Lame Adventure 470: The Highlight of the 53rd New York Film Festival

Milton and I have spent much of the past two weeks at the New York Film Festival where we’ve seen quite a few low lights. Before attending a screening of Mountains May Depart, the latest film by the Chinese director and screenwriter, Jia Zhangke, we rubber necked the red carpet photo op. Here is Jia with his frequent leading lady, his wife, Zhao Tao.

Tao and Jia.

Tao and Jia.

Mountains is a drama set in the past, present and future about a woman who is loved by two men, one rich and the other, poor. She marries the rich guy and has a son he names Dollar. Even though Jia insists that his film is about 21st Century capitalism and the discontent felt by those that have benefitted from it, we found it trite. To quote Milton:

Milton: I didn’t buy any of it.

He also hated the q&a and grumbled:

Milton: I can’t believe I’m giving up food for this.

What I will remember most from that film is how much it made me crave dumplings.

While Milton was in the bathroom, I noticed the filmmaker, Michel Gondry, in the lobby, following a screening of his latest, Microbe & Gasoline, a whimsical tale about two French teenage boys that build a vehicle and set out on a road trip.

Michel Gondry.

Michel Gondry.

I found it entertaining fluff. Milton thought it had absolutely no business being in the festival and groused that that slot should have gone to Macbeth starring Michael Fassbinder and Marion Cotillard. I would have gladly argued that point with him, but I couldn’t. I was also disappointed that Macbeth wasn’t screened.

While I was busy at work, Milton emailed me that filmmaker Chantal Akerman had died in Paris on Monday, an apparent suicide. This was quite a shock. We had tickets to her latest film, No Home Movie, and we were looking forward to hearing her speak at the post-screening q&a. As news of her death spread, our screening became a very hot ticket. I raced straight from work in Long Island City to Alice Tully Hall. I was very surprised that the lobby was not busier and that I had arrived before Milton. As I waited for him, I noticed the filmmaker, Wes Anderson. I took this terrible gotcha shot and texted it to Milton.

Wes Anderson as a blue in brown shoes.

Wes Anderson as a blur in brown shoes.

At about the same time, I realized that I was at the wrong theater. I rocketed to the theater I needed to be at about a block away. When I arrived, it was the mob scene I had anticipated. Fortunately, Milton had gotten there first and had secured seats. As for Akerman’s final film, an experimental documentary about her dying, elderly mother, an Auschwitz survivor, I found it painfully dull and slept through most of the first quarter. Upon leaving, we ran into my friend, Lola, who said that she liked it. Milton asked:

Milton: What did you like about it?

This film was another misfire with us. I told Milton that it made me think about my father at the end, a difficult time in his life I never considered recording on film. Milton said:

Milton: It made me think about wanting dinner.

Even though these movies were misfires, these were all films we had wanted to see, so we don’t regret going. But the film we wanted to see most delivered. That film was Carol, a lesbian May-December romance set in the 1950s, a time when homosexuality was considered a mental illness. Phyllis Nagy brilliantly adapted Patricia Highsmith’s novel, which was essentially a road movie, for the screen. Cate Blanchett, who has never looked more alluring, plays the title character, a gorgeous but troubled cool blonde straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s gorgeous cool blonde playbook. Rooney Mara is Therese, the shop girl and aspiring photographer, who is instantly smitten with this glamorous, charismatic, sophisticated woman twice her age. Shining just as brightly as his two perfectly cast female leads, is filmmaker, Todd Haynes. He has skillfully directed a masterpiece that is superbly shot by cinematographer, Ed Lachman, and scored by composer, Carter Burwell. Even though I had read the novel that Highsmith had published under the pseudonym, Claire Morgan, when it was originally titled The Price of Salt, almost 25 years ago, I knew the story well, but I was so elated at the film’s ending, it gave me chills. Carol is filmmaking at its finest. It is a great lesbian love story that packs an emotional wallop. It opens in the US on November 20th.

Carol q&a with from left to right, Cate Blanchett, producer Elizabeth Karlsen, Phyllis Nagy, Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes, Amy Taubin

Carol q&a (l to r), Cate Blanchett, producer Elizabeth Karlsen, Phyllis Nagy, Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes, moderator Amy Taubin

Advertisements

79 responses to “Lame Adventure 470: The Highlight of the 53rd New York Film Festival

  1. Good! and this structure is what I want to use from no on.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the highlights of the NY Film Festival. Was there subtitles for ‘Mountain’? Always marry the rich guy first, then you can use Plan B with some seed money if it doesn’t work out. I love Cate Blanchett. She was a great Katherine Hepburn in ‘Aviator’.
    What is a ‘road movie’?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! There are subtitles in Mountains! But, if you prefer your Asian films dubbed in English, check out What’s Up, Tiger Lily?

      If you Google ‘road movie’, this is the definition: a movie of a genre in which the main character is traveling, either in flight or on a journey of self-discovery. In Carol, the main characters are traveling across the heartland in a yacht-sized Packard. Cate gives a knock-out performance and Rooney holds her own against this extraordinary force. In the q&a Rooney admitted that it was easy to look in awe of Cate as Carol because in reality she is in awe of Cate. It was a great q&a.

