Tag Archives: Michael Haneke

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.

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Lame Adventure 17: Shiny Naked Gold Guys

The only major television event that regularly excites me is the Academy Awards.  This is a bit perverse since I am seldom excited by most mainstream movies and that is the predominant fare that rules this extended tribute the film industry pays itself annually.  Yet, I am what I am, a film-whore.  Although I’ve seen nine of the ten Best Picture nominees (only missed District 9), no commercial films released in 2009 blew me away including Avatar (but I will admit a soft spot for Up since it made me think of my widower father, plus I liked the chubby Asian Boy Scout and the dogs).  I am not such a snob that I failed to recognize this box office titan as highly entertaining and worthy of its nominations, but as the ending credits rolled, I wondered, “Huh, what will the kids look like?”  Since it sounds like James Cameron is going to create a sequel, I guess I’ll get to find out.  Woo hoo.

Every so often, a fluke that annoys the masses, but impresses me, does get award-winning recognition.  In recent years, friendo, it was No Country for Old Men.  Usually, I’m apoplectic about some poor choice, like Crash stealing Best Picture from the far more worthy Brokeback Mountain.  I can feel my blood pressure rise just typing that sentence. Even my father and boss were scratching their heads over that one.  Yet, if Avatar is the big winner on Sunday, I do not anticipate anyone needing to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance on my behalf.  Ideally, I would like to see Kathryn Bigelow win Best Director for The Hurt Locker.  She’s the first woman nominated for directing that deserves the victory since Lina Wertmuller for directing the Nazi concentration camp dramatic comedy, Seven Beauties, back in 1977.  Wertmuller lost to John G. Avildsen who directed that year’s (allow me to access my air sickness bag) crowd-pleaser, Rocky.  Should Bigelow lose as her predecessor did, I will think that she got robbed, but I will be able to function in-between screaming fits.

Bigelow with her Directors Guild award.

My first lame adventure that I can recall was film-related.  It occurred in my San Francisco-based tot-hood when my parents announced that they were taking me to see my first film, Best Picture winner, West Side Story.  I was no more than 4, maybe as young as 3.  It was one of the best days of my life (ever).  I also got my first pair of sneakers that afternoon.  They were PF Flyers and marketed as allowing the wearer to run faster, jump higher and a third thing, maybe kill yourself sooner.  My mother also allowed me to select the color I wanted.  I shrieked, “Red!” at the top of my lungs and almost deafened the salesman.  That evening, after seeing my first movie in my first pair of sneakers, I went out of my mind.  I HAD to move to New York.  I wanted to be a shark.  I wanted to be a jet.  I wanted to dance in the street.  I wanted a girl named Maria.  I had so much energy after seeing that film in my brand new sneakers, I did a somersault, and threw out my neck.  That instantly slowed me down.  During my recovery, my father offered me a compromise solution to appease my delirium.  He taught me how to snap my fingers, a safer alternative to channeling my non-existent inner Cirque du Soleil.

The film that started it all.

Now, that I am some years older, I am more tranquil when expressing my film-inspired enthusiasm.  Last October, I was eating a roast beef sandwich as I waited for Milton in the seating area outside Alice Tully Hall to attend a screening of Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon at the New York Film Festival.  Haneke walked right in front of me, and stopped to talk to a small cluster of people, clearly friends or family.  This thrilled me beyond belief and I could feel my heart race.  I may have even had a beef shred protruding from my mouth momentarily before quickly accessing my toad-skills to suck it in.  I considered taking a photograph of one of the most talented filmmakers currently working, but I decided to feign cool New Yorker-dom and remain in the closet about my consummate film nerdia.  I so wanted to pee myself.

Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall

When Milton joined me, oblivious to walking past Haneke, he said, “Hi.”  I pointed with my eyes and replied sotto voce, “Haneke.”  Milton turned, and looked nonchalantly in the direction of my visual cue.  He looked back at me nodding his head slightly and smiling wryly in approval, equally aware that we were in the aura of filmmaking genius.  After Haneke entered the building, I gushed my guts out to my friend about aching to take a photograph of this great cinema artist, possibly the most interesting filmmaker working today since Ingmar Bergman retired from directing.  <sigh>  Milton thought that ignoring my inner paparazzo was the preferred course.  I agreed and then pounded my head against the pavement in agony before following my companion into the theater.  When will I ever be this near cinema greatness again?

Michael Haneke, filmmaking jesus.

The White Ribbon is nominated for two Academy Awards, Best Achievement in Cinematography, and Best Foreign Language Film.  Avatar is also nominated for cinematography and I anticipate it could dominate, but The White Ribbon was spectacularly shot, so I was delighted when I heard that it received a deserved nomination in this category.  I have only seen two of the other Foreign Film nominees, Ajami from Israel and The Prophet from France.  The competition from those two is stiff, but if I were a voter, I’d stick with The White Ribbon.  I will be dismayed if it loses, but not so dismayed that I will end up on life support …  Famous last words.