Cinephiles, it’s a film festival feast
THE 56th New York Film Festival, which ends tomorrow, includes some of the most inspiring, confounding and maddening movies of the year. A sampler of the popular and the abstruse, the festival may be middle-aged, but it remains surprising, if at times reliably exasperating.
Its selections are eclectic, unapologetically and rightly elitist, and occasionally predictable (Bonjour, Olivier Assayas.)
Presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, it has carved out a distinct niche partly because it isn’t chasing Oscar contenders.
The only boring thing about Roma, Alfonso Cuarón’s masterly latest, is that it may well end up in contention. Don’t hold that against it.
Set in the early 1970s in the titular Mexico City neighbourhood where he grew up, it follows Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio), a young nanny for a bourgeois family that is gradually falling apart.
As with most of the selections, Roma has a distributor, in this case Netflix, which plans to stream it and give it a limited theatrical release.
Roma is the festival’s centrepiece selection; Julian Schnabel’s At Eternity’s Gate, about the life of Vincent van Gogh, is this year’s closing attraction. At once expressionistic and impressionistic, this latter-life portrait follows the painter – played by a raw, superb Willem Dafoe – primarily during his time in Arles, in the south of France.
Stricken by poverty and desperate, fluctuating moods, Van Gogh immerses himself in the landscape, making its beauty his own. Oscar Isaac briefly shows up as Gauguin, sucking on a pipe, but this is Dafoe’s movie.
Other highlights from the festival include Pawel Pawlikowski’s Cold War, which tracks two lovers, a pianist and a singer (the erotically charged duo Tomasz Kot and Joanna Kulig), across several decades and countries, beginning in Poland in the wake of World War II.
In May at Cannes, when Cold War first screened, a few critics lodged a rare festival complaint, saying the movie’s roughly 90-minute running time was too short. But Pawlikowski compresses entire worlds into this exquisite blackand-white drama, which movingly sets love, art and self-determination against tyranny.
The festival has scooped off some additional cream from this year’s Cannes, including Jafar Panahi’s 3 Faces, Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy as Lazzaro and Jia Zhangke’s Ash Is Purest White.
Another standout is Christian Petzold’s moody, beguiling Transit, about a German refugee (an excellent Franz Rogowski) who’s trying to flee to North America from Nazi-occupied France.
A number of scholars will be present for a panel on restoration and the film pioneer Alice Guy Blaché, the subject of a recent documentary from Pamela Green. Green’s Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy Blaché, in the retrospective programme, tracks the life, career and rediscovery of the world’s first female director.
It will be accompanied by a screening of Guy Blaché’s 1912 film Falling Leaves, which in 12 eventful minutes tells the touching story of a young girl, Little Trixie, who attempts to keep her older, tubercular sister alive.
Directed by Guy Blaché, who had her own production company, Solax, the film is fascinatingly perched between theatre and cinema, and – like Green’s documentary – a reminder of when female directors freely charted their own destinies.
Some of the older films included in this year’s event are widely available, others will open in cinema’s later in the year or on Netflix.
Either way, it’s a feast of film worth taking note of. A married woman discovers her father’s infidelity with her co-worker through a series of quirky encounters. Cast includes Sonam Kapoor, Anil Kapoor, and Juhi Chawla. A masked serial killer turns a horror-themed amusement park into his own personal playground, terrorising a group of friends while the rest of the patrons believe that it’s all part of the show. Cast includes Bex Taylor-klaus, Amy Forsyth, Reign Edwards, Christian James, Matt Mercurio and Roby Attal. Seasoned musician Jackson Maine discovers – and falls in love with – struggling artist Ally. She has just about given up on her dream to make it big as a singer, and then Jack coaxes her into the spotlight. But, as Ally’s career takes off, the personal side of their relationship is breaking down. Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga and Sam Elliott.
ALFONSO Cuarón’s masterly Roma.