      Like

  3. Is that the same Patricia Highsmith of the “Ripley” series? I’ll have to check it out…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for the great reviews, V. “Carol” sounds like a fascinating film! And wow, what a tragedy about Chantal Ackerman!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I can’t think of anything worse than when you wait so long to see a movie and it doesn’t quite reach the mark, and here you’ve done it multiple times. At least you saw the movies, LA, as you say, so all’s good. I love your Gotcha shot, although I wouldn’t have known Wes Anderson if I was in that room with you… and I laughed when you realised you were in the wrong theatre! That’s something I’d do!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s really a thrill, Tom, when a film we highly anticipate turns out to be wonderful. Our expectations on all the others were lower so I can’t say we had much, if any real disappointment. We also saw several other good films that I didn’t mention in this post, because I only felt like spotlighting Carol. Years ago, Wes Anderson was featured in an American Express TV commercial. He hasn’t changed much so that’s why he’s so easy for me to recognize. But if he cuts his hair short and grows an Abraham Lincoln-style beard, he would never have registered on my radar. Had I thought to look at my ticket before entering the wrong theater, I would have missed seeing him completely as well as my opportunity to take that blur of a gotcha shot!

      Like

  6. I totally agree with Milton re. Mountains May Depart. As a matter of fact, I’ve come to re-evaluate all the fad around Jia. His previous work is bold and cool, but this one is mountains apart… as I entitled my review article on Asian American Press. Click on the link to read it if you’re interested, (and there you can see my greatest secret revealed.) Anyway, trite is the word, so is contrived, melodramatic, cliché, and as Dollar likes to say, déjà vu. And I don’t think the film had increased my desire for dumplings either. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing, Arti (you’re still Arti to me even though I now know your “secret”)! You nailed this film:

      “The narratives are superficially delivered and melodramatic, shots clichéd. The story is not unusual, like we have seen before, as Dollar says, déjà vu. Often we see the camera stay on long after it has made its point. The depiction of the internal worlds of characters as in Jia’s previous work is just not happening here.”

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Why are you capitalizing the B in Macbeth? I thought it was a typo the first time. Have you seen the British reviews of that film? ‘Oly Jesus I can’t wait.

    Milton tells it like IT IS.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi V! Enjoyed reading your film reviews and seeing these candid shots. Sounds like Milton is hungry… but definitely knows what he likes. Glad to know you are entertained by “fluff” as well – gives me renewed strength with my writing!
    I’ve always loved Cate Blanchett – look forward to seeing her in “Carol.” And… I remember Carter Burwell from “The Twilight” movies… so don’t think I can’t keep up with the best of them when it comes to this film scene stuff…. Ha!
    Hope all is well!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I think I’ve discovered the pattern here. Bad films make Milton hungry.

    Speaking of food: I saw The Martian on opening weekend. I won’t be eating potatoes for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is a lot of truth to Milton getting hungrier by the second when he’s attending a screening without popcorn. There’s all kinds of eating, drinking and smoking in Carol. He was completely unaffected, but it sure made me crave a dry martini with olives.

      Milton loathed The Martian. I think it might have compelled him to inhale an entire pizza.

      Like

  10. I love your film reviews with Milton. And, your photography is outstanding– haha. We’ll just call that director shot “intentional motion blur.” 🙂 I’m working my way back to regular blogging with actual content. Website updates in progress.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Milton has come up with the best critique for any subject – movie, hotel stay, financial advice, marriage…

    “Is it worth giving up food for?”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. We would if we weren’t hauled off to strange movies. Maybe we saw each other at the popcorn concession.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m glad you guys had a good time at the festival, even if most of the movies weren’t to you liking (except, apparently, for Carol & Microbes & Gasoline). I haven’t heard of any of those movies, They sound a little too “smart” for me, probably.

    Are these screenings like regular movies where you can eat popcorn and stuff or are festivals just for watching?

    Liked by 1 person

    • This festival is just for watching, Smak. But, you can get gourmet grub (I think the hot dogs are $8) in their cafe. We passed on that.
      We did see several other good films that I didn’t mention. Michael Moore’s upcoming documentary Where to Invade Next and Don Cheadle’s bio-pic about Miles Davis, Miles Ahead impressed us very much. We also enjoyed Cemetery of Splendor and The Lobster. But, I must admit that The Lobster was over my head until Milton explained to me what it was about. I need to see that one again now.

