenix.

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        • It’s a tough film to see sober. And it’s long. After it ended Milton asked me, “What the hell was that supposed to be about?”

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          • Duly noted. Maybe a visit to the brewpub prior to viewing. Or we can wait until it comes out on pay-per-view and go get a growler.

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            • The brewpub is an excellent idea, Cathy! Absolutely pound a pint. Maybe quaff two. I think it’s a film that merits being seen on a big screen with a state of the art sound system. Even if the film doesn’t rock your world, the sound track features a lot of hits from back in the day. The last song at the end, a classic written by Burt Bacharach, was perfect punctuation.

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  5. 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.

    So you think I would have enjoyed this movie more than you did?

    I haven’t even HEARD of any of these movies. Most of them sound a little smart for me, but “Timbuktu” sounds like one I might enjoy (also, despite your antipathy, you kinda managed to sell me on “Joachim Phoenix: Pot-Friendly Insurance Investigator”).

    I’ve never been to a film festival (although we do have a small one in SLO), but I think it would be fun. I did go to a video festival in LA once, where they showed selected high-concept music videos on a big screen and discussed them. It was fun.

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    • I think you’re the only person I “know” Smak who would have little difficulty following the smoke-filled plot of Inherent Vice. Joaquin is very good as the always befuddled and often, slapstick, Doc Sportello.

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  6. I love film festival time. I will look for the YSL movie!

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  7. That’s really sad about Timbuktu. It’s a shame so many people think if they believe something then everyone else on the planet should believe it too. So many historic wars caused by people trying to impose their religion on others.

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  8. Excellent reviews. The closest we come to a film festival here is a double feature at the 112 Drive-In (which is about to close for the season). Connie and I did have a brush with culture this weekend though. We attended the 2014 NWA Gridiron Show. This production has nothing to do with football. It’s a hilarious romp of short skits written and performed by local journalist and media where they poke fun at everyone–especially Republicans. There was no Q & A afterwards, so we just pulled up the straps of our overalls and headed on home.
    http://nwagridiron.com/NWAGrid/2014_Gridiron.html

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  9. Again, I am so jealous, V!!!! But good for you and Milton, and who better to bring it home to us. You are both so enlightened and sophisticated, I am not sure I am even worthy to hang out with you. 🙂 like if I ever had the chance. You’re up so close and personal. I will just live through you. I did see Gone Girl and thought it was pretty good.

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    • Gone Girl had a very impressive opening weekend at the box office, Amy. Please attend the New York Film Festival through us. Check out the trailer that they play before starting every film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwX0hUzkd3E By the end of the festival, Milton and I will have seen almost every film in that trailer. Good thing that we’re both fans of drums and castanets, were not sick of it yet.

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  10. Dude sounds like you guys have been rolling with all these Indie stars and having a good time…well other than the one that felt like watching paint dry. I love the fact that they have all these Q&A sessions after the films, probably my favorite part you get to hear what they’re thinking and get your questions answered. Did you guys ask any questions? The Richard Gere and Cotillard movies sound good. Thanks for the reviews.

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    • Guat, I know that Milton has never once asked a question in all the years I’ve known him, and I don’t recall ever asking one myself. But, thirteen years ago at the NYFF, when I attended without Milton, I sneezed so thunderously during the q&a following a screening of a film called Intimacy (I loved that film) that the director, Patrice Chéreau, was so distracted by my outburst that he looked at me and said, “God bless you!” I felt wistful when he died last year.

      Both the Richard Gere and Marion Cotillard films are very good.

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  11. Sounds like you’re having fun there at the movie festival, LA! I know exactly what it’s like to doze off during a movie – I did so during one of the Lord of the Rings movies (I was suffering with a head cold at the time!). When I awoke, I had no idea what was going on, so curled myself up, and went back to sleep. I did feel better afterwards!

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    • Milton and I are having a great time Tom. Even when I am fully rested, Middle Earth is like Ambien to me. I saw the first Lord of the Rings film and that was my last. I am not a Tolkien fan at all.

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  12. I’d read about the Time Out of Mind film a while back. Apparently Richard Gere was so convincing in his role as a homeless man, people on the street didn’t recognize him, even when he was panhandling. I’ll put this one on my list of must-sees.
    Have fun at the rest of the festival!

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    • There are hidden camera shots of him panhandling and people walking past. He was indeed very convincing in the role. We’re having a great time at the festival! Milton’s already saying we have to see a million films again next year.

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  13. Appreciate your reviews. Several of them were at TIFF but I couldn’t fit into the schedule. As for Mr. Turner, I didn’t see b/c I thought it would come to our local screen some day. While I really like Mike Leigh’s works, I don’t like Timothy Spall. And you’re right in your descriptions. That’s how I imagined he would be like in the film, so, glad I didn’t see that one. As for Time out of Mind, that one did not work for me. Yes, I know, they say how ‘credible’ he was that someone gave him a piece of pizza. Sorry to say, but I found RG’s performance contrived, and the film a bit ‘showy’, ironic when the subject matter is homelessness. However, I know the NYFF esp. honors RG so I better not say too much. But Ethan Hawke, the other honouree, I totally love his Seymour: An Introduction. Two Days One Night I didn’t see b/c it could well be showing in our local theatres. I’ve heard how good MC is in it. Looking forward to more of your reviews.

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    • My scant reviews have nothing on yours, Arti (not that I think that we’re competing with each other)! The RG film just resonated with Milton and me because homelessness is such a problem here in NYC. We see, or to be honest, we ignore guys like George every day. Time Out of Mind and Timbuktu were our two favorite guilt trips. So you like Ethan Hawke? Milton was incensed that he’s an honoree, and that’s a head-scratcher to me, too. We both see him as such a lightweight. We passed on seeing Seymour — one of the few films we’re not seeing. We have tickets to Birdman on closing night and we’re trying to get tickets to Hill of Freedom on Sunday, the day that they’re doing encore screenings. We’re also catching a few more screenings later this week. We’re also seeing Foxcatcher. Check out the trailer if you have time to kill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwX0hUzkd3E

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      • Yes homelessness is a big issue that needs to be dealt with, in NYC, or here in Cowtown Calgary, and esp. in Vancouver East Side. I’m just saying RG isn’t convincing, IMHO. And yes too re. Ethan Hawke being an honouree, I don’t know how they chose the candidate. But his doc on Seymour is interesting, and iconoclastic. Anyway, Hill of Freedom, I couldn’t find the time to and no tix, and Birdman as well as Foxcatcher will be on our local screens soon. So didn’t see them. And hey, don’t ever think of ‘competing’, the notion doesn’t even exist in my mind. 😉 Which other films are you seeing this week?

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      • Just read this today and felt it has put into words my thoughts about RG and Time Out Of Mind. Just sharing. 😉

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        • Thanks for sharing, but that review isn’t my thoughts about that film at all. I think it was a well made film, the long lens shots worked for me and Richard Gere delivered one of the best performances of his career.

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  14. It amazes me what films are made. It’s all about who is producing them. I’m watching The Invasion with Nichole Kidman and Daniel Craig where infected people vomit on others to spread a lobotomizing virus. I can’t believe they’re in this film!!!!!

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  15. Between you, Milton and this guy I met recently, I feel like I can actually debate about the new movies and all that. This guy is a writer, he’s worked on Broadway and a few movies, now he’s doing I don’t know what in here. The other day he almost put me to sleep telling me about this Hungarian independent movie. He lost me when he said “it’s an autobiography, within an autobiography from the point of view of the mother of the writer”. I felt like Jinkx Monsoon, the narcoleptic dragqueen.
    I gotta check Two Days, One Night.

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    • Jinkx Monsoon, three years and 200 Lame Adventures ago (to channel the Gettysburg Address on helium), when Milton and I were attending the New York Film Festival, we saw a black and white 146 minute opus about two miserable peasants who primarily eat potatoes and suffer. It was directed by the Hungarian filmmaker, Bela Tarr. Does that name bang your narcoleptic drag queen gong? We had a very good time: http://wp.me/pMku1-19l

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  16. First of all, Milton’s answer about the German boy caused a laugh at this end. But it must have been in the your setup of the snooze. ‘

    OK .. Saint Laurent and Two Days, One Night get my attention .. and maybe the Gere film. Enjoy the rest of your week!

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    • Frank, that kid seemed to pop out of nowhere to me, or maybe it was Heidelberg. Milton wasn’t much help as guide dog for the asleep. Overall, he’s been very pleased with this festival. We’re even trying to attend an encore screening for a film we couldn’t get tickets to, one from South Korean called Hill of Freedom. Milton was not familiar with that one until I placed it on my list (we each draw up lists to determine what we’re going to try to see). It wasn’t on his list, but my interest in it piqued his. When he went to get our tickets before they went on sale to the general public, he was surprised to see that it had sold out. Now, he’s caught my fever and is dying to see it, too. Hopefully, we’ll get into that screening and it will be in our next LA.

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  17. Thanks again for these reviews, V. I will add the ones that interest me to my Netflix queue for when they’re available on DVD in two years, or however distant in the future. Did Richard Gere actually “live”/hang out on the street with the street people for extended periods while filming the movie? I’d love to hear his experiences doing that.

    I love Milton’s dry wit and honest takes. This is great. I’m wondering when David Remnick will discover you and publish these reviews in The New Yorker.

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    • I was not under the impression that RG lived on the street while shooting this film, but the filmmaker shot him on the street with hidden cameras so people passing by had no idea there was a major movie star they walked past as if invisible.

      I appreciate the kind remarks, but I suspect that finding Milton and me is lower on David Remnick’s “to do” list than breeding ferrets in his spare time.

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  18. Oh man I am so jealous. I would love to see all these films and more and to just experience all of it. Now I wonder if I can write a novel without punctuation. I mean I’m sure I could, but could I pull it off 🙂

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    • Milton and I are definitely in our bliss, but he did walk out on one screening the second it ended. He hated that film so much he refused to “subject” himself to the q&a. I stuck around and will write about that stinker next LA.

      I suggest you resist the urge to write your next novel sans punctuation, if only to give yourself a better shot at having it leap from the page to the screen.

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