      Like

  14. I trust your opinion, so will be seeing Carol. I also trust Chuck Berry’s opinion, so will be whistling the song Carol on my way to the theater. However, I will not be reading A Christmas Carol because Dickens’ opinion means nothing to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. This is happening here, but for some reason, I can’t get it together to go downtown. *sigh* Netflix and all the other streaming entities have ruined me. I need to get out of Dodge SOON. xox

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! You can’t get up to see a film festival named after you, Savannah?!?! Milton and I have already seen some of the docs screening your way. We enthusiastically recommend The Best of Enemies about Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley debating each other live on broadcast TV during the 1968 political conventions. That’s a home run. Amy, about Amy Winehouse, is very entertaining, too, but it didn’t rock Milton’s world as much as it rocked mine.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. OMG! I think I actually watched that debate on TV! I.AM.THAT.OLD. 😉 Buut, seriously, I was thinking about heading downtown for Amy! xox

    Liked by 1 person

    • I watched those debates, too, not that I remember much about them other than Buckley blowing his stack at Vidal on air. It’s a very good doc. Extremely well researched and almost unfolds like a thriller. Amy was good, but Milton pointed out that it’s POV was very slanted. That irked him.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You have convinced me! I have an in for tickets, so I’ll make the call in the morning. There is a part of me that needs to see something that values research on the screen given all the foolishness that passes for scholarship these days *sigh*

        Liked by 1 person

  17. That’s a lot of movies. Too bad more of them weren’t better.

    Like

    • We actually wanted to see more, but the way the screenings were scheduled, some overlapped. We don’t regret seeing any of the misses. Misses make the hits stand out that much more. I purposely didn’t mention other films we saw there that impressed us because none topped Carol. We were eagerly anticipating it for 2 years and it completely satisfied our expectations, like Christmas to a five-year-old. Therefore, I wanted it to own the spotlight. I’ve waited over 40 years for a film like that. I’m glad that I’ve lived long enough to see it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So not highlighting anything else in another post?

        Like

        • Gee Lois, the NYFF ended several weeks ago, so it’s old news now. Although I have major new news involving a giant life change I’m going through right now, it’s a huge energy-suck and I’m not ready to announce it here yet. The way things are going, I may not be back in the blogosphere until January or February. I wish it could be sooner, but I have to wait and see how things unfold in the weeks/months ahead. I won’t return until after I’m settled and can adopt a new routine. This, on top of the move at The Grind, has been so overwhelming at times. Milton, my siblings, my boss and colleagues wish I would cross the finish line, too.

          Like

  18. I could tell it was Wes Anderson! … Cheers to Milton’s reviews. … Hi Lame!

    Liked by 1 person

  19. You could write a review of watching paint peel and make it sound fun. I’m more like Milton, and would probably be thinking about food the entire time. Glad the last movie worked out. I like Cate Blanchett too.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. That sounds like a lot of time spent watching dull movies. Perhaps Milton might want to stop at the food counter on his way in. The if the movie is boring he at least would have some food to pass the time with.

    Like

  21. My Christmas wish this year is for an update on the latest Lame Adventures. Hope all is well and you have a wonderful holiday season.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s so sweet of you to notice that I’ve dropped out Sarah. I have so much going on in that thorny place that’s real space, I’ve had no choice but to fall off the cyberspace grid. I hope that when things settle down, I’ll be able to start a new routine by February. I wish you a wonderful holiday season, too.

      Like

  22. I’m going through Lame Adventures withdrawals. Don’t doom me to a life of lying in a gutter clutching my tablet in one hand and a bottle of Thunderbird wine in the other. We miss you! Have a Merry Christmas (or Happy Holiday, Season’s Greetings, etc.) Unlike Donald Trump, I don’t care what it’s called. Just have a happy one!

    Like

    • I wish the same to you, Melissa! My life has gotten very complicated in recent months on the heels of The Grind relocating to Long Island City. I’m in the midst of going through an epic personal change that I had hoped to have completed by year’s end, but the end date has been pushed back to February 1. Thanks for thinking of me, but you might want to swap the Thunderbird for Beaujolais Nouveau. I quaffed a few glasses of it on Thanksgiving. It was very good this year.

      Like

  23. Happy New Year! I was hoping you were back with a new blog when I saw your comment on mine, but no such luck. I hope you get your life under control soon and have time for the blog again. Yours has always been one of my favorites.

    Like

    • That’s so sweet of you, Lois. I decided to visit some sites today of fellow bloggers that have published new posts. My life is still chaos right now, but I am hoping that by February 1, things will settle down and I’ll have a new routine. Or rut. I’ll settle for one or the other or both. Happy New Year back at you, pal! I love that photo of your tree.

      Liked by 1 person

  24. I’m late to the table and haven’t seen any of the movies you reviewed, but my daughters saw Carol and we were talking about it when they were home for Christmas. They both loved, loved it. My youngest, who is gay, was so exhilarated that a lesbian love story could be both mainstream and so well done, she was over the moon.

    I see you here and there about the web and have gleaned that things are chaotic for you right now. Since we don’t know one another well, I hope I don’t seem stalkerish to have noticed, and to say I hope life settles down for you soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Peg, I don’t think you’re stalkerish at all. Things have been chaotic for a while over here, that’s for sure, but in the weeks ahead, things should calm down and I’ll be able to resume a new and hopefully improved routine. I’m sure that your daughters are young enough to be my daughters if I had not been a dedicated non-breeder back when I was fertile, so I doubt that they had to wait 40+ years for a film as exquisite as Carol. But I’m glad that progress has come much quicker for the younger generation, and even though it’s arrived late for me, at least it arrived.

      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